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Letter: Marin Agricultural Land Trust Co-Founder Calls for Support of Measure A

Biologist Phyllis Faber, who has worked for years to protect open space and parkland, encourages voters to preserve the hard work of the past for future generations.

More than 30 years ago, dairywoman Ellen Straus of today’s Straus Family Creamery and I were dismayed to see the row of “For sale” signs along Tomales Bay from Point Reyes Station to Marshall. At that time, the Point Reyes Seashore had been created and large-scale development plans for Marin were underway. Farmers saw the future of their farmland as subdivisions rather than as dairy ranches as it had been for over a hundred years. Out of desperation Ellen and I came up with an idea of a land trust to help make the land more secure for farming. This coincided with a planning effort required by the new Coastal Commission for ag preservation for each county. This moment in time happily resulted in the formation of the Marin Agricultural Land Trust, the first agricultural land trust in the nation, founded in 1980 to help save our family farms.

That was then. Today, thirty-two years later and beyond Ellen’s and my wildest dreams, farming is a growing enterprise. Young men and women are returning in increasing numbers to work on the family farm. New farm-based businesses are developing and established businesses are growing. The rural economy is once again thriving. And the increasingly abundant local food, the beautiful landscape and natural resources that we cherish continue to provide physical and spiritual nourishment to our community.

But we are at a crossroads. With state and federal funding sources in steep decline, these public sources to protect our family farms and ranches and open space lands are not there as in the past, so we will increasingly rely on private donations. Farming families that are in danger of losing their farms from inheritance and other issues could be gone forever. Open space lands will suffer from neglect.

The legacy of family farms, open space and parkland has taken decades for my generation to build. It’s a legacy Ellen, who passed away several years ago, and I care deeply about. Marin County is made special by its beautiful open space lands in East Marin and its productive farmlands in West Marin. Measure A provides an opportunity for each of us to do our share in taking care of the land. Measure A is your opportunity to express your appreciation and to ensure the land is cared for into the future. Please join me in voting YES on MEASURE A on November 6th.

- Phyllis Faber, biologist and co-founder of the Marin Agricultural Land Trust (MALT)

