IF 70 IS the new 40, Marin County Supervisor Judy Arnold is, let’s say, around 45 years old with the energy of a 30-something. Moreover, after more than five decades in public life, her optimism
appears hardly tempered by the reality of a life
spent in government.
“You were born to be a politician,” Arnold’s father told
her just days before he passed away. Currently, as she has
since her election in November of 2010, she represents
Marin County’s 5th District, which encompasses most of
Novato and the nearby communities of Bel Marin Keys,
Indian Valley and Black Point, on the Marin County Board
of Supervisors. She served two terms on the Novato City
Council prior to that.
Arnold began her career as an assistant to Sargent
Shriver, President John F. Kennedy’s Peace Corps director. Following a move west, along with marriage and
child-raising, Arnold found herself in Marin successfully
managing the supervisorial political campaign of the late
and very colorful and accomplished Gary Giacomini. For
two years she served as Giacomini’s administrative aide as
he fought to set beneficial environmental policy in Marin.
When Giacomini retired in 1996, Arnold took a similar
position with another colorful politician, Democratic State
Senator John Burton. In the late 1990s, while Burton was for
all intents running the State of California during the recall
and removal of Governor Gray Davis, Arnold was serving as
the de facto state senator from Marin. She and Burton still,
on frequent occasions, discuss regional politics.
Now, halfway through her third term as a county super-
visor, Judy Arnold is president of the Marin County Board
of Supervisors. We asked her about the challenges and
opportunities facing this region.
Let’s jump right into it: how is Marin County faring with
the Trump presidency? Well, the county should be breath-
ing easier now that the vote to repeal and replace the
Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, was pulled from the
House agenda. If Congress had passed it, and President
Trump approved it, it would have cost Marin $100 mil-
lion in federal health care funds, mostly Medicaid, that’s
distributed throughout the county every year. We also
estimate that 600 jobs would have been lost. All I can
say is, so far so good.
Returning to the home front, you also serve as chair of
the Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit board, or SMART.
How is that progressing? It is going really well. By the
time this interview comes out, in late spring, trains should
be running along the 38-mile route between downtown
San Rafael and Airport Boulevard, north of Santa Rosa.
The intent is for it to take at least 1,000 cars a day off the
Highway 101 commute. Clipper card machines have been
ordered, fare structures are set and rigorous safety testing
continues. SMART trains will all function under Positive
Train Control, or PTC, which enables a computer to automatically stop the cars if a danger appears up ahead and
the train’s conductor has somehow missed it. We’ll be one
of the first in the nation to have this capability.
Is the rumor of free fares more than a rumor? Indeed it is,
it’s a fact. SMARTs board has authorized a free ride period
from opening day until the Fourth of July; then tickets will
be half-price until Labor Day. By then, people will love taking the train to work and maybe heading north to the Wine
Country on weekends.
Which brings to mind a transportation snafu, the winter
flooding and five-day closure of Highway 37 connecting
Marin, Sonoma, Napa and Solano counties. What will
preclude that happening again? This is an important
issue. The portion of Highway 37 that’s in Marin is actu-
ally below sea level, so it’s a critical issue involving all four
counties. The good news is that in February Caltrans com-
pleted $8 million in emergency repairs that improved the
If Congress had passed it, and
President Trump approved it, it would
have cost Marin $100 million
in federal health care funds.