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Impact Marin conference

Wednesday, April 18, 7:30–10 a.m.

Location: Embassy Suites by Hilton San Rafael Marin County, 101 McInnis Parkway, San Rafael, CA 94903

Cost: $70 per person or $715 for a table of 10

Preregister through April 16: nbbj.news/im18

Information: Annette Wirick, 707-521-5264

Read stories on the local economy that provide background on the upcoming Impact Marin conference on April 18.

Editor’s note: Casey Mazzoni is set to speak on April 18 at the Impact Marin conference in San Rafael on how Rebuild Northbay Foundation is focusing on medium- to long-term recovery from the devastating October wildfires in Sonoma, Napa, Mendocino and Lake counties.

The organization was founded just after the fires by Darius Anderson. He is also CEO of Sonoma Media Investments, which owns North Bay Business Journal and the Santa Rosa Press Democrat.

You are the legislative director for Rebuild Northbay Foundation?

Yes. I am taking on the advocacy piece for our organization. We have three buckets — economic development, advocacy and coordination.

Is James Lee Witt, former FEMA director, still involved with the organization?

No. We have a new executive director, Jennifer Gray Thompson. She is running the show now.

You are lobbying in Sacramento?

We are working federally and statewide to support our local officials in whatever needs they have. We are working with Napa, Lake, Mendocino and Sonoma counties. Yesterday we met with Supervisor Belia Ramos from Napa. She told us about some tweaks, policy-wise, that we could help with to make sure this is a successful rebuild effort.

It has been five months since the fires. Are we in a good place or behind where we should be?

We are doing well reaching out to the right people, listening, reading reports. Our elected officials haven’t been through a disaster. We have a lot of bright minds and energy, great leaders in the area. There’s a learning curve.

Is there legislation pending that is specifically connected to fire recovery?

Yes. We’re tracking quite a few bills introduced at the state level.

In order to do what? What are their objectives?

From emergency response to insurance. At this point we are just tracking them. At some point we might work with legislators on our own policy initiatives.

The goal is to get money for better alert systems?

Our response systems can always be improved. There have been hearings, one in Santa Rosa, about ways we can improve on our response times. Our organization is post-disaster, six months to 10 years, what may come up in the future.

Marin sees that it has significant areas of the county that are vulnerable to wildfire, especially where there are interspersed homes and wildland?

Yes. Novato has done a lot of work around making sure that homes near open space are prepared.

Is Novato better prepared than wooded communities such as Larkspur and parts of Mill Valley?

Marin, being so close to (the October fires), was impacted. Kids didn’t go to school. Marin should be learning some lessons preparing for that next disaster.

Your company, Mazzoni & Associates, is in San Rafael?

Yes. It’s my mom (Kerry Mazzoni and me). My mom was a past legislator (represented Marin and Sonoma in California Assembly). Now she’s a lobbyist, semi-retired. We do public affairs.

How long have you been legislative director for the foundation?

Since November. As things change, we can change and evolve.

Impact Marin conference

Wednesday, April 18, 7:30–10 a.m.

Location: Embassy Suites by Hilton San Rafael Marin County, 101 McInnis Parkway, San Rafael, CA 94903

Cost: $70 per person or $715 for a table of 10

Preregister through April 16: nbbj.news/im18

Information: Annette Wirick, 707-521-5264

Read stories on the local economy that provide background on the upcoming Impact Marin conference on April 18.

FEMA is largely gone from the county. Did they do a fine job?

In January we met with HUD and FEMA in Washington. FEMA was receptive to meeting with us. They have been really helpful in helping to navigate, find resources. Office of Emergency Services (California) as well. They have done a really good job supporting.

They are good connectors?

They are great connectors. They are trained to do this. Sometimes we call with silly questions.

What are the main streams of money that we can access for various aspects of recovery?

HUD will send a chunk of money for housing. FEMA will send a chunk. The EPA has funds. The FDA has funds. We are working with our local elected to navigate through and access those funds. We want to get every last dollar that’s available.

What do you see as the gap between what homeowners will get in insurance to start rebuilding and the total loss?

A large percentage are underinsured. We will funnel money from some pot into that. We can fund-raise to fill that gap. We can look at local and state partnerships, help broker those deals.

Is there a number on that? A few billion dollars?

In one bill that was voted on, the state got $4.4 billion. Then it goes into different pots from there. Counties apply for different grants. It’s a little complicated.

You are working through the labyrinth?

Yes. Making sure we are in constant communication with local officials so we are not duplicating work.

Do you see Marin as better prepared than Sonoma County was in alerting people?

I don’t know if Marin is better prepared. You don’t know ahead of time. I live in the town of Sonoma. I had never heard of Nixle. When we had the Napa earthquake, I got on Twitter to see what happened.

Lucky for Marin, they can learn the lesson this year. Everybody did the best they could with what was happening. It was a crazy disaster. People in the community came together. I was so proud. People were amazing without structures in place.

Did you have to leave your home?

We were in voluntary evacuation. The smoke was so bad that we left. My brother lives in Novato.

You used Marin as a refuge?

Yes. Absolutely. That was lucky. It’s different from an earthquake, which happens fast. This was hurry up and wait. What’s going to happen today. I hope the winds don’t pick up tonight.

The response is in good shape?

We can always use more. If we need more money, we can help put that together, go back to D.C. for another ask.

Is there legislation afoot related to the fires that is heading in the wrong direction?

It’s too early to tell. The money is trickling down.

Is there legislation for which you would like to find an author?

Not at this point. We want to help people get back in their homes, work with labor partners to make sure we have a work force to rebuild. How to rebuild green, resilient.

Are people who lived in burned areas deciding to sell their lots and move?

Yes. The brain drain. What is worrisome is that these are teachers, nurses, doctors, tourism and service people. That’s critical for the economy of our area if we lose those.

It’s hard to track?

It is. A lot of numbers have been thrown around. Henry Hansel sits on our board. He has lost 1 percent of his workforce. Coffey Park had several day-care centers. Those small children have been displaced. We want to keep our workers. It’s tough. We had a housing shortage prior to the fires. Who knows what the consequences will be.

In terms of structures that resist fire, are most people going back to the original design?

It depends. Some people are taking their time. My uncle lost his house. He is going to rebuild with the same plans. Some people are selling their lots, others are leaving.

James Dunn covers technology, biotech, law, the food industry, and banking and finance. Reach him at: james.dunn@busjrnl.com or 707-521-4257