Scoop: NC Forward — a new strategy to promote Nevada City’s economic vitality

At its City Council meeting on May 27, the City of Nevada City will introduce and discuss “NC Forward,” a new 5-point plan to promote Nevada City’s economic vitality. The Council will be asked to either approve implementation of the plan or incorporate comments and schedule approval at the next meeting.

“NCForward” is an impressive and well-conceived plan, and I spent about two hours with new city manager Mark Prestwich discussing the plan in detail. One example: Now that the NCERC has won a $500K grant to pursue a digital media campus, Nevada City is poised to help execute the initiative.

The city’s strategy embraces the digital media project, and the Tech Center — as it should be — is a leading candidate for the digital media campus. It is within walking distance to a historic, vibrant downtown and has the tech infrastructure needed for such a campus.

I also look for Nevada City to collaborate more closely with the County, thanks to its “NC Forward” strategy — sometimes a source of friction in the past.

In closely reviewing this plan, it is clear that Nevada City has come a long way since its darkest hour: the 2006-2007 Nevada County Grand Jury’s infamous “Asleep at the Wheel” report, which claimed deficiencies in city management practices. Details are here and here. Out of sheer curiosity, I used to keep that document on my coffee table, along with some other more uplifting books and magazines.

Since then Nevada City has “grown up” a lot more. City management has been significantly improved, and it has beefed up its city finance expertise. It also is paying down a loan with the County. Nevada City also has embraced high-profile, tourism-related events such as the Amgen Tour of California and Wild & Scenic Film Festival, and it has won some deserved “best small town” honors.

To be sure, there will be challenges ahead. Locals will likely be expected to support some sales tax increases, such as the one the keep the Nevada City firehouse open and fully staffed next June. They also will have to agree to work with local and state government groups and put aside the provincial “Grass Valley vs. Nevada City” rivalry. But a strategy such as “NC Forward” is a real hopeful sign.

Prestwich was a good hire — and could wind up being Nevada City’s best city manager of its modern era. He “gets it,” as we like to say, shows a willingness to collaborate and has quickly identified the city’s strengths and weaknesses. A copy of  the 17- page document “NC Forward” is here. (Scroll down to “NC Forward.”) I encourage locals to read it. The implementation begins in 2015 and extends well into the future.

“NCForward” stems from a strategic planning retreat to discuss 3-year goals and 12-month strategic objectives for the city.

I will point to it in more detail in future blog posts, but here’s an overview. The proof of “NCForward” will be in its execution, but it is a great start. The strategy includes:

1. Enhance the city’s public infrastructure
2. Promote catalyst project sites and investment opportunities
3. Create business and digital friendly city services
4. Implement community-driven citizen engagement
5. Support NCERC macro-level economic development efforts

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A local newspaper publisher’s involvement on local boards often raises ethical issues

Editor’s note: This is an ongoing issue in towns such as ours, though it isn’t addressed much — if at all.

“How serious does a conflict of interest have to become before you can call it a conflict of interest? Believe it or not, this conundrum is intended as the start of an ethical discussion,” according to the Society of Professional Journalists.

“The SPJ Code of Ethics is clear: Journalists should be free of obligation to any interest other than the public’s right to know. The code also advises journalists to ‘Avoid conflicts of interest, real or perceived,’ and to ‘Remain free of associations and activities that may compromise integrity or damage credibility.’

“Many news media companies apply that injunction to those who gather, report and edit the news but not to those on the so-called business side of the operation.

“So when the president of the University of Cincinnati abruptly announced he was resigning Aug. 21, one of those with a seat on the UC Board of Trustees was Margaret Buchanan, publisher and president of the Cincinnati Enquirer.

“The reason Greg Williams quit remains a public mystery. As Enquirer reporter Cliff Peale wrote in a Sept. 28 story, ‘It remains unclear, a month after Williams’ departure, whether he was forced to resign from his $451,000-per-year job six days before the start of fall classes. It’s also unclear why the board decided to award him a $1.3 million severance package.’

“This is not the first time (Buchanan’s) community involvements have brought her public attention. City Beat, a local publication, reported in April that Buchanan sits on the executive committee of what it labeled a major real estate development connection and is in charge of overseeing publicity and marketing efforts for the organization.

