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Novato City Council Removes Transparency Title from Strategy Plan

The City of Novato and the City Council removes "accountable and transparent community-based planning" from key document.

The Novato City Council and the city manager have decided to remove "acheive accountable and transparent community-based planning" as Goal No. 1 title that is in the city's strategic plan.

I requested this language be reinstated at the city council meeting Tuesday night and at the workshop on the new strategic plan after the meeting, but they refused to reinstate the language in the new draft. The council and the hired consultants, one of whom worked in San Rafael and supports high-density affordable housing, will be working on a new general plan and housing element.

If you want the council to complete this work in an accountable and transparent community-based planning, I need your help. Please contact the council at novatocouncil@novato.org and tell them you want the Strategic Plan Goal No. 1 title to remain, as it is currently, "achieve accountable and transparent community-based planning."

Below is the current and proposed strategic plan Goal 1's heading for your reference.

Current Strategic Plan Goal # 1 title

1. Achieve Accountable and Transparent Community-Based Planning

Proposed new Strategic plan Goal # 1 title

1. General Plan and Environmental Stewardship

I will be reviewing in detail the rest of the strategic plan to provide comments and op-eds and will do the same as well on the general plan to allow a citizen's view of the workings of the Novato City Council and city manager.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Mark Schoenbaum September 13, 2012 at 05:20 PM
Outrageous. They need to be reminded who they work for and who they represent.
Bob Ratto September 13, 2012 at 07:37 PM
Words matter!..when the council advocates for transparency/increased citizen involvement, actions such as this can and will engender distrust over what the true intentions are behind this. You know, that "by the people, for the people" thing...
SHROYER FOR SUPERVISOR 2014 September 13, 2012 at 07:53 PM
Al, Thank you so much for speaking to the City Council meeting on Tuesday night and asking for transparency. If people don't speak up for our democracy, attend council meetings, vote, and write letters to the editor/blogs it will be constantly eroded. You are a brave man Al and you lead by example. Many people are inspired by you!
wow September 13, 2012 at 08:06 PM
i saw you al on tv. you did a great job. so many people are afraid to speak out because they are called names and slammed and slandered. novato keeps voting for the same people over and over again and then wonder why we have such an incompetent council. will you run for council? you would be good. b well al.
Trish Boorstein September 13, 2012 at 08:24 PM
Al, thank you for your company at the city meeting Tues. evening. Let's hope the city and councilmembers honor your request and continue supporting community based planning as demonstrated by the formation of the Ad Hoc Housing group last year. This group had some setbacks, however, it was instrumental in helping Novato reduce their units per acre to 20 instead of 30. We need to demand community involvement and transparency especially knowing that the Interim Planning consultants have advocated for high density affordable housing in other cities. Thank you for providing ongoing feedback regarding Novato's Strategic Plan.
Harold H. September 13, 2012 at 10:00 PM
Al, why don't you sponsor a ballot measure where Novato's CC is term limited?
Al Dugan September 14, 2012 at 12:36 AM
Harold, term limits may be the ultimate solution for both the city of Novato and Marin County. Two terms, without grandfathering, would allow sufficent time to be effective, but not then to become entrenched. The overlap of election cycles wou D allow continuity. For the record Pat Eklund tried to save the existing wording but was unseccussful with the other four members that vote in lock step.
Edwin Drake September 14, 2012 at 04:29 AM
NO to term limits! That would only allow M Frank even more power. Instead, we should move to a mayor - council form and toss Frank out. Better yet, Novato should become a charter city, with stronger protections for citizen involvement and input. M Frank is the problem here, and the small brained brains of most (exception: P Ecklund) of the city council simply follow his lead, asking no questions and making horrendous decisions.
Roger September 14, 2012 at 04:49 AM
Edwin, I agree term limits would leave the City manager and staff as the leaders in effect. What we need is good economic conservative candidates. Dugan, Ratto, Pittman, and Belfor would be great candidates. I like Ecklund.
Eleanor Sluis September 14, 2012 at 04:49 AM
