In small towns, we tend to side with our like-minded friends rather than look at the “big picture,” so we’re not always clear what “most” people think.
Ideologues from outside the city limits often jump into the fray, attempting to hijack the town with their own skewed political view. I don’t tell Penn Valley how to live (and wouldn’t presume to deal with their current zoning “crisis”), so why should they decide the fate of the Boardwalk where I live? Because they don’t like Nevada City’s politics.
Maybe it’s time for a city ballot initiative to decide the fate of the Boardwalk. You know, let the citizens who live here decide — not the out-of-town letter writers or activists.
If it’s a real hyperlocal issue — like the Boardwalk — it’s less apt to be influenced by outside money or special interests, the biggest drawback to the initiative process. I suspect the Koch Brothers or Americans for Safe Access would pass on this one.
But we seem to be struggling with the Boardwalk in our hyperlocal “legislative” branch. First, the City Council decided to keep the Boardwalk after a lot of public debate — for a year.
Now, just when we thought we could move on, another issue has surfaced: Whether to keep the lights that criss-cross the street above the Boardwalk. It’s going to lead to another debate before City Council.
The Boardwalk without lights is like roller skates without a key, and I suspect the opponents know that. If you take down the lights, the Boardwalk could fail. The lights are pleasant to look at, but they also offer public safety benefits — just like any lighted street in town. They go together.
So let’s stop beating around the bush and think more seriously about putting the Boardwalk to a vote. Gather the signatures and put them on the ballot. Debate the merits — practical, historical and otherwise — and let the citizens of Nevada City decide.
The biggest problem our small towns face nowadays is the perception of what “everybody thinks” versus the reality. We assume too much. It leads to a “good old boys” mindset. Who knows, we might learn something about ourselves.