The Coastal Post - July, 1998

News Shorts

By Staff

Home Prices

According to the Home Price Comparison Index, an annual study conducted by Coldwell Banker Real Estate Corp., a 2,200 sq. ft. home in San Rafael costs $439,875 compared to $812,225 for a similar-sized home in the study's most expensive market in Beverly Hills. The most affordable market was Killeen, Texas, where the average sales price was $100,350.

Consumers can get a free copy of the 1998 Home Price Comparison Index brochure by calling 1-800-488-MOVE.

Protect Pets On The 4th

Fireworks can be frightening for pets, and each year many scared and disoriented animals escape kennels, yards and decks and endanger themselves or get lost. The Humane Society suggests bringing your pets inside before dark.

Group To Monitor Elections

The Board of Marin United Taxpayers Association (MUTA) has voted to initiate "Election Alert," to observe Marin elections and review fairly, and with due process, the practices and ads of candidate and initiative campaigns, as well as serve to interview and provide meaningful forums for all candidates, versus present-day "sound bite" and "public relations" electioneering, which never seem to address the real issues of an election.

"We feel that there cannot be too many local civic organizations reviewing and commenting upon improper campaigning in Marin. We all have a strong interest in truthful and complete campaign debates, particularly with respect to the elections which are not the 'big ones' of the season," said Nancy McCarthy, MUTA President.

Hospital Suit Proceeds

In a favorable ruling on June 18, the Sacramento Superior court allowed the Marin Healthcare District to proceed to trial on its claim against Marin General Hospital Corporation for reimbursement of operating expenses such as election, auditing, secretarial, and attorney fees. The court also allowed the District 20 days to resubmit its argument that the asset transfer agreement, which is part of the lease, constituted an unlawful gift of public funds.

The court rejected the District's argument that the lease unconstitutionally delegated the District's responsibilities to Marin General Hospital Corporation.

After today's ruling, the District is able to proceed to trial on its conflict of interest claims and claims for lease breaches, including a material reduction of neurosurgery services.

Diana Parnell, Chair of the District Board of Directors, said, "I am pleased the court recognized that the District has made a viable claim and will allow the matter to proceed to trial. Having said that, we also expect Sutter/MGH to raise further challenges to the District's claims in order to delay the trial and cause the district further unnecessary expense."

County Tells MGH: Honor Your Debt

Through its office of County Counsel, Marin County has made a demand upon Marin General Hospital Corporation to pay the Marin Healthcare District's 1996 election costs, and to pay for the upcoming November 1998 election costs. Citing terms of the 1985 lease of Marin General Hospital to MGH Corp., the letter to Henry J. Buhrmann, CEO, says MGH Corp,. is "obligated" by the District's 1985 lease of the publicly-owned Marin General Hospital "to indemnify and reimburse the District for all of its operating expenses, including election costs."

The elections code requires the District to reimburse the County for election services. "The district has paid $141,000 of the 1996 election expense while it tried to resolve the lease breaches; the District still owes $43,500, and with the upcoming election will owe the County another $125,000 or more," said Dr. Linda Remy District Vice Chair.

"Few people realize," said Dr. Diana Parnell, Chair of the Marin Healthcare District Board, "that when the district leased the hospital in 1985 for no cash rent, the District also gifted all of its $11 million in cash and other assets to the Corporation, leaving the District with no reserves. Because of this, the Corporation's breach of their lease obligations to pay the District's expenses, including election expenses, has had a devastating effect on the District's finance.

The District filed suit against MGH Corp. and its parent Sutter Health in Sacramento Superior Court in November. The suit seeks to void the Lease on the grounds that certain District public officials and employees had illegal conflicts of interest. The district's suit also seeks redress for the lease breaches, such as the refusal to pay the District's expenses. The District also claims MGH Corp. breached the lease by reducing neurosurgery coverage.

Beyond Pesticides

A report on secret, "inert" ingredients used in pesticides called Toxic Secrets, authored by the Northwest Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides, and released by Californians for Pesticide Reform, documents the Environmental Protection Agency's inability to protect public health and the environment from the danger of these "inerts," which can be as toxic as the active ingredient. Only seven of 2,311 inert ingredients are disclosed on product labels, and use of inerts has almost doubled in 10 years.

In California, over 152 million pounds of inert ingredients were used by agriculture and licensed pest control applicators in 1995. California has the most comprehensive pesticide use reporting system in the nation, which includes reporting the amounts of inert ingredients used.

"For over a decade EPA has chosen to ignore publicly available information indicating the toxicity of numerous chemicals in favor of a policy based on inertia, disinterest and secrecy," said Cela O'Connor of Marin Beyond Pesticides Coalition, a group of 28 Marin organizations that have come together to change the way pests and weeds are managed in our public places.

ACLU Blasts Novato Over Black Point

In a strongly-worded May 1 letter to City of Novato Attorney Jeffrey Walter, the ACLU of Northern California said the City should rewrite its solicitation ordinances to conform to constitutional standards for free speech. And city officials should refund permit fees paid by Forests Forever.

"Clearly, in its dealing with Forests Forever, the City has not acted in a manner consistent with the preferred position that free speech activities enjoy in our constitutional democracy," wrote Alan L. Schlosser, managing attorney with the ACLU chapter.

"It is inexcusable that Forests Forever was denied a permit for over six months when it is clear that none of Novato's solicitation ordinances are applicable to them," Schlosser said. "This seems particularly suspect when we are told that a group who shares the City's official position on the issue did obtain the necessary permits."

A special election to decide the fate of Black Point Forest was held February 24. The developer, Black Point Partnership, had mounted a four-year advertising campaign to whitewash the forest-destroying impact of the proposed project. A citizens' referendum and a developer-sponsored initiative both appeared on the ballot. Environmental groups including Forests Forever advocated a "No" vote on both measures. Such a vote would have halted the development.

The procedure to acquire a permit to canvass in Novato proved unusually difficult, however. City officials demanded fingerprints, photographs, felony background checks and a $105 fee for each Forests Forever canvasser.

In lieu of canvassing, 33 concerned Forests Forever staff members, along with friends and family, volunteered their time to campaign door-to-door in Novato. Each volunteer spoke with 20 to 30 people and reported that pro-development sentiments were expressed by only three or four of those with whom they spoke.

The pro-development campaign won the election on a 61 to 39 percent vote. Many volunteer organizers said confused voters reported they had cast a "Yes" vote, believing they were saving Black Point. Developer road signs, posted prior to the election, misleadingly urged a "Yes" vote to "preserve" the Forest.

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