With the deadline to file for the March 2020 primary election approaching, the Marin County Board of Supervisors last Tuesday added a ballot measure for a parcel tax to fund a fire prevention authority.
The tax joins two other measures headed for the primary ballot. One would extend a quarter-cent sales tax to fund Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit, or SMART, and the other would mandate the county seek voter approval before changing golf as the primary use of the San Geronimo Golf Course.
If it receives two-thirds approval, the newly added 10-cent per building square foot tax would raise an estimated $19.3 million for the Marin Wildfire Prevention Authority, a 17-member agency that includes local fire protection districts. All but two Marin fire agencies, in Tiburon and Belvedere, have signaled they would join.
By signing on, fire districts in Bolinas, Stinson Beach, Muir Beach and Inverness would receive 20 percent of the funds that their property owners contribute. Another 20 percent of the tax revenue would go to defensible space and home hardening evaluation, and the remaining 60 percent would go to core functions, such as vegetation management, wildfire detection, evacuation system improvements, grants and public education.
Fire officials have added a 10-year expiration and an opt-in exemption for low-income seniors after receiving feedback in 65 stakeholder meetings. “We studied and researched the issues, we identified the cost, we completed the program to address it, and now it goes to the voters,” Supervisor Dennis Rodoni said. “I hope the community realizes the value in this plan we put forth.”
The measure joins an initiative put forward by the SMART board, which is seeking approval from Marin and Sonoma voters to extend its quarter-cent per dollar sales tax for 30 years, until 2059. In 2008, 70 percent of voters approved the tax for 20 years.
Also on the ballot is a measure that would require the county to seek voter approval before changing golf as the primary use of the San Geronimo Golf Course property. The landowner, the Trust for Public Land, has ruled out golf after failing to find an operator, and has contributed $25,000 to a campaign committee opposing the measure.
Supervisor Rodoni is seeking re-election as the county’s representative from District 4, and nobody has filed to oppose him; the deadline is Dec. 6.
Representative Jared Huffman, who has represented the entire North Coast in Washington, D.C. since 2013, is being challenged by Rachel Moniz, a San Rafael resident and the chief operations officer for Northwestern Mutual in San Francisco. Ms. Moniz, a single mother of two, has stated that her key issues are reproductive freedom, L.G.B.T. rights, affordable housing and Medicare for All.
Rep. Huffman had raised $347,021 by Sept. 30, according to Federal Elections Commission data. No information is yet available for Ms. Moniz.
State Assemblyman Marc Levine is running unopposed to represent Marin and parts of Sonoma County in California’s legislature, as he has done since 2012.
The March election will be the first time that West Marin voters use the county’s new central counting voting system. The voter experience will be the same, but ballots will now be tallied at the elections department instead of at the local polling places.
The change was prompted by the county’s need for new hardware and software; because more than 70 percent of Marin voters vote by mail, the county decided to purchase its new tally machines for the elections department. The system was debuted for about 14,000 voters in the Nov. 5 election, and Lynda Roberts, the registrar of voters, said it went seamlessly.
The March 3 statewide election comes earlier than usual because the California legislature passed a bill to move the primary up to the first Tuesday after the first Monday in March. Traditionally, California’s primary has been held in June.
“The Golden State will no longer be relegated to last place in the presidential nominating process,” Secretary of State Padilla said in a press release. “California’s primary will officially be in prime time. Candidates will not be able to ignore the largest, most diverse state in the nation as they seek our country’s highest office.”
The deadline to register to vote in the March election is Feb. 17.