Measure D forces the salmon lobby to come clean on their plan to use taxpayer dollars to fund their private agenda. They need $8.85 million of taxpayer funds for the County to buy the San Geronimo property from the Trust for Public Lands. Then they need the County to spend millions of dollars to change the property use and maintain it for their special purpose experiment. They do not want the community to decide if those funds could be better used for other needs, such as helping underprivileged residents.
No on D faction's claims that this vote is about providing open space for the residents of San Geronimo Valley. San Geronimo Valley already has 2,236 acres of publicly dedicated open space. Another 157 acres for the golf course does not suddenly fill a need for the approximately 4,000 people that live in and around the San Geronimo Valley. They have more than enough open space already.
Similarly, the argument that No on D wants the golf course available "for all" is false. The golf course provided jobs to 30 Marin residents, an event space for local gatherings and recreation to over 30,000 rounds of golf a year. It also provided tax dollars to the county. The counts of people walking the course when it was closed showed no more than 20 a day. That is about the same number that walked the course property when it was open for golf. This argument is just a smoke screen to hide their true intention which is to get taxpayer money to fund their special interest's experiment,
The No on D faction doesn't want to deal with the interests of the entire community. The entire community made their wishes known in the San Geronimo Valley Community plan. The salmon lobby and Supervisor Rodoni decided to ignore the plan and use taxpayer funds to do what they want. They rejected the broad public opposition to their desires.
The most disturbing part is that the salmon lobby does not care about the Marin residents struggling to meet their most basic needs. At a public hearing the leader of the Salmon Protection and Watershed Network (SPAWN) proclaimed that its interests are more important than the needs of Marin's underprivileged.
When challenged about the needs of the underprivileged, the salmon representatives responded that “the animals come first.”
Measure D will put those decisions in front of the entire community with respect to the golf course property. The Trust for Public Lands bought the property knowing the community’s position on its use. The salmon lobby wants to ignore the community’s rights. Measure D will make sure the community remains involved.
Voters should take time to look at the facts about the use of the taxpayer dollars and ignore the myths being spun by the salmon lobby. There are millions of dollars at stake that could help people truly in need.
Let’s look at the dynamics of this situation more closely.
When you follow the money, you will see why the No on D faction is saying anything and everything they can to confuse the issue.
The opponents of Measure D all expect to benefit from public funds if Measure D loses.
• The Trust for Public Lands, the current owner of the property, wants to get public funds to recover the $8.85 million it paid relying on the County’s promise to reimburse that unjustifiably inflated price.
• The salmon lobby expects public funds to experiment with converting the golf course property to new streams they hope will stop the 20-year decline in the salmon population that counted only 200 live fish in the latest run.
• The Firefighters Association wants the site for a new fire department headquarters. Some estimate the public funds for that project could reach $37 million.
• The alleged need for non-golfers to walk the golf course cost the County public funds of at least $200,000 per year in lost tax revenues by closing the golf course. They also cost 30 Marin fired employees around $640,000 a year in wages and benefits.
Passing Measure D does not cost any public funds. It brings the process of any changes from the community plan out in the open. The full community can consider the options. This is essential because Rodoni and crew tried to sneak a backroom deal through the County without considering input from all parts of the community. When the community exploded in opposition, they ignored their concerns. It took a lawsuit for the court stop the ramrodding effort. Now they are back looking at how to get the funds they want again.
Let’s look at where things stand now and consider the choices.
The Trust for Public Lands owns the San Geronimo golf course property. It paid $8.85 million thinking the County was going to reimburse it when it got its public funds together. The Trust for Public Lands has repeatedly said it will not be an owner operator of the property. It wants to be repaid the money it borrowed to make the purchase. It overpaid for the property to prevent other golf course operators from buying it. By way of comparison the prior owners bought it in 2009 for $5.9 million. Only taxpayer funds are likely to pay such a high price now.
