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BJ Blanchard: Glen Ellen Forum

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Almost two years ago, a group of Glen Ellen residents gathered in a local coffee shop on a rainy night in winter. They had in mind one thing: to build an entity to articulate local concerns to the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors. The slogan of what became known as the Glen Ellen Forum became: “Many Voices, One Community.”

Last Monday, Dec. 3, was the latest meeting of the forum. Held in the cozy Garden Court Café, the crowd included schoolteachers, a psychotherapist, restaurateurs, artists, marine biologists, an historical ecologist, nurses, a police detective, and many more, all neighbors in Glen Ellen.

At Monday’s meeting it was announced that, through the forum, PG&E has again gifted thousands of dollars for holiday lighting on the Jim Berkland Bridge, and to other fire-hit communities. United Way has donated $12,500 to purchase backflow devices for fire victims, small storage sheds for those rebuilding, and some funds to underwrite the Community Free Meal coming up next weekend. Also, at the meeting, owners of the Glen Ellen Inn shared their plans for a small expansion of the Glen Ellen Inn and Restaurant downtown, adding two lodging rooms, discontinuing lunch, but continuing dinner service at the restaurant.

Over the past two years, many things have been accomplished through the Glen Ellen Forum and its various volunteer committees. The Traffic and Safety Committee has created a Glen Ellen Emergency Plan, has monitored traffic flow and made suggestions to the CHP, and has distributed creative signs encouraging drivers to slow down in our crowded village streets.

Started immediately after the fires, the Engagement Committee organized free meals at several venues in town. In the spirit of community unity, these events enable connection with neighbors one rarely sees, in addition to serving, epicurean-delight dinners and local wines for which the Valley is known. Next Friday, Dec. 9, will be the next free community meal, held at Valley of the Moon Winery, and will include craft vendors and live music.

The Projects Committee has completed several endeavors in town, such as getting the post office painted, upgrading the community bulletin board, arranging new wooden bus stops at crucial sites, and a creek clean-up adventure. A Little Free Library is underway in addition to improving the tiny triangular space at the north end of the bridge adjacent to the post office parking lot. A plan for more rubbish bins is underway.

The Sonoma Developmental Center/Eldridge Transition Committee has spearheaded the process of voicing local concerns about the upcoming transition of the state property. The “warm shutdown” of the facility occurs in a month, and this group encourages residents to speak in a cohesive voice, continue to lobby the Board of Supervisors and the new governor, to monitor and suggest options. The website Eldridge for All (eldridgeforall.org) is a good resource for more information.

Members of the Advisory Council Exploratory Committee provided an update on their activities at Monday night’s meeting. The advantage of forming a Municipal Advisory Council (MAC) - think of it as a county town council - is that it would provide a local political voice to government decision-makers. A MAC, while a government entity in itself, holds an advisory role representing local concerns.

Currently the Advisory Council Exploratory Committee is awaiting approval of its by-laws from Supervisor Susan Gorin’s office. In the meantime, they will hold listening sessions around the north Valley, will review and suggest revisions for the county’s 2020 General Plan, and educate the community about MACs. The proposed Glen Ellen MAC will probably include Kenwood, in order to form a Valley MAC as the “Heartbeat of the North Valley.” When formed, the MAC will be separated from the forum.

Glenellenca.org is the forum’s website. The Glen Ellen Facebook page is active. Eldridge for All is a great resource. Sustainable Sonoma has useful information. Many Voices, One Community: Building a strong community for the benefit of all. You can’t get better than that.