PLANNING COMMISSION STAFF REPORT Planning Commission Meeting Location: Novato City Hall, 901 Sherman Avenue* Sept 17, 2012 – 7:30 P.M STAFF: Robert Brown, Interim Community Development Director SUBJECT: MUNICIPAL CODE AMENDMENTS 3. CONSIDERATION OF MUNICIPAL CODE AMENDMENTS (BB) This document appears to give Bob Brown more authority to make, “minor” decisions without input from residents. For example, it gives Bob Brown authority to decide about removing redwood trees on Redwood Blvd in the name of possible affordable housing of possible 5 story units if one follows the change in wording to this document on zoning, municipal codes and to the wording of new general plan documents for environmental stewardship. It looks like a back end run about for developers. The new code amendments add to the removal of wording “Achieve Accountable and Transparent Community-Based Planning” to not involve the public and step by step to whittle away involvement, until as in San Rafael, which Bob Brown was instrumental in changing to a higher density. San Rafael has more traffic, needs more funds for infrastructure, and maintenance. It evokes a high-density city feeling and a change in its community, which does not correspond to Novato’s vision of a rural, suburban, small town. http://www.ci.novato.ca.us/?page=636&recordid=5894&returnURL=%2findex.aspx even this link is unavailable. “No results were found. Please try your search again.”
Al Dugan September 14, 2012 at 04:58 AM
Thank you Eleanor for the research. I will review in detail.
Edwin Drake September 14, 2012 at 05:20 AM
It's NOT about being fiscally conservative. It's about demanding civic amenities from developers whenever a project is approved. Right now the council is giving away the store. (The Hanna Ranch easement, what'd they get for that? That guy had 9 or 10 "advisors" with him, and the city just rolled over for him.) Anytime a developer wants to build something there needs to be a civic improvement in return. Tot lots, plantings, affordable living spaces above commercial, donations to youth centers, etc, etc. It's about making this town nicer and nicer. The result? Novato becomes more desirable and property values go up. Even fiscal conservatives like that idea. As it is now all the recent developments, last 25 years, are uninspired parking lots surrounded by stores. Has the city council yet released the North Redwood plan? Wait untill a Wal-Mart opens there. Is that what we really want? NOrth Redwood will be Wal-Mart and Walgreens. That'll enhance the town and add to our reputation as a nice place to live. (How many years now has old Pini space been empty? And there's "nothing" the city can do? Really? Hogwash.) Change and growth is inevitable. But our local leaders must control it so Novato remains a welcoming place to live. And this works, And it has worked across the US, in cities large and small. It works anywhere you can create a destination that's desirable for living. Get rid of Frank. He's the poison in the system.
Bob Ratto September 14, 2012 at 01:39 PM
Very interesting premise. It is sort of like a treadmill of good. Make the place more desirable, more want to come-live, shop, work, etc. More retailers want in, charge them for the privilege (They will happily pay because they can see the ROI), property values go up, etc. On the flip side, you would need strong (some?) code enforcement, to stop deterioration early on-Mission Lodge/the Square...I like this idea, a lot.
Bob Innes September 14, 2012 at 07:10 PM
As a fiscal conservative, I certainly agree that enhanced development is more desirable than stark or striped development. Even Liberals must agree that property values would be enhanced when plantings, parking spaces, playgrounds/parks and other public amenities are required of any future developments. However this is a slight aside to the real problems in Novato. Our stubborn and stagnant, misdirected city council members refuse to listen to the citizenry. That is our fault to some degree, since we give them free reign to run the city. We need to press the need for term limits, public review and approval of any major developments, in particular the affordable housing plans and future retail centers. Our city leaders apparently have no talents of their own and have continually retained individuals like Bob Brown to do the thinking for them. If they would listen to and honor the residents needs and suggestions they would win the war of public opinion and become the respected leaders we all hoped they would become. Consequently we are destined to battle the council endlessly to make our voices heard and if they forge ahead we must react by voting them out, perhaps even recalling them. Life is short and it is our city!
Trish Boorstein September 14, 2012 at 08:45 PM
To: Novato Council <novatocouncil@novato.org> Sent: Thursday, September 13, 2012 5:43 PM Subject: "Achieve Accountable and Transparent Community-Based Planning" Dear Council and Staff, No one ever said working with your constituents is smooth and trouble free. In fact, undertaking a collaborative process between government and the people is fundamentally what a Democracy is. This is why I started participating in city matters. As an example, last year when Novato city implemented a Ad Hoc working group to address city zoning for housing, it was far from smooth sailing, yet from this collaborative process Novato arrived to a mutually agreed upon density of 20 units per acre instead of 30. This was a tremendous achievement. One that everyone involved with this should be proud of. Please seriously consider reinstating Goal #1 of the 2010-2014 Strategic Plan that is titled, "Achieve Accountable and Transparent Community-Based Planning". Your leadership in this matter is paramount to the well-being of our community. Thank you, Trish Boorstein
Edwin Drake September 14, 2012 at 11:24 PM
