REQUESTING EMPLOYER HELP: Asking Employees and Your Network to Download New COVID Exposure Tracking App to Save Lives

As part of California’s efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19, Governor Newsom launched a new Exposure Notification app that can alert people who may have been exposed to someone who is positive for the virus.

I strongly encourage you to use this app to protect yourselves, your co-workers, and your families. It’s built on the Exposure Notification technology developed by Apple and Google, which was designed to provide these alerts while protecting your privacy.  Neither your identity nor your location will be shared with other users, Apple, or Google.  And to be clear, our company will have no access to the data either.

By using this technology to protect our work place and our homes, we can break the chain of transmission and accelerate the path to recovery.

Many of you in California will get a notification encouraging you to opt into CA Notify.  If you’d like to opt in manually, here’s how you can do it:

After you turn on the app can you post/tweet that you are using the app!  Let’s keep each other safe and healthy – we owe it to ourselves and to one another.

Psychological First Aid

The pandemic continues, we are losing more people daily to the virus than any other tragic event in our history.  Couple the horrific deaths with an economic crisis equal to the Great Recession, an election that may be the most important of our lifetimes and the intense level of social unrest, we get a plethora of things fraying our psyches.  Many are stressed, afraid and having sleepless nights.  We keep thinking, it can’t get worse and then it does.

What to do with the awful feelings that we are so far from normal that normal may no longer exist?  There has to be a way to get through this.  How do we keep hope alive and be optimistic about the future?

One tactic is found in “We’ll Get Through It”: How To Accept The Uncertainty Of COVID-19,  (Link) where  Gretchen Rubin suggests that we lean into the uncertainty and fear.  She says, “But what if, rather than fighting that uncertainty and getting anxious about it, we just accepted it — or even leaned into it?”

“One of the things that I’m really doing is trying to understand, like, well, there is so much uncertainty, there’s loss, but what am I learning? What am I gaining? What insights am I having?” she says. “Some things are working worse, but some things are working better, and can I gain from that?”

To help her stay focused, she is reminded of the line from the Roman poet Ovid where he says, “Be patient and tough. Someday this pain will be useful to you.”

“I think we all just have to hang in there and hope that one day this pain will be useful,” she says. “And now I think we’re really settling into this different state, as you said, where we realize it’s going to be uncertain for a long time and that we don’t really know what the horizon is and things might move forward and they might move backward.” Rubin points out that things that seemed far in the future have now drawn closer like the upcoming holidays, and she says, “Well, now that’s all coming real, and so I think people’s feelings are changing.”

“So I do think we need to be realistic, but it’s also true that one of the ways that we can feel better about what’s going through is if we do feel like we’ve made good use of the time. And if you feel like, ‘Well, I was safer at home, and so I did organize my basement or I did update my resumé or I did take that online course or I did learn how to use that new software,’ that will make us feel better going forward because it’s something good that came from this. We were able to make good use of it. And that’s comforting because there’s so much we can’t do. I think each of us has to decide for ourselves. Like, am I going to ask more of myself or am I going to cut myself some slack?”

Another tip from Rubin is to focus on your relationships.  She says, “If you’re going to think about happiness, the key to happiness is strong relationships, if you had to pick one thing. So as you’re going through this time, really pay attention to your relationships. Staying connected with other people, going out on the street and smiling at people, your neighbors, over the masks, looking for ways to feel connected to other people, and also, you know, to do good in the world, to feel connected to your larger community because maybe you can’t control the virus, but you could do virtual volunteering or you could do virtual babysitting for somebody who’s got little kids at home and can’t get any work done. If we do good, we feel good, and that will make us feel closer to the people in our lives and closer to our community. And so that is something that’s within our control that will really boost our spirits in a tough time.”

Dr. Noelle Nelson, author of Power of Appreciation and Happy Healthy…Dead, writes in Optimism’s Impact On Mind And Body During COVID-19 Crisis, (Link) that “Studies have shown us repeatedly that optimists have stronger immune systems than those who don’t have an optimistic outlook. Strengthening our immune system is our body’s defense against disease,” says Nelson. “We already know that the coronavirus is deadliest among those with compromised or weakened immune systems. Maintaining and developing a strong immune system can go a long way toward our staying healthy.”

If you’re not a natural-born optimist, Nelson suggests two steps to get you on track during these tough times.

Institute A 5-Minute Pity Party. A 5-Minute Pity Party is where you acknowledge your frustration over the aspects of your life that have been negatively affected by the coronavirus. You’ve lost your job, you’re struggling with homeschooling your kids or you’re mourning the complete shutdown of your social life. ‘Whatever the reason or reasons,” says Nelson, “it’s time to release your anguish. Get it out of your system (i.e., rant, rave, cry) safely and privately; once your five minutes are up, move to step two.’”

“Value What You Can Today. Look around you. What can you appreciate about your life right here, right now? You say “nothing? ‘There is still plenty to appreciate. It can be as simple as appreciating the roof over your head or you’re in good health. Continue to look for other reasons to appreciate. Be genuine. By doing so, these thoughts of appreciation will have a dramatic, positive impact on your immune system,’ suggests Nelson.”

“Optimism isn’t a cure-all. Yet in every crisis, there is opportunity for new growth and new inspiration when seen with an optimistic eye,” says Nelson. “Let’s keep our moments of dark despair as brief as possible and amp up our times of appreciation. If we do, we’ll come out of this challenging situation stronger and better than ever.”

Going a step further is the advice that we need to practice psychological first aid.  Stacy Colino in The pandemic proves we all should know ‘psychological first aid.’ Here are the basics, (Link) tell us how.

