The November 4 Ballot

A lot of voters make quick decisions based on personalities and sound bites,” Marin Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey says in Conversation. “I don’t care if everyone thinks exactly as I, or the residents of my district, do—I just want them to think, to analyze, to question.”

This November, whether voters nationwide analyze and question (which I think most will) or make snap decisions based on a personality (you know who I’m talking about), the presidential election will tell us what kind of a country we really are. One ideology enduring three election defeats in a row—no matter how questionably decided or closely contested—will tell us who we Americans truly are. Are we motivated by fear? Or hope? Must we remain in Iraq awaiting an ill-defined “victory” or face reality and spend the $10 billion a month the war costs on rebuilding America? How this nation feels about education, health care and the environment—as well as gun control, abortion and the death penalty—is about to be made abundantly clear. Never have the differences been so pronounced, nor the participation so great. On Tuesday, November 4, the real America will step forward.

Likewise, two items on the local ballot will help define Marin. The first is the Marin Healthcare District board, which has two seats up. If Marin General Hospital is to have a hope of surviving, incumbent Sharon Jackson and San Rafael ob-gyn Dr. Harris “Hank” Simmonds must be elected. Both are committed to getting the Healthcare District out of the business of managing Marin General, thereby ending 25 years of political acrimony.

“In today’s competitive health care environment, a hospital can’t succeed when it’s controlled by whomever can mount a winning campaign based on unsubstantiated accusations and innuendos,” says Jackson, who’s served for the past four years. “A hospital is best governed by an appointed board of people knowledgeable in health care, management and finance.”

If Marin voters choose candidates other than Jackson and Dr. Simmonds, then they apparently want more of the negativity that has brought Marin General to its present perilous position. Considerable detail could bolster this stance, but space does not allow it. Suffice to say that by early October, nearly 700 Marin residents, including more than 300 doctors and 62 former and current local mayors, council members and supervisors, all reached by the Alliance to Save Our Hospital, had endorsed Jackson and Dr. Simmonds. On November 4, voters will weigh in. After decades of inconclusive elections, the electorate will tell us what kind of a county we are: progressive and positive—or adversarial and accusatory.

The other issue that will identify Marin County is Measure Q—which will determine if SMART, the Sonoma Marin Area Rail Transit, will be built. SMART is a 70-mile mass transit system, including a hiking and biking trail, connecting Larkspur, in southern Marin, with Cloverdale, in northern Sonoma County. In our interview, Woolsey states, “It’s critical we get as many cars off the road as possible.” Woolsey also points out that Highway 101, Marin’s only north-south route, “has reached its capacity.”

Making SMART additionally attractive is that it already owns the 70 miles of railroad right-of-way. Measure Q requires a two-thirds voter approval and will add a quarter cent to Marin’s sales tax for the next 20 years. “This will generate an estimated $890 million,” says Charles McGlashan, president of the Board of Supervisors and the chairman of SMART. “About $540 million of this would construct the system, the balance going for operational and maintenance costs.”

Along with Woolsey and McGlashan, others endorsing Measure Q are Marin Assemblyman Jared Huffman, assumed state Senator-elect Mark Leno, the Marin County Bicycle Coalition and several environmental groups. Opposition comes from anti-taxation groups and the Marin Audubon Society who is concerned that SMART will disrupt wetlands of the light-footed clapper rail and initiate too much growth.

In 2006, SMART was approved by 65.3 percent of the voters, most of the positive response coming from Sonoma County. This time it is Marin County’s turn to show we truly care about alleviating Highway 101 traffic and reducing our carbon footprint. And if you want to save Marin General Hospital, vote for Jackson and Dr. Simmonds.

That’s my point of view. Be sure to express yours on November 4.

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