Two challengers are hoping to unseat longtime Novato City Councilwoman Pat Eklund in the Nov. 8 election.
Eklund, who was first appointed to the City Council in 1995, is facing off with Novato business owners Chris Carpiniello and Nicole Gardner for the council’s District 4 seat representing southwestern Novato.
If reelected, Eklund said she would work to maintain Novato’s small-town character, maintain parks and open space, improve pedestrian safety, meet the city’s housing goals, advocate for government transparency and balance the city’s budget.
“Novato needs leaders who have proven that they can make tough decisions, stand up for our values and demand better for Novato than politics as usual,” Eklund said.
Gardner, a small business owner, said she has been working on justice issues on the Novato Multicultural Advisory Commission and as co-leader of the Marin County Race Equity Planning Committee.
She began volunteering with Moms Demand Action to promote stricter gun safety laws after her 20-year-old daughter was killed in Richmond in 2015. She was a passenger in a car targeted by a drive-by shooter.
As a member of the City Council, Gardner said she would focus on balancing the city’s budget, supporting small businesses, addressing speeding concerns and supporting affordable housing for workers.
“I’m passionate about Novato and determined to keep the culture and feel of this small city alive as it grows,” Gardner said.
Carpiniello is a construction business owner and said he represents the “opposition to the globalist agenda that has stolen Novato’s sovereignty.”
“I think they kowtow to outside and special interests and are not engaged in the business of the people,” Carpiniello said of the current council.
His platform includes a focus on Christian values; promoting small business; opposition to all emergency declarations; opposition to state housing mandates; opposition to vaccination requirements for children; questioning human influence on global climate change; and promoting “school choice” to address what he says is a public school system “bent on political indoctrination and the grooming of radicals.”
Carpiniello said he also serves on the Marin Republican Party’s election integrity committee. He opposes early voting, saying it enables cheating. Research has shown no evidence that mail-in voting increases election fraud.
To address the city’s projected budget deficit, Gardner said the city needs to review its expenses and promote the growth of small businesses to bolster city revenues.
Eklund said the city has hired a finance director to bring the city’s finances back up to date following years of what she said was mismanagement by the previous administration. She said that work has begun and is expected to be completed next year or in 2024.
Carpiniello said he would call for the city to create a special committee to conduct a full audit of all of the city’s finances.
Novato is one of many communities in Marin being mandated by the state to build thousands of new homes by 2031 to address the state’s housing issues. The city also has several homeless camps, including an authorized site at Lee Gerner Park, that have raised concerns in the city, especially since the start of the pandemic.
Carpiniello said the housing crisis was artificially created by state political leaders and says it is a “ruse to hide all the illegal aliens that they’re bringing into our country and dispersing throughout the nation in order to change political demographics.”
Gardner said all people deserves to have a roof over their heads. She said the city needs to continue supporting and expanding service programs for homeless residents such as those offered by the Homeward Bound of Marin nonprofit group based in Hamilton.
Eklund said Novato has done more for homeless people than all other cities in Marin combined, including leasing land to Homeward Bound of Marin for $1 for its homeless shelter, job training center and apartments, including a 50-apartment project set to begin construction next year. While she said she supports the county’s strategy to provide homeless residents with housing and services, she said there needs to be a focus on transitional shelter as well.
One proposal calls for 1,100 new homes at the former Fireman’s Fund Insurance campus.
Eklund said she supports having the site used primarily for multifamily dwellings, including both rentals and for sale, which she said would allow for more affordable housing.
Gardner said she is excited that the vacant commercial property could be repurposed for more housing, retail businesses and parking.
Carpiniello said he opposes the project, stating that Novato should declare a moratorium on large-scale building projects until the city can guarantee ample water supplies exist for all citizens.
In regard to climate change initiatives, Carpiniello said the city should rescind its climate emergency declaration and that the nation should take advantage of all energy options, including fossil fuels.
“There are many clean ways we can utilize combustion technologies to our advantage and we have to utilize them all,” he said. “We cannot be vilifying these things and expect to remain competitive,”
Gardner said the people in Novato want clean air, clean water and open space.
“The most people that are affected by climate change is the underserved communities, the people living in the community that have health problems like asthma,” Gardner said.
Eklund, a former Environmental Protection Agency employee, said the city must begin looking to address sea-level rise impacts, especially for low-lying communities such as Bahia.
“I support all of the efforts we have taken so far and many more that we hopefully are going to be doing to support our efforts to help reduce sea-level rise and impacts of climate change,” Eklund said.
District 4 candidates
Occupation: General building contractor
Education: One year of college studying accounting/economics
Experience: Small business owner in Marin for 35 years estimating large projects, including custom home construction and light commercial; contract drafting and negotiations; employing and organizing workers; project compliance
Occupation: Novato City Council member
Education: Bachelor’s degree, San Francisco State University; master’s degree in public administration, Golden Gate University; master’s degree in environmental management, University of San Francisco
Experience: Novato City Council member since 1995 and former mayor; past president of the League of California Cities; Association of Bay Area Governments board member; San Francisco Bay Estuary Partnership Implementation Committee member; San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission; two-time president of the Cities Counties Schools Partnership; former employee at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Occupation: Aromatherapy business owner
Education: Attended College of Marin
Experience: Novato Multicultural Advisory Commission member; co-leader of the Marin County Race Equity Planning Committee; Marin County Race Equity Implementation Committee member; board member for Legal Aid of Marin; Moms Demand Action volunteer