Since Todd Cusimano took the helm at Mill Valley City Hall, he’s faced plenty of turbulence, namely striking a balance between creating the conditions in our town that spur additional workforce and affordable housing opportunities and navigating multiple large construction projects happening simultaneously.

But since 2023, Mayor Urban Carmel and Cusimano have teamed up on “What’s On Your Mind Mill Valley,” a series of informal community chats intended to give residents the opportunity to discuss current issues, ask questions, make suggestions, and share what is on your mind.” 

Now it seems that others are interested in dipping their toes into those informal conversations in which “there are no time limits and no structure – just join us and have a chat!”

Novato Councilmember Rachel Farac pitched the idea as a pilot project to the council and staff at a recent meeting. She said the events would “bring the community and city closer. Also, it builds trust,” she said. “My idea is to bring a pilot event, measure and gauge success if this is a good way to engage the community and really have no agenda. This would be a more open forum where people could bring their concerns, solve problems and, in regards to the city, be a minimal effort.”

Farac said she holds regular office hours in which she talks to constituents. She said she developed the idea with community members based on a similar program in Mill Valley. She said public engagement would lead to better decisions, social participation and inclusivity.

Mill Valley has hosted its community chats since 2023, with the mayor and city manager taking questions on issues such as road work, housing, crime and cultural events. The program allows for in-person meetings and for interested parties to participate remotely.

Farac said the most successful aspect of the Mill Valley program is allowing a free-form conversational setting outside the constraints of the public meeting process. During formal meetings, public comment is regimented by time limits and restricted to the subject of the agenda item.



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