“Her role was not disclosed in a 1900-word Enquirer article that City Beat said lauded the efforts of this development group despite the economic downturn.

“I fully understand that being involved with community enterprises is a perfect way for the news company’s top officer to associate with other local leaders, to demonstrate the company’s commitment to the community and to contribute to those efforts that are intended to improve the quality of life of residents. But it almost always raises questions and makes for some uncomfortable moments.”

The rest of the article is here.

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U.S. Commerce Department awards NCERC $500,000 grant for digital media campus

This is from the County CEO’s Friday memo:

​Congratulations to Nevada County Economic Resource Council (ERC) on being awarded the 2014 Science and Research Park Development Grant for $500,000! Below is the public announcement by the Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development.

Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development Jay Williams visited Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey, today to announce the 12 recipients of the 2014 Science and Research Park Development Grants, part of the Regional Innovation Strategies program. The Regional Innovation Strategies (RIS) program, which is being run by the Department’s Economic Development Administration’s (EDA) Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship (OIE), is a new initiative designed to advance innovation and capacity-building activities in regions across the country through three different types of grants: i6 Challenge grants, Cluster Grants for Seed Capital Funds, and Science and Research Park Development Grants. Secretary Pritzker announced the recipients of the i6 Challenge grants and Cluster Grants for Seed Capital funds in March.

“Supporting innovators and entrepreneurs at every stage is crucial to ensuring America remains competitive in the global economy,” said Assistant Secretary Williams. “The Regional Innovation Strategies Program lays the groundwork from which centers of research and innovation can take root and thrive in cities across the country. I look forward to seeing what innovative opportunities come from Regional Innovation Strategies’ funding.”

The Science and Research Park Development Grants program provides funding for feasibility and planning for the construction of new or expanded science or research parks, or the renovation of existing facilities. The grantees include:

Nevada County Economic Resource Council Foundation, Inc.
Location: Grass Valley, CA
Project Name: American Digital Media Leadership Campus
Program: Science & Research Park Development Grants
Award Amount: $500,000

The American Digital Media Leadership Campus’s mission is to leverage a collaboration of all the critical stakeholders who collectively have the expertise, long standing relationships, and resources to build a globally competitive region that is focused upon providing innovative technologies to the rapidly growing, global digital media industry. By facilitating the transfer of technology and business skills between researchers and industry teams, the Campus will have an added benefit of strengthening California and U.S. economic competitiveness.

This public/private collaboration includes innovation-focused digital media and related technology companies residing within the region; local, state and federal governments, including national labs and world trade center organizations; higher educational institutions with research programs relevant to the digital media industry; a highly technical engineering workforce; angel investors and venture capitalists; a vast array of community organizations, vital broadband providers including one with an emerging gigabyte fiber-optic broadband network coming online; and a partnership with the regional EDA-recognized economic development district, Sierra Economic Development Corporation (SEDCORP).

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Rainbow Lodge for sale again — but reopening June 5 for summer

From the blog of Sierra FoodWineArt magazine:

The iconic Rainbow Lodge at Soda Springs is up for sale again but is reopening for the season on June 5, our magazine has learned. The asking price is $1.975 million.

According to the website, the Rainbow is “reopening June 5.”

A sign on the side of the building announces that it is up for sale, we noticed when we went there this week. It also is listed for sale on Chase Internation’s website.

“Rainbow Tavern & Lodge offers the romantic or entrepreneur a unique opportunity to continue this business or create a new venture or family retreat,” according to a listing.

“Located on Donner Summit, the Lodge has been refreshed with substantial improvements & is fully operational as a Tavern, Restaurant & 33 room Lodge. Fly fish from your private —1/2 mile South Yuba riverfront, hike the backcountry, explore the Sierra with year-round access. Close proximity to Sugar Bowl, Royal Gorge, Truckee, Lake Tahoe.”

As reported in January 2014, the lodge was sold to a couple from Rocklin. The lodge had been closed and up for sale after a proposed 950 home development at the 3,000 acre Royal Gorge property at Donner Summit fell into foreclosure. The land was bought and protected from development under an agreement by The Trust for Public Land, the Truckee Donner Land Trust, and the Northern Sierra Partnership — but the lodge remained up for sale.

