Welcome to my website.

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I am embarking on another campaign for the Fairfax Town Council in 2020! I am honored to have served on the Fairfax Town Council these last seven years and as Mayor in 2015 and 2019. Voting by mail starts in early October - the last day to vote is November 3!

Working together with the community, we have made progress towards realizing our common vision for Fairfax: embracing diversity, inclusion and racial equity; sustaining our economic vitality while preserving our Town’s unique qualities; preparing for disasters and providing leadership on social justice and environmental issues.

As a 24 year resident, I am devoted to preserving the look and feel of Fairfax that we all love. Helping our residents and businesses remain stable and recover safely during the Covid-19 pandemic will be a primary focus in 2020 and beyond. 

I am a scientist with a long term commitment to protection of public health and the environment. My education and years of public service have given me a deep understanding of how government works and the ability to get things done. Some of my many accomplishments on the Council include: acquiring Sky Ranch for open space; achieving key climate action objectives; bringing renter protections to our Town; facilitating infill affordable housing; increasing our disaster preparedness.  I ran three highly successful voter campaigns for local taxes to support Fairfax over the last few years.  

I have focused on living within our budget to provide locally-controlled public services, maintaining/replacing our aging infrastructure, bringing social justice matters to the Council, preserving our Town's uniqueness and beauty while enhancing Fairfax's strong environmental sustainability ethics.  With your vote I can continue this important work. 

I have five major priorities for Fairfax: Living within our Budget; Housing for Inclusion, Social Justice and Racial Equity; Disaster Preparedness; Maintaining and Improving our Aging Infrastructure; Protecting our Environment.  See detailed discussion of each below.

Living within our Budget – My priority is ensuring we achieve long term economic vitality and that we provide high quality, locally-controlled public services to all Fairfaxians.  I have worked hard to lead and seek passage of three reasonable local tax measures to achieve budget stability AND all funds stay in Fairfax.  I am a “hawk” on the Town’s budget, ensuring we stay lean but provide quality services.  Fairfax has taken action: trimming pension benefits for new hires and all Town employees pay their share into pension plans; reduced department budgets; all new employees pay a share of their health benefits; The Town paid off pre-2013 pension liability which will saves more than $1M over 20 years (saves $1M over 20 years).  The Town Council just approved refinancing all pension liability through July 2021 which combined will save the Town $5.3M over 17 years; and we have also kept positions vacant to save money.  Fairfax has the lowest public employees per capita of any small town in Marin and we provide locally-controlled community policing 24/7.  Because the Town has very few staff, we also use consultants judiciously to augment staffing to provide specialized expertise which allows the Town to address broader and more technically challenging projects, without incurring the additional costs of having full time staff with benefits. Helping businesses (and safely reopen) and most-vulnerable residents (through a rental assistance program) recover from the Covid-19 shutdowns has been a primary focus of the Council in 2020.  

Housing for Inclusion, Social Justice and Racial Equity – Marin County (including our cities/towns) is the least diverse county in the State of California. My view is that this is largely due to our housing policies, lack of truly affordable housing and resistance to change. Supporting new and retaining existing affordable housing, as well as adopting housing social justice policies (e.g., renter protections) are critical for increasing diversity in our Town. We can achieve these objectives by protecting our existing cost-effective housing stock and seeking opportunities to add additional appropriately-scaled units. While recent State laws have limited some local control, we must work to provide affordable housing that is right-sized and well designed, in locations that make sense for environmentally healthier growth, using infill and other strategies. Unfortunately opposition to affordable housing and zoning changes which could allow for more diversity has been challenging. One example is Victory Village (all Section 8 housing for very low and low income, disabled and chronically homeless seniors) which was the subject of many Town meetings and opposed by many.  It was years before approval was achieved and during that time construction and other costs increased significantly (which endangered the project’s financial viability).  Despite these obstacles, VV is a success, having just opened to tenants in July. 

Using tools to increase affordable housing include junior and second units (JADUs, ADUs, generally affordable by design), approving lower scale multi-unit smaller complexes, protecting existing affordable housing, building new units, and providing renter protections. I have been advocating for and been successful at, facilitating affordable housing and providing renter protections since I have been on the Town Council.  As Mayor in 2015 and 2019, and also as Councilmember in the intervening years, I have been a champion for these tools – I pushed for streamlining of JADUs and ADUs and for developing an amnesty program for “illegal” ADUs to bring them in from the cold (penalties are forgiven for a ten-year period and for all, fees are 50% for the ten years).  As Mayor in 2015, we updated our Housing Element, which utilized a Fairfaxian “homegrown” approach to meet our housing needs.  Also during my time as Mayor in 2015, the County and the Housing Authority purchased Piper Court Apartments, to preserve existing affordable rental housing for our Town.  More recently, I brought three renter protection laws to Fairfax (the 1st city/town in Marin to do so): in 2018, we adopted a Source of Income ordinance which prohibits discrimination solely on the basis of being a Section 8 (or other 3rd party voucher) holder.  In 2019 as Mayor, I brought two more to the Council which were adopted: Just Cause Eviction and Mandatory Mediation for Rent Increases over 10% in a one year period. President Trump just rolled back AFFH, the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, a terrible blow for fair, affordable housing and civil rights.  We must fight hard with legal advocates to overturn his order and with our votes in November, so efforts can continue against housing discrimination – our local housing work will be even more critical with no federal umbrella protections. We need to fully embrace inclusion and racial equity through housing and broader social justice issues that benefit people of color.

