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MARIN COUNTY'S NEWS MONTHLY - FREE PRESS
(415)868-1600 - (415)868-0502(fax) - P.O. Box 31, Bolinas, CA, 94924

January, 2007

Skeptic's Journal
The Sound Of Silence
By Jeanette Pontacq

I remember when I first heard the words of Simon & Garfunkel's masterpiece, 'The Sound of Silence.' It was in January of 1966. Hello Darkness, my old friend, I've come to talk with you again…within the sound of silence. The Vietnam War was raging and I had just graduated from UC-Berkeley, a product of the Free Speech movement, the antiwar protests and the English Department.
Here we are, newly arrived in the year 2007, 41 years later, and we find ourselves still often within the sound of silence. Amid the cacophony of 24/7 political spin and the infantile silliness of main media voices mirroring Washington D.C., the official silence is deafening.

In West Marin, residents can experience the sound of silence up close and personal by just trying to exercise their right to know what their elected officials or paid government employees are doing to reasonably protect our lives and property in a disaster or keep the public informed in an honest way.

Silence is even more existent when local land issues are concerned. All together, county and state lands, National Parklands, GGNRA lands and ranch lands account for the vast majority of West Marin. The elected/appointed officials and ranchers (some more equal than others, of course, especially if their name begins with G) have made up a pre-designated network of "deciders," the Good Ol' Boys, for decades. Most of the rest of us live on the edges, in silence and silenced when it comes to having real community input in what happens on lands around us.

The proposed land swap between Superintendent Don Neubacher's Park Service and the Giacomini Trust is an excellent example of silence in action. It seems like the original sale documents for the 2007 transfer of Rich Giacomini's ranchlands on the Tomales Bay Wetlands off Point Reyes Station to public control via the Park Service were written (by, among others, Neubacher and former-supervisor Gary Giacomini) in such a way as to leave the Giacomini Trust with the non-contiguous parcels off C Street, along with some underwater parcels off Inverness. A land swap possibility was built into the original agreement, according to private comments by one of the Giacominis, who consider it a private deal, not for public comment or input, even though it concerns a taxpayer-financed governmental agency.

All this, of course, was unknown to the town of Point Reyes Station or wetland proponents at the time of sale. This profitable and unequal land swap to benefit the Giacomini Trust would have already taken place but for it accidentally being announced to locals in a local news piece, soliciting lots and lots of letters and complaints. The benefit to the Giacomini Trust will play out, of course, as trading those two developmentally worthless parcels off Inverness (which will be underwater when the levees come down) for higher and potentially expensive parcels along C Street, making their overall holdings contiguous there, even reaching as far as 200 feet out from the end of the present corral on C Street. Envision substantial market-rate development, and septics, on the soft fill along the interior edges of the wetlands!

Trying to get information on the present status of the land swap results in studied silence from all sides. The most that the Park is saving is that "we are working to modify the previously proposed exchange based on public comments and contents." There will be a "public information workshop" to be held at the Red Barn/Park HQs on Thursday, January 25 (6:30pm to 8:30pm). The workshop, as always, will be a one-sided infotainment on wetlands restoration, with no space allowed for public comments or discussion on the land swap or levee issues as storms approach.

Fools, said I, you do not know, silence like a cancer grows. Hear my words that I might teach you. Take my arms that I might reach you. But my words like silent raindrops fell, and echoed, in the wells of silence. (Simon & Garfunkel, the Sound of Silence).

Superintendent Neubacher continues to insist that there are no funds available to them to buy the two little parcels off Inverness Park without doing the egregious land swap. Let's hear how much these to-be-underwater parcels are selling for? Perhaps we can take up a collection and buy them for the Park. On the open market, I would suggest they should be pretty inexpensive. It is only within a previously-agreed upon land swap that they seem to have any real value.

Among all the silence on what is going on with the land swap, the Marin IJ and other news outlets have recently touted the 4.5 million dollars of donations recently accumulated by the Park to aide in the restoration of the Tomales Bay Wetlands (which the Park seems to have illogically agreed to name after the ranchers who are costing the public 4.5 million dollars of restoration and 4.5 million of sales dollars to restore from the harm of using it as a profitable dairy all these years - Giacomini Wetlands).

Logic tells me that sufficient funds could have been obtained from private parties, foundations and others, to save the wetlands itself from being built upon for private profit to the Giacomini Trust along its edges, if the Park and the Trust had at least been open to the idea, rather than tied into a pre-determined land swap to build out Point Reyes Station to the profit of the Giacomini Trust.

The edges of the wetlands are some of the most sensitive and important acreage in the restoration. The fact that Don Neubacher and the Giacomini Trust guys feel sure they can ram some form of this egregious land swap down the throats of locals with impunity seems to highlight that the Good Ol'Boys are alive, well and sticking together.






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