Aargh! Supes give $$$ to a county tourism website with some outdated, erroneous content

The Supes and the Rood Center just agreed to spend tens of thousands of dollars on GoNevadaCounty.com, the tourism website that The Union newspaper (supposedly a “watchdog” of our county government) now is managing. (How’s that for wearing “two hats”?) It is the bulk of a $70K deal to promote tourism via the County Economic Resource Council. The budget is at the bottom of this post, and more details of the tourism deal with the ERC are HERE.

I revisited the website — we were the founding website administrators until the end of 2015 — and it was a big disappointment. I found countless examples of mistakes or outdated listings. Aargh!

And this comes as the summer tourism season is getting into full swing. This deal brought back memories of “the western Nevada County ‘good old boys network,'” where it’s not what you know but who you know. I had hoped we’d outgrown that reputation.

The egregious examples (and this was not a “deep dive” but a brief review) include:

The listings for wineries in our county includes ones that are closed, such as Sierra Knolls and Bent Metal. See it for yourself.

2. The listings also included golf courses in our county that are closed, such as the Darkhorse Golf Club. Even The Union reported this. Does one hand at The Union know what the other is doing?

3. The restaurant listings are not up to date. Grass Valley Pasty Company, Meze and Roost in downtown Grass Valley are not listed, for example. It’s endless.

4. The website states that the National Hotel will “reopen in December 2019,” but that is outdated information. As KNCO and others reported, the target date is the “first half of next year.”

5. County events that have long since been discontinued, such as Gold Rush Days in downtown Grass Valley, the Italian Festival in Penn Valley, or the Open Art Studio Tour in Truckee, are still listed on the events page. I guess the website administrators don’t get out enough.

6. Other events are listed with themes that no longer exist or have been changed, such as “Grills and Grills” in Penn Valley, not the “BBQ Battle and Foreign Car Show.” The current show is no longer limited to foreign cars.

7. A slideshow on the front page of GoNevadaCounty.com begins with skiing, though we’re in the middle of summer. The slideshow needs to be reprogrammed.

8. A feature to encourage reporting on our county from out-of-town journalists and to showcase coverage called “Nevada County in the News” has not been updated since 2017. It’s 2019, though.

9. The “press portal” of press releases is out of date, even though we’re in the peak summer season. The last press release promotes an event that is over (“Archaeologist Hank Meals will lead a hike … this Saturday, June 8.”) An image gallery for the media is “coming soon.”

10. An interactive cultural assets map (cited as a “new addition” to GoNevadaCounty.com doesn’t cite the source; it comes from the Nevada County Arts Council.)

What a disappointment. We worked hard to keep this website updated, with fewer resources, but it became clear that few (County analyst Eve Diamond was an exception) understood what was involved, including the Supes. It became a political football in the grab game for Rood Center dollars. “The more things change, the more they stay the same.” Here’s the budget:

Another “CA escapee” on George Rebane’s blog

“And Then There Were None” — English writer Agatha Christie

So it goes on our vocal, local right-wing blogs. The lastest “CA escapee,” as Rebane’s Ruminations reports is Rich Ulery, who served as a longtime chairman of the Nevada County Republican Central Committee.

For Rich, “greener pastures” is Pima County, Ariz., which Rich boasts “has negligible unfunded pension liabilities. I suspect Nevada County is still hovering close to $200 million.” (In fact, this is a problem in Arizona too).

But it gets better. In the comment section, I noted the cost of running an air conditioner 24/7. After making another “fat” joke, “Gregory” wrote: “Swamp coolers are very effective in AZ,” adding “I’ve relatives in Arizona, and the family house of many years was in a development in the middle of Tucson that didn’t have paved roads, just the local sand.

“Kept it much cooler in the heat of the day and it cooled off nicely after the sun went down.”

In fact, “Mr. Science,” even Arizonans are fed up with swamp coolers. The “sometimes noisy, always drippy” swamp coolers “were common in neighborhoods across the region starting in the 1940s, but have been in sharp decline since the late ’80s, as the Arizona Republic observes.

And then there’s living in a neighborhood without paved roads, just local sand. This doesn’t sould like a “dream retirement lifestyle” to me, but to each his own.

