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article imageOp-Ed: Marin County Supervisor rides the bus like everyone else Special

By Jonathan Farrell     Apr 20, 2016 in Lifestyle
San Rafael - Golden Gate Transit serves San Francisco, Marin and Sonoma counties. On any given day, thousands of people use and rely on the bus and ferry system.
Among those thousands in the ridership commute is Damon Connolly.
He currently serves as District 1 Supervisor on the Board of Supervisors for Marin County. Installed and sworn in to the Board in January of 2015, he represents San Rafael and its unincorporated areas within the County.
The nine counties that make up the San Francisco Bay Area, Marin County offers Golden Gate Transit which is part of the Golden Gate Bridge Highway and Transit Authority. Especially for the people of Marin it is a transportation life-line to the City and adjacent wine country of Sonoma.
Connolly sees transportation as a priority, near the top of his list. The SMART train which has been in the news lately, is not just another transportation route. To Connolly it is a step in the right direction for public transit.
Public transit like the GGT system is something he is very passionate about. To demonstrate this, Connolly has made a commitment to use public transit as much as possible. Indeed, he’s in the midst of a pledge for the entire month of April of going “single occupancy vehicle-free,” while relying exclusively on transit, his bike and the occasional carpool. “It’s important for those sitting in positions of authority over transit systems to walk the walk and learn about the real-life experiences of those using the systems,” Connolly said. According to Golden Gate Transit, last year approximately 38 million vehicles crossed the Golden Gate Bridge and over 9 million customers rode the transit systems. This to Connolly is very significant as he added, “I want to find out what’s working for people and what isn’t.”
When this reporter caught up with Connolly he was riding the 70 Novato bus that goes from Downtown Novato all the way to San Francisco and back.
Thousands of commuters rely on Golden Gate Transit to get to and from Marin and San Francisco. The 7...
Thousands of commuters rely on Golden Gate Transit to get to and from Marin and San Francisco. The 70 Novato bus is one of many routes that local people use everyday.
Courtesy of Damon Connolly
An avid bicyclist, he considers Marin County a 'phenomenal place to live' with tremendous natural beauty, even amid its heavily used off-ramps along the Highway 101 corridor. “Another one of my top concerns is development, he said. This area will not be able to retain its unique environmental character unless development is well-planned and sustainable.”
He envisions a better and more efficient way to deal with urban density. Connolly believes community input is essential to making sound planning decisions, with special attention to making sure existing neighborhoods are preserved and not negatively impacted.
While over-development has always been a concern for Marin County, wheels of progress have not stopped spinning. Since the 1960’s the amount of growth in Marin, especially along the Highway 101 corridor stretching from Golden Gate Bridge to Petaluma (which leads to adjacent Sonoma County) has proliferated continuously. The building of malls/shopping centers and office parks in such a narrow span creates not only more commuter traffic. It increases the strain upon the marshland of that corridor which act as “the lungs” for the San Francisco Bay.
Over the past 50 years the SF Bay Area has grown in population from 3 million to over 7 million as noted by the 2010 U.S. Census. And, while growth is inevitable, Connolly believes that resources must be better used to accommodate the population. Public transit is one of those things that must coincide with the proper use of recourses that promotes effectiveness and efficiently.
The 101 bus is an express bus for Golden Gate Transit commuters  with limited stops between Santa Ro...
The 101 bus is an express bus for Golden Gate Transit commuters, with limited stops between Santa Rosa and Downtown San Francisco. It goes From Santa Rosa to San Francisco and back more than 20 times a day.
Courtesy of Damon Connolly
A Bay Area native, who grew up in the East Bay, Connolly attended college and law school at UC Berkeley. He has lived in San Rafael for the past 19 years with his wife, Dawn, and their two daughters. While he spoke very modestly about his work as a supervisor, “I figured with my background in law and motivation to help solve problems, I might try to help the community thru some form of public office.”
He admitted that while government and public service inevitably involves bureaucracy, even at the local grass roots level, “I still see it as the most tangible and ‘hands-on’ way to deal with issues.
And concerning the County, the grass-roots level with local government for Connolly is a good platform to get things done.” His easy-going and approachable manner gave me the impression that he was a novice at this. But, later I learned Connolly has spent a considerable amount of time in public service.
He credits the example of public service in his life to his grandfather who was appointed Postmaster of San Lorenzo by the Kennedy Administration. Connolly served for seven years as a City Council member of San Rafael.
He then worked hard to sustain the city’s vibrant local economy, protect vital public services, and balance the budget. He made City Hall more responsive to the needs of San Rafael’s neighborhoods. He helped expand transportation options for local residents and worked to reduce San Rafael’s contribution to climate change.
Connolly was a founding member of the Marin Clean Energy Board of Directors, serving since the agency’s inception in December 2008, and chaired the board from June, 2011 to Nov. 2014.
He served as a leader on the Green Ribbon Committee that developed San Rafael’s Climate Change Action Plan, the first to be adopted by a Marin city. He also helped San Rafael adopt a model green-ordinance with some of the toughest green-building standards in America.
The Golden Gate Transit Center in San Rafael is the main hub were almost all of the transit systems ...
The Golden Gate Transit Center in San Rafael is the main hub were almost all of the transit systems buses converge to help commuters/riders make transfers and connections to other routes and bus lines for three counties: Marin, San Francisco and Sonoma.
Courtesy of Damon Connolly
Connolly chaired the San Rafael-based Community Advisory Committee on Transit, and also served on the Board of the YMCA of Marin and Senior Access. Upon his election to the County of Marin Board of Supervisors, Connolly told Marin Magazine that it was his initial work with the local school board and all the neighborhood outreach that helped him win the seat on the Board of Supervisors. “School-district constituencies are huge…and neighborhoods are important, he was quoted as saying. And I had support from that group of voters after serving seven years on the San Rafael City Council."
Even if Connolly just sticks to the three main issues he aims for the most as he told Marin Magazine; that being public transportation, responsible development and local fiscal transparency, there is plenty of work right there. What type of complicated obstacles that might arise as he tackles these concerns is anyone’s guess. But what is most important to Connolly is the fact that Marin is his home. He and Dawn are not leaving, even as their daughters have gone off to college.
Understanding the fickle nature of politics, Connolly will not be upset if he only gets to serve on the Board of Supervisors for one term. He has the type of vision that sees the larger picture of things and knows that while one door of public service might close, another one opens.
What he wants for San Rafael and the rest of the County is what most people want. They want a beautiful place to live that will remain that way for the next generation and the generation after that. And, hopefully it will stay in tact for many more generations to come as our society moves further along into the 21st Century. To learn more about Supervisor Damon Connolly, visit his page at the County of Marin web site. And, check out his page on Facebook.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com
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