How to Fool Novato’s Voters into Paying for Flood Control Twice

In June 2016 Novato voters approved a special parcel tax called Measure AA. According to the official Ballot Measure Summary it is for “…restoring habitat for fish, birds and wildlife, protecting communities from floods….” The program is being administered by a regional agency, the San Francisco Bay Restoration Authority (the “Authority”).

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You would think that a regional measure passed in June 2016 would be allowed sufficient time to develop a regional plan for Bay Area flood control and habitat restoration. Incredibly, the Marin County Flood Control District has carefully crafted another plan to once again tax voters in the Novato Flood Control District (AKA Zone 1) to do the same thing that the recently passed Measure AA is programmed to do.

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A very suspect series of events transpired after December 2016. According to a Staff Report on the Flood Control Zone 1 Advisory Board meeting of Dec 2016,­­­­ all District standard pump maintenance had been completed, all scheduled sediment removal completed, all 11 creeks within the Novato Flood control zone were inspected and found to have been properly maintained, etc. The Staff noted no problems were anticipated during the coming rainy season. In short, everything was in good working order.

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A month later, in January 2017, the Novato watershed received twice as much rainfall as in January 2016, at 13 inches versus 6 inches. Highway 37 flooded twice causing inconvenience by those using the road and also by residents concerned with detoured traffic congestion in Novato neighborhoods and downtown.

Overall, it was determined that Novato’s Zone 1 flood plain drainage system functioned satisfactorily under the higher rainfall circumstances. Somehow this was conveniently overlooked. What didn’t work were the Caltrans levees. It turned out the Hwy 37 flooding problem was caused by inadequate Caltrans levees that were overtopped.

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Apparently, Novato’s Flood Control District Advisory Board (Advisory Board) recognized an opportunity to leverage the frustration caused by the Hwy 37 flooding and is now using it to push for approval of another tax for optional future projects. Pumps that were in good shape in December 2016 now “need” to have major repairs or be “replaced” despite the fact they performed well during the January 2017 record rainfall. Replacing a motor is understandable. Completely replacing a pump that was in good working order after 30 days of use is very questionable.

By August 2017, the Marin County Flood Control District had applied to FEMA for $1.7 million for levee and pump repairs attributed to “storm damage”.

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The Advisory Board, against the advice of their hired gun political strategy consultants, Godbe Research, requested the County Board of Supervisors quickly place a tax measure on the November 2017 ballot. Meanwhile, the California State government was and is being heavily criticized for a new burdensome 20 cents per gallon tax increase starting soon and a new yearly “transportation fee” that will cost an additional $100 if your car is worth $25,000, and more if your car is valued higher. Both “transportation” taxes will be adjusted upward annually to reflect inflation. Proposed new taxes in the State tax pipeline are becoming increasingly suspect and unpopular.

Nevertheless, the Flood Control District, despite last year’s voter approval of regional tax Measure AA for flood control and habitat restoration, decided to go for yet another tax before the public wised up and rebelled against the plethora of imminent new taxes being proposed by many levels of government and regional agencies.

The tried and true strategy of fear mongering (we are going to be flooded so we need the money now), impending submersion (by sea level rise due to climate change), and self-serving purpose-driven publications for public consumption were initiated in March 2017. Their campaign is being augmented by a vaguely worded “fact sheet” funded with your taxpayer money. Whether the circumstances are true, not true, or partially true apparently is not important to them. But, do whatever it takes to get the tax passed before voters wake up is.

A “false narrative” has been created by the Novato Flood Control District to drive quick passage of Measure E. Voters are in danger of being misled. We don’t need the unnecessary taxation proposed by Measure E. The Flood Control District Advisory Board has already applied to FEMA for levee and pump repair funding (see the list above), a fact receiving minimal disclosure to voters.

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Ironically, Measure E’s wetlands are property of the County and not Novato. The San Francisco Bay Restoration Authority using Measure AA funds has already targeted the wetlands under discussion for restoration, and Hwy 37 for upgrading to protect against flooding and sea level rise. Novato taxpayers have already designated their hard-earned money for these repairs by passing Measure AA.

Novato voters should be very careful not “jump the gun” before FEMA and Measure AA funds are awarded. If Novato pre-emptively pays for repairs and projects by passing Measure E, then FEMA and Measure AA funds may dry up leaving Novato residents to foot the entire bill. If this new tax becomes necessary, then a vote for additional funding can be taken after alternate sources of funds such as FEMA have been exhaustively pursued. There is no immediate crisis here.

It’s time to stop the misleading “information” and corralling of voters into paying for redundant “new projects”. The sea level is not rising so quickly that we haven’t time for prudent review of spending. Stop the fear mongering and start the discussion. Don’t be misled and taxed unnecessarily. Vote no on Measure E.

 

 

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