Feb 28, 2018
by Lynda Hopkins, 5th District Supervisor - Sonoma County
I am excited to be heading into spring, a month which marks the beginning of new growth. All across the county, we are seeing snippets of new growth; both literally in the east, where scarred, burned lands are sprouting green buds and bright orange poppies, and more figuratively, across the region where minds, hearts and passions are working to rebuild a stronger Sonoma County.
Here in the fifth district, we’re diving headfirst into community engagement. As a rural resident myself, I have long been frustrated by the lack of local representation in unincorporated communities. What do I mean by that? After all, you’re represented by a County Supervisor, right? While I am proud to represent the most rural district in Sonoma County, with tens of thousands of unincorporated constituents, I am only one vote out of five on the Board of Supervisors. This means that decisions directly affecting the lives of my unincorporated constituents are not necessarily made by their local representative. (This situation stands in direct contrast to incorporated towns and cities, where an entire city council represents the needs of that specific community, and where tax dollars are retained locally to address those needs.)
This is why we’re diving into a process to give rural communities a greater voice. We are beginning a community conversation about Municipal Advisory Councils (MACs) and other forms of rural self-representation. This conversation kicked off last weekend for the Lower Russian River area, where we held our first meeting. The meeting provided the community an opportunity to learn what a MAC is, what it isn’t, and how individuals can become more involved.
What is a MAC?
A MAC is an opportunity for our communities in unincorporated Sonoma County to have a more impactful voice in county government. Instead of judging local issues by the loudest voices, the Board of Supervisors can look to the MAC to build community consensus and highlight widespread community concerns. Created through the Board of Supervisors, a MAC consists of nominated or appointed board members who represent the community’s priorities. The MAC helps the county better understand the unique needs of each area. MACs are focused around geographic areas, such as the lower Russian River or the Sonoma County coast. Unlike most groups set up to advise the county and Board of Supervisors, a MAC has the freedom to address all the issues affecting its community. After all, who knows better the nuances of homelessness, vacation rentals, emergency systems and various issues more than you all?
The Board of Supervisors already relies on a few MACs established in the county. Current MACs include the Mark West Springs MAC, Dry Creek MAC and the newly formed Sonoma Valley MAC. These councils have advised their supervisors on issues related to land use, transportation and infrastructure improvement and more.
How each MAC will work and what each council will tackle will be up to the community at large. While we have some recommendations for how to set the MAC up, it’s important to get input on certain parameters, including the number of board members (Five? Seven?), how those board members are appointed (By the community? By a task force? By the Fifth District office?) and what issues and concerns the MAC will address.
Now that we have one meeting under our belts, we’re looking forward to gaining more interest, experience and excitement from the community on these councils. For the Lower Russian River area, we look forward to taking the next step on the path to community empowerment: reviewing the community’s feedback, and coming forward with a proposal based on that input. This month, we will also host a MAC for the Sonoma County Coast area, which includes Bodega Bay, Jenner, Timber Cove and The Sea Ranch. The meeting will be held at the Jenner Community Center on Saturday, March 24 from 1 to 3 p.m.
If you’re interested in learning more about the upcoming MAC meetings, email me or my district field representative Amie (Amie.email@example.com) to stay up-to-date and make sure to sign up for the upcoming newsletter to learn about everything going on in the Fifth District.
In other River news
We are looking for interested community members who would like to be a part of the lower Russian River Community Advisory Group regarding wastewater treatment, and the impending Regional Water Board rules regarding septic systems. The Lower Russian River CAG has a long history and is looking to revamp its structure to help develop wastewater solutions for Monte Rio, Northwood, Villa Grande, Camp Meeker and other unincorporated communities along the lower Russian River. The purpose of the Lower Russian River CAG is to come together to make a decision that will meet the long-term wastewater needs of Monte Rio and surrounding communities. To be considered as a CAG member, individuals must: be a member of one of the four communities, own land in one of the four communities or have significant interest in the communities. In addition, members must be committed, reliable and available to meet regularly. If you or someone you know would be interested in volunteering your time, please submit a short (one paragraph) letter of interest to our rural development specialists, Karen McBride at KMcBride@rcac.org or Linda Stonestreet at LStonestreet@rcac.org by March 15.
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