When it comes to substance, Americans don’t like to “dig deeper,” preferring to stick to “sound bites.” “Obama is a socialist,” for example. It polarizes us. Here’s another view, though: “Cheer up Republicans: You’re going to have a moderate Republican president for the next four years: Barack Obama.” It makes cogent points that readers such as Don Pelton and others have raised here.
While important, all this focus on the U.S. Presidency is a side-show to where the rubber meets the road: Congress. This group holds the “purse strings” to government, not the president. Yet their approval rating is at an all-time low.
I’m proposing to put all our “analytical” energy into Congress now that the Presidential race is decided. Leading up to the mid-term elections in 2014, let’s focus on this esteemed group of electeds and hold them accountable — just like our President. Let’s ask how effective (or ineffective they are). Do they represent all of us or just their like-minded constituents?
And while we’re at it, let’s grade the results of our state legislators — and our county Board of Supervisors and City Council members. After all, this is where the real action occurs in government. Here’s a starting point.
•Tom McClintock. Our Congressman is Tom McClintock — at least until yearend. I’ve written many times before that he is a largely ineffective representative, focusing on an ideologically-based national agenda, not a local one. He is out of touch with the only electorate that remains for him: Truckee. Being a longtime Californian, I’ve followed Tom for years: Nothing has changed. He’s a career politician with extreme, inflexible views.
•Doug LaMalfa. Doug, who is replacing Tom as our Congressman with redistricting, is a staunch conservative. I voted for Doug when he ran in the Republican primary against Rick Keene in 2010. Though a “DS” voter, I voted with a Republican ballot because of their dominance in our region.
I was unhappy with Keene, because he’s another one of those “sand pounders.” He was ineffective working with a Democratic legislature for years.
Doug turned into a disappointment, though, immediately adopting the role of idealogue and pandering only to his like-minded constituents — not all of them. He issued press releases with high-pitched rhetoric that would lead to no collaboration across the aisle. He just wanted to advance his career.
I had hoped Doug’s insight into local issues, coupled with being a small businessman, meant he would choose one or two smaller “nonpartisan” issues to benefit locals. Nope.
Now Doug has been “promoted” to Congress, and I don’t expect much from him there either. To the contrary, his campaign contributors include the Koch Brothers and others who want to co-opt him into supporting their national agenda — not any local one. He’s going to be another “anti-government,” anti-Obama,” “just say no” elected representative — just like McClintock.
The irony: Though like-minded, LaMalfa and McClintock don’t even like each other. How’s that for ineffective?
Brian Dahle. Brian is supposed to be our “shining city upon a hill” when it comes to effective local representation. Though a staunch conservative, he claims he will listen to the other side and be respectful of their views.
But when I heard him speak, I wondered: Was he analytical enough or just emotional when it came to tackling our big deficit; how effective of a legislator can you be when signing the Grover Norquist “no tax pledge”? Plus, the Democrats in Sacramento have a super-majority.
Still, I hold out hope — that unlike his predecessors — Brian can find one or two smaller “nonpartisan” issues that will benefit his constituents: Conservancy or water rights, for example. I’m going to be watching closely.
•Jim Neilsen and Ted Gaines. They are our State senators in the split-up districts for our county. I don’t expect much representation — if any. These are Central Valley politicans who play musical chairs to advance their careers.
They are staunch conservatives who are more or less interchangable. For Gaines, it’s “all in the family”; his wife also is a legislator. Like Dan Logue, Neilsen owns enough houses to keep switching his residency to suit his political interests.
County Board of Supervisors: Nate Beason, Ted Owens, Terry Lamphier, Ed Scofield, Hank Weston.
Compared with the past, this group is working pretty well together. Though a majority conservative, they often work in a nonpartisan way.
The board has stood up to some unpopular decisions, such as the marijuana initiative. Compared with other electeds, they are well versed on the issues impacting our region. They ask good questions and generally are respectful to diverse views.
I still think the board caves when a group of hard-right political activists comes to a board meeting to complain: The latest proposal for an MOU with the U.S. forest service — a benign attempt at regional collaboration — was a striking example.
They let some of the “Agenda 21 extremists” get the better of them — and in turn, the rest of us, who are too busy to show up to a meeting and speak out. After all, most of us are “in the middle” politically (center-left or center-right). They need to remember that.
I look forward to having Richard Anderson from Truckee join the board in January. I have met with Richard, and he is analytical and thoughtful. The board will consist of two progressives (Lamphier and Anderson); one GOP moderate (Beason); and two more staunch conservatives (Weston and Scofield).
This is a good mix of political stripes, more accurately reflecting our county’s political diversity — from east to west and in between.
The perception is this council is a “rubber stamp” for the contractors group and weary of regulations to the point of nixing a historical preservation ordinance — standing alone compared with Nevada City and Truckee. They sued the county over an airport land-use dispute.
The perception is this group would unanimously approve a big housing project or even a gold mine, despite all the complexities involved (and resulting influence on the rest of the county).
It’s pretty much an accurate assessment. I happen to agree with many of the development plans but worry there is not nearly enough scrutiny of the unintended consequences (where “we the people” end up holding the bag). We need to be “smart planners,” and mitigation fees are OK — to help plan for the needed infrastructure that goes with development.
Council members Yolanda Cookson and Fouyer have provided some fresh air and youthful perspective to the group. But Yolanda decided not to run. I was astounded the council passed up Yolanda in the mayor rotation; now Dan (a longtimer, like Lisa) is in line to be mayor again.
I have been hopeful that Jan could temper some of the other council members’ hard-line, bluntly voiced views, but that hasn’t happened either. I don’t expect too much independence from Howard, though I do expect he would speak up for a historic preservation ordinance and will be an arts & culture advocate.
The problem in Grass Valley is not the political bent; it is the need for some “out of the box” and creative thinking. Like-mindedness tends to support the status quo. Clinging to the past won’t be an effective economic development strategy, because construction and real estate will remain dormant for years.
An upside from the Council’s vantage point is that Measure N passed, and I trust the city will spend the money wisely. In addition, Dan Holler is a solid city manager with a good financial background.
Nevada City Council, Duane Strawser, Sally Harris, Robert Bergman, Terri Anderson and Jennifer Ray.
Similar to Grass Valley, the perception is that the town is still run by an “old guard,” in this case a liberal, slow- to no-growth one. Residents cite the continued influence of longtime planner Lori Oberholtzer and longtime council member Paul Matson.
It’s largely true, historically in response to the city of Grass Valley’s opposing policies. Anderson and Ray are appointees strongly supported by Lori and Paul.
The perception is that this “Lori O.” group’s main concern is a proposed plan to turn the former HEW building into condos, first reported here.
Strawser and Bergman have shown flairs of independence, however.
The entire council is highly supportive of the staff, creating a friendly environment but also raising concerns about their “watchdog” role. Some of the council members lack experience scrutinizing a city budget, and some residents are concerned about that. City Hall also is criticized for being too insular.
In the past, Nevada City Hall has been plagued by embarassing management problems — that many of the longtimers turn a “blind eye” to. Nevada City’s ability to remain independent is always an ongoing concern, given the aging, shrinking demographics of our county.
As in Grass Valley, a sales-tax measure for Nevada City passed resoundingly — Measure L.
All told, I’m hopeful that with Measure L passing, the City will reach out to the community for a more collaborative effort to help steer this tiny town in the right direction.
Other hopeful signs for Nevada City include hiring a capable new city manager and police chief. Like Grass Valley, Nevada City could benefit from some fresh, innovative thinking at the City Hall level. They do not really welcome that, though.
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