You can’t make up the stuff that appears in our local right-wing blogs, justifying a rigid political ideology. Of course, our politics are “purple” now and getting bluer, and that’s what eats at this shrinking demographic.

Remembering our fathers this weekend

 I honor Father’s Day. I miss my dad, who died in May 2007 at age 81. We have other amazing dads in our community.

Some who have shared delightful stories with me about their children that come to mind include Eric Alexander, Michael Anderson, James and John Arbaugh, Richard Baker, Nate Beason, Robert Bergman, Rich Bodine, Chris Bishop, Gregory Diaz, Ben Emery, Ike Frazee, Shawn Garvey, Bob HabergerHal V. HallJeff Hamilton, the late John Kane, Matt Margulies, David McKay, Don Pelton, Phil and Jackson Starr, Duane Strawser and others.

Many of my other friends, who weren’t dads, would have been extraordinary in that role. Happy Father’s Day!

Joseph Pelline: A lifelong friend

Joseph Emmett Pelline, my “pal forever,” died last week in Grass Valley. He was 81.

Among other things, my dad inspired me to become a journalist. Dad had a bachelor’s degree in naval technology and master’s in geology, but he taught me self confidence and encouraged me to be independent in choosing a career more than any child could wish for.

Of course, he asked me to take a year’s worth of engineering calculus and chemistry in college, because most journalists were lame at math and science.

Needless to say, my dad was extremely perceptive, another admirable quality.

Dad was born in Sebastopol, Ca., in western Sonoma County, a bucolic upbringing that he longed to revisit later in life. His father, also named Joseph, came to the area from the Ticino region of Switzerland, among the immigrants who helped establish the Italian Swiss Colony winery.

His dad and his mom, who survived the 1906 earthquake, bought some Gravenstein apple orchards. Along with my dad’s brother, they lived in a big, brown house on Main Street. His mom owned the local coffee shop.

The family later moved to Santa Monica, and my dad was drafted into the Navy out of high school. He served as Lt. JG on the U.S.S. Little Rock (a light cruiser with the 6th Fleet in 1946) that crossed the Arctic Circle, among other places. My father earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Minnesota and his master’s degree from UCLA.

Dad went to work as an oil exploration geologist for the Humble Oil and Refining Co. in downtown Los Angeles, where he met my mom. My dad worked at Exxon, Humble Oil’s successor, as well as British Petroleum and the Stanford Research Institute, holding numerous management positions throughout his career.

He was a dedicated father. Dad joined me in many activities: YMCA Indian Guides, Boy Scouts and Little League. He was a coach on all my Little League teams. In Y-Indian Guides, a father-son program started in the ’20s, the slogan is “pals forever.” Nothing more aptly described my relationship with my father.

While growing up, we lived in the suburbs of Los Angeles, Denver and San Jose. We moved to Denver when I was in high school, a difficult age to be uprooted from friends.

But Dad wasted no time helping me to adjust. He and my mom signed me up for the “Eskimo Ski Club,” where I learned to ski. Dad would gleefully wake me up before dawn on Saturday and shovel out the driveway, so we could drive to the Denver railroad depot for the train ride to Winter Park. “And now reveille!” he would shout, rousting me from bed.

Dad encouraged my journalism career. In Denver, my high-school English teacher drafted me for the school newspaper and asked me to write a column. Dad helped me choose the topic: Too many people are over-educated; we also need ditch diggers. He edited this one and the others that followed. It helped build my self confidence and establish new friendships.

My father helped me with my homework throughout my childhood and youth. We would get together after dinner, and he would check my algebra, help me with the math “story problems” and let me use his slide rule for math. (This was before calculators). It always was a collaborative effort.

For years, my dad and I fished together throughout Northern California. My favorite memory is landing a 25-inch steelhead trout at the mouth of the Smith River near Crescent City when I was a teenager. I was so shocked that I hooked the fish, I asked him to wade out into the river to help me land it. After that experience, I joked that he was “my personal valet.”

My dad also was a dedicated husband and grandfather. Not long after my mom and dad retired in Bodega Bay, Dad was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. This slowed him down but did not deter him.

When we moved to Nevada County from the Bay Area more than two years ago, we brought my parents with us. The past few years of Mom’s life were difficult because of her declining health. But Dad did a fabulous job of keeping Mom comfortable and well fed, cooking many of her favorite recipes. My wife and I greatly admired his efforts.

