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What Happened at Park Madera?

In September of 2006, the Town of Corte Madera purchased the Park Madera shopping center on Tamalpais Drive for $10 million. The reasons for acquiring this property in the heart of town were many: with housing prices on the rise nationwide, real estate seemed like a sound investment; it was the ideal location for a future community center; and until that community center could be built, rent from the shopping center's tenants would provide the Town with a non-tax source of revenue.

There was only one problem: the property had been appraised just four months earlier, at a value of $5.9 million.

This inexplicable misuse of taxpayer dollars can only be described as disturbing. What happened? How did the Town end up paying almost 70% more than the property was worth?

As a member of the public, answers to these deeply troubling questions are equally troubling in their scarcity; contemporaneous news reporting seems oddly oblivious to the obvious questions, with a search of news archives turning up almost no articles examining the debacle or the decisions that led to it.

What is clear is that Park Madera is a prime example of what can happen when a government wields taxpayer money without proper oversight; for the Town to make such a reckless purchase is grossly irresponsible, and vexingly avoidable—with the exercise of proper due diligence, this would have never happened.

Also clear: was the public aware that the Town was about to spend $10 million on a property worth less than $6 million, the deal never would have gone through. The lack of transparency surrounding the Town's purchase of Park Madera Center was a breach of the public trust, and contributed substantially to the Town's financial hardship in the following years.

These points illustrate two of the main reasons I'm running for Town Council: to do everything I can to ensure that taxpayers' money is used wisely and frugally, and to keep our community fully informed of the Town's plans and actions.

Our town councilmembers have a moral responsibility to use public funds even more carefully than they would their own, and to operate with the utmost transparency towards the people they serve.

If elected to the Town Council, I'll do just that. I pledge not to support any expenditure of public funds without fully examining the value and consequences first, and to make sure the residents of this town always know where their tax dollars are going and why.

On June 5th, I humbly ask for your support at the ballot box in making this goal a reality.

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