Tina McMillan October 29, 2012 at 10:54 PM
Phyllis: You do realize that more than any other single enterprise here in Marin, MALT has the capability of fund raising with wealthy patrons, with MCF and with people able to support your work by choice and not by force. Do you understand the number of people living in Marin whose wages no longer carry them from paycheck to paycheck? As we continue to put regressive taxes on the ballot it is these people who are hurt the most. Sales tax impacts the poor as much as the rich. We are fast running out of resources to support the poor and vulnerable members of our community. Let MALT support itself and let our taxes go to care for the most essential programs. When California has a balanced budget then you can begin to ask for more, but not with taxes, with private donations. Enough is enough.
Al Dugan October 29, 2012 at 11:19 PM
Bravo, well said. Regressive taxes are not fair and certainly not needed. MALT is the answer and is supported by those that certainly can afford to give more. I know all of who live in Marin have a first impulse to support open spaces and parks, but that is already happening without a regressive tax. In the next 10 years these 1/4 cents will be need to maintain the critical services to maintain a balanced budget. I run a company and I have a budget that I have to maintain or answer to the board, government needs to do the same.
John Ferguson October 29, 2012 at 11:55 PM
Sales taxes (which certainly are regressive) hurt the poor more than the rich, but that's no reason not to broaden the base to collect taxes to pay for the things that we collectively care about. Sales taxes discourage excess consumption (which some of us think is a good thing) and they raise money for LOCAL issues such as the preservation of local land and farms. For those who are truly poor, there are many remediating revenue streams available at the state and federal level. To use Al's analogy, we the voting public are the shareholders that the board (local officials) have to answer to. Just like his business, our government has a budget. As a shareholder/voter, I have a say (albeit small) in how the money is used. I choose to tax myself and others to preserve more local land. Government has a role here - I don't want to live in a place where the rich preserve everything and we rely on their beneficence. Broaden the base - make it something that we all have a stake in.
Bob Ratto October 30, 2012 at 12:58 AM
Just as the SMART train is not primarily for transit, this tax will not be for the benefit of our existing parks, it is simply a tax transfer with the beneficiaries being relatively few farm families. Somebody explain to me why the head of our county parks has a salary of well in excess of $200k per year (excluding pension and benefits)...
Rico October 30, 2012 at 01:38 AM
I think it is good to support the parks and open space, but like Tina said, MALT does not need our tax dollars now. The farms are private property and private businesses, why should we feed them more money. The organic farmers in Marin are doing very well now, and they will probably get even better in the future. Perhaps the prosperous farmers and ranchers can share some of their wealth and success by donating to essential public services in Marin. There are no GMO farmers in Marin, they don't need or qualify for any taxpayer subsidies anyway.
Bill October 30, 2012 at 04:57 AM
These sales tax increases are adding up fast: SMART, Gov Brown, City of Novato and now Open Space. Others are waiting in the wings. No on Measure A.
Tina McMillan October 30, 2012 at 06:35 AM
John You have every right to donate money to worthwhile causes but to say that the government state or federal, provides sufficient relief to the poor, the working poor, the disabled and people on fixed income is simply not true. When I hear families say that every month as they get closer to their second paycheck they are living on foods like mac and cheese and top ramen (these are families with children) I realize that there is no justifiable reason to increase sales tax to purchase open space and expand park services. Until we pull out of this recession every government dollar spent needs to go to essential services. There are plenty of people, yourself included, that can donate to open space preservation. The Supervisors are demonstrating their complete disregard for people who live without sufficient money to buy food, medical care and housing when they promote a tax measure in the middle of a recession. Government has grown too big if you genuinely feel they must pay for everything.
Pam Drew October 30, 2012 at 02:55 PM
Chester is voting yes on Measure A probably because he can spare the sales tax money. I would guess that his family's food supply is not cut down to cheap loaves of white bread just before payday. When pennies must be counted all of the time to cover the cost of food, rent, and transportation, that dearth defines a lot of one's family's orientation and activities. Try to imagine not being able to spare the sales tax money. Then wonder how the same people can retain the compassion and patience to keep posting in defense of the poor and against regressive taxation. These people, for the most part, hold down full time jobs. Who cares 'who they work for'! What matters is that they CARE and act on that caring.
Michael October 30, 2012 at 03:46 PM
Why are you posting Chester? Could it be you have an opinion you want to vet? Same for those who post regularly. Your comments are as important as theirs. Putting measure A on the ballot at this time demonstrates that the board of Sups does not fully appreciate (or care about) the financial situation we are in. But alas they too (the board) participate in the unjustified retirement benefits public employees have come to expect and quite frankly demand. That needs to end soon. I agree with other posters here that there are plenty of extremely wealthy people in Marin who can fund MALT. When is the tax burden going to be enough? When we have a 15% or 20% sales tax? Well, every 1/4 cent adds up. NO on any new tax increases.
Kevin Moore October 30, 2012 at 04:31 PM
Why not post? Many people are fed up with our government. It takes just a few minutes to post. Many of us cannot attend daytime Supervisors meetings and have families that make attending evening meetings difficult. After 10 or more years of seeing what is going on around Marin, you might join the frequent posters.
Kevin Moore October 30, 2012 at 04:34 PM
The "1/4 sales tax" seems to be a rather popular tax raising tool. "It's only a 1/4 cent." Talk about a death of a thousand cuts. I see no way we complete the SMART train without another 1/4 cent tax increase. Unfunded pensions? Hey, add a 1/4 cent next election. I figure once the sales tax is over 9% or hitting 10%, we will have an awakening.
Cathy October 30, 2012 at 06:39 PM
I'm voting NO on A for the reasons expressed so eloquently by Pam Drew and Tina McMillan. I might have considered otherwise if the local communities were given a much larger (>50%) cut of the proceeds for public recreation development....if we are really so deficient in recreational facilities for our young people that we are considering leasing public fields to private developers, closing facilities due to lack of operating funds, and holding fundraisers to buy outdoor lunch tables for our public schools; I simply don't understand why acquiring ever more private land is a higher priority than the preservation and/or development of what we already have. Not one more dime for public acquisition.
John Ferguson October 30, 2012 at 08:03 PM
It does tug on the heart strings a bit, but I think this argument is a bit of a red herring. Basic food, including bread, transportation and rent aren't taxed locally so these things wouldn't be affected by a local sales tax increase. Sure, sales tax is regressive but if you look at how other places tax consumption we're at the lower end of the sales (or VAT) tax scale. All countries seem to tax the true necessities (food, clothing, shelter, sometimes transportation) at a lower than 10% rate but otherwise the rate is generally above 10% and sometimes as much as 25%. I'm not advocating a rate into the high double digits, but we should probably get some perspective here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_tax_rates
Eleanor Sluis October 30, 2012 at 09:19 PM
Show Sacramento that we value local control for preserving and protecting our parks, easements, watersheds, and wildlife by voting yes on Measure A. The educational, social, and economic possibilities for that preservation far outweigh the costs of ¼ of a penny or 1 cent for an extra $ 4.00 spent. Think about the natural environment and density of 20 units per acre. Think about the scholars in Novato wanting to have recreation in this environment. Think about our small town character, which came from original agricultural interests. Consistency is voting Yes on A and coming together as Marinites who value this county as a special place aesthetically and organically. Consider the negative impacts of high density, sprawl, exploitation of cutting trees and degrading creeks and wetlands. Voting yes means maintaining a rural atmosphere that creates a benefit for all incomes. Property values probably rise as will the increase in visitors to a safe well-maintained environment providing an economic benefit for Marin. How possible is that? Think about present inhabitants and how casinos want to move into the area; what value do we place on land? Let us choose consistency of preserving open space. Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul John Muir Consider the three programs of Measure A. http://www.marincountyparks.org/depts/pk/about-us/main/ballotmeasure

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