The Town Council of San Anselmo stands poised to this evening.
(This is the . This post will focus specifically on the Ross Valley and will present a viable way to continue services and maintain community identity as it is today -- and maybe even better.)
In the last post, I discussed at some length the current duplication of services in the Ross Valley and the fact that we are paying over a million dollars a year for top management salaries to manage five small towns and a portion of the County in Kentfield and Sleepy Hollow.
The population total of the area in question is approximately 52,250, including the County portions. At the same time, the populations of Novato and San Rafael are 51,900 and 57,700 respectively.
Recent discussions resulted in only some luke warm support from several council members. This evening the council is being presented with a plan AND the implementing agreements that would transfer the dispatch and some administrative services to Twin Cities. It would retain counter services in San Anselmo weekdays and provide instant television access from anyone seeking services after hours. The two Chiefs have to be congratulated for their work on this project that will save both agencies several hundred thousand dollars a year, while providing faster and more efficient response.
A the same time the Ross Valley Fire Department has successfully integrated the Sleepy Hollow Fire Department into its' operations and is working behind the scenes to bring the Town of Ross into the department. As was mentioned in the previous blog, the Ross Valley Paramedic Authority covers the towns of Corte Madera, Larkspur, Ross, San Anselmo, Fairfax and the County territory. Flood Zone 9 covers the entire Ross Valley from White's Hill to the entrance of Corte Madera Creek into San Francisco Bay.
In a very simple world, the Ross Valley is already well on it's way to consolidation, except that we have continued to carry on almost a "shadow" government with expensive administrators and 25 exhalted and elected councilmembers. (I appreciate the situation, having been there for over 17 years.)
Here is the simple way to create the consolidated City of Ross Valley with the very special and local control issues addressed in a manner that insures that none of the exclusiveness of any town or city is taken away by the big government agency, the Town of Ross Valley.
First and foremost, the present towns and cities will be able to maintain their geographic identity simply by being the "Larkspur District of the Town of Ross Valley," etc. There could even be some Post Office savings further down the line.
The new town's governing council would be composed of SEVEN councilmembers, one elected from each of the districts. The town would be managed by ONE manager/administrator, and the several smaller departments (planning, public works) would serve the entire Town of Ross Valley, not stopping at smaller town lines as done today. Equipment costs, tractors, pickups, police vehicles would go down considerably as most likely fewer pieces of equipment would be needed. (In an extreme emergency, like a flood, pre-arranged emergency standby contracts with local companies would be in place.)
One of the first points of opposition to consolidation is the issue of the various and separate tax measures and bonds that are out there in each of the jurisdictions. These would simply be continued to be collected to their expiration dates, placed in a common escrow account and used for services in the limited geographical area in which they were initially voted.
Garbage rates would essentially remain the same, now that Marin Sanitary has received equalized rates throughout the valley. The Ross Valley Sanitary District issues, while uncertain, could be easier handled with a larger jurisdiction: the Town of Ross Valley.
In order to bring this all about within the next few years, my recommendation is that the County of Marin, especially the Second District, designate County Administrator Matthew Hymel and some of his support staff as the convenor of a private meeting, lasting two days, to which each town mayor and chief administrator would be invited. At that meeting all of the issues would be laid out, whether they be legislative or financial, to determine how and at what cost the consolidation would be accomplished, and what political complications would need to be be addressed, along with a timetable.
Out of this meeting would emerge a "Town Of Ross Valley Consolidation Plan" to be presented to each town council and the public for comment, affirmation, and adoption. Actual work can start immediately, as the Ross Valley already has some stalwart managers in place.
In the end, some of the present staff will either retire or be laid-off, just as in the private sector, as there will be duplicate persons available for the reduced number of jobs.
What must be remembered here is that government is the provider of services, and it belongs to all taxpayers, not only the elected or appointed officials.
The time for such a consolidation is now because the economy is not picking up at a rapid pace, but more importantly local government must put aside its old ways and start to operate in the 21st Century. Anything less is unwise financially wrong.
What do you think?