7/30/10 UPDATE

We Need Your Help!  As you will learn below, saving the track will be challenging, but very possibly doable if we work fast and play our cards right.  We need bodies to attend COM Board meetings, and even more important short-term, to take on a few urgent, not too onerous, tasks that our working group is divvying up.  Your small commitment now could pay huge dividends in coming decades.  Time is of the essence, so your help is very much needed.

Next Planning Pow-Wow Monday August 2, 6:30PM, 50 Ridgecrest Rd, KentfieldWe will be meeting again on this coming Monday to discuss what to do next.  We may also hear at that session from the Friends of Kentfield about their experiences in dealing with COM; our issues also affect them and the broader Kentfield community owing to the noise, congestion, traffic problems, and loss of open-access green space potentially caused by a major construction project and frequent lacrosse tournaments.   If you are unable to attend this session, please consider contacting Mimi Willard (845 661 3825 or to volunteer for a task.  We can find something that suits your time availability and skills.  Also, we are reaching out to other affected constituencies -- walkers, neighbors, friends of the football field/team, supporters of a viable community college and advocates for responsible governance -- and could use your help in recruiting them to our cause.  The more of us who join together and stand up to be counted, the more sway we will have with COM decision-makers and elected officials. 

7/27/10 COM Board Meeting Summary.  Three of our group attended and spoke at the meeting during the open mike session, which is conveniently scheduled at the start of the agenda.  We each spoke to a different aspect of our objection to the proposal to remove the current nine-lane 400 meter regulation track and replace it with 2 or more lacrosse fields surrounded by nonstandard 3-4 lane 600 meter “practice” (or walking) track.   Earl Downing, a member of our group and Head Coach at Terra Linda High School, focused his comments on the vital role that community college athletics play in the local community: they provide a cost-effective way to get an education, with 2 years at home and then, if athletes develop, the opportunity to complete the final 2 years with scholarship aid at a university.   With over 22,000 track scholarship available nationally for runners as compared with under 800 for lacrosse players, replacing the current regulation track with a nonstandard one and multiple lacrosse fields does lasting harm to the aspiring students and their struggling families in the local community: with the track and field facilities removed, COM will never again be able to have a viable varsity track or football team.  Tamalpa Founder and Thursday AM Track Coach, Kees Tuinzing, spoke of the 2-3 decades that COM has been available for Tamalpa coached workouts and the Marin Memorial Day Races, both of which would be displaced should the regulation track be removed; he also urged the Board to examine whether any remaining funds from the Measure C bond offering might be used toward the track.  Mimi Willard called upon the Board to support our recommendation, “One Track, One Field”:  one multi-purpose field (football, lacrosse, and soccer) encircled by a regulation track.  Mimi noted that the track and field are broadly used by many, many, residents of the local community, 7 days per week; no other facility in the area offers open access, particularly during school hours.  Removing the regulation track does permanent harm, as once the real estate has been redeployed through a long-term lease to an outside group and construction of multiple lacrosse fields, the land and its original use cannot be reinstated.  COM’s short-term financial problems should not drive a bad decision that causes long-term damage.   COM is funded with our local tax dollars, and as such, the needs of COM students and the broad local community should be paramount; no decision should be made that sacrifices the broad community interest to that of an outside special interest sub-group, no matter how well funded. 

At the meeting it was also apparent that COM is suffering a current budget crunch that is causing sharp contraction and/or elimination of programs vital to its mission.  Many programs are being curtailed or eliminated.  It is not hyperbole to say that COM is being dismantled piecemeal.  The potential long-term leasing out of COM’s track and football field facility in order to close a short-term funding gap strikes us as a big further step down the slippery slope that might ultimately cripple COM.    We encourage the college to adopt a strategic plan that ensures it will survive and thrive for the long-term good of the community.  Meanwhile, we will do our bit to help COM find an affordable alternative.  Our Friends of COM Track working group is costing out a renovation of the existing track and field with the hopes that the figures will fall within a readily fundable range.

We have been told by board members that it is important for us to show up at each monthly board meeting with several people prepared to argue our case.  It is also important to make these comments pithy, focused, and preferably, addressing different aspects of the issue.  Each speaker is allocated 3 minutes, so having more speakers means more time to make our point; at some point we will ask to be formally on the agenda.  We will be looking for people to attend the next meeting and will keep you posted.  We left the meeting concerned that approval of plans to remove the regulation track and replace it with multiple lacrosse fields and a nonstandard track might move ahead quickly without our being aware.  Our subsequent outreach effort makes us less worried about being blindsided, but it is still imperative that we scramble very hard to get our efforts going and determine the most productive course of action.  This will entail fairly frequent meetings over the short term and some legwork to be done between meetings.  We could definitely use your attendance and assistance.

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