Extend Measure A tax for parks, open space and agriculture – Marin Independent Journal


The county’s Measure A has been on a winding road to reach voters on the June 7 ballot.

The measure is a renewal of the 2012 nine-year tax that voters approved by an overwhelming majority.

The revenue from that quarter-cent sales tax has been put to good use, fulfilling promises made in the measure to repair, maintain and improve local parks, pay for wildland fire prevention efforts, buy long-treasured open space and furthering Marin’s work in preserving the wide-open rural character of West Marin.

Its work paid important dividends as use of our local parks and trails boomed during the height of the pandemic when there were public health lockdowns.

The special tax has also helped the county reduce its parking fees that had been raised during the budget crisis.

Since local taxpayers are already paying the Measure A tax, extending it should enable the county to eliminate entry fees, removing charges that might dissuade lower-income families from visiting their parks.

That should be a priority if Measure A wins the two-thirds majority vote needed for passage.

Measure A is not a carbon copy of the 2012 version that won a 74% majority vote.

It increases funding for wildland fire control work – a foremost local priority.

It also changes funding for farmland protection, which was an emphasis of the 2012 measure.

Most of that funding went to the Marin Agricultural Land Trust, Marin’s homegrown nonprofit that has preserved West Marin’s open farmlands by acquiring agricultural easements that prevent development of those lands.

MALT’s success and the county restrictive zoning have gone hand-in-hand in preserving Marin’s agriculture and keeping West Marin’s rolling grasslands open and free of development. Its work is not done.

But MALT and ranching have critics who complain that tax dollars are being paid out to “a privileged few” landowners while the lands remain private. In addition, they say, due to climate change, the county should be reducing land devoted to grazing and ranching. They are opposing Measure A because they want the county to rewrite the measure and make it “better” by removing money for MALT.

Although they stress they are not “anti-ranching,” they maintain that building of “mini-mansions” on those lands would have less of an environmental impact.

We’re not convinced that is what Marin residents want to see across West Marin. We believe they prefer cows to castles.

This is not unlike the ongoing debate over the historic private ranchland leases in the Point Reyes National Seashore.

The dilemma is whether Marin is going to support local agriculture, which in recent years has  championed moving the industry to organic production and products. That was important to voters in 2012 and we believe it remains a local priority.

MALT easements keep lands open for agriculture at about a quarter of the price that would be paid for public acquisition of the acreage. Also, the nonprofit’s acquisitions that use taxpayer dollars are reviewed and voted on during open public meetings.

The 2022 version of Measure A, which has been endorsed by MALT, reduces the amount of money that goes for acquiring easements to 10% – about $1.4 million annually –  but increases money for grants for environmental improvements and conservation measures for ranchlands.

Measure A might also draw critics of the county’s role in the closure of the San Geronimo Golf Course.

Hopefully, the county’s ham-handed role in that action, has led to changes in its open space acquisition program where purchases abide by the so-called “shopping list” priorities that are publicly reviewed and approved.

That was the case in the county’s recent acquisition of lands expanding its Mount Burdell Preserve in Novato and Buck’s Landing in San Rafael.

Voter support for 2012’s Measure A made a lot of difference in the maintenance, improvement and expansion of Marin’s local parks. 2022’s Measure A promises to build on that important work.



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