Point Arena Politics



Resolution to Honor Mayor Leslie Dahlhoff, January 27, 2009

WHEREAS we the members of the Point Arena City Council, as well as residents of Point Arena and its area and friends from around the world wish to express appreciation to Leslie Dahlhoff for her 12 years on the Council, 10 of them serving as Mayor of our tiny fair city;

WHEREAS the following condensed descriptive history of events transpiring during those years should convince anyone hitherto unaware of Leslie’s accomplishments and work—both toiling in solitude and more often fashioning achievement from the clay of teamwork:

Leslie Ann Dahlhoff, began her service to the city participating in the General Plan committees & then as member of the Planning Commission, where she—never one for self-aggrandizement—was happy to help behind the scenes. However, she was solicited by then current Council members (Earlygrow & Wasserman) in the typical way, with largely false assurances that that the job wouldn’t be very demanding. In 1996 she was appointed, embarking on what became the most meaningful work of her professional life, rising above other jobs that were just a path to a paycheck, which this most certainly wasn’t.

In college, Leslie had pursued Environmental Studies and her passion for planning was fanned brighter in Point Arena when the librarian of the Bookmobile recommended that luminous classic, A Pattern Language: Towns, Buildings, Construction. (Oxford University Press, 1977) She and her devoted spouse Eric had decided to stop running away from the city and to look the beast of bad (or non-existent) planning square in its bloodshot eyes and to participate instead. They settled here.

Point Arena had had its local Coastal Plan (LCP) certified in 1980, yet, like a number of other California cities, lacked a General Plan, which it is required by law to have. In an instance of massive good fortune, Point Arena had become the home, as well, of noted planner and influential planning publisher, Warren Jones, who became the Godfather of the process—at times excruciatingly slow--that would nonetheless lead inexorably to approval by the California Coastal Commission of the Point Arena General Plan. Each of the Plan’s seven Elements had a committee during the working phase and Leslie headed the one devoted to Circulation: to roads, paths, sewage, water & more! After Warren wrote the wording of the plan using hard data and analysis from the committees, Leslie and the Council embarked on a multi-year voyage through the Coastal Commission’s approval process.  The mood was often murky, yet Leslie’s tiny spark of hope was revealed to actually be light at the end of the tunnel when, after a 4-hour conference call between her and then City Clerk Fred Pattern and Coastal Commission staff, final details were nailed down. The workshops had occurred from 1990 – 1995; the plan was submitted in ’97; in ’98 the city received an extensive response with new requirements; we resubmitted in 2001; in ‘02 the Coastal Commission requested a study on groundwater availability; in 2004 -one of many election years for Leslie - we did a map of zoning density changes; and then it was done in 2006, a very proud moment for Mayor Dahlhoff and for the rest of us.

If that project was Herculean, another qualifies as Sisyphean (You know Sisyphus, the Greek King of Corinth doomed to roll a huge boulder up a mountain side, only to have it always roll down again just before reaching the top, i.e. “involving endless but futile labor.”) This was Leslie’s endeavor to defend Point Arena at the California Public Utilities Commission against what can only be termed enormous water rate hikes, the largest sought being 215% (we were hit with 50%, in that instance.) The time and tedium involved in Leslie’s study of the PUC process and private water utility law can hardly be fathomed. We are humbled in the face of her dedication to taking this on, assisted by City Attorney Joe Brecher. The futility of this Lord of the Rings-ish quest to achieve parity with larger municipalities in the bosom of a bureaucracy too busy to take a city so small seriously and staffed by more private industry-friendly appointees than conscientious public employees is tiring just to think about. Leslie,  thank you for trying.

On a brighter note, let us ponder wastewater, and our municipally-owned utility, and Leslie’s successful shepherding of the Wastewater Irrigation Project, from 1997 – 2003, the wastewater line extension to CDF and to the west end of Lake St., 1998 – 2002, as well as her continuing involvement with the Operations Board of the Treatment Plant.

An abbreviated list of achievements with which Mayor Dahlhoff was involved must include the very traditional joy of paving roadways and walkways:  2001-4, the Lake St. “Safe Route to Schools” sidewalk project; the 2002 sidewalk & paving of Port Rd.; the 2007 repave and speed-bumping of Lake St. and the 2007 paving of the former dust-bowl next to the Theater, now a beautiful, clean, black, municipally-owned surface at the head of the Bikeway Project, next to our picturesque bathroom, from which you may walk or bike all the way to Arena Cove.

Related to this last were the community-led workshops that culminated in the Park Master Plan in 2007. Listening to thoughtful and diverse input from all groups of constituents is one of Mayor Dahlhoff’s many strengths.

Working with and gentle guidance of colleagues is another. Meticulous research into superficially dry subjects is another. We recognize the resource of personal time that she has freely given for the good of us all, whether we agree with her on any given issue or not, whether each of us is a calm and compassionate being or a vicious viper who happens to live within the city’s bounds. We have all benefited from Leslie’s efforts. We have been lucky that she persevered during times of stress for the city—to put it mildly. She kept faith with Point Arena when the Municipal Pier was losing money and the community was bitterly divided, when she was the point person, the focus of attack. She and we weathered that storm. [I hope we can weather this one!]

If that was a low, the bringing of a credit union to Point Arena was an even higher high. Having been abandoned by the only bank in town, Point Arena limped along while Mayor Dahlhoff sought help from the California Credit Union League and Mr. Don Arnold, who became our valiant knight, bringing Inwood Credit Union to what constituted an extremely remote, rural outpost for them. They needed to see our desire for a credit union manifest, and they did. The tiny former library building was transformed through volunteer effort into a bank structure safe for a vault in just 45 days! Leslie put on her mask and worked amongst decades of spider web to replace flooring under the building and was heartened as the deadline loomed to be joined by so many community members, especially on that last Sunday, when we all pitched in to finish by 7pm. Yes! We had something better than a commercial bank—we had a credit union staffed by friends and familiar faces. When Inwood sold to Redwood Credit Union, the dream lived on.

So, it wasn’t even any single one of these achievements, but the steady pursuit of them all that distinguishes Mayor Dahlhoff. She led Council with a firm, but gentle hand. She has held herself to a high standard against which we continuing members may strive to measure ourselves.

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that the City of Point Arena recognizes the excellence of effort, the fidelity to purpose, the diligence and the dedication of her mind, her time and the work of her hands for the good of the city continually made manifest by Mayor Leslie Dahlhoff over the course of the past twelve years.
Thank you Leslie!

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