My First Year on the Novato City Council

Reflecting back on lessons learned during my first year on the Novato City Council.

It is hard to believe that an entire year has gone by since I was elected to the Novato City Council.  It is still such a great privilege and responsibility to serve the community.  Reflecting back on the past year, I thought I would share some of the things I have learned in my short time on the council.  Rather than attempt to list every lesson learned, I decided to narrow it down to the 5 that resonate the most:

  • Listening and hearing are very different things – We call them “Public Hearings”, but the only way to really make an informed decision is to intently listen to both sides to really understand the issues at hand.  Hearing someone out is easy, but listening takes action, patience, and an open mind.

  • Disagreements are public, not personal – On the council, not only are our disagreements public, but they are even televised—that is the nature of the position and having open and public meetings.  No disagreement with another council member is ever personal though and at the end of the day, I am fortunate to serve alongside 4 other individuals who share a common commitment and dedication to the city of Novato.

  • I can’t make everyone happy – In politics, trying to make everyone happy ultimately ends with nobody being happy.  Herbert Bayard Swope said, “I cannot give you the formula for success, but I can give you the formula for failure: which is: Try to please everybody”.  I might not make everyone happy, but I can commit to thoroughly reviewing all sides of every issue and to clearly communicate how and why I reach certain decisions.  The outcome might not always be preferable, but the process should be respectable.

  • Don’t forget to stop and smell the roses – This is a rather common saying, but have you ever really thought about it?  A few months ago, I was talking to my neighbor about balancing council, work, and family and he reminded me to make sure to smell the roses.  It is easy to become so busy in life or fixated on an issue that we forget to really enjoy life.  While there is plenty of work to be done in Novato, we should all start by enjoying what Novato has to offer and why we have chosen to call this place home.

  • I still have a lot to learn – It is somewhat of a paradox, but sometimes the greatest lesson learned is that one has yet to learn anything.  I have committed myself to be lifelong learner and continually seek ways to improve in the years to come.

  • Although I have grown up in Novato, I continue to discover new things everyday.  From engaging with residents and attending community gatherings to studying council packets and learning how to correctly pronounce “Rowland”, I have truly enjoyed my first year on the council.  Thank you again for the opportunity to serve and wishing everyone the best in 2013.

    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.