George S. Everly, a clinical psychologist and professor of international health in the Center for Humanitarian Health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, and author of The Johns Hopkins Guide to Psychological First Aid, says, “The pandemic is like the never-ending story,” says Everly. “What makes this more psychologically toxic is that we keep receiving new impacts” as resurgences and new outbreaks occur, and more collateral damage to life and work, as we knew them, becomes apparent.

Colino reinforces that never-ending story, she says, “Meanwhile, on a daily, sometimes hourly, basis we’re subjected to bad news from multiple directions — not just about the pandemic, the economy and racial issues, but about political scandals, civic tensions, fires, floods, conspiracy theories and more — without the in-person support of friends, extended family and colleagues because of the pandemic. ‘The world seems more uncertain than ever — uncertainty is a powerful toxin,’ Everly says.”

Fortunately, you can dial down your stress reactivity and come to your own emotional rescue — or that of others — with PFA-based strategies. Here’s how to put the actual components of PFA into practice for yourself and those you care about:

Address basic bodily needs.  Make a conscious effort to consume nutritious foods, stay hydrated, get enough sleep, do some form of physical activity every day, and avoid using substances such as alcohol or cigarettes to cope, advises Kaushal Shah, a psychiatric researcher at Griffin Memorial Hospital in Norman, Okla., who has done research on PFA. Besides being important for your overall health, these healthy lifestyle practices are a vital part of PFA.

Avoid further harm. Protecting people from additional distress is a key aspect of PFA, and there are several ways you can do this for yourself and others. First, check to make sure conditions are physically safe, then take steps to ensure emotional “safety” by treating others and yourself with respect and compassion. “Remind yourself that whatever you’re feeling or going through right now is perfectly normal,” advises Nancy Haugen, a clinical psychologist in San Francisco. “That [acknowledgment] tends to bring down some anxiety.”

In addition, try to protect yourself from information overload. New research, involving 6,514 adults in the United States, found that people who have higher daily hours of covid-19-related media exposure and exposure to conflicting covid-19 information in the media are at greater risk for pandemic-related acute stress and depressive symptoms. To prevent this effect, limit your media exposure.

Keep calm to carry on. Maintaining a gentle tone of voice can have a calming effect on distressed people around you. In addition, remind yourself and encourage others to do a relaxing activity — such as yoga, mindfulness meditation, deep breathing or progressive muscle relaxation — every day. This will help you de-stress in a given moment and maintain your psychological equilibrium, Shah says.

At regular intervals throughout the day — or when you feel stress-overload coming on — hit the pause button on what you’re doing and focus on deep breathing. “You can override stress with deep breaths that cause the diaphragm to go up and down. Then the brain starts to calm down,” explains Haugen. Moreover, research has found that engaging in diaphragmatic breathing reduces stress hormone levels and blood pressure, as well as subjective measures of stress.

Set priorities. In tumultuous times, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed with worries and fears. That’s why PFA encourages people to consider their most urgent needs, including how to prioritize and address them, versus what can wait. To that end, it helps to distinguish between what you can and can’t control and to encourage loved ones to do the same. Then focus on the situations you can do something about, such as how you protect yourself and your family, how you behave toward others and how you spend your free time. To help with this resilience-building shift, Haugen recommends framing your goals as “I choose,” which involves a sense of agency, instead of “I want.”

Build hope. Especially during periods of uncertainty, it’s important to stay positive with learned or active optimism and remain forward-focused, Everly says. One effective way to do this is to consciously focus on what’s going right in your life now. Research has found that having a ratio of three positive emotions to every negative emotion helps people flourish. You can stack the deck in your favor by “looking for positive moments and holding onto them throughout the day,” says Haugen. If you want to formalize the process, consider keeping a gratitude journal. A 2019 study found that adults who did this for 14 days experienced an increase in positive moods, happiness and life satisfaction, as well as a decrease in negative moods and depressive symptoms.

Connect with others. “The single best predictor of human resilience is support from other people,” Everly says. So, help people identify sources of social support in their lives with a reminder that the goal is to practice “physical distancing,” not “social distancing,” during the pandemic. Reach out to friends and family members on social media and make an effort to rekindle old friendships by phone, text, email or video conferencing. Also, consider establishing your own coronavirus-safe pod or bubble so you can spend in-person time with supportive people.

Practice good communication. When people are distressed, practice active listening by giving them your undivided attention and letting them take their time expressing themselves, rather than pressuring them to talk or immediately providing advice. These are key PFA skills. Try to truly understand the person’s concerns and feelings and show empathy and use supportive words and phrases that reflect the key points he or she made.

Reinforce coping skills. Ask someone who is distressed how he or she coped with difficult situations in the past and encourage the person to use those strengths and strategies to handle the current situation. (Do the same exercise yourself.) This contributes to a sense of confidence and competence that will allow them to face and manage the current challenge. It also builds resilience. PFA practices may be among the coping skills you call upon to face another difficult situation in the future.

Remember to Vote: North Bay Leadership Council Announces Endorsements for November Election

NBLC is taking positions on local ballot measures and two statewide propositions.

NBLC is part of the 2020 Tax Moratorium Coalition.  We urge you to vote No on ALL tax measures on the ballot for the November election.  In this time of uncertainty and chaos, we know two things for certain: people and businesses need help, especially financially, now; and adding to their burden with taxes of any kind is not the help they need.

It is time to take a tactical pause, and assess the changes wrought by the pandemic and the recession including record high unemployment, many businesses failing and major declines in GDP.  Like us, government needs to tighten its belt, adjust their spending, and not ask for more taxes without knowing how much taxpayer assistance will be required to fund key governmental priorities going forward. There is a finite capacity to pay taxes. Let’s make sure we are being strategic in using our tax dollars by wise spending and rational planning for needs revealed when the dust settles from this crisis.

