Celebrating America’s “melting pot” on July 4

We have enjoyed taking our son on some patriotic outings this past year. Some were more upbeat than others, but all of them offered a point of discussion about America. We went to the 9/11 Memorial Museum in New York. We visited the Statue of Liberty and read Emma Lazarus’ famous poem “The New Colossus” on a brass plaque together.

On another adventure last month, we visited the Freedom Trail in Boston. We stopped at Faneuil Hall, where John Adams and others encouraged independence from Great Britain, and we stood on the site of the Boston Massacre.

We toured the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum and saw exhibits about about the struggle for civil rights. In the past we have visited Washington D.C., where we saw the Declaration of Independence in the National Archives building and walked on the Capitol Mall.

Back home, at the dinner table, we also discussed some monumental decisions in America stemming from recent news. Last month, the Supreme Court made same-sex marriage a right for all Americans. The Episcopal church, where I grew up going to church, authorized their clergy to perform same-sex weddings.

Meanwhile, a debate about the Confederate flag forced Americans to do some soul searching about racial intolerance. And last month, we also learned that Hispanics are now California’s largest ethnic group.

We are at a crossroads in America: personalization on digital devices (iPhones, Kindles and so on) and news outlets such as Fox News allow us to see and hear what we want, or to hang out with our like-minded friends and business associates, rather than encourage us to embrace the “melting pot” that defined America in the first place — sometimes more uncomfortable to handle.

At the same time we are becoming bigger, we are becoming smaller.

All of this comes in a nation that is known for welcoming people from many different countries, races, and religions, all hoping to find freedom, new opportunities, and a better way of life.

To be sure, America is still a work in progress.

I look at hundreds of photos in our business, and the one I found this morning — pictured here — sums up America well: Smiling girls hugging in front of a chalk-colored American flag. I hope you enjoy the Fourth of July!

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More turnover at The Union

Features editor Brett Bentley wrote that she is departing The Union to become the Associate Director at InConcert Sierra.

We are holding tickets to the Joshua Bell concert in October.

Good luck Brett!

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The gospel of denial

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Our magazine’s website ranks No. 2 in a “visit Grass Valley” search

In exploring the new City of Grass Valley website, I typed “Visit Grass Valley” into Google. Lo and behold, our magazine’s website ranked No. 2 — ahead of all the others except for downtowngrassvalley.com. We link to a cool interactive map we built for towns such as Grass Valley and Nevada City. We have 5,641 “likes” on our Facebook page too, more than the others, including The Union. Regional magazines such as ours benefit from an integrated print/web strategy. We invest a lot of time in it, so I’m glad to see it paying off.

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The new old in GV

The City of Grass Valley has quietly rolled out a new website that includes a link to “plan your stay.” In several instances it links to the NCGold website. (For years, NC Gold has given the Chambers a cut of its ad sales each year in return for some endorsement. It touts itself as the “official” visitor guide to our county, but there is no such thing). Trouble is, the Gold website is down and has been for several days. I guess nobody noticed. That’s unfortunate ahead of the busy Fourth of July weekend.

Meanwhile, Jim Heming (Union publisher) and Lisa Swarthout (Grass Valley City Council member), among others, were elected to the Grass Valley Downtown Association.

It’s getting to be a small world again in GV. The more things change, the more they stay the same. Let’s at least hope the Gold website is up and running soon. There’s no substitute for execution, no matter who’s running the show.

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Truckee wins $8 million grant to kick start railyard project

I received this colorful and newsworthy press release from the Town of Truckee:

The Truckee Railyard Project is ready to whistle, “full steam ahead”. Following twenty years of planning, fine-tuning, and economic stalls, a community vision is finally coming to fruition.

The Town of Truckee and the Sierra Business Council [SBC] announced today that the California Strategic Growth Council has awarded an $8 million grant to the Truckee Railyard Partners. The grant will catalyze the development of 60 units of workforce housing at the Truckee Railyard site immediately adjacent to Truckee’s historic downtown as a part of the larger $100 million private sector revitalization plan for the site.

And it’s been a long time coming. As Truckee Town Manager, Tony Lashbrook, points out, “This funding will kick start infill development and smart growth adjacent to our historic downtown consistent with the vision that this community created 20 years ago as part of Truckee’s General Plan.”

It’s a big win for the mountain community as the Railyard is the only project in Northern California east of the Central Valley included in the grant awards. Aspects of the application that helped Town and SBC set the Railyard apart included increased workforce housing density adjacent to jobs, improved walkability, access to transit, and reduced greenhouse gasses. With increased demand for both housing in Truckee and responsible development, and a statewide housing shortage of more than 1 million units, this success shows that communities do not have to sacrifice environmental quality for new development.

SBC President, Steve Frisch, expressed the importance of the project earlier this week, stating, “The Truckee Railyard Project demonstrates we can do smart workforce housing and transportation projects in rural regions that create jobs and reduce climate impacts at the same time. Linking capital to projects like this that increase community vitality, economic opportunity, and improve the environment are core to the mission of Sierra Business Council and the Sierra Small Business Development Center.”

Rick Holliday, developer of the project, expects to break ground later this summer. “After 11 years of hard work, we are extremely pleased to get this development underway,” Holliday said.

It will be a symbolic groundbreaking as well, with the spotlight on Truckee to show rural communities across the nation that smart growth and increased vitality will not be limited to our urban neighbors, they are happening right here in our exquisite mountain town.

Many Truckee residents are already picturing themselves laying their heads within walking distance to some of their favorite shops and restaurants, not to mention the Truckee River and Legacy Trail. Alexis Ollar, Executive Director of Mountain Area Preservation, said after hearing the news, “The creation of 60 affordable housing units in the heart of Historic Downtown Truckee is the exact type of infill and smart growth development needed to strengthen the local community. I have always dreamed of being able to walk or bike to work in downtown and this project will make that dream a possibility for the fabric of our community!”

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State legislature passes mandatory vaccination bill

“Gov. Jerry Brown must now decide whether to sign into law a bill that would require mandatory vaccinations for nearly all California schoolchildren,” as the L.A. Times is reporting.

“The measure, spawned by an outbreak of measles at Disneyland that ultimately infected more than 150 people, cleared its final legislative hurdle Monday in the state Senate. Brown has not said publicly whether he would sign it.

“The measure — one of the toughest vaccination bills in the nation — would require children enrolling in school or day care to be immunized against diseases including measles and whooping cough.

“Parents would no longer be able to cite personal or religious beliefs to decline the vaccinations, although children with certain medical problems, such as immune system deficiencies, would be exempt.

“Those who decline the vaccinations would have to enroll their children in a home-based private school or public independent study program based off campus.

“The bill was one of the most contentious taken up by the Legislature this year, attracting large, vocal crowds of parents during a series of legislative hearings on the measure.

“Those in favor of the proposal argued that it was needed to boost statewide immunization rates.

“’The science remains unequivocal that vaccines are safe and vaccines save lives,’ said Sen. Richard Pan (D-Sacramento), a pediatrician and an author of the bill.”

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