One Marin town tries to stop enforced urbanization

A bird's eye view of Corte Madera

A bird’s eye view of Corte Madera

Marin County is a very nice place in which to live and one of the nicest towns in Marin County is Corte Madera. Once upon a time, back in the 1960s and 1970s, before real estate went crazy, it was where the elite of Marin’s blue-collar workers owned houses. You wouldn’t find the grease monkey there, but you might find the guy who owned the gas station at which the grease monkey worked. Now, of course, a 2 bedroom 1 bathroom can set you back upwards of $600,000, while the nicer, bigger homes run close to about $1.5 million. It’s ridiculous.

What’s even more ridiculous as far as I’m concerned is that state judges and the state legislature have told us that it’s unfair that we live this way and, instead, that we have to increase our density to match more closely San Francisco’s density. San Francisco is a little under 7 square miles large and has a density of almost 18,000 people per square mile.  Of course, this urbanization plan is part of a general Democrat plan to destroy suburbs, which have a nasty habit of leaning conservative.

Ironically, it turns out that all the good liberals who populate Corte Madera, and who vote into office every crackpot Leftist, are NIMBYs at heart. While they’ll applaud urbanization in theory, they really hate it in fact.

Nobody was paying much attention when the Association of Bay Area Governments (“ABAG”), to which Corte Madera once belonged, through a gross error, insisted that Corte Madera provide more than 200 low-income housing units. Nor were they paying much attention when those low-income housing units went up near my home, because there’s still fairly good traffic flow where we live — not to mention the fact that the units are closer to a commercial district than they are to an existing residential district.

nmij1013wincup03

Apartments on the former Corte Madera WinCup site

When people started paying attention was when the site of a former WinCup factory suddenly started being developed. Sure, we’d had notices of hearings and such but you know how it is . . . people just kind of ignore those.

It turned out that we had ignored this one at our peril. On a street that is routinely heavily congested, a developer has built up an incredibly ugly apartment complex with more than 180 units. During the endless construction, traffic has been moving at a slow crawl for hours on a street that is the only access to places such as the Department of Motor Vehicles or Book Passage, which is Marin’s most beloved independent book seller. It’s also one of only two main access roads to the local high school and the police station.

Although miserable about it, there’s not much townspeople can do about the WinCup site. It’s a done deal. But now there’s a new fight heating up.

On the same street as the WinCup building site is a movie theater. It’s not just any movie theater. Century Theatres is a stand-alone theater (as opposed to a multiplex) with an absolutely fantastic sound system that George Lucas himself had installed when he released The Phantom Menace. It’s also one of the few places, other than hanging around malls and parks, to which local teens can go. While Corte Madera, Larkspur, and Greenbrae used to have easily accessible roller skating and ice skating rinks, as well as other youth oriented activities, they don’t now.

Century Theatres Corte MaderaThe theater’s owner is planning on selling and a developer wants to buy and build thirty-one more houses on the property. As a general principle, I am all for being able to sell ones property . . . but I’m also in favor of a community being able to have a say in its own planning.

Thanks to ABAG rules and judge-made law, though, that autonomy is gone. Ideally, if a majority of a town’s citizens want more housing, that’s their prerogative. If they want less, that should be their prerogative too. For example, here in Corte Madera, we’ve all paid a ridiculous fortune to buy into a certain type of community, subject to well-established zoning rules.  (Meaning that someone who owns commercial property can reasonably understand that he can only sell it to another commercial property buyer.)  To convert a business site into a heavily populated residential site to satisfy a leftist desire to clump people together because clumped people vote Democrat (more Democrat even than Marin already does) is irksome.

I have a special objection to all this building and it’s one that goes to the very heart of a community’s viability. Marin last put in a reservoir in the very early 1960s. Since that time, more than 100,000 people have crowded into Marin, with ABAG’s and the court’s urbanization mandates promising many more thousands of people. This attempt to pack people in, so that we’re an ugly version of San Francisco, ignores the reality of northern California, which is that, like clock-work, we have major droughts every thirty or so years. You can’t keep cramming more and more people into a place with an already finite water supply, knowing that there will inevitably be another drought coming down the pike.