    Center Road January 07, 2013 at 03:33 PM
    Eric Lucan you are a "nice" man, but you haven't exhibited any real leadership on council. What specifically have you done to better this town? In what areas have you been a leader? Yes, you do have a lot to learn. One is not to be the spoke's person of The Chamber. Being on council is more than just smiling and thanking people.
    Brent Ainsworth (Editor) January 07, 2013 at 04:21 PM
    On which issue do you think the councilman ought to take the lead?
    Christine January 07, 2013 at 04:35 PM
    I think he's a weak link. Didn't make a difference in 2012 and does not represent Novato as his campaign made you believe. He doesn't seem to have a voice of his own and always goes with the majority unlike what he campained on. Grow some hair on that chest young man!
    Lloyd January 07, 2013 at 04:49 PM
    Brent, Eric voted against the City Offices. I would like to see his leadership on producing a parking area and advance the Downtown Business appeal. So far nada to my knowledge. Also: I would like to know where he stands on the Housing Element? I believed the City proposal was a step in the right direction. However SUNN and the multitude of organizations chaired & created by Katie C using a spider web of shadow group names pretending to be a lot more representative than they are pushing for way more than our fair share. The response from HCD indeed calls for more in part because of the letter writnig campaign of the forementioned. We are just beginning our fight for fairness. Where is the Councilperson on this issue and when will he come forth advocating that position? That should get us started.
    Bill N. January 07, 2013 at 06:29 PM
    Well said, except IMO, Eric knows what he's doing by posting and inviting comments, and is demonstrating leadership and courage by stepping into the "virtual town square". Novato is fortunate to have someone of Eric's character, experience and common sense representing our entire community; and not just responding to the loudest, and often rudest, one-issue flyby critics.
    Tom James January 07, 2013 at 09:41 PM
    I would like to second Lloyd's comment. I too was disappointed that the new office building will not include more parking since this was the City's opportunity to address this issue critical to the viability of downtown. But more importantly is Eric's position on the housing element. I can assure you that the silent majority in Novato is incensed that the State feels it has the right to determine Novato's economic and demographic makeup. Unlike Ross and the other wealthy communities in southern Marin, most of Novato's home owners busted their butts to be able to buy a home in Marin County. And now the State is trying to tell them that they can look forward to taking a permanent $200 to $300K discount to the value of their biggest asset. I would really like to know Eric's position on the housing element and to Bob Brown's appointment.
    John Parnell January 08, 2013 at 01:36 AM
    Eric - Thank you so much for posting this. We might not agree on every issue, but I agree with your points wholeheartedly. Most politicians only hear, but don't listen. Public Comments at public board meetings are mostly a complete joke for this reason. And most would never admit with such candor that they still have a lot to learn, for fear of being eviscerated for it. Aside from any issue differences we may have, I think it is awesome that you are posting here on Patch, and actually engaging with the voters. Most politicians won't do it, because they don't want to open the criticism floodgates. Politicians & public entities should be more engaging like this. It's what our democracy is all about, and this new medium of "Brent's internets" is a great place for community engagement. I hope you'll continue to post on a regular basis, and continue to engage with your constituents like this. Respond to the comments, so everyone knows where you stand. We might not all like what you say, but we will all appreciate your backbone. Put up with the criticism, reminding yourself that it isn't personal, but stay online.
    Lloyd January 08, 2013 at 01:57 AM
    I too agree it is gr8 that you have allowed this type of participation. I wasn't being critical, quite to the contrary I too was concerned about the new city hall location. Working to achieve more parking would help soften the effects and support the Old Town Merchants. As for the Housing Element I have legit concerns because you were new to the council last year I would like your position and plans to move forward. I hope you will take the time and maximize this opportunity to have a dialogue with interested members of the community. If we can't discuss issues civilly amongst ourselves then all hopes of working together are at risk.
    Al Dugan January 08, 2013 at 02:52 AM
    Eric, I delivered a package to you on the importance of protect the most important investment of the hard working property owners of Novato, their home. There is property for sale near Wyndover that is 35% under the market for the same square footage as other properties in Novato. Novato has built more then their share of affordable housing (documentation presented to you in the package). It is time for you to stand up for the homeowners of Novato. PS where I come from you send an thank you not when someone buys you a book and give it to you as a gift.
    A Voice January 08, 2013 at 06:01 AM
    Eric Lucan please make a stand on your position of high density subsidized housing. Are you for Regional Government, OneBayArea or not? Are you for local control which OneBayArea is against? This is one of the most important issues in Novato and you have continued to stay mute.
    A Voice January 08, 2013 at 06:03 AM
    We know you can't make everyone happy, but you are making The Chamber thrilled. Somethings you say, are direct quotes from Coy Smith's mouth.
    Paula Neese January 08, 2013 at 01:50 PM
    I can't believe it's been a whole year already! Congrats! I think you are doing a great job even though I don't think we are always on the same page. But who is. Now relocate those downtown trees and give us more downtown parking spaces. Even more important we need more blue disabled parking spaces so more of our independent seniors can shop again in downtown. Cheers!
    Tina McMillan January 08, 2013 at 04:28 PM
    Eric Here are some areas that would be helpful to look into: 1. While SUNN focuses on more housing without a tax base, our local public schools are running a $3.3 million dollar deficit and the only suggested options have been increasing class size in K-12, shortening the school year and closing yet another school. In our response to HCD we need to show, by the number of free and reduced lunches, as well as our extremely low ADA, that we are indeed inclusive of low income housing and we cannot carry the entire county's debt in this area. Our schools are our future. 2. There is no way that trading 6 acres for less than one is a good deal for Novato. How about getting the SMART folks to build a parking garage at the Depot site? They get land we get a place for customers of downtown merchants to park? 3. The manner in which the downtown offices were funded clearly demonstrated the intention to build rather than buy. This intentional lack of transparency leaves a huge hole in our local laws. Measure F needs to be revised so that in the future it is inclusive of such a project. The fact that it was ignored on a legal basis doesn't make it ethical. Make certain that the people that live her have a vote in what happens with their tax dollars. 4. Every penny you accept from MTC comes with strings. It isn't worth losing local control to accept funding that will cost us infrastructure down the line. Let's live within our means.
    Trish Boorstein January 08, 2013 at 06:43 PM
    Congratulations Eric on your first year on Council! Your lessons learned thus far are commendable. Of all the groups HCD considered comments from when reviewing our Housing Element, I could only find maybe three Novato grassroots neighborhood groups. Can you please let me know if I missed any from the below list? Thank you. The groups are: Fair Housing Marin, Sustainable Novato, Greenbelt Alliance, Non-Profit Housing Association of Northern California, Public Advocates, Marin Environmental Housing Collaborative, Campus Property Group, Stand Up for Neighborly Novato, Marin Organizing Committee, League of Women Voters of Marin County, Novato Community Alliance, Lanham Village Homeowners Association, and residents of the Clausing Ave. neighborhood. How will you help address this discrepancy?
    Steve Adams January 09, 2013 at 07:35 AM
    eric lucan, please respond to the comments. I appreciate you at least writing a blog, unlike the other council members, that is a plus and at least states you are open. However, you allowed Michael Frank to hire Bob Brown without even questioning it. You are right, the council runs the city---well it is suppose to anyway, but Michael Frank bulldozes through and does whatever he dang well pleasese because he knows the council isn't strong enough to stand up to him. I voted for you, but won't again until you tell us what you have done about Pension Reform ( your campaign platform) and if you are going to allow developers to steamroll
    Steve Adams January 09, 2013 at 07:36 AM
    (cont) Novato and build more and more and more high-rise projects. We need a leader and I am hoping it will soon be you, but you haven't done much but smile and say thank you
    M. Calwald January 09, 2013 at 05:54 PM
    Eric, by your endorsement of Michael Frank's appointment of Bob Brown, you are endorsing high density housing. You might as well be a silent endorser of SUNN.
    Eric Lucan January 10, 2013 at 05:59 AM
    Thank you for all the comments. I appreciate the positive feedback as well as the constructive criticism. I am definitely going to continue to blog on the Patch and hope to address some of the comments and questions in future blogs. If there are more pressing questions or concerns, I encourage any individual or group of individuals to contact me directly as I am always available to sit down and discuss the issues over coffee or have a Q&A session. I believe face to face interactions provide a better venue for dialogue as opposed to attempting to have a conversation via comments. All of my contact information is available on my website at http://www.ericlucan.com or on the city council website located here: http://www.ci.novato.ca.us/index.aspx?page=289


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