Problems

Jim is committed to changing Belvedere’s City Government. Here are some of the problems he will work to solve. Please see the next page for Jim’s solutions to these problems.

1. The Planning Department is in desperate need of reform. Why?

A. The Department is neither accountable nor customer friendly. This is not a subjective opinion; a city sponsored study 5 years ago showed wide-spread dissatisfaction among those who had just built or remodeled their homes with the Department. The Planning Department has failed to make substantive changes since the release of the study. As a result, things have gotten worse, not better, over the past five years.

B. The Department is overstaffed and highly paid.  Currently, the Planning Department of Belvedere, population 2,000, is more expensive than Mill Valley’s Planning Department, population 13,300. According to the 2009 Belvedere Financial Report, the Planning Department receives more funding ($1,447,646) than Police ($1,423,375) and Fire Departments ($1,012,688) (according to the City of Belvedere’s Statement of Activities and Changes in Net Assets for the fiscal year that ended in June 2009). While some form of Planning Department is necessary,  the current Department’s number of employees, high pension, health care, and salary costs come at the expense of our municipal budget, and by extension, taxpayers.

C. Overall, the Planning Department is too involved in the lives of Belvedere homeowners. For example, if a homeowner does not want “earth tones” as the paint color for a remodel, the homeowner has to request approval from design review and a non-refundable fee of at least $500.

2. The combination of an overzealous Planning Department, permitting fees, and arbitrary fines make it harder to build and renovate in Belvedere, which in turn lowers property values for everybody and discourages families from purchasing property.

A. In 2004-2006 study, Belvedere was #1 in America for the cities with the highest cost per building permit according to an online survey.

B. Planning employees are infamous for being inconsistent and keen on imposing fines. In fact, city employees have an incentive to issue fines because fines are already factored into the budget before they are levied. If police captains established similar traffic ticket quotas in their budgets before actually issuing tickets , they would be fired.

C. There is little to no recourse for homeowners when the Planning Department overreaches its boundaries.

3. Collectively, the City Council is not spending taxpayer money wisely.

A. An employee of Planning and Development is also the principal of Code Source/Code Green in Sebastopol, a company that directly benefits from a business relationship with the Planning Department. This constitutes a clear conflict of interest.

B. In 2005, the City entered into a $400,000 home loan agreement with its City Manager at an annual interest rate of 2.38%. At the time, this was a better rate than comparable interest rates available on the market.

C. For a town of 2,000, the City overpays its current City Manager. In 2008, the Belvedere City Manager made $212,520. Fairfax, with a population of 7,500, paid its City Manager $149,312. Larkspur, with a population of 12,000, paid its City Manager $208,704. San Anselmo, with a population of 12,400, paid its City Manager $193,295. All of those Marin cities had much larger populations but paid their city manager less. For comparison, Debra Figone, the city manager of San Jose, population 948,000, was paid $248,000 for the last fiscal year. Senator Dianne Feinstein has a government salary of $174,000.

4. Current members of the City Council have not been addressing these problems. A new and independent voice is needed.

2 Responses to Problems

  1. Julie Coffin says:

    Hey, Jim, Right on! You have my vote and I’ll pass this on.
    Julie Coffin

  2. Michael Reynolds says:

    Jim- another example of government out of control- not surprising. Get into office and root out the City Manager who is directly responsible for the tone and tenor of staff, the clear conflict of interest in plan check services and many of the issues and problems you cite. Oh, lets get back that $400k loan made to him while we are at it. Why, in the heart of the biggest economic downturn since 1929, does the City think it prudent to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to rebuild the city hall deck and replace perfectly serviceable retaining walls on beach road- at a cost of $150k+ for one wall alone across from 296 Beach? In light of known underfunded pension shortfalls- which range from a low estimate of $800k to $3.0m- this is, at minimum, fiscal imprudence, and, at worse, fiscal lunacy.

    You have my vote and I will do anything I can to help you. Expect me to be vocal at upcoming hearings at the Planning level and beyond.

    Michael Reynolds

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