Anyway, yesterday was the Town Council meeting to discuss the proposed dwellings for the theater site. Some people wanted to keep the theater. Others were amenable to another business moving into the site. All were hostile to cramming even more people and cars into a narrow corridor that cannot handle the existing number of people and cars, and into a drought-stricken community that can barely handle existing demands on water resources. The Town Council agreed with the citizens, but admitted that the judicial and state mandates left its hands somewhat tied — and this is true even though Corte Madera has parted ways with ABAG, making it the only Marin town to do so.)

What ended up happening is that the Town Council agreed to impose a 45 day moratorium on any new development in that specific area, with a hearing to determine whether to extend the moratorium to 2 years. Under the moratorium, the town can study again what the impact of new residential units will be on the affected area. As one member of the public intelligently commented, studies and real life are two different things, so it’s useful to see just how badly (or not badly) things such as traffic flow really are with the WinCup building in place.

You can read more about the Town Council meeting. I just thought I’d lead in with my two cents.

The real world of guns comes to my kids’ high school . . . maybe *UPDATED*

Main entrance to Redwood High School Larkspur

Both kids started texting me a few minutes ago, which came as a surprise, since they’re not supposed to text while class is in session.  In fact, class is not in session.  Instead, the school is in lock-down.  The rumor amongst the kids, all of whom are madly texting each other, is that there’s a kid with a gun roaming the school.  They don’t actually know.  What they know is that the police station is across the street, that when the lock-down started they were told it wasn’t a drill, and that there might have been a shot fired in a bathroom, but even that’s not certain.

The latest rumor is that the police did confiscate a gun, and are sweeping the school.  I’ll keep you posted.

UPDATE:  I know that, once we’re all home together, Mr. Bookworm will start ranting about the Second Amendment, and not in a good way.  He simply cannot comprehend that the best deterrent would be the armed person’s knowledge that each teacher has a gun.  I’m a whole lot more worried about deranged students than I am about a teacher with a concealed carry weapon suddenly going postal.  That’s especially true at this school, where the teachers have the world’s cushiest teaching job:  gorgeous environment, great pay and benefits, and no violent or otherwise awful students.

UPDATE II:  Lots of sirens in the distance, so I know that the police are still heading to the school, not away from it.

UPDATE III:  From one of my kids:  “I’m hearing a lot about someone planning a shooting.  A friend just texted me saying that her friend heard gunshots.  Not sure what’s going on, but still on lockdown.”

UPDATE IV:  The solidified rumor is that a kid — identity unknown — came to school intending to shoot one or more people, but something happened that tipped off the plan, leading to the lock-down and police presence.

UPDATE V:  The kids are more perturbed by the number of police showing up than they were about the original lock-down.  Or at least, that’s the excuse my younger one is using to argue that he shouldn’t have to go to school tomorrow.  I explained that, just as it’s probably pretty safe to fly after an airport or airline scare, because everyone is super vigilant, tomorrow should be a pretty safe day at school.

UPDATE VI:  The new rumor is that there was a large planned shooting and that the police are trying to get to the bottom of it.  I don’t know.  I see this as a rumor from my child who really, really would love to skip a day of school and is trying to spin the situation to his advantage.

UPDATE VII:  Now both children have announced that they’re done with school for the week:  “This is freaky.  We’ve been in lockdown for an hour now.  I don’t want to go to school tomorrow.”

UPDATE VIII:  And it’s over.  They’ve been released from lock-down and school continues as usual.  I can’t wait to see what the principal has to say about this in the email I know I’ll get soon.

UPDATE VIII: One of my kids filled me in on the latest rumors: Apparently several Marin high schools, not just Redwood, went into lock-down. That report came about because kids were texting their friends at other high schools who also said they were on lock-down. There were also rumors that someone was shot, although that appears to be untrue. What definitely happened was that, as the lock-down continued, people started hyperventilating and otherwise having panic attacks.

Now that the whole thing is over, Story One is that a kid was in the restroom trying to load a gun and dropped the bullets, giving the game away. Story Two is that a kid took out an insulin injector, someone saw it, thought it was a gun, and started the panic. It should be interesting to hear what really happened — or at least what the police and the school district are going to tell people really happened.

UPDATE IX: Yet another rumor: It was a BB gun. We do live in a paranoid age, although a BB gun certainly can do damage.

UPDATE X: And finally, the official word from the school newspaper, which is that the whole thing was much ado about nothing:

According to [Police Lieutenant Sean] Smith, the threat turned out to be a false alarm.

