The Mayor’s Week in Review: Feb. 11-17

Andy Berman, Mill Valley's Mayor, writes his weekly review, with some inside news, reminders and reflections, and whatever else comes to mind.

How do you deal with change?  Do you embrace it or fight it? Do you accept it or deny it? Personally, I have always found that change is good, though it can be quite shocking or upsetting at times. We’re writing a new General Plan and while 1989 (when we last wrote one) does not seem all that long ago, it’s been amazing to think of the things that have changed our lives and town just since then: the Internet, email, smart phones & tablets, digital cameras, blogs and wiki. It’s amazing. It’s change. It’s inevitable. Sometimes the happiness people share with me is the result of change (as one long time resident told me when I was at The Depot in December: “Mill Valley is in living color today”). Often the dissatisfaction I hear about can be traced to the discomfort associated with change, which is why I care about our core values – because despite the changes, we remain true to them: 

  • Our health and safety
  • Our small town character and heritage
  • Our financial stability in turbulent times
  • Our quality of life
  • Our natural environment
  • Our inclusive approach to city policy
  • Our open communication, mutual respect, and civility
  • Our local businesses
  • Our desire for operational excellence.

Speaking of folks coping with (and thriving despite) change:

Schooling around: I had the great pleasure of meeting with Paul Johnson and Leslie Wachtel this week (with Jim McCann, our City Manager). Paul is the Mill Valley School District Superintendent, and Leslie is President of the School District Board. Talk about change: ever shrinking budgets, more kids (1,000 more in the past 7 years alone!), demanding parents ... yet despite the changing times, the district has among the highest test scores in the state, is limiting class size to under 30, and of course got Measure B passed. What I saw in Paul and Leslie was two people embracing change, and carefully navigating what’s to come. A good lesson.

Speaking of things that aren’t changing fast enough for some folks:

A single-use plastic bag ban: I know I have written about this issue already but more questions are getting asked, so I thought it would be prudent to mention it again. Rest assured that Mill Valley is committed to the adoption of a ban on single-use plastic bags similar to the ordinance passed by the County of Marin. The City Council heard a presentation on the issue at our November 7, 2011 meeting, and agreed that staff should hold off on the ordinance until the lawsuit regarding the environmental review for the County of Marin's ordinance is resolved. We did, however, adopt a Resolution to Declare Single-Use Carryout Bags an Environmental Concern while we monitor the outcome of the County’s lawsuit. 

Further, staff is already working with other Marin County cities (and with the County Hazardous and Solid Waste Authority) to develop a model ordinance crafted on the County’s adopted ordinance. We hope these efforts may be completed by the fall.  We are also supporting the efforts at the State level (spearheaded by local Assemblyman Marc Levine) to resurrect the failed 2011-2012 proposal (Assembly Bill 298) to ban plastic bags in grocery stores. 

Speaking of things that seem to be changing for the worse: 

I hate it too - traffic: This week I had two trips out of town that took over 30 minutes to get from Safeway to Highway 101. What’s going on? Well, three main things: 

  • First, we still drive too much – we are averaging 11 trips per day from our homes (either our own, or someone coming to / from the home).  How many take place at your home? Can we drop it to 9? That alone would make a huge difference
  • Second, we are tinkering with the traffic lights in town to accommodate more folks who decide to walk or bike places. A little bit of extra time for them means more traffic from cars.  This is a work in process.
  • Finally, there are the lights / intersections over which we have no control – in Tam Junction or near 101.  When other entities play with those, it wreaks havoc inside our City limits.  This is one that takes true City, County, CalTrans cooperation. Never easy, but we are trying.

Speaking of things that need to change . . . 

East Blithedale Paving: Yes, I confirmed that we do still plan on the paving rehab work this year, as well as some much needed underground sewer pipe replacement work in the area too. For now we are going to grind the surface down and resurface the roadway (a full road reconstruction will take place using some Measure A tax funds down the road – no pun intended). The resurfacing project will begin in July following the conclusion of the school year and conclude in August before school starts. 

