Analysis: Belvedere residents split sentiments, opposing Measure D but backing incumbents, Cooper
Updated: Nov 9, 2022
Preliminary results: Few surprises elsewhere as voters favor incumbents, saving ridge as open space, Connolly for Assembly
Belvedere's Measure D tax-and-charter plan to fund its $20 million road-hardening project appears headed toward defeat — though voters split their sentiments and are backing the incumbent City Council candidates who supported the measure over the slate of challengers who ran on a platform that it was wrong for the city.
It's still early. Belvedere's 608 ballots counted by election night represents about 37% turnout in a presidential mid-term that pundits suggested would mirror that of 2018, when more than 80% of Marin voters cast ballots during President Trump's mid-term, suggesting only about half of Belvedere's votes have been counted on a tax measure losing by just 27 votes.
However, preliminary results from the Nov. 8 election suggest broad skepticism of the plan regardless of the final outcome: While just 48% of Belvedere's counted votes so far support Measure D, the city's voters are overwhelmingly favoring another tax on the ballot: the $335-a-year Measure M parcel tax to preserve private Tiburon Ridge property as open space. That's seeing 73% support from Belvedere and 77% backing overall when including Tiburon voters. Belvedere's infrastructure measure needs just a simple majority to pass, while the open-space tax needs two-thirds.
Measure D's "no" vote from initial mail-ins was a tight 269-264 — with the gap extended by a 43-21 "no" from in-person voters — suggesting a major trend reversal would be required among the remaining mail-ins to flip the results.
On Measure D, voters also clearly peeled away from City Council incumbents Sally Wilkinson and Peter Mark, along with their unofficial slate-mate, challenger Jane Cooper, all of whom vocally supported the plan as the best way to fund the road-hardening project. Wilkinson, for instance, has a candidate-leading 353 votes versus the 285 in support of Measure D.
Their leads may be insurmountable for the slate of challengers. In the head-to-head race for a two-year seat, Wilkinson is beating Carolyn Lund 63% to 37%. In the four-way, pick-two race for a full four-year term, Mark received votes on 55% of the 608 ballots cast, Cooper on 53%, to Brian Davis' 38% and Richard Snyder's 29%.
A degree of apathy for the two council races also appears to be playing a role. Among the 608 ballots counted so far, Measure D has a combined total of 597 votes, meaning 98% of those who cast a counted ballot had voted in that specific race. The open-space measure received 590 total votes, or 97%. By comparison, the Wilkinson-Lund race has 560 total votes cast, meaning only 92% of voters marked their ballots in that race.
Lund, Davis and Snyder — the latter of whom helped write the ballot argument against Measure D — were all supported by opposition group Accountable Belvedere, which argues the proposed 30-year, 0.8-percent real-estate transfer tax is an unfair “exit tax” that skirts voter protections and would generate a blank check for City Hall. Legally, voters were asked to approve a simple-majority general tax that would raise $1.6 million annually for any municipal purpose, from parks to pensions. Officials including Wilkinson and Mark separately promised voters the revenue would be used only for the first phase of the Protect Belvedere Project, to bolster the roads.
In California, specific-purpose projects require a special tax with two-thirds’ voter approval, with the funds bound to the project. Opponents argued Measure D is an end-run around the state Constitution that’s ripe for abuse and that current officials are making promises that future councils aren’t required to keep. While supporters say any additional revenue from the tax would be used to retire the debt early and end the tax, opponents say the city could raise enough money to move forward with the more-controversial second phase, a seawall-fortification plan, without needing another public vote.
As of Marin's final election-night results posted at 11 p.m. Nov. 8, turnout was sitting at 27.5% percent, with a significant number of mail-in ballots left to count. Here's a sample of the numbers so far:
Tiburon Town Council (vote for 3)
Jack Ryan — 1,233
Jon Welner — 1,045
Alice Fredericks — 1,029
Isaac Nikfar — 807
Belvedere City Council (vote for 2)
Peter Mark — 336
Jane Cooper — 322
Brian Davis — 231
Richard Snyder — 178
Belvedere City Council: short-term
Sally Wilkinson — 353
Carolyn Lund — 207
Reed Union School District (vote for 3)
Afsaneh Zolfaghari — 1,613
Sherry Wangenheim — 1,571
Shelby Pasarell Tsai — 1,417
Sarah Buck-Gerber — 781
Tamalpais Union High School District (vote for 3)
Cynthia Roenisch — 10,759
Emily Uhlhorn — 10,187
Kevin Saavedra — 9,805
Renee Marcelle — 4,654
Barbara McVeigh — 4,504
Damian Morgan — 2,112
Mill Valley School District (vote for 3)
Sharon Nakatani — 3,360
Yunhee Yoo — 2,930
Natalie Katz — 2,840
Carol Morganstern — 1,479
George Rosenfield — 1,449
Tiburon Fire Protection District (vote for 3)
Emmett O’Donnell — 926
Cheryl Woodford — 826
Richard Jones — 675
John Hamilton — 528
Brette Daniels — 230
Southern Marin Fire Protection District (vote for 4)
Cristine Soto DeBerry — 2,968
Kurt Chun — 2,723
Thomas Perazzo — 2,526
Peter Fleming — 2,516
Sandra Jean Bushmaker — 1,143
Amber Isakson — 683
Lisa Wells — 333
Damon Connolly — 21,794 Marin / 42,098 overall
Sara Aminzadeh — 18,439 Marin / 35,063 overall
Measure B: Marin County Free Library (66.7%)
Yes — 17,025 (73%)
No — 6,177
Measure D: Belvedere tax and charter
Yes — 285
No — 312
Measure M: Tiburon Open Space District (66.7%)
Yes — 1,400 (77%)
No — 419
Reach Executive Editor Kevin Hessel at 415-435-2652, on Twitter at @thearknewspaper and on Facebook at fb.me/thearknewspaper.