Measures set to pass, and most incumbents to triumph

Judy Van Evera
West Marin School third-graders learning about the nuts and bolts of democracy marched from their classroom to the polling place in Point Reyes Station on Tuesday, urging people to vote.  

Preliminary election tallies show that West Marin residents said yes. 

Though the county won’t release final numbers until later next week to account for mail-in ballots and last-minute registrants, the Elections Office released initial results late Tuesday night.

Those numbers include a sweeping 73 percent in favor of Measure W, which will raise from 10 percent to 14 percent the transient occupancy tax charged to visitors who spend the night in coastal Marin, generating an estimated $1.3 million for affordable housing and emergency services. 

With a smaller majority, 55 percent of Bolinas residents passed Measure X, an advisory poll that directs the county to restrict overnight parking on downtown streets. And although just 55 percent was needed, 67 percent of Marin residents in the Shoreline Unified School District voted yes on a bond measure that will generate $19.5 million for facility improvements. (In Sonoma, 60 percent of district voters are in favor.)

All three incumbents on the board of the Bolinas-Stinson School District were re-elected, though the one ambitious challenger was just 70 votes short of election. Out of five candidates at Shoreline, incumbent Tim Kehoe defended one open seat and Heidi Koenig, an Inverness resident with two children in the district, nabbed the second seat with a third of the votes.

In an upset, a young father and volunteer firefighter, Will Mitchell, ousted lifetime incumbent Peter Sandman from his seat on the Stinson Beach Fire Protection District board with 35 percent of the vote.  

As stickered voters trickled out of the polling stations on Tuesday, the Light stood by to glean input on local measures. What box did you check most passionately? What persuaded you?

Across the board, the residents asked in Point Reyes Station and Bolinas were in favor of Measure W, even though a few would not put their names in the paper for fear of angering their neighbors. 

Introduced early this year by District Four Supervisor Dennis Rodoni, the measure proposes to increase the transient occupancy tax for visitors who spend the night in West Marin from the current 10 percent to 14 percent. The estimated $1.3 million generated by the increase will be distributed for emergency services and affordable housing, with oversight by a local working group. (The original 10 percent will continue to go into the county’s general fund.)

“I voted yes,” Robin Elder, an Inverness Park resident, said of W, though she acknowledged the concerns expressed primarily from hoteliers and B&B owners who campaigned fiercely against the measure. “Perhaps the process by which the measure was put together wasn’t as inclusive as it could have been of the B&B owners, and there was also not anything about tightening enforcement loopholes.” Yet, she added, “It was disingenuous of [the opposition] to describe how they would be negatively impacted; the tourists will pay the increase.”

Ryan Rodoni, a Point Reyes Station native who works locally as a real estate broker, said he thought Measure W was fair-minded, addressing increased tourism in the area without the stringent crackdowns on short-term rentals seen in other jurisdictions—though he also acknowledged his bias as the nephew of Supervisor Rodoni.  

David Hunn, an engineer paramedic for the Marin County Fire Department stationed at the firehouse in Point Reyes Station, said “the majority of calls are for tourists, and I think they should help support the cost of services.” For Mr. Hunn, who splits his time between Inverness and Rohnert Park, W was no-brainer. 

Alice and Chuck Eckart, who have lived in Point Reyes Station for over 30 years, also voted in favor of the measure, which they agreed would “help get a handle” on the big changes they had seen in the area due to the “inundation of tourists.” 

But Bruce Fox, a Point Reyes Station resident and Navy veteran, said he voted no on W—as he had on nearly everything. “Where is the money going to go? I simply don’t believe it.” 

Mr. Fox was also against the Shoreline Unified School Bond, as he said it did not address the main issue: shrinking enrollment. 

Board members downsized the bond mere days before the cutoff to get the language on the ballot due to a wave of skepticism in the community. Concerns centered over whether the district had completed the goals from its last bond measure, which was passed in 2009, and whether an investment in infrastructure—as opposed to education—was wise given the district’s diminished enrollment. In response, the board made a more concise list of projects and cut the initially proposed $30 million bond down to $19.5 million, which amounts to $39 per $100,000 of taxable property value per year. 

Preliminary results show strong favor for the bond.

In Bolinas, residents polled as they left the community center gave a thumbs up for W, despite heavy reservations on the town-specific Measure X. 

“This is an America problem, not a Bolinas problem,” said Leondro Brady, a Bolinas native who, along with his father, Ananda Brady, has been campaigning against X. 

“I would like to see a clean-up of the downtown area, though in the form of a conversation—not this authoritarian approach that kicks people out,” Mr. Brady said. For Mr. Brady, who himself lives in a camper van on a friend’s property, despite making a living wage as an I.T. specialist, other creative solutions, like having landowners offer resources to people who could not afford to rent, are more appealing. 

Mr. Brady said he thought the people in favor of X were “well-to-do people” who did not understand what it was like to not be able to afford property. “How do they expect the restaurant, the grocery store, to stay open if the people with those jobs can’t afford to live here?” he asked.

Longtime resident Mark Butler said he too voted against the measure, though members of his family voted otherwise. “Something needs to be done, but it is not just removal,” he said. 

Luke Arnold, a recent transplant to the area who works at the hardware store and volunteers for the fire department, said he had voted in favor of X to address the traffic congestion downtown. However, he characterized it as a “delicate issue, as it was pushing people out who are living in their vehicles.” 

On the other hand, voting for Measure W, which will generate funds for affordable housing, was “easy,” Mr. Arnold said. 

When asked about the school board contests, residents largely said they were not informed enough to weigh in or else ducked to avoid getting personal in regard to the candidates. The preliminary results show strong support for incumbents in each race.