Speaking of things that will be changing:

Our next City Council meeting is going to be Tuesday (instead of Monday) at 7:30 p.m. at City Hall. Come hear our City Manager’s presentation on suggested changes for improved workflow relating to the Planning process.  

And finally, when the weight of change is too much to bear, fortunately some things haven’t changed:

Iyengar Yoga with Karen Kukula: I ran into my yoga instructor, Karen Kukula, while doing my Depot Plaza work today, and learned that she received a Top 100 People’s Choice Award. No change here; amen to that! 

What else? 

Car safety basics:  A very dear person recently had a brush with someone else’s bumper. This incident reminded me to always keep the following handy in your vehicle: 

  • Insurance ID card & Vehicle registration
  • Pens or pencils and a note pad
  • Flashlight
  • Flares
  • First-aid kit
  • Blanket
  • Jumper cables 

Be sure to use your smartphone to take pictures of any incident too.  For more information go to the California Department of Motor Vehicles.

Around town: 

Gas Break Drill: The Mill Valley Fire Department will host a simulated gas line break drill on Wednesday, February 20. The drill will begin at 9:00 am at the City Corporation Yard and it is estimated to finish around noon. It will be the first such exercise in the North Bay and will include personnel from PG&E, Southern Marin Fire, and City staff representatives from the Public Works and Police Departments. This will be an incident management exercise rather than a field drill with line staff or multi-jurisdictional involvement. 

The Redwoods 40th Anniversary is being commemorated with a reading of a Proclamation (by yours truly) during the annual crab-fest on Sunday Feb. 23. Come honor this wonderful jewel. 

Creative Writing: Do you know a high-school-aged teen who is just bursting with creativity? Send them to a Creative Writing Workshop!  It’s going to be on Feb. 20, from 7:00 - 8:30 p.m. at the Library Creekside Room – and it’s free!

The Emergency Preparedness Commission is meeting on Feb. 21 at 7:00 PM at City Hall.

The Sewerage Agency of Southern Marin (“SASM”) Board of Commissioners is meeting on Feb. 21 at 7:00 PM at the SASM Wastewater Treatment Plant – 450 Sycamore Ave.  Yours truly is the VP of the Board. 

Get Ready! Is your home and family prepared for an emergency? You should be. If you are not, or need a refresher course, the next “GET READY” Class is on Feb. 23, from 10:00 - 11:30 a.m. at the Community Center. This is free too. Sign up by emailing getready@smfd.org or call 380-1105.

* * * * *  

As always, thanks for listening.  My very best to you all.


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.

Andy Berman February 23, 2013 at 12:11 AM
Oh my gosh Kathleen - you are too kind. I'm blushing. Thanks so much for reading and caring, and for your kind words too. We are all in this together and I am just trying to do my part. On a personal note I hope you are doing well. xo Andy
Andy Berman February 23, 2013 at 12:16 AM
Hello Max! Good to hear from you. I hope this note finds you well. In April 2012 we actually made a budget adjustment to pilot an EVCS in the Hauke Parking lot. We are finalizing partner agreements and design this month, and hope to have the pilot station bid by the end of Q1, and installed / dedicated in April. Stay tuned on this one! Thanks for your great question. Andy
Jim Welte February 23, 2013 at 12:42 AM
Hey Max - here's a little story we did on the charging station when the council gave it the green light last year: http://patch.com/A-s5nG Hope all's well.
Chuck Wong February 26, 2013 at 03:49 AM
Regarding E. Blithedale - has there ever been consideration of putting up a fence (poles) along the sidewalk where Park School is? People seem to drive very quickly through that block and the sidewalk is so skinny with young kids. Some barrier would be helpful before an accident occurs and then the discussion comes up.
Andy Berman March 01, 2013 at 06:55 AM
Hi Chuck. We have a plan in progress to improve ped safety here which includes sidewalk widening with funds from the Safe Routes to Schools program. Design is in progress and construction is planned to occur before the resurfacing of E. Blithedale. We expect that with these planned improvements a railing will not be necessary, but we intend to monitor the situation carefully as safe routes to schools is a key priority for us. I hope this helps and thank you for reading and writing. Andy


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