Our opposition is not targeted at individual ballot measures – we oppose ALL of them. We believe that 2020 is the wrong time to ask the voters for more money. Any additional taxes or extension of taxes should be considered when our economy is better and we have more certainty about the way forward. We are standing strong on our position to protect businesses, farmers, senior citizens, furloughed workers, students and families who are already struggling to meet their basic needs.

When we say, “No, Not Now!” we hear strong agreement that our community needs continued relief for those most impacted by COVID-19, not additional financial burdens brought on by tax measures that either establish or extend taxes.  Elected officials should stop levying taxes that may tip the scales to push people into poverty and cause more businesses and nonprofits to close forever, creating job loss and higher unemployment.

Please vote NO on ALL tax measures.  For more information, go to

Please Vote on NO on ALL of the following:


Prop 15 – Taxes such properties based on current market value, instead of purchase price. Fiscal Impact: Increased property taxes on commercial properties worth more than $3 million providing $6.5 billion to $11.5 billion in new funding to local governments and schools.

Prop 21 – Allows local governments to establish rent control on residential properties over 15 years old. Local limits on rate increases may differ from statewide limit. Fiscal Impact: Overall, a potential reduction in state and local revenues in the high tens of millions of dollars per year over time. Depending on actions by local communities, revenue losses could be less or more. Will reduce new housing construction when more housing is desperately needed.

Sonoma County:

County of Sonoma- Measure DD – Mental Health, Addiction, and Homeless Service Sales Tax- A new 1/4 cent tax for 10 years (2021 – 2031), costing taxpayers $260 million.

County of Sonoma- Measure OGo Sonoma Transportation Sales Tax Measure:  A new 1/4 cent sales tax for 20 years (2025 – 2045), costing taxpayers $520 million.

Cloverdale, Measure R – 3% utility users’ tax– Current 3% utility users’ tax is scheduled to end in 2023. The proposed measure strikes the current end date and allows this tax to continue forever.

Cotati, Measure S – 1 cent sales tax– Current 1 cent sales tax set to end in 2023. The proposed measure strikes the current end date and allows this tax to continue forever.

Healdsburg, Measure T – 1/2 cent sales tax– Current 1/2 cent sales tax set to end in 2023. The proposed measure strikes the current end date and allows this tax to continue forever.

Petaluma, Measure U – 1 cent sales tax– A new 1 cent sales tax with no end date, allowing it to continue forever.

Santa Rosa, Measure Q – 1/2 cent sales tax- A new 1/2 cent sales tax until 2031. Combines two existing 1/4 cent sales taxes that aren’t set to end until 2025 and 2027.

Sonoma, Measure V – 1/2 cent sales tax– Current 1/2 cent sales tax set to end in 2022. The proposed measure strikes the current end date and allows this tax to continue forever.

Marin County:

City of San Rafael, MEASURE R: San Rafael Emergency Preparedness and Essential Services Protection Measure.  LOCAL SALES AND USE TAX MEASURE – INCREASE BY 1/4% for 9 years.

Please Vote YES on:

Petaluma Health Care District, Measure CC – To assure continued operation of Petaluma Valley Hospital as an acute care hospital with 24/7 walk-in basic emergency care for a minimum of 20 years, shall the Petaluma Health Care District enter into an agreement to sell Petaluma Valley Hospital to NorCal HealthConnect, LLC, a secular affiliate of Providence St. Joseph Health, for $52.6 million, per the terms approved by Resolution 20-05 adopted August 6, 2020.

North Bay Leadership Council is pleased to endorse the following candidates for their respective offices as follows.  We are supporting these candidates because they have shown as incumbents, or in their responses, that they are balanced in their approach to the issues, not beholding to any special interest group, and committed to economic vitality and more housing.  Many of the incumbents are now running in district elections for the first time which adds a new dimension to their races.

Candidate Endorsements

Santa Rosa City Council:

Chris Rogers, District 5

Eric Christensen, District 7


Rohnert Park:

Jake Mackenzie, District 4


San Rafael:


Kate Colin – for all of San Rafael


City Council:

John Gamblin, District 4

Maika Llorens Gulati, District 1


Santa Rosa Junior College Board:

Kerry Rego


Marin Community College Board:

Phil Kranenburg

Eva Long

Stephanie O’Brien

Stuart Tanenberg

Please make sure that you are registered to vote and vote early this year.  This may be the most important election of our time and a high voter turnout is imperative to ensure that the voice of the voters is heard loud and clear.  If you are voting by mail, remember to mail your ballot very early so the slowdowns in mail delivery do not delay your ballot being received by the Registrar of Voters in a timely manner.  Your vote counts this year more than ever!


Marin County Needs Action Now to Ensure Coronavirus Economic Recovery

The shock from the pandemic and subsequent economic crisis is unlike anything experienced before and demands urgent attention and action to help recover, rebuild and reset Marin County’s economy.

In assessing the current economic situation and envisioning what is needed to take us to the next normal for economic vitality and competitiveness, Keep Marin Working (KMW) recommends adopting the 10 Point Economic Recovery Plan Framework. We urge the Marin County Board of Supervisors, and the City and Town Councils of Marin to take immediate action.

Here are the 10 points:

Creation of a Marin County Long-term Economic Development Strategy

A Strategic Marin Plan should be created to reflect the new realities of 2020. The strategy will define activities to support existing businesses while planning for the expansion and attraction of new businesses. This will require an immediate identification and collection of countywide economic data to allow us to create a countywide road map and implement plans that make Marin County a more attractive and competitive place to work, live and play.

Diversify the Economy

Major sectors that have been a large part of the Marin County economy have been impacted by the pandemic and are predicted to be unable to return to what they were pre-pandemic. An assessment of those losses will determine the sectors that would help diversify the economy and the initiatives that can be taken to foster diversification and bring in new businesses such as higher paying job opportunities in technology, “green-tech,” and other sectors.

