Jet Blue “Mint”: new competition for bigger airlines


“Welcome aboard”

“Isn’t it ironic we’re driving west to fly east,” our son said as we were driving to SFO to fly nonstop to New York City this week. Good point.

I covered the airline industry for years at newspapers in South Florida and at The S.F. Chronicle: Eastern Airlines under Frank Borman, Air Florida, Pan American World Airways and United Airlines, among others.

I also freelanced as a “stringer” for the New York Times during my years at South Florida newspapers, dictating my stories into an answering matchine in the ’80s — decidedly “low tech.” My stories about Eastern and Air Florida also ran in the Chicago Tribune because of the “snowbirds” who flew to Florida to escape the frigid winters.

The airlines were full of drama in the aftermath of airline deregulation in 1978, and it was a great “beat”: Characters like Col. Borman, the storied history of airlines such as Pan Am, labor unrest, layoffs and Chapter 11 bankruptcies galore. The national dailies wanted a reporter who was “on the scene” to supplement their own coverage.

The reason for driving to SFO this week was to try out a new transcontinental service by Jet Blue called “Mint.” I’ve flown Jet Blue on and off for years to the East Coast: It is a classic post deregulation airline: low cost with signature blue “Terra” chips for in-flight “dining.”

"Good Morning Lake Tahoe" iPhone photo transferred to Facebook in real-time on Instagram

“Good Morning Lake Tahoe” iPhone photo transferred to Facebook in real-time on Instagram

Jet Blue Mint is different: It’s a business-class product for about half the cost of what American and United charge. It is aimed at business travelers on the busy and competitive LAX-JFK and SFO-JFK markets. We used credit-card miles for our tickets, and had a great dinner with some friends in San Francisco before departing the next morning.

The “Mint” experience includes faster check-in, lie-flat seats, free in-flight broadband to stream videos (and to work), 15 inch video screens, multiple in-seat power plugs, fresh food from the New York restaurant Saxon + Parole and organic Blue Marble ice cream, an amenity kit with cool products — all on a new Airbus A321 aircraft.

We each sat in a Mint “suite” across from each other. It is best described as a little “house” with every creature comfort imaginable. The lie-flat seats are great for “red eye” flights. Mint also promises “first bag to carousel” at JFK — and ours were the first two off the plane.

It was one of the best premium services on an airline that I can remember, rivaling an upgraded first-class TWA flight that I once took from LAX to London Heathrow where a prime-rib roast was carved from a cart that was rolled down the aisle on a Boeing 747.

Jet Blue’s Mint is redefining the business class flying experience because it is so much more affordable for executives (about $600 each way for a cash fare, compared with a “four-digit” one-way fare in United and American). I visited with the flight attendants who were happy with the service. They enjoyed their jobs.

Jet Blue’s stock price has been receiving some ratings upgrades recently. The coach experience includes redesigned cabins, with improve lighting, more “living space,” wi-fi, a new entertainment system and in-seat power. Like Southwest, Jet Blue is going to start charging for checked bags.

We mostly fly Southwest, or Delta or United out of Sacramento or Reno for long-haul flights, so the Jet Blue Mint flight was a treat. It won’t come to Sacramento for a long time because the market is so relatively small.

Airline deregulation has been a bumpy road: Now airlines are benefiting from low jet fuel prices and “a la cart” pricing for extras that were once taken for granted. But the best part is the range of choices and competition: truly something for everybody.

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Local election results show local hard right’s “bark is bigger than bite”

The latest local elections are a reminder that the hard right’s bark is bigger than its bite.

Nevada County Board of Education trustee Marianne Slade-Troutman, supported by an anti-Common Core and tea-party contingent, wound up losing. Slade-Troutman was supported by locals such as hard-right political activist Barry Pruett.

And Anna Ferguson, who accepted tea-party PAC money, lost in the judge’s race to Robert Tice-Raskin. Anna has done a good job of managing the DA’s office, but I was disappointed in her decision to accept the tea-party PAC money. It did not go unnoticed.

I wonder if candidates will wind up rethinking whether to so graciously accept tea-party support in upcoming elections.

I supported Greg Diaz when he ran against Pruett in 2010 with a $500 donation (my first and only political donation); I supported Nate Beason with a campaign sign when he ran against tea-party supporter Sue McGuire; and I supported Bob Altieri, Larry Meek, and Shelly Sexton with a campaign sign when they ran against Slade-Troutman this year.

The people in the middle determine the outcome of our local races, not the political extremists.

