Miller campaign sign now hangs over Grass Valley Visitors Center and “nonpartisan” Chamber


Nowadays this is what people who come to the much-touted Grass Valley Visitors Center see when they walk up to the door: A partisan political message hanging above the entrance, endorsing Dan Miller for supervisor for District 3, seeking to unseat incumbent Terry Lamphier.

It seemed like a prank when I saw it on Miller’s Facebook page with the caption, “It’s Miller Time!!! Vote Miller for Supervisor for District 3 Supervisor!!!,” so I had to go see it for myself on Sunday night.

Alas, it’s true. Underneath the sign reads: “Dan Miller for Supervisor.”

For background, Dan was on the Grass Valley Cty Council when it unanimously agreed to help fund the Visitors Center and Chamber with taxpayer dollars.

Keith Davies, who has said he’s been Dan’s “good friend since high school,” was appointed to the Greater Grass Valley Chamber of Commerce as the co-CEO, along with his wife.

Since then, Dan’s campaign manager has been hired by the Chamber.

And the building’s landlord is supporting Dan in his campaign to be supervisor and sponsoring a fundraiser on April 3.

For it’s part, the Chamber claims it is “nonpartisan,” according to its bylaws.

You can’t make this stuff up. If Tom Wolfe were in town, he could write a novel about it — a Nevada County version of “A Man in Full.”

And Grass Valley City Hall, if it condones this, seems to being played like a violin — not to mention the city’s residents (who are nearly equally divided between “R” and “D”).

(Photo: Dan’s Facebook page)

Author: jeffpelline

Jeff Pelline is a veteran editor and award-winning journalist - in print and online. He is publisher of Sierra FoodWineArt magazine and its website Jeff covered business and technology for The San Francisco Chronicle for 12 years, and he was a founding editor and Editor of CNET News for eight years, among other positions. Jeff has a bachelor's degree from UC Berkeley and a master's from Northwestern University. His hobbies include sailing, swimming, and trout fishing in the Sierra.

24 thoughts on “Miller campaign sign now hangs over Grass Valley Visitors Center and “nonpartisan” Chamber”

  1. From their own website:

    “What does the Chamber do?

    The Chamber is a non-profit and nonpartisan organization, consisting of members from every segment of the community. The mission of the Chamber is to promote responsible and balanced economic growth, and provide quality service to our members.”

    Taxpayer dollars are being spent by the developers (and tea baggers)who were voted into office to advertise for other developers campaigns. They should take that sign down right away.
    I support Terry Lamphier, though he is not my Sup, because I feel he is a dedicated public official. I have seen him in BOS meeting, as well as followed his lead in the debate over the proposed Biomass Plant. He represents “all” of us at every meeting I have been to, and that can’t be said of some of the rest of them! (the guy who invited Doyle Shamley to take over a BOS meeting should be recalled).

    1. I agree that for the Chamber of Commerce the optics are bad–they appear to be supporting a political candidate which would presumably be against the wishes of at least some portion of their membership–which seems outside the mission of the Chamber.

      But from a legal stand point I would find it very hard to believe that such an action by the landowner, who leases the building to the Chamber, is questionable. The property owner (whom I am surmising from the post be Jeff is the NCCA?) has a right to post such a sign and, as the tenant, the Chamber has almost no actual authority to keep them from doing so.

      The Chamber could have asked them not to hang the banner though, since it was sure to disturb some portion of their membership and I would be curious to know if they did so.

  2. Yup, that’s what it reads. The link is here, right on the membership sign-up form:

    BTW, NCTV is in the rented suite next door, just like the Chamber. It is a 5013(c) that also states it is apolitical. NCTV produces a show for the Chamber, and Keith Davies is the president. “It’s a small world.”

    The campaign sign is in an inappropriate location and shows arrogance or poor judgment (or both). It points to concerns raised long ago when the Chamber “reorganized”: “Some people think there’s a political agenda in play: to build a base that includes getting Dan Miller elected to the county board of supervisors, replacing Terry Lamphier.”

    I can’t imagine such as sign at the NC Chamber or the Truckee “California Welcome Center.” Where are the boundaries?

    1. I certainly agree that the Truckee Chamber, to their great credit, assiduously avoids crossing boundaries like this.

      However, I think it is always important to note that non-profit organizations are not banned from political activity (although they are banned from endorsing candidates).

    2. Jeff, presumably, you meant 501(c)(3), not 5013(c)

      You are correct; NCTV is an apolitical organization. NCTV broadcasts content produced by people from the entire political and a-political spectrum.