Provide Governmental Relief

Every effort should be made to provide governmental relief to businesses and nonprofits by not adding financial burdens. Local governments should hit the pause button on existing fees, mandates, regulations, and other costs, including consideration and adoption of new policies and nonessential regulatory functions not urgently needed to protect human health. Permitting should be expedited.

Focus on retention and expansion of current employers

Setting the stage to enable and support growth requires planning, funding and the right systems, staff, processes, technology and partners. Identify the needs, issues and policies that would be the driver of keeping our existing employers in Marin. Attention should also be given to help employers better prepare for the next disaster.

Invest in infrastructure

Now is the time to make investments in infrastructure that will improve the county’s ability to create well-paying jobs, improve economic sustainability, and reduce climate change impacts. This includes non-punitive programs to incentivize retrofitting of buildings to help decarbonize them and adapt to changing commercial needs, creating solar grids for resiliency, starting shovel ready road improvements, and doing a county-wide broadband system.

Make housing a top priority

Based on the enormous housing shortage in Marin, it is essential that the county begin to break down the barriers to create more housing at all levels of income. To spur development of more housing, Marin needs to remove barriers like too high inclusionary requirements, reduce fees and streamline permitting.

Give preferences to local vendors

The pandemic has shown the importance of having a local supply chain including food and local services. It is also shown that we need redundancy in that supply chain. The county should look at essential products and ensure that there is a local supply available and if not, work to create one. Purchasing should be from local vendors and providing support to those vendors, if needed.

Strengthen workforce development support in underserved communities

Centralize the coordination of workforce development programs and establish one point of information and entry for all programs. Improve access to multilingual, multicultural resources for underserved communities of color. Increase collaborative business partnerships with higher education that result in paid internship and apprenticeship opportunities. Provide resources to support an aging workforce (e.g. technology skill building). Assess the workers who have been displaced by the economic shock and create training programs to reskill or upskill them to fill jobs in Marin County.

Create solutions to a child care shortage

The pandemic has caused a great loss of child care slots. Subsidies are needed to help child care providers stay open while not being able to operate at full capacity. Other needs to address include inadequate licensed supply for infant/toddler and school age care, lack of subsidized child care slots for working families with financial need, licensed and licensed-exempt childcare facilities staffing, and streamlining policies and procedures required for establishing a childcare business and converting spaces for childcare.

Change land use and zoning to reflect new reality

The pandemic and recession have changed how businesses will operate going forward. There needs to be flexibility in the zoning and land use regulations to allow businesses to pivot to new models of operations or production, and where feasible, use vacant commercial space to creatively address housing needs.

About the writers

Joanne Webster is president and CEO of the San Rafael Chamber of Commerce.

Cynthia Murray is president and CEO of North Bay Leadership Council.

Both of their organizations are part of Keep Marin Working which also includes: Marin Realtors Association, Marin Economic Forum, Marin Builders Association, Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Marin, Latino Council and Novato Chamber of Commerce.

Star Staffing is an Eight Time Best Places to Work Award Winner, Poised to Host HR Summit Focused on Company Culture

Star Staffing, a Forbes Ranked Best Temporary Staffing Firm, is the only staffing agency to make the North Bay Business Journal’s Best Places to Work list this year. An eight-time winner, Star Staffing has seven offices total with four in the North Bay.

Deemed an essential business early in the pandemic, Star Staffing continues to grow and is focusing on culture and engagement more than ever.

“We are all in the people business, no matter what your company does. You always have to think about other people: customers, employees, partners. You must be there for them and be available to help them. We are bound by our relationships with our employees and customers. This year has sparked immense stress, anxiety, and uncertainty. In these hard times, how you treat your employees will be remembered for years to come. How businesses respond will have a lasting impact on employee behavior and engagement,” states Nicole Serres, Star Staffing’s President.

In addition to the Best Places to Work award, Star Staffing is also celebrating National Staffing Employee Week AND preparing for their October HR Summit which is focused around company culture.

Between COVID-19, remote work, firestorms, and alarming current events – employers and specifically HR leaders, have been especially concerned with keeping employees engaged and supported. “We are here to support our HR community and be a trusted resource. We created a virtual HR Summit focused around the key issues being discussed inside and outside the boardroom; culture and hiring. Culture is a huge priority for our company, and as an eight-time Best Places to Work award recipient, we want to help other companies also see success in this area.

Star Staffing’s virtual half-day HR Summit will take place on October 21 and costs just $45 to attend. Speakers, both local and from across the nation will be sharing insights, critical tools, and best practices for inspiring innovation, high-performance, and engagement in an era of fierce competition, remote working, and constant exposure to challenges and injustices.

For the full list of companies receiving the award, visit Best Places to Work.

About Star Staffing

The company has 7 total locations in Northern California with its headquarters in Petaluma, CA. Star Staffing is a certified women-owned, full-service staffing firm focused on providing flexible staffing solutions to Northern California businesses since 1998. Star Staffing is a Forbes Best Temporary Staffing Firm.

Want to Help Wildfire Relief Efforts? Here’s How

Sonoma County Relief Efforts

Redwood Credit Union

The Redwood Credit Union Community Fund (RCUCF) has opened a 2020 Fire Relief Fund to assist those who lost homes due to the recent fires, and to prepare to help its communities should more fires happen this year. Donations can be made here.

In addition to the Fund, RCU is offering financial assistance and other resources to members directly impacted by the recent fires. This includes special loan programs, insurance information, details related to nonprofit services, and ways to avoid fraud and scams during this time. For additional details on these resources, visit

Redwood Empire Food Bank:

Redwood Empire Food Bank is accepting money and food donations.

