A big MAC for New Year’s
Gorin sets out guidelines, timeline for new advisory body in Kenwood, Glen Ellen
Sarah C. Phelps
If everything goes as planned, Kenwood, Glen Ellen and Eldridge will have a new advisory body in place by New Year’s 2020 to facilitate communication between the towns’ residents and county representatives.
At a June 18 meeting in Kenwood, First District Supervisor Susan Gorin laid out her vision for the north Sonoma Valley’s new Municipal Advisory Council (MAC). The MAC’s job is to make sure the service needs of this area get elevated, said Gorin. “Your function is to get to know your communities, the people not sitting here in the meetings, what’s important to them.”
About 30 people from Kenwood and Glen Ellen (including one or two people from Eldridge) showed up to hear what Gorin had to say and give their input on the MAC’s formation – everything from voting on a name to boundary lines.
Gorin presented three boundaries options. Map Three had the smallest area of inclusion, with boundaries tightly circling just the Kenwood village, Glen Ellen village and Eldridge. Map One had the largest area of inclusion, with boundaries running from Adobe Canyon Road down to Madrone Road. Gorin reminded the audience to be cognizant of the fact that the larger the swath of territory covered by the MAC, the more difficult it could be to unify the various communities’ voices and accomplish projects. That bit of advice didn’t seem to sway the majority of audience members, who overwhelmingly voted for Map One, the most inclusive option.
As for a name, there was a tie between “EKG,” along with its tagline “the heartbeat of Sonoma Valley,” and “Valley of the Moon.” EKG, some mused, wasn’t recognizable enough or caused acronym fatigue when coupled up with “MAC.” However, “Valley of the Moon MAC” could be confused with Valley of the Moon Alliance (VOTMA), an advocacy group already in existence in Kenwood. County staff will be sending out an online survey to meeting participants to finalize the name in the coming weeks, after this paper has gone to print.
The MAC will be made up of seven community members who apply and are appointed by Susan Gorin. It will draw up its own mission, bylaws and two or three strategic goals where members think they can have the greatest impact. The new MAC will be the second in Sonoma Valley, joining the nascent Springs MAC in Boyes Hot Springs, which had its third meeting on June 25, and is grappling with how to differentiate itself from the Springs Alliance, an advocacy group formed by community members in 2017.
However, there are some significant differences between a MAC and these community advocacy groups.
First, as a creation of the county, a MAC must follow the open meeting requirements known as the Brown Act. The Brown Act governs how meeting agendas are scheduled, publicly noticed, how and when a quorum of members of the MAC can discuss MAC business (not casually at a cocktail party, for example), and how meeting minutes are made available to the public. In a nutshell, if it’s the public’s business, that business must be done in public, says the Brown Act. The Board of Supervisors operates under the same rules, as does the Kenwood Fire District Board, the Glen Ellen Fire District Board, the various water district boards, school boards, the list goes on.
A second difference is the amount of county staff support available to the MAC. The Springs Alliance and VOTMA are strictly all-volunteer operations urged on by generous and passionate individuals. One of Gorin’s staff members, Arielle Kubu-Jones, who’s been working closely with neighborhood captains and fire survivors over the last two years, will act as the MAC’s administrative support, and a certain portion of her daily workload will be given over to facilitate the MAC’s work.
Third, a community group often has a very broad mission and often has the freedom to hold a meeting on any topic of its choosing that fits under that umbrella. A MAC will be more limited in scope, and that scope will largely be defined by the supervisor forming the MAC, as it is functioning as a feedback mechanism for that supervisor.
In the north valley, the MAC may make recommendations on municipal services and community needs like law enforcement and fire services, health and human safety-net services, prioritization of transit, cycling, pedestrian, and other transportation improvements, economic development activities like supporting local businesses and promoting new business development, and “other issues determined by MAC and Supervisor.” One thing the new MAC will not make is recommendations on development projects and land use decisions, said Gorin. The Sonoma Valley already has a board doing that job: the Sonoma Valley Citizens Advisory Commission (SVCAC), which was set up by a Joint Powers Agreement with the county and the City of Sonoma in 1995. However, Gorin expressed desire that one seat of the seven-seat MAC be filled by a representative who also sits on the SVCAC. Gorin made it clear that development of the now-shuttered SDC campus will not be in the purview of the new MAC.
Gorin said a good example of where the new MAC could be useful is in the realm of mental health services. The Sonoma County Mobile Support Team, a crisis response program that supports local law enforcement responding to individuals experiencing a mental health emergency, had only been serving the Hwy 101 corridor between Windsor and Santa Rosa. This January, seven years after its creation, the program was finally expanded to Sonoma Valley and West County.
“A MAC would hopefully be able to see a need like this and pinpoint it sooner,” said Gorin. Also, with the county’s General Plan Update on the horizon, a MAC would ideally give a stronger voice to the Kenwood/Glen Ellen areas when that input process rolls around.
MACs have become quite vogue in Sonoma County in the last couple years, with Fourth District Supervisor James Gore setting up two MACs in his district and Fifth District Supervisor Lynda Hopkins creating two in hers, but MACs have had a presence in communities throughout California since the 1970s. Those MACs operate in a variety of different ways. Some MACs were set up specifically to weigh in on development and land use proposals, while other MACs stick strictly to health and safety issues. A quick survey of various California MAC meeting agendas and minutes reveals discussions about creating public trails through open space, construction of a full-sized basketball court in a park, additional road striping for safer streets near a school, approval of the first recycled plastic bridge in California, new “Welcome” road signage, recommendations for lighted stop signs, recommendations regarding noise curfew times for wedding venues, creation of a Certified Emergency Response Team, and creation of a Graffiti Removal Intervention Team.
Top issues that rose to the surface at the Kenwood meeting were housing, traffic, fire, water, and preserving rural character. A north valley MAC’s task would be to figure out how to address these issues from a social or municipal services standpoint while working within the confines of county and legal limitations.
The application period for prospective members will open in September or October, with meetings beginning in December or January. Members must live within the boundaries of the MAC.
The MAC maps and presentation can be viewed at sonomacounty.ca.gov/North-Valley-Municipal-Advisory-Council/Materials-and-Resources/.