A Busy New Year

MAYBE YOU HAVEN’T heard of these three Marin endeavors, but they’re worth watching in the coming year — they may even be worth a bit of your time.

SECURE YOUR LOAD Like many Marinites, Jill Whitebook and Vicky Dehnert are irked by the litter lining Highway 101. They co-founded Marin Clean Highways hoping to find a way of curtailing litter at its source, and the two soon found uncovered trucks taking trash to various dumpsites were a major culprit. Now they’re working to establish a countywide ordinance requiring that all vehicles transporting waste, garbage or debris be covered or secured to prevent spillage on Marin’s roads. “California has a law, but it’s vague,” Whitebook says. “And in Marin, the CHP won’t cite a vehicle unless they see the debris falling out.” Moreover, “the problem is mostly weekend workers and home gardeners — it’s their trash that often winds up on Highway 101”; in one hour on a recent Saturday afternoon, she counted 30 uncovered trucks entering the Marin Resource Recovery Center. Kern and Sonoma counties levy harsh fines if a vehicle transporting trash isn’t secured — a step that has significantly reduced highway litter, she points out. “Marin would have equal success with a similar ordinance,” Dehnert says.

HOLDING COURT Should a teenager’s brush with the law forever cloud his future? The Marin YMCA thinks not, so it started Youth Court. The program, now in its 10th year, is “an alternative to the traditional juvenile justice system, which often sends a youngster off in the wrong direction,” Executive Director Don Carney says. Youth Court has an authentic feel, complete with a black-robed adult judge sitting in an austere courtroom. “But there are differences,” Carney adds. ”We use restorative justice; the lawyers are teenagers supervised by adult attorneys; the juries are composed of teenagers who can ask questions of the accused.” The trials involve actual cases in which teens have been involved, like drug possession, shoplifting or being drunk in public. And peers ask questions peers can understand: “Do you get high during school?” “Does shoplifting give you a rush?” “Have you ever blacked out?” Youth Court juries are composed of middle and high schoolers seeking community service credit — many of them being formerly among the accused. Youth Court meets weekly and collaborates with the entire Marin County Superior Court system. “To date, 92 percent of those coming before Youth Court have stayed clear of future involvement with the traditional juvenile justice system,” Carney says. “So obviously we’re doing something right.”

ON THE MOVE Trolleys are Marin’s future, say former San Anselmo mayor Peter Breen and Sausalito architect Allan Nichol, so they’ve helped convince the Transportation Authority of Marin to undertake a $180,000 study of transportation options in the Ross Valley, including a trolley system connecting Fairfax’s White Hill School with San Rafael’s Canal community, the busiest east-west transportation corridor in Marin. “There’d be no unsightly overheard lines; these 40-passenger cars would be powered by lithium batteries and a fuel cell and be built in the U.S.,” says Breen. “In Marin,” Nichol says, “we’re adding more cars than we are babies — the traffic is ridiculous.” It’s a way of literally going back to the future, they point out: “In the early 1900s Marin’s communities were developed along our interurban rail lines,” Nichol says. “There’s no reason why that couldn’t happen again, and [there are] many reasons that it should.” Nichol and Breen see trolleys solving SMART’s (Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit) connection problems with the Larkspur ferry and reducing traffic on the Tiburon Peninsula and between Mill Valley and Sausalito. “Trolleys would be fast, efficient, friendly and fun,” adds Breen. Each of the above projects is well represented on the Internet, and all are worthy of your physical, financial and moral support.

That’s my point of view. What’s yours? Email [email protected].

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Marin Magazine and its staff.