The food bank, which serves Northern California from Sonoma County to the Oregon border, has seen an explosion in demand since the coronavirus pandemic began in March, when distribution of emergency food boxes went from 10,000 a month to roughly 36,000 boxes a month, CEO David Goodman said in a video posted on the organization’s Facebook page.

“Next time you go to the grocery store and you’re purchasing for your family, please think about all the people who are really struggling during these times and pick up an extra bag of groceries and drop it off at the Redwood Empire Food Bank,” Goodman said.

Financial donations help cover the nonprofit’s costs such as food refrigeration and transportation.

People who want to donate, volunteer or get food assistance from the food bank can go to for more information.


UndocuFund is seeking financial assistance to help undocumented people and their families, particularly those who have lost their homes or remain evacuated during the fires, fund spokesman Omar Medina said.

The fund, created after the 2017 Tubbs fire to provide assistance to undocumented wildfire survivors, already had more than a 300-person waitlist of families seeking help due to the pandemic before the fires sparked.

Organizers have been able to provide aid to fire victims most in need in recent days through referrals from local nonprofits, Medina said.

Donations can be made at, by mail or by texting SONOMA to 44321.

Corazón Healdsburg:

The Healdsburg-based nonprofit reopened its Unity and Community Fund last week to help families disrupted by the fires, as well as those facing financial hardships due to the pandemic, said Angie Sanchez, head of programs.

Money raised will help cover lodging costs for families who have been evacuated or permanently displaced from their homes. In addition, low-income workers who have contracted COVID-19 and need to stay home from work will be helped.

The nonprofit also has launched a disaster resilience program to educate people about emergency preparedness, financial planning and renter’s insurance.Those who complete the program, offered in Spanish and English, are eligible to have their renter’s insurance paid for an entire year by Corazón Healdsburg, Sanchez said.

People seeking assistance can call 707-395-0938. The nonprofit primarily helps residents living in northern Sonoma County from Windsor to Cloverdale.

Donations to the fund launched during the 2019 Kincade fire can be made online at the Corazón Healdsburg website or mailed to the nonprofit.

American Red Cross:

American Red Cross is accepting monetary donations for victims of the wildfires. Because of the coronavirus pandemic, the organization is asking good Samaritans to withhold dropping off food, clothing and other supplies at shelters, said Kathryn Hecht, a spokeswoman for the organization.

More than 2,500 people in Northern California received emergency housing assistance through the nonprofit since Aug. 17, Hecht said. In Sonoma County, Red Cross volunteers are helping people seeking temporary shelter.

People seeking support from the Red Cross are encouraged to go to Sonoma County Fairgrounds for an initial assessment. They also can call the organization’s hotline at 1-800-733-2767 or 1-800-RED-CROSS.

Financial donations can be made at or by mail. People wishing to route their funds directly to their area’s wildfire relief efforts can do so by selecting “Your Local Red Cross” under “I Want to Support.”

People who prefer to volunteer for the organization can apply at

Sonoma County Farm Bureau:

Sonoma County Farm Bureau is raising money for farmers and ranchers whose businesses have been damaged or destroyed by the wildland blazes.

Donations can be made online at or by mail.

Russian River Alliance:

Russian River Alliance is seeking monetary support for its Workforce Fund for low-wage workers living in the lower Russian River area, fund organizer Jennifer Wertz said.

Recently, the nonprofit has given $45,000 worth of grocery and restaurant gift cards to families and workers burdened during the pandemic, Wertz said. The fund also paid a group of taxi drivers to deliver groceries for three months to Russian River-area residents most vulnerable to contracting COVID-19.

The group is hoping for donations to help fire victims with basic supplies like food and gas. People can get more information at

River to Coast Children’s Service:

River to Coast Children’s Service is asking for monetary donations to help displaced Guerneville residents pay for essentials like meals and temporary housing, which are a growing need, said executive director Soledad Figueroa.

The nonprofit is also working with UndocuFund to help immigrant families and using grant funds to provide gift cards for anyone who needs help with food costs. River to Coast has been working with the Red Cross and county social services to help families navigate evacuations and potential losses from the fire.

Anyone interested in donating can call Figueroa directly at 707-477-7898, or get more information at

Community Action Partnership Sonoma County:

Sonoma County branch of Community Action Partnership is collecting cash and gift cards to support fire victims or anyone from a mandatory evacuation zone that needs financial assistance.

The local offshoot of the national nonprofit has been working with Catholic Charities to distribute gift cards at the county fairgrounds, the temporary evacuation point for displaced area residents. Anyone who needs gift cards and isn’t at the fairgrounds can contact the CAP office or Catholic Charities.

Also, CAP is beginning to explore different options for providing resources and assisting with recovery as the amount of need becomes clearer. The organization’s local resource center, Rebuilding Our Community, has provided support for fire victims since the 2017 firestorm.

Assistant director Kathy Kane can provide information on donating. She can be reached by email at, or by phone at 707-544-6911.

Fundraiser for Volunteer Fire Foundation: They live in Santa Rosa. The start of the foundation was delayed by COVID-19, but the volunteer firefighters need items now.

Marin County Relief Efforts

American Red Cross:

Donations will go to the Red Cross’ disaster relief efforts. Visit, call 800-RED-CROSS, or text the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation. The Red Cross will also be holding a disaster relief volunteer fair on Monday, Aug. 24 at 4 p.m. PT. For more information, click here.

California Fire Foundation:

This foundation provides emotional and financial assistance to families of fallen firefighters, active firefighters and the communities they protect.

CDP California Wildfires Recovery Fund:

Help the Center for Disaster Philanthropy support those affected by the wildfires.