“After surveillance footage we looked at, we determined what student had come in to the bathroom and left, and what classroom he was going in. We made contact with him and brought him out, made sure he didn’t have anything on him,” Smith said. “The weapon turned out to be a medical pin that made a clicking noise, and the top had fallen off.”

Disaster preparedness is a necessity for smart people and true conservatives

Loma Prieta damage in 1989

Loma Prieta damage in 1989

Over the past several years, our town and the next town over have worked hard to bring disaster preparedness from the government level down to the community level.  Neighborhood emergency disaster preparedness operates on the assumption that, in the event of a major emergency, government will not be there to help.

Here in Marin, we don’t base this assumption on a concern that our government emergency services are corrupt, under-funded, or inept.  Indeed, I’d say that the contrary is true in Marin.  Our local emergency services (fire, police, ambulance) are excellent:  They’re well-funded, there’s never been a smidgen of corruption, and the people on all these forces are enthusiastic, hard-working and well-trained.

These emergency services, though, exist for routine events:  a house fire, a robbery, a traffic accident. They are not intended to handle a massive earthquake — nor should they be.  Given that earthquakes happen at completely random, and usually lengthy, intervals, it would be insane for our community to fund in perpetuity emergency services large enough to cope with a rare (but still inevitable) disaster.

Given  funding realities, should “the Big One” (as Bay Area residents refer to the next anticipated earthquake) hit, it’s a reasonable certainty that people in our community will find themselves going for three to ten days without any access to emergency services, food, potable water, first aid, and shelter.  This is where we have a choice:  we can wait helpless for government first responders, or we can be our own first responders, taking responsibility for ourselves and our neighbors.

Here’s how it works:  At the most basic level, every household should purchase the life-sustaining supplies needed for three to ten days without access to stores, hospitals, fresh water, and shelter.  The rule of thumb is that neighbors will pool resources for a day or two, but it if looks as if the emergency conditions will last any longer than that, it’s every household for itself.

Unfortunately, while it’s easy enough to say “Buy supplies,” the reality is that most people are governed by inertia.  Too many people really do mean to stock up the next time they’re at Costco or Safeway, but when the time comes, they forget, or they haven’t made a place to put the supplies, or they just don’t feel up to the rigors of buying all the stuff, loading it in the car, and then unloading it again at the other side.  They’ll do it another day, they tell themselves.  Somehow, though, that other day never arrives.

What turns out to be the best system to ensure that the greatest number of households act intelligently before, during, and after a disaster is a neighborhood preparedness committee.  When a newspaper article reminds you to stock up supplies, you might think “Eh, I’ll get it done eventually.”  When your neighbor sits on your couch with you and explains what you need and how to get it, it lights a bigger fire, and ensures greater effort.  Likewise, when you get yet another email from yet another organization, you might ignore it.  But when a neighbor hosts a party to take about basic information (supplies, gathering spots, knowing who your neighbors are, etc.), there’s a greater likelihood you’ll be there, you’ll listen, and you’ll learn.

An organized neighborhood is also extraordinarily helpful when the disaster does strike.  This is the neighborhood that will have given already ensured that homeowners have supplies and that they know how to turn off their gas and prevent potentially contaminated water from flowing into their homes.   A prepared community will have block captains who go to the houses on their watch to make sure gas lines are closed, to perform the most basic injury triage (and first aid, if necessary), and to gather information about everyone’s whereabouts and status.  In this neighborhood, homeowners will have signs to place in their windows so that the block captain instantly see whether that home is “OK” or needs “HELP.”  (Even OK homes will eventually get a visit, but not on the first, triage pass.) If homes are destroyed, the prepared neighborhood will know where the emergency gathering spot is.

Lastly and most importantly, when the government “first responders” eventually show up (long after the neighborhood has already provided the actual first response), the organized neighborhood will be able to offer easily accessible information about fatalities, injuries, local dangers (leaking gas lines, downed electrical lines, etc.).  Experience shows that this level of preparedness results in the fastest attention from government emergency services.  This isn’t a case of bias or bribes on the government’s part; it’s a case of the path of least resistance.  If an emergency care provider has heading towards him a level-headed person with a list and a screaming mad-woman, he’ll turn gratefully to the list holder and try to pass the mad-woman off to someone else.

All over Marin, local communities have been accelerating their efforts to get organized.  As more neighborhoods prepare, those neighborhoods that don’t will be left out in the cold.  Their homes will be bare of survival essentials, their response to an actual disaster will be chaotic, and emergency services will give them the cold shoulder in favor of other, better-organized neighborhoods.