My dad and my five-year-old son shared many memories. He was an avid stamp and coin collector, and the two of them relished looking at the coins together. Last Christmas, my dad bought my son a metal piggy bank like the one he had as a child: it was an elephant, whose trunk propelled the coin into his body. The two of them also liked watching cartoons together, most notably “Lazytown.”

My dad loved my wife. He cried at our wedding, and he was so proud of her. He greatly admired her sailing prowess on Lake Tahoe and her strong sense of motherhood. He was forever grateful to her for helping out her in-laws as she did.

We moved my parents into our Nevada City home shortly before my dad died. A major stroke had further diminished my dad’s health. We attempted to rehabilitate him at the Golden Empire Convalescent Hospital and return him home, but he had a relapse. Dad got pneumonia and died peacefully on May 21 with my wife and I at his side, holding his hands.

“We’re all going to miss grandpa,” my son said when we told him. I already miss him terribly.

Joseph is survived by Jeff Pelline, his son; Shannon, Jeff’s spouse; and Mitchell, their son, all of Nevada City. A private memorial service for Joe and Marilyn Pelline will be held this summer in Sebastopol, Ca., near their home for many years. In lieu of flowers, tax-deductible donations can be made to their grandson’s favorite charity, the Nevada County Narrow Gauge Railroad Museum to help build a real “Little Engine that Could.”: NCNGRR Museum – Locomotive Fund; PO Box 2392, Nevada City, CA 95959. Call 530-470-0902 or go to http://www.ncngrrmuseum.org for information.

Lava clearing on Big Island highways, part of a multimillion-dollar cleanup effort

We’re enjoying our return to the Kohala Coast on the Big Island for swimming, sightseeing and Hawaiian cuisine.

On the other side of the island, the cleanup from the eruption of Kilauea volcano (known as America’s most hazardous volcano) is in full swing.

“A year after lava began flowing here on May 3, 2018, in what would become Hawaii’s largest and most destructive volcano eruption in decades, thousands of residents and business owners are still struggling to put their lives back together,” according to an article last month.

The cost of the massive cleanup might reach $800 million. The lava flow has isolated homes and farms on the Big Island, an area identified as a kīpuka .

One example: About 3 miles of Highway 132, a critical road on the windward side of the Big Island, south of Hilo .  “The near-term goal is to reestablish access over a temporary road to homes and farms in the kipuka along Highway 132,” according to a County website detailing the recovery. 

This week lava clearing on the Highway 132 began. A small group of residents gathered to bless the project. We saw this activity on the local news last night, a rather mind-boggling project:

RIP, Jim Bril, longtime Auburn businessman and civic leader

Rest in Peace, Jim Bril, a longtime business and civic leader in Auburn. Jim and his wife, Trish, have owned downtown Auburn’s The Monkey Cat restaurant for around the past 15 years. We have known Jim for a decade and, while out of town this week, are heartbroken to learn that he has passed.

Like the late John Kane of Kane’s Restaurant or Ty Rowe of Bootleggers in Auburn, Jim was an iconic local restaurateur. (He and Ty were longtime acquaintences; Jim and Trish used to stop at Bootleggers during roadtrips to the foothills, and Ty helped them discover The Monkey Cat was up for sale).

Besides owning The Monkey Cat, Jim helped open Auburn’s Tre Pazzi Trattoria, another popular downtown restaurant, with his friend Gary Capps.

Jim also was one of Auburn’s civic leaders. In the past, he had been president of the Auburn Downtown Association and a board member of the Placer County Visitor’s Bureau. He was passionate about helping to bring visitors to Auburn, whether for a weekend or a “pit stop” while en route from the Bay Area to Lake Tahoe.

Jim was a wonderful person: generous, entrepreneurial and full of wisdom. We often had lengthly conversations about what I called the “new Gold Rush,” or a new era of culinary and cultural prosperity in our region.

Jim had a keen sense of humor too. As he told me and others: “I started washing dishes when I was 14 years old and I’m still in the restaurant business, except I own the dishes now.”

“I love Auburn,” Jim said in an article when he bought The Monkey Cat and relocated to the foothills from the Bay Area in 2005. “I love the people, the realness of the area. The physicality with the river, canyon, mountains, excites me also.”