We need to fire M Frank and go to a charter with a mayor - city council form of governance. My fear with term limits is that Frank gets EVEN MORE power. As mentioned, only P Ecklund asks any hard questions. The rest just roll over and do as Frank says. He's the poison in the system, spoon-feeding the council misinformation, and stacking the deck against the citizens. And what Bob Innes said above is absolutely true. The key is to hold people accountable and to hold their feet to the fire. Especially when it comes to future development. (How much citizen effort got tossed out the window on affordable housing when the council re-wrote the list at the last minute?) I will happily join with anyone, liberal or conservative or green or progressive or libertarian or purple whatever (except, maybe, the chamber of commerce,) if it leads to more accountability. We deserve better elected officials.
Al Dugan September 15, 2012 at 06:14 AM
Please email the city council and let them know you support accountable and transparent Community-based planning. Given the planning is now being done by consultants citizens have to make sure the have a requirement to listen to us. Bob Ratto said it best....oh by the way, "by the people, for the people..." don't forget they ALL work for us.
Pam Drew September 15, 2012 at 02:54 PM
Thanks Al for the insight about the goal changes in the Strategic Plan! I am amazed at how fast this all happens and how hard it is to keep up. Because I had another commitment Tuesday I couldn't stay to see the rest of the City Council workshop after the regular meeting where the 'open and transparent' goal was axed. There were only about five citizens watching "the meeting after the meeting" of the City Council. The workshops are not televised and the minutes are skeletal or non-existent. Another big question, the new zoning changes could be adopted this Monday the 17th by the Planning Commission. Come to the Planning Commission meeting at City Hall on Sherman at 7:30. Let's make Open and Transparent Government ring true rather than hollow. We need lots of eyes watching all aspects of local government to achieve this.
Al Dugan September 15, 2012 at 03:55 PM
Pam, well said. The City Manager describe eliminating accountable and transparent Community-Based Planning in the title as not important and the words (thus the concept) did not matter. He then immediately said it would not be reconsidered. If they are important, why not just leave them in. He is the one taking them out. I will be there Monday at 7:30 at City
Trish Boorstein September 15, 2012 at 04:48 PM
I'll be there too. If Goal #1 is not reinstated, the ramifications are unimaginable.
Al Dugan September 16, 2012 at 02:01 AM
Thanks Trish, I hope more people show up as the consultants will decide the fate of Novato if we do not act.
Roger September 16, 2012 at 06:46 PM
Ratto, are you a member of the Planning Comission now? Somebody told me that you were appointed. True?
Bob Ratto September 16, 2012 at 08:26 PM
Roger No on planning, but I did get appointed to the Measure F committee.
Lloyd September 17, 2012 at 05:11 PM
I am trying to catch up. I was out of town and am mystified why the Council would consider changing the verbiage of accountable & transparent community based planning? Was there a reason offered? It is becoming more difficult to understand and work with to approve the direction our City Manager & Council seem to wander. Every time we take a step forward we seem to take two steps backward in trust and understanding. I am at a loss to understand the rationale. Perhaps the Council can explain this seeming breech of faith so we can better work together to achieve community goals and needs. I will ask for an explanation in the letter I am going to write this week.
Lloyd September 17, 2012 at 05:16 PM
I hope our fears strongly expressed to the council and Mr. Frank are not coming back to haunt us. "I told you so" will not be sufficient in this regard.
Al Dugan September 17, 2012 at 05:25 PM
Lloyd, you are absolutely correct. We are at a tipping point, with the hiring of the consultants to do the Strategic, General, Housing Plan and the changes to zoning in the works. Thank you for writing you letter. We will have a group of people at the planning commission to mointor tonight.
Al Dugan September 17, 2012 at 05:27 PM
I sent this today to the Novato City Council: This is a formal request to find out the following regarding the proposed draft change for the Title of Goal 1 of the Strategic Plan:   1. The current strategic plan has as Goal #1 which is "Achieve Accountable and Transparent Community-Based Planning" as the title.  Please explain who recommended to remove this wording and when this occurred.   2. Please provide an explanation on exactly why this wording is being removed.  This is current wording and there should be a documented reason for removing what I believe to be a critically important defining statement of how the process describe below it will be conducted.    3. Please identify the principal author of the Strategic Plan draft.   4.  Please identify all of the people who have worked on and/or made changes to the Strategic Plan draft.   In a previous email I have outlined best practices for the drafting of documents so they can be easily picked up and review by the average citizen.  I will await your response on that separate email.   Thank you, Al Dugan
Al Dugan September 18, 2012 at 05:59 AM
Bob, I can't tell you how happy I am that you are on the Measure F committee. You would make an excellent addition to the city council that certainly needs financial expertise.
Al Dugan September 20, 2012 at 08:54 PM
Given the City of Novato has hired a PR person to work with transparency and community engagement. Thought this would be a god time to post this up one more time.

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