In my neighborhood, I’ve been invited to join the steering committee.  You won’t be surprised to learn that my role is communications.  As a committee member, I now get to attend the community-wide meetings for representatives of all the neighborhood organizations.  When I went to last night’s meeting (my first), whom should I see but our own Charles Martel?

At first, I was surprised to see Charles.  I shouldn’t have been.  For starters, he’s an exceptionally decent and intelligent human being, so it made total sense that he would volunteer himself to be in the front line of organization and preparedness both before and during a disaster.  It’s more than that, though.  Charles is a principled conservative who believes that government cannot and should not be responsible for everything in our lives.  We know what that looks like:

Hurricane Katrina victims, lacking any resources, clog New Orleans freeways.

Hurricane Katrina victims, lacking any resources, clog New Orleans freeways.

Conservatives recognize that government cannot be responsible for every eventuality in our lives. More than that, we understand that it should not be responsible for all things, because that gives it way too much power.

Understanding these facts is one thing. Acting upon them is another. We conservatives like to focus on trying to elect politicians who promise small government. Too often, though, once they’re in Washington or a state capital, these politicians either prove to be an ineffectual minority or, worse, they come down with “government spending disease” and think their responsibility ends with keeping the price tag down on yet another Big Government initiative.

What we all can and should do is something closer to home: We should be at the front lines when it comes to encouraging people to take care of themselves. When there’s a vacuum, government will fill it. If we make sure to fill that vacuum before government does, we’ve done our bit to help shrink Big Government. At the same time, we’ve also ensured that we will be in better shape in the long run than those who believe that Big Government is the one and only answer.

Having said that, I’d like to request help from you, my fellow citizens:  Because I am a procrastinator, I understand better than many the inertia that prevents people from getting in their car, driving to the local mall, and stocking up on home earthquake supplies. I’ve found that one of the ways to fight that procrastination is to make the shopping so easy that even the most shopping-averse, lazy, in denial person has no excuses. The answer, of course, is Amazon — and, even better, Amazon Prime.  You can shop from your home, at your leisure, and everything comes straight to your door.  What could be better?

The problem with Amazon, though, is that there are too many choices.  A single person could spend a lifetime trying to find the best quality, best priced emergency supplies at Amazon.  I’d rather use crowd sourcing.

My goal is to put together an Amazon shopping list that has on it the most highly recommended emergency supplies, everything from paper plates to can openers to flash lights to toilet paper to can openers to foil-sealed water (lasts 5 years) to food stuff to first aid kits. I know that not everyone should, will, or wants to everything from Amazon, but I still want a vetted list that enables someone looking for any or all necessary supplies can trust to provide purchase information.

Vetted supplies suitable for my Amazon earthquake list must be (a) high quality and (b) best price, keeping in mind the purpose for which the supplies are intended.  No one wants to buy a $900, 10-person, all-weather tent for a possible emergency when Amazon offers a highly rated, easy-to-assemble, some-weather tent for $110 dollars.  It’s even better if the tent ships free using Prime or it qualifies for Amazon’s “free shipping for purchases over $35.

So here’s my request:  If you have purchased emergency supplies lately from Amazon, and you feel that your purchase meets my “vetted supplies” criteria, please send me a link for that product, either through an email (bookwormroom * at * gmail.com) or by leaving a comment here.

Does it make sense to spend money to entice poor people to parks?

YellowstoneOne of the things we’ve always noticed when we’ve traveled to America’s magnificent state and national parks is that we see almost no black or Hispanic faces and, when we see Asian faces, they’re almost invariably Japanese tourists.  The vast bulk of the visitors at these parks are white middle class people.  It’s obviously a cultural thing, because this holds true whether the parks are cheap or expensive, or near to or far from heavily populated areas (which implicates ease and expense of access).

Marin County has taken note of this discrepancy at its own parks and has decided to invest $84,000 in programs aimed at enticing poor people and minorities to come to parks:

Officials awarded $84,000 to six programs that encourage “a more diverse community of visitors” at county parks, with much of the cash going to a nutrition and family fitness group, LIFT-Levantate, for a “park ambassador” program.

The Board of Supervisors approved “Measure A” sales tax grants benefiting the poor and minority communities as recommended by parks officials.