The NO on D faction has not described where the money will come from to buy out the Trust for Public Lands. It has not described who will pay and how much it will cost to pursue the salmon lobby’s desire to convert the property into an experiment for new streams for the salmon.
During their initial effort to rush a County purchase of the property, the Parks Department requested an unlimited budget including hiring consultants to study its options. Estimates for the longer-term transition of the property were in the millions of dollars. They hoped to get grants of other taxpayer funds to avoid the County’s operating funds from carrying the full costs.
When discussing the use of the County’s general fund for parts of the purchase price, no consideration was given to the needs of underprivileged residents. Marin has serious needs for many of its lower income residents.
• The SF-Marin Food Bank reports over 9 million missing meals a year after applying personal, governmental and non-profit resources for the 19% of Marin residents that earn less than 200 per cent of the federal poverty wage. Every dollar to the Food Bank brings two meals to 49,000 Marin residents struggling to get enough to eat.
• The Canal Alliance recently asked that the County provide the promised implementation of free internet service for the many residents unable to afford it.
• The County’s juvenile services struggle to help families in distress with children needing after-school opportunities and counseling where both parents work long hours trying to make ends meet.
These are just some of the examples of problems faced by the underprivileged in Marin. Rodoni’s district includes areas most affected by these problems. Rodoni has demonstrated he is more concerned about spending on the salmon lobby. Measure D will require him to make his case to the entire community. Hopefully the rest of the community is more compassionate than the salmon lobby.
Let’s also correct several other misstatements by the No on D Faction.
They allege by innuendo that the golf course had a negative impact on the salmon count. The golf course did not cause the poor salmon population. SPAWN lauded the prior owners for their cooperation with SPAWN’s efforts concerning the salmon. (Marin IJ Marin Voice article dated February 12, 2018) The aquatic ecologist for the Water District did not think the “golf course was ever the major problem for salmon in the watershed.” (Marin IJ July 10, 2019 article on salmon factors.) The dams that formed the reservoirs decades ago and the return of only 1% of the salmon from the ocean are much more compelling problems.
The No on D faction claims the golf course was not profitable. That is a blatant lie. Just taking the last 9 years, the course (i) had net annual operating income of over $450,000, (ii) paid wages and benefits of over $5.8 million to Marin county residents many of whom were people of color on the lower part of the income scale, (iii) paid taxes of over $1.7 million, and (iv) attracted over 30,000 rounds of golf every year.
Here is one last fact to refute the misstatements from the No on D folks. They claim that golf in general is a dying sport. As reported in the July 2, 2019 issue of Forbes magazine participation in golf grew in 2018. Of particular relevance to Marin, the National Golf Foundation in its June 2019 report on growth in golf stated as follows:
"The most significant recent on-course growth can be found in the 65-and-over category. An estimated 4.2 million "Baby Boomers" played golf in 2018, up from 3.6 million in 2017. It's also noteworthy that 15% of beginners in 2018 were over the age of 50, the largest percentage in 10 years and a sign that more Boomers may become committed golfers."
That age group is particularly relevant to Marin which predicts an increasingly large percentage of its residents will be in the older age group.
If you think that the Yes on D side is the minority, you should ask Supervisor Judy Arnold, who was up for re-election in 2018, why she initially supported the County's purchase of the course but started voting against the golf course purchase after seeing the public's reaction. Only after she won re-election by a small margin did she change back to supporting the purchase. It is the Yes on D supporters that gathered over 12,000 signatures to put Measure D on the ballot.
Whether the community plan should be changed is a community decision. If a golf course is not the most desired use of the property, present the case for a different use and the economic impacts of the change on taxpayers and other residents. That should be a public community discussion as the San Geronimo Valley Community Plan requires.
The supporters of Measure D do not ask for public funds. They ask for a proper consideration of the needs of all the residents of Marin and the best use of taxpayer funds. That is the last thing the No on D faction wants to see.
Vote Yes on D so we can see a full and fair discussion of the best use of an important community asset. Force the No on D faction to spell out the millions they want to use and compare that to how those funds could help people in need.