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Bera beats Ose: “Yes, Virginia, our region’s politics are purple”

Editor’s note: Tom McClintock’s chief of staff, Igor Birman, lost handily to Doug Ose in the primary for the District 7 Congressional race, covering suburban Sacramento County. Some of our locals participated in the Ose-Birman race. Details are here and here. Now Rep. Ami Bera has reclaimed his seat against Ose in a “mudslinging” race that drew national attention. Berra’s campaign attributed the success to a “get-out-the-vote” operation. The attempt to grow McClintock’s “empire,” even the Republican’s, came up short. Dan Logue also lost his challenge to Democratic Rep. John Garamendi.

“More than two weeks after polls closed, Rep. Ami Bera won a second term to represent a seat covering suburban Sacramento County, denying Republican challenger Doug Ose a return to Washington and ending the California GOP’s chances of unseating its first Democratic House incumbent since 1994.

“Bera, an Elk Grove physician, trailed Ose by more than 3,000 votes at the close of election night and steadily closed the gap before surging to a 700-vote advantage last week, as county election officials tallied tens of thousands of remaining ballots. He led Wednesday by 1,432 votes with nearly all ballots counted.

“Bera’s campaign attributed the late success to an aggressive get-out-the-vote operation that was the largest in the nation when he ousted GOP then-Rep. Dan Lungren in 2012. This cycle, the freshman lawmaker’s campaign knocked on 270,000 doors and made 950,000 phone calls.

“’It’s been my honor serving this community as a doctor for the last 19 years, and I am grateful I will have the opportunity to continue serving as the representative for California’s 7th Congressional District in Congress,” said a statement from Bera, who was in Washington D.C. for the remaining weeks of the congressional session.

“California Democrats came off election night on the brink of faltering in close congressional races, but rebounded as overtime ballot-counting favored their party. Reps. Scott Peters of San Diego, Julia Brownley of Thousand Oaks and Jim Costa of Fresno pulled away from their rivals. Costa narrowly defeated Republican Johnny Tacherra on Wednesday.

The rest of the article is here.

Here’s a negative campaign ad against Bera from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce:

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Gun control is meant to “enslave” us, says local newspaper editorial board member

Editor’s note: The Union’s op-ed page and a newly minted editorial board member has come up with another zinger to inform and educate us: Likening gun control to slavery. This is the sort of commentary and metaphor you would expect in the CABPRO Newsletter, not a community newspaper. We are going from bad to worse. Cancel my subscription!

Gun control facts versus politics

“The nation’s total violent crime rate hit an all-time high in 1991. Thereafter, it declined 18 of the next 20 years, 49 percent overall, to a 41 year low in 2011. That included a 52 percent decrease in the nation’s murder rate to a 48-year low. This according to FBI statistics.

“Concurrently, the number of privately owned firearms in the United States rose by over 120 million, including about 55 million handguns, about 80 percent of which were semi-automatic. The 120 million new firearms included over 3.5 million AR-15 semi-automatic rifles and tens of millions of other firearms that gun control supporters call “assault weapons” (National Rifle Association).

“Now, with more than 100 million handguns in the possession of the people, are we safer? As the above crime and gun ownership trends indicate, the answer appears to be “yes.”

“In reality, gun control by definition affects only honest, law-abiding people. When a politician tells us he wants more control of our guns he is telling us he doesn’t trust us. Gun control is not about guns or crime. It is about an elite that fears and despises and wishes to control — enslave — the common people.

Norm Sauer, who lives in Nevada City, is a member of The Union Editorial Board. His opinion is his own and does not represent the viewpoint of The Union or its editorial board.”

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Our local newspaper does a toe dance around editorial blunder on Utah Phillips

Instead of writing a newspaper correction that read, “Utah Phillips died in 2008. The Union regrets stating that he was ‘relaxing in his Nevada City home on Sunday afternoon’ in a photo caption on Monday, November 10, 2014,” The Union let a reader gently handle the matter today (see letter below) under the headline “Fitting for Phillips’ letters to be at university” instead of “Correction:”

Never mind that Wikipedia and others point out that the folk music legend was one of the most famous people who ever lived in our county. Never mind that the Hospitality House is named “Utah’s Place” after him. Though the newspaper’s cartoonist shied away from lampooning the newsroom for its major blunder (hammering on a council member instead), NCScooper did, writing “Utah Phillips speaks from the other side.” (The internet is changing how we communicate). Here’s the letter and headline:

“Utah Phillips: a champion for the environment and peace and the homeless. It’s fitting that his historical letters be donated to Reuter University, where they can be enjoyed by many generations. That’s a wonderful picture of him in your November 10 issue, however, the caption “Utah Phillips relaxes in the study of his Nevada City home Sunday afternoon,” is inappropriate since Utah died several years ago.

