Flood control making waves in San Anselmo race

Dick Spotswood: Flood control making waves in San Anselmo race Dick Spotswood writes a twice-weekly column on local politics for the Marin Independent Journal. (IJ photo/Robert Tong) POSTED: 09/08/15, 12:32 PM PDT | UPDATED: 45 MINS AGO3 COMMENTS Ballots will be mailed to voters on Oct. 2 for contested elections for nonpartisan council members in five Marin municipalities. This week, we look at San Anselmo. Next Wednesday, the focus is Corte Madera and Tiburon. The central issue in San Anselmo’s municipal election is flooding. The Ross Valley history is marked by flooding. Another deluge is inevitable. That’s the subject of two ballot measures, Measures D and E, and is dominating council campaigns. Four well-qualified, passionate Hub City residents are vying for two Town Council seats: incumbents Ford Greene and Doug Kelly and challengers Lise Stampfi Torme and Matt Brown. After the 2005 New Year’s Day flood, the late Supervisor Hal Brown succeeded in passing a parcel fee funding flood control. After he became fatally ill, the process floundered. A stumbling block remains — the regional, state and federal agencies whose underemployed staffs relish being involved. Over a period longer than it took to build a canal through yellow fever-infested Panama, virtually nothing on the ground has been accomplished. At the center of the plan is a proposed $17.4 million rebuild of San Anselmo’s Memorial Park, upgrading the worn-out recreation facility and creating a flood water retention pond. Opponents gathered 1,484 valid signatures placing Measure D on this ballot. If passed, the measure kills Memorial Park’s use as a detention basin. The council replied with Measure E, which allows the detention basin’s environmental studies to proceed followed by an up-or-down public vote. Whatever the holding basin merits, this election will determine Memorial Park’s future. Secondary issues in the issue-oriented campaigns include the town’s famously deteriorated streets, a new community center and litigation involving Councilman Greene’s planning dispute regarding his home-office. Running as a ticket are incumbent Doug Kelly, owner of a point-of-sales technology company, and graphic designer and teacher Lise Stampfi Torme. Both oppose Measure D. Incumbent Greene and Matt Brown both support D and opposed E. Kelly said of flood control, “I want to put shovels on the ground.” He sees the Memorial Park plan as “an essential part of any serious flood control.” San Anselmo’s delegate to the Association of Bay Area Governments, Kelly touts his and Novato Councilwoman Pat Eklund’s successful effort to make the once top-down agency more responsive. Advertisement Stampfli Torme, a cofounder of the Flood Mitigation League, is as frustrated as Kelly that the process has stalled. Saying “Ross Valley will continue to flood and continue to have catastrophic losses,” she’s pushing active “hazard mitigation” plans dealing with both flooding and potentially catastrophic wildland fires. I asked Stampfli Torme for alternatives if D passes. She replied “the old Sunnyside Nursery growing fields near White’s Hill should be considered, though no one knows if it’ll work and what it’ll cost.” Two-term incumbent Greene is a constitutional lawyer known for battling the Church of Scientology. He opposes Memorial Park’s holding pond use, contending “there are 181 other things that should be done first, including increasing capacity at Phoenix Lake.” Greene’s referring to the published list of 182 flood mitigation tasks of which Memorial Park is just one. “Defending private property over arbitrary exercises of government power,” is a central task for Greene. Commercial real estate broker Matt Brown, an early proponent of Measure D, pledges, “I’m running for transparent, open, practical government.” Brown contends “the $8.7 million grant is driving the process.” He’s referring to the $8.7 million “dual use” state matching grant partially funding Memorial Park needed remodeling, but only if simultaneously converted into a post-flood detention basin. Brown doesn’t believe the holding pond will accomplish what’s promised since Sorich Creek, which flows into the park, generates little flood water. Columnist Dick Spotswood of Mill Valley writes about local politics on Wednesdays and Sundays in the IJ. Email him at spotswood@comcast.net. 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