The still-unfinished Del Oro mural was meant to depict life in a small gold-rush town. But it also is proving to be a small-town civics lesson and will be debated by the City Council on Tuesday.
Back in November, I wrote how Howard Levine of the Grass Valley Downtown Association had quietly posed as a “model” for the mural, a meter reader if you will. The artist wanted some “scale” for the three-dimension mural, so the story goes.
But Howard wasn’t in the mural when it was approved by the City Council. A mural depicting him no doubt would have raised some protests in the public forum.
Howard has ruffled some feathers with merchants over the years, with some people complaining about the association’s policies. On the other hand, he has helped revitalize the downtown.
Instead, Howard appeared once the mural was well underway in his cameo role. Howard and the owners of the Del Oro theater are friends, and they OK’ed the plan.
In February, the city received an enforcement investigation request, indicating there was a change to the mural without proper authorization.
The conditions approved by the council in 2007 were clear: “Any change to the mural design would require the approval of the City Council and the owner.”
But the city staff has concluded: “As for the addition of the human figure to the rear wall (Howard), since it is separate and not part of the primary mural, it is not viewed as a substantial change in the character or context of the mural.” The identity of the “human figure,” the head of the Downtown Association, was never mentioned in the staff report.
Hmmm. How will the council vote? 5-0 or 4-1 to accept the staff report, based on the current makeup of the electeds.
Let’s hope someone raises the inconsistenty, though. People want to have faith that their government is following the rules and not being subjected to small-town political “end arounds.”