I was going to say that, since their taxes help support these parks, maybe it makes sense bringing their attention to the fact that they can enjoy the parks. It then occurred to me that their taxes do not support the parks because, if they are poor, they’re presumably in the 51% of Americans who get a free ride tax-wise.

It seems to me that the parks are there and it’s kind of up to people to find them if they want to. Having said that, I realize that I live in a bubble: upper middle-class, well-connected, well-educated, well-informed — and the child of poor immigrants who thought that driving to a national park was an extraordinarily wonderful vacation for children, especially since we couldn’t afford airplane trips anywhere, whether to Europe or even the East Coast.

What do you think? I can’t decide whether my instinct — “This is silly!” — is sensible, curmudgeonly, or class-ist.

A random thought about al Qaeda’s latest threat

Marin County LineOne of the things Democrats generally and Obama specifically are trying to do is to concentrate more Americans into cities.  Suburbs are seen as dangerous bastions of privilege, conservativism, individualism, and racism where people do un-green things such as driving cars to their single-family homes.  This video, for example, shows how the federal government has been attacking Westchester County, arguing that single-family houses are intrinsically racist:

We’re having the same types of attacks leveled on Marin County:  Democrats in Sacramento and Washington, D.C., working with the federal courts, are trying to turn Marin into a densely populated small city, with dressed-up tenements for poor people overwhelming Marin’s spacious, single-family homes.  Of course, what none of these activists considered, and what’s now becoming painfully obvious, is that Marin doesn’t have enough water to sustain this forced urban growth.  We single-family home dwellers spent a fortune on our properties and are having them taken away, not directly through eminent domain, but indirectly through activist legislatures and courts using the language of diversity to turn middle class neighborhoods into tenements.

To the extent that the American voting map is purple, it’s because blue cities sit as fortresses in red suburbs and rural areas.  The bigger the cities, or the more cities per state, the more likely the state is to be a Blue State.

With these considerations in mind, it was with some interest that I read that al Qaeda is urging its followers to plant car bombs in American cities.  My first thought was, “I’m glad I don’t (yet) live in a city.”  My second thought was to wonder how many current city dwellers are going to start thinking that cities are prime targets for terrorism and that maybe, just maybe, they don’t want to live in a terrorist’s version of a bulls-eye.

PC pet equality in Marin

Pet equality

One of the nice things about my hometown is the fact that, wherever people walk their dogs, local taxpayers fund stations where you can get a plastic bag to gather dog poop and then throw those poop-filled bags away in a conveniently located garbage can.  To the extent that making it easy to dispose of poop drastically improves the quality of living wherever one walks down streets, I love these little stations.  They’re a small expense with a big return.

But because this is Marin, they’re also very politically correct.  As you can see from the sign above, despite the fact that I have never seen someone walking a cat on a leash on any of the streets frequented by dozens, or even hundreds, of dogs (and their owners, of course), the sign carefully includes cats in the mix.  After all, some cat lover, or even some cat, might be offended by any implication that cats (and their owners) don’t clean up after themselves.  Sheesh!

Christmas in Marin

Christmas ornamentsI’ve had a very nice Christmas, both Eve and Day.  I also had a very Marin Christmas.  I was at a party this afternoon and met some very nice people.

In a discussion about rising college prices, one man told me that this problem resulted from income inequality.  He was surprised when I suggested that tuition inflation probably had more to do with government loans enabling colleges to get away with charging money, as well as with top-heavy administrations and overpaid professors.  I didn’t push it and nor did he, but I do think I gave him something to think about.

Another man earnestly told me that all of his food allergies were the result of genetically modified food.  He was at a loss to explain how I, who had myriad food allergies growing up, no longer have any.

Finally, a third man said that Marin’s current (very disturbing) drought is the product of anthropogenic global warming.  When I mentioned that we’d had a drought here way back in the late 1970s and that most of America was freezing and deluged with snow and sleet, he was nonplussed and fell silent.

With all three men, I didn’t push the agenda.  It was a congenial party and I had no intention of raising the temperature in the room.  I do hope, though, that I planted little seeds in their minds from which something might sprout.

By the way, speaking of Marin County, Daniel Henninger today published a very funny letter (behind a paywall) purporting to come from a Marin County navigator to “His Excellency, President Obama.”