We had been to the lodge since it was purchased, and it has been upgraded. We enjoyed dining on the outdoor patio, with an improved menu. The new owners have been good stewards of the iconic lodge. We look forward to visiting again this summer.

The full article is here.

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Our counties and towns named among “America’s best” in a new analysis

From the blog of Sierra FoodWineArt magazine:

Nevada and Placer Counties are ranked among America’s 50 best counties for outdoor activities in America, according to a new analysis by Niche.com.

Placer County ranked #36, Nevada County ranked #47 and El Dorado ranked #49 in the nation, according to Pittsburgh-based Niche, which runs a ranking and review site. The methodology for the rankings, which also include cities, towns and neighborhoods, is here.

In California, Placer County ranked #3, Nevada County ranked #6 and El Dorado County ranked #7 in outdoor activities. Calaveras County ranked #1.

The 2015 Niche rankings “takes into account key indicators of a location’s environment and surroundings, including air quality, local weather, and access to natural amenities and outdoor recreation, in an attempt to measure an area’s quality of and access to the outdoors,” according to the website.

In addition, these locales in our region ranked in the top 100 as the nation’s best places for outdoor activities: Auburn (#40), North Auburn (#42) Grass Valley (#54), Lake Wildwood near Grass Valley (#62), Alta Sierra near Grass Valley (#80), South Lake Tahoe (#48), Placerville (#30) and Pollock Pines (#41).

In California our local towns ranked high for outdoor activities: Placerville was #2, Lake Tahoe was #7, Auburn was #9 and Grass Valley was #18.

Our region also showed up on the “best towns in America list.” Truckee ranked #65 and Placerville ranked #95.

In California, Truckee ranked #23, Placerville ranked #27, Auburn ranked #29, South Lake Tahoe ranked #33 and Grass Valley ranked #39. Palo Alto was ranked the best town in America.

Our local towns generally received higher marks for things to do, outdoor activities, commute and weather (mostly “A’s”) and lower grades for housing and jobs (“C” or lower). The countywide results were similar but often more negative on the housing and jobs front.

Grass Valley ranked #98 on the “American Towns with the Most Things to Do” list. It received a low ranking on the “millennial newcomers” list, just 1.1 percent.

A place is defined as being located within a Census-defined urbanized cluster or a principal city for an urbanized area with a population greater than or equal to 5,000 and less than 100,000. Nevada City’s population is less than 5,000, so it was not part of the analysis.

The full article is here.

(Photo: John Daly)

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‘Late Show’ host David Letterman signs off after 33 years

“There were jokes cracked and tributes paid. There were retrospectives and reminiscences, and a rock band that played at maximum volume. There was, of course, one last Top 10 list, delivered by a parade of celebrity guests,” the New York Times is reporting

“As David Letterman closed the book on his last ‘Late Show’ on Wednesday night, after a 33-year run in late-night television, he went for laughs rather than tears.

“This all-star edition of the show was an exuberant, self-deprecating celebration of Mr. Letterman’s work and accomplishments as the host with the longest tenure in American late-night TV.

“To its end, Mr. Letterman remained true to a personal sensibility of delivering sarcastic comedy with a straight face, and rarely allowed mawkish sentimentality to creep into the show.

The rest of the article is here.

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More “illuminating” dialogue on Rebane’s blog: Fox News commentator is a “babe”

You can’t make up the chatter on the blog of local hard-right activist George Rebane, a self-appointed intellectual.

Rebane begins his post by touting a book titled “The Silencing: How the Left is Killing Free Speech” by Kirsten Powers.

As the night grows longer, the truth about this book’s message is revealed:

“Ya know we’re at the tail end of this comment thread, but I would be remiss if I didn’t mention…..that Kirsten Powers is indeed a handsome woman!
Posted by: fish | 20 May 2015 at 08:27 PM”

“Todd Juvinall
Fish, she is a babe. All those FOX women are babes. I think FOX needs to hire blondes.
Posted by: Todd Juvinall | 20 May 2015 at 08:34 PM”

You can’t make this stuff up! “Fox glam” is here.

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