MCBA’s April member meeting brought together a powerhouse of local women leaders to discuss current issues affecting Marin County and their efforts at resolving them. Corte Madera Town Council Member Leila Mongan moderated the too-brief hour, covering issues from SMART to the name change of Sir Francis Drake Boulevard.

Pat Eklund, Mayor of Novato and an environmental engineer, got her start in politics in the 90s fighting for a stop sign, which led to a 25-year stint on the city council. When the subject of homeless encampments arose, she acknowledged their presence in Novato and the difficulty of addressing the unhoused, even though Novato supplies more affordable housing than any other city in Marin.

Kate Colin, or Mayor Kate as she is affectionately called and the first woman mayor in San Rafael’s history, described the complexity of addressing encampments. They require special efforts because the responsible health and human services agencies are county agencies. The recent spate of methamphetamine use makes it difficult to engage with the occupants, and Martin v. Boise prevents cities from citing or removing homeless people without providing alternative housing. [Editor’s Note: See A.J. Brady’s article for the Marin Lawyer on the original Ninth Circuit Martin v. Boise decision; since then, the Ninth Circuit denied a petition to rehear the case en banc on April 1, 2019, which included lengthy dissents, and the U.S. Supreme Court denied certiorari on December 16, 2019.]

Homeless encampments are a hot topic in Southern Marin right now, with a group living at Dunphy Park, and a recent federal district court ruling that the encampments cannot be removed from the park so long as the threat of Covid-19 exists. Jill Hoffman, Mayor of Sausalito, and a former JAG Corps member, addressed this issue, and noted the importance of engaging with city leaders throughout Marin. Working with other cities’ council members, such as Pat Ecklund who brings so much experience, provides a wealth of historical information. Mayor Hoffman also reminded listeners that most meetings fall under the Brown Act: Public attendance is allowed and encouraged.

Elizabeth Brekhus then described her experience with the name change of Sir Francis Drake Boulevard. She has been on the Ross Town Council since 2012, was twice Mayor and was President of the Marin County Bar Association in 2014. While she voted to change the name, she was in the minority. She acknowledged other cities have decided to change the name, while Ross may erect a plaque or monument with information.

Melissa Blaustein, Sausalito City Council member, addressed the controversy surrounding the schools in Sausalito, and believes the district has a bright future. The Sausalito City Council unanimously passed a resolution supporting unification after hearing a presentation describing the plan, with grades one through five on the Willow Creek campus, and Pre-K, kindergarten and middle school on the Bayside campus. The forty million dollar bond passed by voters should ensure a seamless transition.

At countless city council and committee meetings, and behind the scenes, these women leaders work tirelessly to better our communities. They encouraged folks to participate in local government: Attend meetings, join commissions and run for office!