Bag bans — a microcosm of Obamacare

I went to a Safeway in Mill Valley because it was convenient.  When I got to the check-out, I was reminded why I never shop at that Safeway:  their town council banned plastic bags and you get charged five cents per bag for a paper bag.  Next year, all of the stores in Marin County will be subject to these rules.  I have no words for how much I loathe this liberal police state law.  Let me count the ways:

Let me begin by saying that the problem isn’t that I’m being charged five cents per bag.  I’m cheap, but I’m not that cheap.  I’ve understood since I was a child that stores don’t really give bags away for free.  Instead, the cost of bags is folded into the prices they charge.  I’m paying not only for the groceries, but also for the staff, the facility, the shopping carts, and the bags.  I therefore don’t mind stores such as Goodwill that charge for bags as a way to keep their overhead down.  That’s a business decision, and I’m happy then to make my own decision:  Do I want to pay the ten cents or will I just make do without a bag?  After all, I don’t need to go to Goodwill.  I can do without cheap books or I can find them at other stores (or online).

The five cents per bag charge at Mill Valley (and soon, all Marin) stores irks me because it’s not a business decision.  It’s punitive.  The local governments are punishing me for having the temerity to use a paper bag.  Moreover, once it goes Marin-wide, I can’t avoid it, unless I want to drive 50 or 60 miles to a fascism-free county.

As it happens, I adore paper bags.  I’m forced to use a recycling bin and paper bags are an easy way to collect recycling.  They can go right into the bin along with the recycled refuse filling the bag.  Paper bags also make great packing material, covers for textbooks, stable (non-tippy) bags in which to carry food to potlucks or school events, fireplace starters, etc.  I’ve already paid for them by paying a higher price for my groceries than I would in a store (e.g., Goodwill) that says “We keep prices down to help save you money.”  Marin stores, though, are being forced to say, we charge you money to punish you.

There are two alternatives to paying a fine to use a paper bag:  You can bring your own, or you can toss individual items into the car (as you do at Costco).  I’m going to opt for the latter.  I refuse to become a bag lady.  I will not be forced to buy bags, which I then need to remember to carry around with me wherever I go, and which I need to remember to wash regularly so I don’t poison my family.  As to that last point, washing bags means that I’m doing an extra load of laundry every week, which means increased water and electricity use.  Surely that can’t be green.

I go crazy when I see all the liberal drones in Marin dragging around their little bags.  It makes me feel as if I’m living in a third world country.  They look like derelicts.  They’re feeling righteously smug, and I’m looking at them and thinking that they’ve been brainwashed to accept a Zimbabwe lifestyle.  (Let me say here that, while I don’t agree with them, if people want to do this, I applaud them.  Why?  Because they’re freely making a decision and it works for them.  That’s how life in a free country should be.)

Bottom line:  The bag ban forces me to buy a product I don’t want or to pay a penalty.  It is a microcosm of Obamacare.  It is a denial of free will, it perverts the marketplace, and it is an unforgivable form of coercion against a free citizenry.

Life in the suburbs

I may not agree with Marin politically (it’s roughly 70% to the Left of Left, despite the rampant capitalism that supports its infrastructure), but it is a fabulous place to raise children.  Sure, there are problems with drugs and drinking (lots of them), but the fact remains that if you want your children raised in a child-centered community that offers safe streets, old-fashioned neighborhoods, excellent schools, and true community, you can find it in Marin.  My kids play soccer, swim, do martial arts, run around the neighborhood, play parlor games, go to their friends’ basketball/lacross/water polo/football/baseball/etc. activities, and generally live the healthy, physical, safe life that we all dream of for our children.

My kids and their friends don’t hunger for urban life.  When they go into San Francisco, none of them can leave fast enough.  To them, the City is dirty, noisy, crowded, dirty, unsafe, overwhelming — did I mention dirty? — and just not the place they want to be.  Most of the kids they hang with say that they want to attend a college in a smaller rural or suburban area when the time comes.  Put another way, Marin has some of the same downsides as San Francisco — drugs and drinking — and lacks some of the upsides — trendy restaurants and public transportation — but overall, when it comes to raising children, Marin offers much more for parents and children than the City ever could.

Speaking of public transportation, when my children were little and we had left the City for Marin, I thanked God on a daily basis that Safeway was an easy 7 minute drive from my house, and that there was clean, safe parking when I got there, as opposed to my situation in the City.  There, as the crow flew, Lucky’s was 7 minutes from my house, but add in traffic and parking, not to mention the crowded, surly store itself, and shopping for groceries in the city was one long screaming child nightmare that could last an hour or two.  And I had a car.  Had I lived there without a car, a quick trip to the store would have taken up to half a day, with an angry, temperamental child (or two).

