The Springs Municipal Advisory Council (MAC), a panel of eight community members tasked by Sonoma County to advise on local issues and concerns, was formed three years ago. Just after year one, the stay-at-home order and pandemic restrictions forced the new group to move from public at the Springs Community Hall to virtual meetings. But the Springs MAC has survived, found its voice, and managed several substantial accomplishments.
What the heck is a MAC? See below
Chair Maite Iturri pointed to the Map Your Neighborhood (MYN) project, in collaboration with the Sonoma Ecology Center, as developing neighborhood leadership to be prepared for the next emergency. “Our experience in the 2017 fires showed us that we were isolated,” Iturri notes. “MYN uses the skills and talents of all our community to provide mutual aid to one another.”
Iris Lombard, an original member of the Council, also celebrates this formation of 13 MYN groups of approximately 20 homes each, in the Springs. Designed to be a web, these groups are part of what she believes is the most important work the MAC is doing, “creating community,” as well as making connections with the County. Vice-Chair Hannah Perot added, “We need to feel cohesion, belonging, and to care for our neighbors and our neighborhoods.”
Maricarmen Reyes, a council member who is also very active in Map Your Neighborhoods, highlighted the fact that this effort, which grew out of the Emergency Preparedness Ad Hoc, is the first bilingual MYN in Sonoma County. Reyes says Sebastopol, which had the first MYN project, has reached out to the Springs MAC to learn how to make theirs bilingual. Reyes was one of the chief proponents, as part of Springs Community Alliance, of creating a MAC.
The official County advisory group was long in coming to the Springs, where it was preceded by the grass-roots groups, the Springs Task Force (fondly known as “Stiff Kick”) and the Springs Community Alliance (SCA). The underlying theme of those groups was the need for an official voice that was recognized by the County, to bring attention to the great need of this area, underserved, neglected, parts of it even officially identified as “blighted.”
Supervisor Susan Gorin stated that, when approached by members of the SCA about creating a Springs MAC, “I embraced this concept as a way to communicate more directly with the community about county services, planning, and initiatives.” She affirms that the MAC is evolving into an important community voice, helping to identify infrastructure and service needs and adding advocacy efforts with her to the Board
Hannah Perot joined the Council after two traffic fatalities on Verano near Highway 12. She wanted to have a voice in addressing traffic safety issues, especially on the highway, “the backbone of the Springs.” She is also interested in improving Larson Park, bringing back the Springs Farmers Market, and creating a SAFE team, which is a non-police response force that serves people having a crisis that doesn’t require police response. Perot acknowledges that the challenge to these goals is money. “We aren’t a wealthy area, but I believe that we are worthy of decent infrastructure like safe roads and decent parks.”
Jesús Alcaraz, who joined the MAC last summer, echoes Perot’s concerns about the need for better roads, parks, and sidewalks. He hopes for everyone to have a “wholesome lifestyle here in the Springs.” Alcaraz, who moved from the state of Michoacan, México to the Springs in 2010, wants to encourage the Latinx community to participate in the MAC, to have a voice, “even if your English is like mine, not perfect.”
Just retired from the Council, Ray Willett is proud of the major accomplishment of his three years of service, the forming of a Fire Safe Council. The first public meeting will be Saturday May 21, 10 a.m. at El Verano School. “Public service is much like a relay race,” Willet says. “To accomplish big things over time we need many people to participate.”
Chair Iturri identified many other achievements in the MAC’s first years, including Conex container for supplies for emergencies on Altimira campus, a vaccine clinic, sponsoring Día de los Niños, and bringing the community quarterly reports by Fire Chief Akre, and the Mattsons’ project manager. In addition, the MAC wrote CalTrans an official letter, signed by over 200 people, advocating for traffic safety. Other areas of advocacy involve mental health services. The MAC will have a Town Hall to get community input for setting goals and agenda items.
Supervisor Gorin notes that there are currently openings to join the Springs MAC. If interested, contact District 1 Field Representative, [email protected]. Chair Iturri urges people to apply who want to join this work of “uplifting the voices of folks in our community. The MAC is an opportunity to amplify our collective voice.” As Willett noted, “Change can be slow, and the process of giving voice to the needs of our community needs to be constantly refreshed with new voices and perspectives.”
What the heck is a MAC?