Before settling in Auburn, Jim was the principal of the famed Fior d’Italia restaurant in San Francisco’s North Beach neighborhood. He enjoyed returning to the Bay Area — for Oakland A’s baseball games, for example.

We are in Hawaii, but I spoke to Gary Capps this afternoon to reminisce about Jim and to express our condolences. A memorial is planned for Thursday, June 13, at 1 p.m. at Chapel of the Hills in Auburn. A celebration of life will follow at The Monkey Cat.

An article about Jim and The Monkey Cat from our magazine in 2015 is here. Jim was proud of this review in the Sacramento Bee. “Monkey Cat restaurant was part of Jim and Trish Bril’s exit strategy from the Bay Area,” the article observed.

This photo, which captures Jim and his adventurous spirit, is from The Monkey Cat’s Facebook page. An interview with Jim on YouTube is here:

Our endless summer begins on the Big Island’s Kohala Coast

We wasted no time kicking off Summer 2019. This week we’re enjoying some R&R on the Kohala Coast on the Big Island, a favorite and longtime vacation destination.

In the ’80s  my wife Shannon and I camped on the Big Island for 10 days, circling the island with our tent, sleeping bags and supplies. We swam in the ocean, grilled fresh fish we bought from the locals, and drank Mai Tai’s as we watched the sunset. It was an “excellent adventure.”

(On that memorable trip, we almost missed our flight home, because the airport X-ray machine detected a lime — for our Mai Tai’s — buried at the bottom of my duffle bag. The rules governing the transport of fruits and vegetables are strict, in this case an interisland connecting flight to the mainland, and we had to dig that lime out of the bag in a hurry).

We’ve been back to the Big Island about half a dozen times since then. In the high-flying days when I was Editor of CNET News “post-IPO,” we’d fly over and stay at the Mauna Kea Resort. (Nowadays we use “airline miles” to help soften the financial blow).

The Mauna Kea opened in July 1965 and was founded by businessman environmentalist Laurance S. Rockefeller. On a visit to the Big Island, he spotted the white sand, crescent beach of Kauna’oa Bay, went for a swim and decided to build a hotel that blended into the natural environment.

Rockefeller didn’t want the hotel to have radios, televisions or air-conditioning, which he considered negative “distractions of civilization”— more details here. (We have little use for the TV here as well, though we have been watching the Warriors and Raptors in the NBA finals).

A View of Hapuna Beach

This week, we’re staying at the adjacent Hapuna Beach resort. As the second phase in Rockefeller’s creation, the hotel property shares 1,839 acres of oceanfront with Mauna Kea Beach Hotel. (We’re burning up a 75,000 mile bonus from signing up for a Marriott Bonvoy credit card, which covers most of the bill, thanks to a tip from the PointGuy.com).

“Comfortably set in the bluffs, and with Mauna Kea, Mauna Loa and Kohala Mountains as a backdrop, it overlooks the beach that many consider the best in all of Hawaii,” as a local magazine puts it.

Our ocean-front room has a dead-on view of Hapuna Beach and Mauna Loa, which I can see in the background as I write this post. (It’s our “office” this week; we inevitably do some work on vacation). At night, we can hear the gentle sound of the waves.

The Hapuna Beach Resort recently was reflagged as a Westin and just completed a $46-million renovation. It has touched on every aspect, including the lobby, restaurants, amenities such as the pool area (an “adult” pool was added) and restrooms.

Our day begins with coffee on the lanai and a local papaya; then a swim in the ocean; and later might include a short drive for sightseeing, a snorkeling adventure or a walk along the beach. And naps. We’re also are planning a trip across the island to see the lava from the recent catastrophic eruption of Kilauea Volcano.

This trip is our graduation present to our 17-year-old son, who just wrapped up another splendid school year and deserved some R&R. We, of course, are benefitting as well.

The rest of summer is a little more active, with our son going to the weeklong California Boys State Conference in Sacramento, along with some other local high-school students; and the four-week long California Summer School for Mathematics and Science at UC San Diego.

We  might tag along for a weekend to visit friends and go to the beach and the Del Mar horse races, a favorite venue. And before we know it, our son’s school will be back in session — mid-August, not post Labor Day, as it was for us California “baby boomers.”