Marin is just easy.  It is.

As for the drugs and drink, we’ve tried to instill values in our children.  It’s not the school’s responsibility to instill those values.  It’s mine and my husband’s, and I think we’ve built some pretty strong moral armor around the children.  It helps that the neighborhood shares our values.  Interestingly enough, the kids, when at school, shy away from the fast crowd.  Their friends are as wholesome as they are.

All of which means I totally agree with Mike Lanza, who adds data to my anecdotes and reaches the obvious conclusion:  for all their “it’s for the children” talk, the Democrats’ hostility to suburbs is fundamentally anti-family and anti-child.

A Marin bumper sticker

This one just made me laugh. What I couldn’t get as I was scrambling at a red light to take the photograph was that, in the upper left hand corner of this truck’s rear window was a macho bumper sticker that said something along the lines of “You never see a motorcycle in the parking lot of a psychiatrist’s office.”

Then, on the right top bumper, you see the even more manly, macho, take-charge directive to “fuck fear.”  And then, in the bottom right, you get “I like ObamaCare.”

All of which together says “I am a macho man who can handle any situation fearlessly.  Oh, and would you please pay all your money in taxes just to make sure the government takes care of me?”

Macho take care of me bumper sticker

The empowering thing about Leftism is that you never have to make sense. Cognitive dissonance is an accepted way of life.

With the latest news about Drakes Bay Oyster Co.’s legal counsel, what’s a good Marin liberal to do?

People in Marin have been extremely upset about the decision Ken Salazar (Secy of the Interior) made to shut down Drakes Bay Oyster Co.  The oyster company is a fixture in Point Reyes, and has been sustainably harvesting oysters for decades.  It is insufficiently pure for ObamaWorld, though, so it’s got to go:

On November 29, Ken Salazar, secretary of the interior, announced his decision not to renew Drakes Bay Oyster Co.’s lease on National Park Service land about 30 miles north of San Francisco. Citing the 1976 Point Reyes Wilderness Act, the National Park Service intends to establish a federally designated wilderness area, the first on the West Coast, on the land where the oyster farm has long operated.

The Lunnys and their 31 full-time employees, many of whom have worked for decades on the oyster farm, will lose their jobs. Fifteen who lived on the premises will also lose their homes. And the company has only three months to vacate.

What’s worse is that there’s a very strong case to be made, not only that Salazar was going for an impossible purity, but that Drakes Bay Oyster Co. is the victim of a government fraud:

In 2007 [Corey] Goodman [professor emeritus at Stanford and Berkeley] received a phone call from Steve Kinsey, a member of the Marin County board of supervisors. Kinsey told him of the Park Service’s allegations of environmental damage from a small oyster farm with an otherwise impeccable reputation, then he asked Goodman to fact-check the government’s claims. Goodman agreed, reviewed the data, and attended a public hearing on Drakes Bay Oyster Co. He had never met the Lunnys, but he was appalled at what he heard from the Park Service officials. Their statements completely conflicted with what Goodman had found.

“I sat and listened to the Park Service that day make the most incredible claims,” he tells National Review Online. “We hadn’t heard exaggeration,” Goodman recalls. “We’d heard things that were simply not true.”

His interest piqued, Goodman embarked on what became a five-year examination of the Interior Department and National Park Service studies of the oyster farm.

“I’ve never seen anything like it,” Goodman says. “It’s a stunning misuse of science by our federal government. . . . They have spent a huge amount of money trying to find harm when it doesn’t exist. . . . The Park Service was determined to get rid of the oyster farm, and they simply made [the environmental damage] up. . . . These people aren’t following the data. They’re following a predetermined agenda.”

Judging by the posts on my real-me Facebook, my Marin friends are extremely upset about this one.  They’re traditionalists (and Drakes Bay Oyster Co. has been around a long time), and they like their oysters.  Many Marinites consider it a fun family outing to pick up some oysters as part of a trip to Point Reyes.  They therefore believe that the Department of the Interior should back down on this one.

Today, though, the Marin Independent Journal dropped a bombshell that’s going to have these liberal Drakes Bay supporters spinning and confused — it turns out that the Koch brothers have a connection to the Oyster company.  Oh, no!

