BY SANFORD I. GOSSMAN
It's that time of year when we all supposedly make a list of what we need to do, or do differently, in the new year. Here's mine for local government in Marin:
Make sure that people who live in the county make the decisions about what should be built here, how it should look, and the way it should be constructed. The percentage of those who are our county government who don't live in the county is distressing to most who know.
Establish a county-wide planning commission that includes representatives from each unique area within the county, that is initially staffed with persons selected by the Board of Supervisors and, thereafter, by the commission itself, preferably replacing a departing person with someone recommended by them thought to have the same views. The key point here is balance and the elimination of ulterior motives. For example, if you are in real estate, are a developer of any kind, or have connections or allegiances with either, you are disqualified from serving.
Get meaningful signing at the Civic Center so that people new to the building don't walk around with the look of a space cadet. For example, how many people know that there are pay-phones to the left of the elevators in the lobbies on ground floor? It took me 12 years to discover them, and I'm at the place second only to those who work there.
Determine the interest in an area-wide database of people interested in job-switching: where they live, where they work, and what they do. Two people exchanging jobs so that each lives closer to work will reduce both the commute and the pollution in the air for us all. Everyone wins. Legislation signed by President Clinton makes the transferring benefits easier. This long-overdue plan is practiced in Russia, which I learned while there in 1983. The information would be accessible via the Internet at no cost. All correspondence would be via e-mail to the site (like Yahoo!) or to personal mailboxes. Adding your information would cost a nominal fee paid for by your credit card. That way, development and maintenance of the site would be financially self-supporting.
Establish stringent guidelines on how monies allocated to run the Marin County courts should be spent, emphasizing that money should directly benefit the people who work at, and use the court, as opposed to the guy who runs it.
Require those with unsightly empty lots in downtown areas to plant them with trees, or at least allow gardens there. Both look nicer than weeds. If necessary, the local municipality should share the costs, at least bringing water to the site, the cost of which could be added to the permit when the area was developed.
Repaint the south entrance to the Waldo tunnel; a faded rainbow isn't very cheerful. The job could be done using donated paint and the labor of local artists working with Caltrans, who would erect the scaffolding.
Get CalTrans to build an exit, and possibly an overpass, that allows people going to the Vintage Oaks Shopping Center from the south avoid at least half of the absurd 2.6 mile round-trip in and out of Costco. In 1993, using store-traffic figures graciously given to me by Costco, I computed that the annual savings, in both directions, would be 48,754 gallons of gas, 908,727 pounds of pollution, and $65,818.
Construct an exit on the west side of 101 that will quickly take northbound cars to the Merrydale overpass and into the Northgate shopping center area. This would extend the convenience of the overpass to a lot more people, not just those who work at the Civic Center, Autodesk, the Embassy Suites, or live in the houses behind it. The promised lowering of traffic congestion at some of the worst intersections in the county would then actually be realized.
Reconsider building the Fair-Isaac campus in downtown San Rafael. Unless all staffers will work between 9:00 p.m. and 7:00 a.m., this has got to be one of the most stupid ideas ever proposed for this county. Firemen's Fund is next to the freeway and has a huge parking lot. It's that way for very good reasons. The Fair-Isaac project is far from duplicating it.
Get people living in the hundreds of houses in Novato near the freeway that once housed military personnel. With the current housing shortage, especially of rental property, it is almost criminal to have the housing sitting there rotting away. Sell it off in lots if you have to. If the federal government doesn't agree, then condemn it and get the control to do something to it ourselves.
Get the Golden Gate Bridge District to implement a window-sticker program that would allow cars that present at a toll gate with a sticker on the front window with the right color and icon for the current month to be waved through. A laser wand could be used to detect counterfeits.
Figure out a way to make a really good, New York kosher corned beef sandwich locally available without having to pay for the plane trip for the meat from New York.
Happy Year, both new and throughout.
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