GlobalGiving — California Wildfire:

Providing support for firefighters and supplying food, water and medicine to people in need.


Has launched a centralized hub of fundraisers that will help residents who have lost their homes and have been displaced by the fires. In addition, they have launched California Wildfire Cause General Fund to offer relief to Californians in need.

The Salvation Army:

Donations support disaster relief for the current wildfires as well as potential future disasters.

Tony LaRussa’s Animal Rescue Foundation: 

ARF partners in emergency disaster relief and provides help with animals in need.

Wildfire Relief Fund:

Supporting immediate, mid- and long-term recovery efforts for major California wildfires.

World Central Kitchen:

They have already been up and running in Vacaville and will continue to help across the state.

Napa Relief Efforts

Angwin Fire:

Angwin Fire operates its station on a very small budget. Napa County provides the apparatus and turnout gear, but the building and extras belong to the community of Angwin. The annual $27,000 budget and maintenance is 100% supported by the generous donations that you give.

Napa Valley Community Foundation’s 2020 Napa County Wildfire Fund:

Providing relief and recovery services to those affected by this most recent disaster in Napa Valley.

United Way Bay Area
Serving Napa County

Center for Volunteering and Nonprofit Leadership
Serving Napa and Sonoma Counties

Wildfire Relief Funds

Direct Relief and Assistance

  • The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) provides emergency medical, housing and other types of assistance for those affected by disasters.
  • The Small Business Administration  provides low-interest disaster loans to businesses, non-profit organizations, homeowners, and renters to repair or replace damaged or destroyed real estate, personal property, equipment and other business assets.
  • The California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services connects residents with a wide range of services and programs targeted specifically at those who have been affected by wildfires.
  • The State of California’s Guide to Disaster Assistance Services for Immigrant Californians provides information on health, housing, emergency supplies, employment and other services available to all Californians, regardless of their immigration status.
  • The American Red Cross provides access to shelter to evacuees across California, as well as providing financial assistance to victims of disaster, evacuation updates and safety information.
  • Northern California Salvation Army supports relief efforts. Funds may be used to provide food and drinks to survivors, cleaning supplies and other essential commodities, direct financial aid to those effected or to support disaster relief workers serving in the area.
  • The California Association of Food Banks represents more than 40 food banks in the state that provide food to millions of residents, including victims of wildfires.
  • Foodbank of Contra Costa and Solano  distributes food directly to low-income people at community sites and makes food available for other nonprofit organizations serving the ill, needy and children.


Goodbye Businesses, We Will Miss You

This is a love letter to the small businesses and nonprofits of the North Bay.  We want you to know how much you are appreciated and recognize all the amazing ways you have made living in the North Bay more wonderful than I could ask.  Thank you for your years of providing the goods and services that we needed to make our region more than just a paradise of geography and climate.  We wouldn’t be who we are without your contributions.

And as we watched you struggle through the recession, the fires, the floods and now the pandemic, we need to attest to your commitment to serving the residents of the North Bay and to providing jobs and purpose to so many who have only survived the disasters of the last few years because you did.  Because you did what it took to keep your businesses afloat, to keep your nonprofits’ doors open, to keep helping people despite being in need of help yourselves.

When we asked for a contribution to the PTA or the soccer team, when we wanted sponsors for our fundraisers, you were there.  If someone had cancer, you donated what you could even though profits were slim.  You dug into your savings to rebuild your business, to keep your employees on the payroll, and support your neighbors and neighborhood.

You were always there.  Being a part of the social fabric that defined our communities and made us feel like we belonged.  Our favorite coffee shop, our local watering hole, our restaurant where we celebrated the special occasions of our lives —  anniversaries, birthdays, graduations, and even funerals.  You have been the glue that holds us together, the place we can always go for what we need, the familiar face that knows what we want and provides it for us.

And now, there are predictions a third to half of you will not make it through this pandemic and recession.  Before you go, we had to tell you that you mattered and we will miss you.  We haven’t shown you our gratitude for your sacrifices and generosity for all these years. You could have built your business or your nonprofit elsewhere.  You chose us.  You picked this place and our community to give it all you had.  You taught us about devotion to a cause and to your neighbors.  About determination and resilience and hope.

You could have left us for another place where there aren’t such high taxes and so many expensive mandates to comply with as in the North Bay and California.  But you stayed as the minimum wage increased and your revenues didn’t.  You stayed when you had to shut down your business and figure out how to serve food for takeout or outside dining.  You persevered when you couldn’t open your store to the public and had to have customers make an appointment to ensure social distancing or pick up an item.

And now for the few of you who were able to get the relief money to keep your employees and stay in operation, the money is running out or expired.  You have asked for more help, but it isn’t forthcoming. You are seeing the reversal of the ability to open up as the virus keeps spreading and isn’t under control. You are living in a time that the military coined a term for:  VUCA, which stands for Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity.  One of those situations is bad enough, but all four at the same time is a killer.

We mourn those businesses and nonprofits who have been the heart and soul of the North Bay but will be casualties of this pandemic and the failures of leadership in this time of crisis.  For those who survive, you are shining lights of resiliency and we applaud your ability to find a way through these challenging and precarious times.  You are betting on a better day, and we want you to win that bet!  And we, your customers and community, can help ensure that survival by giving you our business and shopping local as much as possible.  More than ever, we need each other.

To those for whom the pandemic becomes the fatal blow in the wake of accumulated disasters, we will not be the same without you.  Your loss is our loss.  You have been a faithful partner in our lives, and we thank you for all those years we were able to count on you.  It is a time of great sadness that we have to say goodbye, but please know how much we loved you in our communities and that you will be sorely missed after you are gone.  Thank you for all the support, wonder and strength you have given, in good times and bad, to the North Bay.  You made our corner of the world a better place to live.