The head of Cause of Action, the Washington D.C.-based nonprofit representing the Drakes Bay Oyster Co. in its lawsuit against the federal government, has had ties to the Koch brothers, wealthy industrialists who have funded ultra-conservative and libertarian policy and advocacy groups, most notably the Tea Party.

Dan Epstein, Cause of Action’s executive director, worked for the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation from June 2008 to January 2009, according to Mary Beth Hutchins, a spokeswoman for Cause of Action.

When Epstein left the Koch foundation he took a job for the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, headed by California GOP Congressman Darrell Issa. Under Issa’s leadership, the committee has mounted a series of investigations into the Obama administration since the Republicans took control of the House in 2010. Those investigations included the National Park Service’s handling of the Drakes Bay Oyster Co.’s request for a special use permit.

Epstein left that job to head the newly formed Cause of Action in August 2011.

How in the world are the Marin people going to square this circle?  Will it force them to see that the Koch Brothers are not evil industrialists who destroy “the little people” but, instead, are principled constitutionalists who believe that the government should leave the little people alone?  Or will they decide that the Drakes Bay Oyster Company that they lauded so tearfully last week is, in fact, part of the vast right wing conspiracy, and that Salazar is correct to use fraud and coercion to destroy it?

It will be interesting to watch my friends struggle with this one.  No, I take that back.  One of the things I’ve noticed is that, once political issues get intellectually difficult, they just stop thinking about them altogether.  You can practically see these bright, highly educated people sitting there going “Owie.  My brain hurts.”

Marin County demonstrates the one-party totalitarianism that flows from open primaries

Yesterday, I posted about the result of California’s open primary in Marin:  two Democrats running against each other for the California Assembly.  My post was about the problem that this creates for those people whose party has been shut out of the election.  The net effect of open primaries is that, rather than allowing parties to choose their own candidates, the primary just becomes a “pre-election election,” with the November election serving as a run-off.

It turns out that the open primaries are also a problem for the candidates facing off against each other in November, because it’s hard for voters to distinguish between Tweedledee and Tweedledum.  In the article I quoted yesterday,the Marin IJ tried to help, by painting Marc Levine as more “pro-business,” which can be translated as “Mitt Romney surrogate.”

The IJ needn’t have made the effort, though.  I didn’t realize it when I wrote yesterday’s post, but I had waiting in my mail box a flyer from the California Democratic Party making the difference between the two candidates as clear as a bright summer day (click on thumbnails to enlarge):



On the flyer’s front, you can see the Republican elephant superimposed in the middle of what is clearly a group of people standing in line.  The text reads:

Marc Levine Doesn’t Want You to Know About the Elephant in the Room . . .

Because the elephant in the room is MARC LEVINE

Turn the flyer over and the message gets more specific:

The MITT ROMNEY CAMPAIGN KICKOFF in San Rafael was described as “LIKE MINDS COMING TOGETHER…”

[Quoting a female attendee] “We’re a bunch of red folks . . . and we find comfort with our own.”

Marin County Republican Chair Kevin Krick dismissed Todd Akin’s “legitimate rape” comments as “a speed bump on the way to the White House.”

And the applauding Elephant in the Room was Marc Levine!  [With a big red finger arrow pointing to a picture of Levine attending the kick-off, with the Levine picture cropped in the shape of an elephant.]

What’s next — campaign contributions from Republican Special Interests?  Is this the kind of “Democrat” we want representing us in the State Assembly?

One can guess what happened.  Marc Levine, in an effort to distinguish himself from a Democrat opponent who is pure Progressive, sought to make himself known to a broader coalition of Marin County voters.  Since Marin has no subway or train stations outside of which the candidate can stand to introduce himself to voters, he goes from one political event to another.  This one was a Republican event.  He probably thought it was a smart move, because Republicans, having been denied a candidate by the open primary system are, theoretically, an up-for-grabs constituency.  They’ve got to vote for someone, so why not Levine?

Poor Levine.  His tactical outreach effort backfired, but it had the salutary effect of exposing the anti-democratic effect of open primaries:  Because of the open primary, which denied Marin County Republicans the right to choose their own candidate, the Democrat Party in California filled the vacuum by anointing a “Republican” candidate.

This whole thing has become a travesty.  What we’re seeing isn’t democracy in action.  Instead, it’s one-party rule, complete with infighting, without even the pretense of open elections.