How “boom and bust” economic development caught up with Grass Valley

Despite an impassioned plea from the rank-and-file police officers in Grass Valley, the City Council voted 4-0 (Dan Miller was absent) to impose a cost-cutting contract on its police department for one year.

The decision came after negotiations failed to reach a compromise.

It’s ironic to think that Grass Valley wanted to take over Nevada City’s police service, because the presentation showed a real rift between the rank-and-file and management. Even the police chief went on a well-publicized job hunt for a job in Oregon, which he didn’t get. Another police captain is going to lose his job in December, just before Christmas, we learned tonight.

The root of the problem is Grass Valley’s abject failure to diversify its economy beyond the “boom and bust” cycle of real estate and construction to ensure a steady flow of revenue to city coffers. I think the city has been run by a self-serving cabal — complete with the support of our local newspaper — rather than a democracy.

Once overloaded with several major development projects, the city now finds itself with “slim pickens” when it comes to revenue generation. That’s too bad, since it annexed property in more heady times that it now must provide public services for, including police protection.

This is a lesson that all small rural communities should learn from: You can’t depend on what worked in the past for the present and future. You need to embrace change — or risk cutting services.

•As expected, the Council also unanimously approved a contract with Ascent Environmental for a revised EIR of the Idaho-Maryland Mine. It came despite a long line of people who were opposed to the project, repeatedly raising questions about the mine’s ability to pay for the EIR. The oppenents’ concerns about the mine will be addressed in the EIR process, said Council Member Lisa Swarthout.

Placer County board of supervisors opposes proposed Garden Bar Dam

From SierraWatch:

“In a unanimous vote Tuesday November 8, the Placer County Board of Supervisors expressed ‘an official position of opposition’ to the proposed Garden Bar Dam.

“The dam would block off the Bear River on the County’s northern border and flood some of the most highly prized canyons in the Sierra foothills.

“’This is a great example of local representatives taking a stand for our local values,’ said Peter Van Zant of Sierra Watch, the conservation non-profit spearheading the effort to stop the dam.’The Bear River Canyon is worth more than a dam.’

“South Sutter Water District partnered with distant water providers – as far as 470 miles from the Bear River watershed – to release a ‘preliminary study’ on the proposed dam earlier this year. According to that study, urban districts would finance a 300-foot tall dam at Garden Bar Preserve, backing up Bear River water to be shipped through the Delta and end up as far away as Los Angeles County.

“But conservation groups, local ranchers, and elected officials have rallied to express increasingly overwhelming opposition.

“Placer County’s opposition is based on the County’s longstanding plans for responsible development and permanently protected open space – Garden Bar Preserve is an important piece of the County’s visionary Placer Legacy program.

“In its action Tuesday, the Placer Board of Supervisors approved a letter to South Sutter Water District, clearly stating ‘an official position of opposition’ and citing potential ‘negative impacts’ to the County, including:

“• flooding up to 2,000 acres of the Bear River Canyon, putting large portions of the Placer County Land Trust’s Garden Bar Preserve and Harvego Bear River Preserve under water;

“• destroying important Native American cultural resources; and

“• blocking significant wildlife corridors through the largest remaining contiguous blue oak woodland in Placer County.

“Additional local jurisdictions are conducting their own assessments. Upstream water provider Nevada Irrigation District is reviewing the impacts of a new dam on its own water needs and ratepayers. Neighboring Nevada County is expected to take up the issue as well.

“As opposition mounts, proponents are still simultaneously seeking commitments from its funders – urban water providers. However, one original proponent, Castaic Lake Water Agency, has already backed out.

“Now that the other funders – Palmdale Water District, San Bernardino Valley Municipal Water District, and the Cities of Napa and American Canyon – have a sense of what they’re up against, they will also likely realize that the Sierra’s Bear River is not going to be a source for Southern California water.”

Is The Union publisher a hypocrite?

In a rant this morning, The Union publisher/editor goes off on another tirade about government spending — this time targeting the Rood Center, supervisors and government workers.

But here’s what he forget to tell you: He’s supping at the trough too! With no competition.

In a column titled, “the great and powerful board may just have it backward,” the Oracle of Burger Basin turns to the usual hyperbole to make a point, citing grossly inaccurate figures, because the reality doesn’t suit his political agenda. The rant is here.

He writes: “The folks we are electing to turn that mess around are staggering around drunk from their own power and in need of a serving of Humble Pie. Until then, maybe it’s time they took a seat on a metal folding chair planted right in the middle of ‘We The People.'”

“Bert Lahr as The Cowardly Lion, Jack Haley as the Tin Man, Judy Garland as Dorothy Gale, and Ray Bolger as The Scarecrow, as they stand before the Wizard in Emerald City. Nevada County citizens may face a similar experience when standing before the Board of Supervisors,” a caption reads.

It’s a timely rant since the editor/publisher is going to a county tea party patriot “meetup” this week, where the same simplistic message plays like a broken record. The details are here — oh, and a $5 donation is requested.

He and the Mecklers, Barry Pruett, Russ Steele and George Rebane will all “break bread” together and trash government — and maybe The Union will sell a few print newspaper subscriptions to what it thinks is a demographic “sweet spot.”

This morning’s unsupported rant sounds to me like an attempt to bully the standing board of supervisors — all but one are conservatives, no less — in an upcoming election year. A tea party candidate is running against Nate Beason, a moderate conservative, for example.

I wonder if The Union publisher is still “drunk on power,” to use his employer’s newspaper as a bully pulpit to get a board that is more to his political liking.

Trouble is, we’re more “purple” politically now, and social media and blogs provide more independent voices. It’s harder to bully “We the people” when you can’t hog the microphone all to yourself.

Worst of all, the hypocrisy is that The Union and its publisher also is supping at the trough of local government spending — and with no competition.

Last November, taxpayers spent $45,000 to satisfy the county’s obligation to publish legal notices in The Union — an ongoing expense footed by “We the People.” That’s more than money than a county supervisor earns in an entire year!

And get this: The average rate per column in the proposed contract was increased nearly 8 from the previous year. Yup, a nearly 8 percent price hike in this miserable economy.

There was no RFP (“request for proposal”) or competitive bidding on publishing the legal notices. Why not? Because the California newspapers have worked hard to protect their legal ad monopoly by lobbying lawmakers in a very “un-tea party-like” fashion.

As I’ve written before, state legislation was introduced for governments to handle more of their own legal advertising — saving taxpayers money.

Technology and increased competition is prompting a call for changes in outdated regulations that govern the posting of legal ads.

Many government websites are becoming more robust and feature oriented. There are other outlets to publish the notices besides “adjudicated” newspapers, an anachronism. And unlike the increasing number of newspapers in The Union’s Nevada-based chain, they are free.

But the legislation died, thanks to vigilant lobbying efforts by the California Newspaper Publisher’s Association. See “Newspapers guard legal ad monopoly” here.

So it seems the blame for higher government spending is a two-way street, between private and public industry.

The Union should soon be lining up for another automatic handout of many tens of thousands of dollars from the Rood Center.

People should show up at the meeting and ask what “We the People” could do with that $45,000 other than to pad The Union’s coffers: to build a bus shelter for our less fortunate residents, to help draw more tourists to the area to help our merchants — or buy a lot of library books.

Get off your bully pulpit Mr. Union publisher! It reminds me what a former colleague of mine (at The Union) said about our county: “The politics are so nasty because the stakes are so low.”