Printed in North Bay Business Journal, Monday August 10, 2020

Ban New North Bay Tax Measures This November, Says Business Advocacy Group

Like many regions in the nation dealing with the huge impact of COVID-19, North Bay citizens may find themselves immersed in two sure things in life come Nov. 3 — death and taxes.

A collective of California’s 482 cities is lining up with ballot measures to raise taxes aimed at offsetting the monumental dent in their budgets due to the loss in mainly transient occupancy and sales taxes during the economic upheaval caused by the global pandemic.

North Bay cities in Sonoma and Marin counties, as well as Sonoma County itself, are making plans to ask for help from taxpayers.

But there is push back. North Bay Leadership Council is leading the charge of a coalition to fight the measures.

The employer-led public policy advocacy organization representing more than 25,000 businesses, nonprofits and educational institutions wrote a letter to the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors insisting the jurisdiction impose a moratorium on all tax measures. The letter dated July 31 was also signed by the heads of the Sonoma County Farm Bureau and North Coast Builders Exchange.

The opposition to the flurry of tax measures expected to hit the ballot this year is not aimed at a general disdain for taxes. Instead, the group contends the timing is poor.

“The first thing is, we’re in an economic crisis. No one has money now. We’d like government to take a pause. Their deficits are bigger than what the taxes are asking for anyway,” council Executive Director and group Co-Chairwoman Cynthia Murray told the Business Journal.

The group’s letter stated:

“There are double-digit unemployment rates, small businesses are shuttered and economists predict almost half of those businesses will not reopen. Local families are struggling to pay bills and adjust to a virtual school model. “We are fighting a health pandemic, but the resulting economic crisis will most likely have a longer effect on the well-being of our community.

The proposed tax measures spanning over two counties from Healdsburg to San Rafael range in categories from transportation to lodging. Some are new. Others represent continuations of previously agreed-upon initiatives. Major cities in Napa County such as Napa, St. Helena and Calistoga passed on the options.

But as recent as Tuesday, the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors decided to place a sales tax increase for mental health and homeless services. The additional tax amounts to a quarter-cent increase over 10 years.

Despite California cities aiming to counter an estimated $7 billion shortfall, Murray warned local governments to refrain from thinking of the taxpayers as “their favorite ATMs” — especially now.

“The timing is wrong to ask the businesses and residents of the North Bay to reach into their empty pockets to fund a mishmash of tax measures in these uncertain times,” according to the leadership group’s website policy watch page. “This is not about what the ballot measures are slated to fund, it is about hitting people with new taxes when they can’t afford it.”

Murray recommended that local governments “need to look at the bigger picture” in finding ways “to live within their means.”

When faced with the question of how a local government funds the needs of the people when it’s lost so much, Sonoma County Farm Bureau Tawny Tesconi countered that these times require cities to operate as businesses have been forced to.

“Most small businesses have had to lay off staff, downsize or cut out discretionary purchases. Government needs to do the same,” Tesconi told the Business Journal. She suggested a government model that emulates a quasi “privatization” as a solution.

“Moving services currently provided by public employees to the private sector will likely result in more efficient use of the taxpayer’s dollar,” she said.

Whatever the route, the outcome will most certainly involve an uphill climb.

For years, cities have grappled with out-of-control payouts to fund the state Public Employees Retirement System — the cash cow for government workers. Just last week, the California Supreme Court halted these PERS recipients from heaping onto their pensions by working extra hours and cashing out unused vacation and sick leave. The practice called “pension spiking” is something that “should be looked at” more thoroughly, Murray lamented.

Still, the reality of lost revenues plagues city governments that have succumbed to asking for state and federal assistance.

A study spun out of the League of California Cities indicates nine out of 10 cities project their shortfalls will lead to service cuts, furloughs and layoffs. Nearly three in four cities have reported they may take a combination of actions to offset their losses.

“In every city and every town in California, local leaders are working to protect the health and safety of residents and the financial viability of local businesses impacted by the coronavirus outbreak. As emergency costs continue to grow city revenues to fund local services are plummeting,” said John Dunbar, Yountville mayor and League president.

The study showed the decline in sales tax revenue attributing to 57% of the shortfall in the estimated $7 billion gap over the next two years. TOT is predicted to be down by 27% in that equation.

“Since the beginning of this crisis, cities have stepped up to protect and serve their communities, taking actions that have saved lives and served as a model for the country,” League Executive Director Carolyn Coleman said, adding that “now is the time” for the state and federal governments to step in with assistance.

NBLC Calls for Tax Measure Moratorium for the November 2020 Ballot

North Bay Leadership Council is taking a stand, as a matter of policy and the times we are in, to oppose ALL tax ballot measures for the November 2020 election cycle.  To be clear, in taking this stand, we don’t oppose the stated purpose of any measure – our opposition is rooted in timing of being in an economic crisis, and a desire to see wise governmental spending and rational planning for the future.

There are a lot of impacts from the pandemic shutdown, re-opening, shutdown again and the resulting recession.  To help combat these impacts, there has been federal relief monies for the unemployed and businesses shutdown, as well as state and local monies to help businesses and residents, including tax paying delays, eviction moratoriums, and other ways to help reduce the burden on those so gravely affected by this economic crisis.  Providing relief is what is needed and should be continued.  We need more relief, not more taxes.

NBLC, along with the leaders of the business/employer community, have been meeting with governmental agencies asking for financial and regulatory relief and pushing back on government actions that will add new fees, taxes or mandates. We have clearly stated that now is not the time to add any more costs or regulations as businesses and residents are on the brink of survival.  To that end, NBLC and other business groups wrote a letter to the Sonoma County Transportation Authority in April asking them to not place a sales tax measure on the ballot this November.  We met with Supervisors and asked them to not place any sales tax measures on the ballot this November.  Unfortunately, the elected officials have turned a deaf ear to the business leaders and are moving forward with new sales tax measures.  Now the cities are also adding sales tax measures to the ballot for November.

