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Posted on: February 6, 2024

February 6 - Message from Mayor Urban Carmel Regarding Friends Field

Urban Carmel, a man, smiling, with a natural. outdoors background

The following are the prepared remarks of Mayor Urban Carmel for the February 1, 2024 Mill Valley School District Board of Trustees meeting. Public open time limited participants to only speak for one minute, so the Mayor's message was not able to be conveyed in full at the meeting. We encourage community members to review the Mayors remarks and participate in upcoming meetings.

Good evening school superintendent and school trustees, my name is Urban Carmel. I am the mayor of the City of Mill Valley. Let me start by thanking you all for your service. Your time and dedication for the betterment of our community is one of the things that makes Mill Valley the very special town that it is.  We are all highly appreciative of your efforts.

The City and the School District operate independently; we have separate administration, separate boards and independent sources of revenue to fund our activities. But Mill Valley is the beautiful and remarkable town that it is because we have always worked collaboratively. 

Let me share some history. 

In the 1960s, the City and School District swapped land so that the new middle school could be on Sycamore Avenue, within closer walking and biking distance to residents and to Tam High. This was the right planning decision. That’s how a partnership works.

In the 1970s, the District struggled to pay the high costs of maintaining the former landfill that had been converted to what is now known as Friends Field. So the City agreed to renovate and maintain these fields. Over the years, the City has dedicated over $3.5 million from its own budget, along with generous donations by the Friends of Fields, all for the benefit of our community, especially our sports loving youth. That’s how a partnership works. 

In the 1980s, the City began planning for a new Community Center. This was an intensive, community wide effort, ultimately costing the equivalent of $25m to complete, including nearly $12m in donations from generous residents of our city. Those involved in the fundraising effort shared stories of hundreds of children bringing their piggy banks to make this happen. All told, building what we have today at the Community Center and Friends Fields took 13 years. It remains a generational accomplishment.

The Community Center isn’t a standalone building, it was designed to integrate with the pool, the playing fields and with the middle school and Redwoods Community next door. It’s shaped as a crescent to embrace the open space of Friends Field and Shelter Hill to the east.

Friends Field is our city’s living room. It’s where we meet to listen to music, celebrate graduations, birthdays and weddings. It’s where we watch our children play soccer, Little League, softball, football, lacrosse, and where they learn sportsmanship, camaraderie and the joy of being outdoors. It’s where we hold our Carnival over Memorial Day weekend. This is not a building and a field, this is the beating heart of our town, used by tens of thousand of people of all ages each year. It is irreplaceable.

Superintendent and school board trustees, you are not here tonight to make a decision on how to save 3-4% on the new middle school. If decisions in Mill Valley were made by accounting, we would have never built the Community Center, our playing fields, our public library or our Depot. Your decision isn’t about what happens over the next 2-3 years. You are making a decision about Mill Valley’s future for the next 100 years. It’s a generational decision. Because community members before you have taken a generational view of what it takes to make a beautiful and vibrant town, we have the Mill Valley that we all love today.

Your city council, your city government and your community of 14,000 residents are here to help you make the new middle school a success for all of us. Let’s make that the goal. Because that’s how a partnership works. 

Thank you for your time.

Urban Carmel

Mayor, City of Mill Valley

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