Disaster Preparedness - Fire, floods and earthquakes are real threats to our Town. It’s not a matter of IF but WHEN a disaster will strike. To ensure Fairfax is prepared, in 2015 and 2019, as Mayor, I convened our Citizen's Disaster Council (the only Mayor since 2006 to do so) – we updated our Emergency Ops Plan (EOP) and emergency responder (ER) maps. In 2019, I also called for Community-Friendly Evacuation Maps, working with ERs and FireSafe Marin we began and completed these innovative maps (with evacuation tips) for all our mutual threat zones in summer 2020.  They will be printed and mailed to all Fairfaxians in fall 2020; all are online now, all have QR codes and can be downloaded to smart phones so we can all get out quickly.  We are one of 1st in Marin County to develop these maps- they will be used as a standard for other Cities/Towns in the County under the new Marin Wildfire Prevention Authority (MWPA).  We need NRGs, to this end I worked with Age Friendly Fairfax and Town staff to hire our 1st Neighborhood Response Group (NRG) coordinator who will work with our many FireWise communities to get our NRG program up and running soon.  I am honored to serve on the MWPA Board so I can work to ensure all member jurisdictions take appropriate actions to prevent wildfires. We also need to look at staffing levels at Ross Valley Fire - it is critically important now that we have nearly year-round fire season and more devastating fires! I have been a trained CERT since 2018 so I can assist folks in my neighborhood in the event disaster strikes. 

Maintaining and Improving our Aging Infrastructure – My goals are to implement infrastructure projects to ensure we have adequate lighting, roads, sidewalks, and pedestrian walkways and other projects which may pose safety concerns in key areas.  I led efforts to ensure the Town has funding for infrastructure projects by three highly successful political campaigns for local tax measures (all funds stay in Fairfax).  In 2018 and later as Mayor in 2019, I pushed for reconstructing the Parkade (the Town’s main parking area) using grant and Town funds for ADA compliance repairs/replacement in addition to other improvements (e.g., 2 new bus shelters, employing rainwater infiltration/catchment techniques).  Reconstruction started in late February 2019 and was completed mid-May. This was the largest infrastructure project completed in more than a decade by the Town.  Some successes funded through my tax campaign work include: street repairs impacted by mudslides; the reconstruction of the Pavilion parking lot; the creation of a sidewalk repair cost-sharing program; initiation of improvements of our pedestrian evacuation trails; repair of some downtown sidewalks and plans to repair others; and installation of traffic beacons at critical pedestrian crossings.  Many of these projects support making our Town more Age Friendly, a key focus of my work. We must continue to proactively plan for the future by identifying needed public works projects, funding and grant opportunities.

Protecting our Environment – We must protect our open space, ridgelines, wildlife corridors, ecology and the visual landscape and continue our fight against global warming. This is a tall order but continues decades of Fairfax’s commitment to environmental protection and sustainability ethics. We must preserve and protect our biological and cultural resources.  For these priorities, I worked hard on the campaign to raise $1.3+M for the acquisition and restoration of Sky Ranch - 16 acres of open space which connects hundreds of miles of open space stretching from the Golden Gate to Point Reyes.   During my tenure on the Council, we adopted our Climate Action Plan and created our Fairfax Climate Action Committee (CAC).  As a member of CAC for the first 3 years, I ensured the Council took up measures within the CAP (e.g., adopting rigorous water conservation measures, changing out to LED streetlights; streamlined small solar ordinance 2015).  As Mayor in 2015, I obtained a grant to fund a MCE Deep Green incentive for >100 Fairfax residents – as a result, Fairfax has the highest % Deep Green (100% renewable) sign-ups of any of the 34 MCE member jurisdictions. I also developed a CAC Scorecard which documents Fairfax’s many climate action accomplishments from the 1980s to date.  We can attain these environmental goals by preserving and acquiring open space, providing biking and adequate pedestrian trails, promoting other low carbon modes of transport and use of virtual meetings, fully implementing our climate change plan, and promoting zero waste by living by our motto “reduce, recycle & reuse.”

My priorities: Living within our budgetary constraints to provide high quality, locally controlled public services to all Fairfaxians; Housing for Inclusion, Social Justice and Racial Equity; Disaster Preparedness; Maintaining and Improving our Aging Infrastructure; Protecting our Environment.

Also see Facebook @https://www.facebook.com/Coler4FairfaxCouncil/ 

Photo by Stephanie Mohan 

 

 

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commented 2020-08-22 09:36:46 -0700 · Flag
I support Barbara’s campaign!
commented 2020-08-19 15:45:05 -0700 · Flag
Barbara Coler is a great choice
followed this page 2020-08-19 02:06:05 -0700
commented 2017-10-18 18:21:24 -0700 · Flag
Thanks for fighting the good fight, Barbara.
commented 2013-11-06 18:52:25 -0800 · Flag
TY :)
Barbara Coler for Fairfax Town Council