The timing is wrong to ask the businesses and residents of the North Bay to reach into their empty pockets to fund a mishmash of tax measures in these uncertain times. The second shutdown has caused an increased sense of urgency to get the Boards of Supervisors and the City Councils to pay attention to the needs of the even more impacted business/employer community.  In addition to fumbling the economic recovery planning, local governments have been looking at increasing paid sick leave (the Santa Rosa Council already did this), continuing a moratorium on evictions without any relief for the landlords, and other unfunded mandates.  While ignoring the business/employer community, they are now asking the business community to support multiple tax measures on the November 2020 ballot.

By opposing all tax measures, the business/employer community shows that there are consequences for ignoring this community and assuming we will always give support and funding for the ballot measures, especially those we have cautioned against.  This is not about what the ballot measures are slated to fund, it is about hitting people with new taxes when they can’t afford it, the government not using the funding they have wisely and asking the business/employer community and the taxpayers to be their ATM.  And if we want to have our position taken as seriously as the unions, social justice advocates and environmentalists, we need to take a stand like they do.

Please note, that as employers, we have had to cut staff and expenses, but local governments have not done the same to the degree we have.  Public pension fund liabilities have not been addressed and are growing, draining taxpayer money from the general fund that could be used to pay for the things that taxes are being raised to do instead. Given the loss of revenue from the pandemic-induced recession, government needs to get its “house” in order and be strategic about their priorities and how to fund them.  There is a finite capacity for business and the residents to pay taxes, let’s ensure that they are being levied for the most important priorities.  Also, it is well known that sales taxes are regressive, so lower income people and the unemployed are more impacted.

By not passing taxes in this election, there is time to assess the situation when there is less uncertainty and confusion due to the uncharted waters we are in today.  By the next election in 2022, we hope that there will be an acknowledgement that the business/employer community needs to be heard so we can work with our local governments on finding appropriate funding solutions that we could support.

NBLC invites you to join us in taking a stand, calling for a 2020 tax moratorium, and actively opposing ALL tax measures for this November election cycle. Again, we don’t oppose the stated purpose of any measure – our opposition is rooted in timing of being in an economic crisis, and a desire to see wise governmental spending and rational planning for the future.   We hope to form a coalition with other like-minded groups and individuals.  If you are interested in joining the coalition, please contact

Please listen to Cynthia Murray’s interview at KSRO:

Marin Real Estate Market Shakes Off Coronavirus Slump

The median price for detached homes in Marin County rose 5.3% in June over the prior year, marking the first solid gain since the coronavirus arrested the market.

The price — $1.45 million — was based on 254 sales last month, exactly even with the sales volume in June 2019. That reversed the steep declines in year-over-year sales volume for May and April.

In the condo and townhome market in Marin, the median price reached $730,000 last month, a gain of 7.5% over the prior June. Sales fell from 57 to 51.

The data are among the latest figures from the Marin County assessor’s office. The median price is the point at which half are higher and half lower.

Patti Cohn, a Compass real estate broker based in Marin, said demand is brisk and buyers from San Francisco are “out in droves.” Cohn said she has been getting interest on properties even before they are officially listed.

“If anyone thinks there is a housing crisis, think again,” she said. “After a slowdown in the traditional spring real estate season, buyers are actively looking for homes to purchase.”

At the higher end of the Marin real estate market in June, three homes in Belvedere sold for an average price of $4.42 million, according to the assessor’s office. Five homes in Ross sold for an average price of $3.9 million. Nine homes in Tiburon sold for an average price of $3.78 million.

At the lower end, 15 condos or townhomes in Novato sold for an average price of $549,163 last month.

Properties on the market now range from an eight-bedroom home in Ross for $43 million to a mobile home in Novato for $75,000, according to the Zillow real estate service.

Cynthia Murray, executive director of the North Bay Leadership Council, a nonprofit consortium of business and civic interests, said she is not surprised to see a rebound in the real estate market. She cited low mortgage rates, a flow of families from the cities to the suburbs, and the increase in telecommuters who can live farther from company headquarters.

“The demand for housing still greatly exceeds the supply,” said Murray, a former Marin County supervisor. “The housing crisis pre-pandemic has gotten worse and now we have a great push to get everyone housed to reduce the spread, which is pushing the demand higher.”

Robert Eyler, chief economist for Marin Economic Forum, said market observers offer growth forecasts of about 2.5% to 5% over the next year in Marin.

“So we may see some slow down in price growth if the economy flattens a bit in its attempt to recover, but for right now indicators are showing a good market through 2020,” Eyler said.

“The lower interest rates and potentially some workers with portable jobs and wanting out of the cities may be driving behavior here also, and there is a short-term element to that given Marin County pricing,” he said. “However, the desire to be close but out of the city may drive demand in Marin County for years to come where that is not new, just moved up a notch with COVID-19.”

Statewide, the median price for a detached home reached a record high of $626,170 last month, up 6.5% from May and up 2.5% from the prior June, the California Association of Realtors said Thursday.

In the Bay Area, the median price for a detached home in June was $1 million, up 3.6% from May and 4.2% from June 2019, the association reported.

“Home sales bounced back solidly in June after hitting a record bottom in May, as lockdown restrictions loosened and pent up demand driven by record-low interest rates roared back,” said association president Jeanne Radsick, an agent in Bakersfield. “While the momentum is expected to be sustained as we kick off the third quarter, the resurgence in coronavirus cases remains a concern and may hinder the market recovery in the second half of the year.”