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Op-Ed: Please, Let Us Govern Ourselves

Novato should be the body to decide what's right for Novato.

The infiltration of the Novato scene by influences from the outside is smothering local identity, local enterprise and local government. 

The computer and telecommunications revolutions have made it possible for huge organizations to direct local activities remotely and that is exactly what they are doing. Just because they can, it does not follow that they should. Political parties, business associations, unions, philanthropic, environmental, religious and special-interest organizations all have built local networks to support their national and global aims. The same has happened at state and regional levels.

The constant pressure from these sources has complicated the process of local governance so much that the average citizen has difficulty separating self-serving distortions from fact. In the absence of balanced journalism, we sometimes cede our votes to the last doorhanger in a local election.

Most of us would agree that running government from the top down does not produce superior results. What it produces is propaganda in the form of "outreach" and a state of constant war between the two national political parties. That same effect occurs when news associations blur the line between advocacy and reportage and philanthropy mixes good works with particular views of world order. Similarly, running a town through networks that are operating at higher levels often has disastrous results at the local level.

When you read an opinion piece about what the city of Novato ought to do on ANYTHING, ask yourself what network the writer belongs to, what set of assumptions he is adopting and what groups will be advantaged by the adopted policies. Does this measure primarily benefit Novato citizens or does it primarily benefit Marin County citizens? Does this measure primarily benefit Novato or does it primarily benefit the Bay Area? Does this measure primarily benefit Novato or the state of California?

If some one identifies himself as working with a countywide, regional, statewide or national organization, immediately dial up your status alert for what he says next. If you hear this triple linkage "affordable housing, environmental integrity and social justice," know that you have gone from local to global in just six words even if the emphasis is mostly on the United States.

Your next step is to look for words and phrases such as "a fact-based, respectful housing dialogue," "support our local economy," "delay compliance with housing element law at our [read 'your'] own peril," "[sites] located near transit, jobs and retail," "vitality," "vibrant," "small multi-unit, environmentally friendly residential developments."

If you can find these, know that you have found the one-size-fits-all label on the piece of goods you are being sold.

Your last step is to find one purported fact and to consider debunking it.

Try this one: "The unmet need for deed-restricted, truly affordable housing is obvious. We see this need in teacher turnover rates in the Novato Unified School District …" 

There are many reasons for high teacher turnover anywhere. The No. 1 reason that applies to most districts is that salaries and working conditions are better elsewhere. This idea is not rocket science.

Just as biology is not destiny, propaganda affects but does not determine the fate of every town.  When affordable housing is recommended indiscriminately for Novato with no limits in the number of poor families welcomed, no nod to the additional subsidies required beyond that of housing, no awareness that there is a tipping point beyond which a town cannot produce the necessary social services, and only the presumptuous refrain that [the group] "recognizes the vital importance of affordable housing to our efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions," you must realize that this person is not showing the whole picture encompassing Novato's well-being.

Those quotes came from "Marin Voice: Affordable housing need is obvious" by Ron Albert (Nov. 27, ). Mr. Albert is the former mayor of Sausalito, a town that not only does not have an approved housing element for this 2007-2014 general plan update cycle but also does not have one for the last cycle. Perhaps Mr. Albert has not cultivated his own backyard.

Mike Mills December 07, 2011 at 02:35 AM
Really...We will get exactly what we deserve from our elected officials - Novato will never recover. Novato council rejects housing fees for commercial developer http://www.marinij.com/novato/ci_19483717
Lloyd December 07, 2011 at 03:45 AM
It is time we explain the error of the Council's vote in mass at their meeting the 13th. Every person with a stake and concern should be there. We get what they give us if we meekly stay home and let it happen. Be there and be counted or stay home and wish for someone else to carry the torch.
Bob Ratto December 07, 2011 at 03:58 AM
Mike Thanks for the link, discussion and vote was way late. The meeting just seemed to be messy, with quite a bit of bickering. Linkage fees are not an easy subject at all, as they can cause a "slippery slope"...there would need to be a clear definition of what constitutes a development subject to fees, lest you end up with a local shop owner employing high school kids and being forced to pay some egregious fee to support AH..but on new development such as Hanna, it really did make sense from an economics perspective. SUNN proclaimed it a bad site in a nicely timed piece, but it was unfortunately missing the bigger picture-and the remainder of the City will now have to absorb what will almost automatically be higher RHNA numbers since the advocates have designated Novato as ground zero for their focus, which is fine, but it is disturbing when other areas are not willing to step up and take on what would be a rational allocation. If somebody wants to work to get Pam Drew on council.....
DC December 25, 2011 at 09:03 PM
Taxation without representation is tyranny (James Otis). It is my observation that various City Council decisions do not reflect or "represent" the majority position of the people. We cannot change that unless we hold our elected officials accountable. Verbally challenging a Council Member does not work, and it is easy for them to get re-elected when the powers that be (news media) advertise through editorials as to who should hold office. Renegade Council Members that ignore the majority position must be immediately challenged, and this is where we drop the ball. The peoples' position need be backed by presenting a legal ultimatum whenever necessary. I propose that we do this on the spot at City Council meetings. This would require an additional attorney to sit between the people and the City Council. The attorney must be well versed in Constitutional law and Democracy, and anxiously interject upon the first sign that a Council Member(s) is deviating from the majority position. If the Council Member(s) disregard the attorney's postion that a potential decision threatens Democracy, such Member(s) will need to answer to a writ of mandate that exposes their tyrannical behavior. He shall be called "The Peoples' Attorney" and he shall have power to interrupt a meeting as necessary in order to protect the Democratic process. Any volunteers?
Novato Chess Club December 26, 2011 at 12:40 PM
It is an honor living in the Novato community, a town of intelligence, and well thought out opinions. Keep Novato a town. Where I come from--many politicians sold out the local "will of the people" for larger personal agenda's --and future political jobs. The sad reality is many politicians look at government as long term career paths; instead of service to community. Stay vigilant Novato residents...and support local business growth.

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