Charlotte Orren
Penn Valley

Editor’s note: The Union regrets the caption with aforementioned photo did not note it was an archive photo.”

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Is Dungeness crab gentrifying our community?

photoDon’t tell RL Crabb, Todd Juvinall and the other local old-timers, but Dungeness crab is gentrifying western Nevada County. Despite what you might hear, I don’t think it will push the old-timers out of their homes, as this Coastal delicacy infiltrates our beloved area. But it sure makes for a wonderful meal.

This week’s Dungeness crab, among the first of the season, comes from Little Fish Company, which has become a weekly institution at the Nevada City Farmers Market. All winter long, Little Fish Company sells fresh, local seafood from “the Coast,” including Dungeness crab, at the Foothill Farmers Market in Auburn. Ikedas in Auburn also is a good source for fresh Dungeness crab.

Having said that, I wouldn’t want to denigrate our local delicacies — you know, squirrel stew and the like — but it is worth expanding our palates.

Also take solace in knowing that the spinach you see here is grown locally, thanks to First Rain Farm of Nevada City and farmer Tim van Wagner. And the tomatoes in the salad come from River Hill Farm, thanks to Alan Haight and Jo McProud. Both are GMO-free.

The “acculturation” of the Coast and the rural foothills of California might be a win-win after all. Stay tuned.

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Scoop: Reinette Senum is 2014 Elza Kilroy Award recipient

reinette-senum-8-28-14Former mayor and longtime Nevada City community leader Reinette Senum has been selected as the 2014 recipient of the prestigious Elza Kilroy Award for outstanding community service, Sierra Foothills Report has learned.

The Nevada City Chamber of Commerce presents the prestigious Kilroy award annually to a citizen whose efforts help make Nevada City a better community.

The Chamber’s Board of Directors selected Reinette for the award to honor her dedication and support of Nevada City.

Chamber Executive Director Cathy Whittlesey and, of course, Reinette, confirmed this “scoop.” “Reinette did win, and she is so pleased,” Whittlesey told me today. “She fits so well. She makes it happen, and it comes from her heart.” Reinette also was excited.

An official press release is forthcoming. I’m excited about this, just as I was excited to see another young adult, Paralympic Gold Medalist Evan Strong, named as the Grand Marshal in the Fourth of July parade, which you also read here first. Some pioneering young adults are helping to reshape our community, as I’ve written before.

Previous winners of the Elza Kilroy Award have included David Painter, co-owner of SPD Markets; Duane Strawser, owner of Tour of Nevada City Bicycle Shop; historian Ed Tyson; former Mayor Steve Cottrell; longtime city engineer Bill Falconi; retired City Manager Beryl Robinson and Whittlesey, among many others.

The award will be presented at the Chamber of Commerce’s 113th Annual Installation and Awards Dinner on January 31th at the Miners Foundry. The Kilroy Award is one of the several annual awards presented by the Nevada City Chamber of Commerce.

Reinette is a 1984 Nevada Union High School graduate who went on to travel widely, visiting some 50 countries, and to become the first women to walk and ski solo across Alaska. She studied film in Southern California before returning to Nevada City in 2004.
She co-founded the Alliance for a Post Petroleum Local Economy (APPLE) and Power Up-NC before being elected to a four-year term on the City Council in 2008. She served as mayor in 2010.

Reinette is a co-founder and former manager of the Nevada City Farmers Market and advocate of the Commercial Street Boardwalk, its acoustic Thursdays and Farm to Table events. She also is the winner of the 2014 Col. William H. “Bill” Lambert award.

The prestigious Lambert Award award is presented annually by the Famous Marching Presidents of Nevada City to recognize outstanding contributions to Nevada City and the Nevada City way of life. It is named in honor of the late Col. William H. Lambert, founder of Nevada City’s annual Constitution Day Parade

The Kilroy award was established in 1969.

“Elza Kilroy worked for the Nevada City Post Office for 32 years,” according to “He was greatly interested in Nevada City affairs and worked tirelessly in improving the town. Yearly he sat on the Fourth of July committee and was once a parade grand marshal.

“Kilroy spearheaded the effort to raise money to restore the old Nevada City Theatre and was on the Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital board of directors. His wife, Luvia, taught school for 32 years at Nevada City Elementary.

“A large cross on Drummond Street in Nevada City, lighted every Christmas, was erected by Elza Kilroy in 1932. It is still illuminated each year at holiday time.

“Elza Kilroy put in so much of his time and energy to make Nevada City and Nevada County a better place that the Elza Kilroy Award would eventually be established. It is given each year by the Nevada City Chamber of Commerce to a person who exhibits outstanding community service. Elza died in 1981, as full of honors and as sorely missed by the community he served as had been his father.”

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