      I can’t tell if you intended to insinuate that the NCTV organization is in league with a certain candidate for the District III Supervisor race, but I’d like SFR readers to know that NCTV is definitely not working as an agent for either campaign.

      Readers should also know that that NCTV re-located to Main Street in Grass Valley last January so that it could be close to the fiber optic cable that runs down Main street, to reduce its rent expense, and to be more conveniently located in the community. NCTV and The Greater Grass Valley Chamber of Commerce (GGVCC) do not have a common landlord.

      For more information about NCTV, readers may visit

      1. Dai,

        As SFR readers know, it’s also good to be next door to the Chamber, where NCTV airs its “Fireside Chat” program and where Keith (the NCTV board president works).

        Here’s a real chance for NCTV’s board (Dai and Keith) to lead, not follow. Speak out to relocate the partisan political campaign signs that hang over and right near the entrances where the Visitors Center, Chamber and NCTV are all located — sending a mixed message to customers about whether these nonprofits are nonpartisan or not.

        Remember tenants rights? I’m looking forward to seeing the signs relocated soon and hearing about the involvement of NCTV and the Chamber in making that happen.


  3. Interesting choice of campaign slogan. Wouldn’t that alienate those who drink Bud, Coors, Keystone, etc? To me – and presumably I’m the only person in the county who feels this way, making me easily marginalized, and what’s more, I’m not in Terry’s district – it says that a vote for Miller is a vote for “I can’t wait to clock out of this horrid 9 to 5 job so I can kick back with a beer because I love ‘Merkin beer and everything it symbolizes” – a social class flag which would pretty much make me instantly vote against whoever that sign is for. But that’s just me.

  4. Really, if you are going to drink Miller you might as well go for Pabst. Ice cold, must be downed in less than 10 minutes per can or it turns to water, and 30% less expensive!

  5. This is a tough call for me. Should the Chamber be able to support the candidate that best advances their business mission, they are not a government agency? Maybe the majority of the members feel like they should support Miller? This should be up to the Chamber members. I see there relationship with the city as a business one though they are a non profit. They provide a service for the city promoting Grass Valley for a fee. Their business grows and the city gets money from tax and fees.
    Webster’s definition of nonpartisan is
    not partisan; especially : free from party affiliation, bias, or designation
    County Supervisor is a nonpartisan elected position. Personally I think they should stay out of it for the simple fact if Miller does not win you have made your position with the winner a rocky one at best. I like Truckee’s approach. Their members have chosen the high road which will serve them better in the long run.
    Thanks Jeff

  6. The explanation I received upon calling the Visitor Center was that the tenant of the upper floor put that sign up. I expressed my concern that the National and other chambers do tend to take the Republican side and that the sign does give the wrong impression.

    1. The explanation is incomplete. The upper floor is not a “tenant”; it is the building owner. The owner negotiated the lease to bring the Chamber into this space. And the building’s landlord is supporting Dan in his campaign to be supervisor and sponsoring a fundraiser on April 3. The Chamber states it is “nonpartisan,” so it should work to eliminate “the wrong impression.”

      1. Wow. Then I was miss-informed by the employee. That’s wasn’t very professional or community minded of her.

  7. I had the following “exchange” with Dan Miller and Keith Davies last year on this blog:

    Both did not want to answer a straightforward question in writing, but wanted to deal with “in my office,” or on the phone. The question about conflict of interest was very straightforward one, too.

    Given the amount of evasion in that exchange from both Miller and Davies, I would not feel very comfortable taking something before a Nevada County Board of Supervisors meeting where Dan Miller was voting–he seems to hold different standards for his friends than he does for the rest of us who do not run in his social circles.

  8. Hi Brad,
    These are the restrictions:
    GV code:
    Political signs. Political signs are allowed in compliance with the following requirements.
    a. No political sign shall be erected prior to 90 days before the election to which the sign pertains.
    b. In commercial, industrial, and other non-residential zones, each political sign and the total of all political signs on a parcel shall not exceed 32 square feet in total sign area.
    c. In residential zones, no political sign shall exceed four square feet in total sign area.
    d. No political sign shall be located within a public right-of-way.
    e. All political signs shall be removed within 5 days after the election to which the signs pertain.

    1. Jeff, thanks. A sign the size of a sheet of plywood would be a pretty large sign (on Main or Mill St. businesses, for example).
      One thing about the placement of political signs by the landlord; I don’t think the tenants would have a say in the matter, but could appear to show some insensitivity on the part of the landlord as to the political persuasions, or lack thereof, of the tenants.

      1. The two could easily work it out if they wanted to: they are close business associates. But they don’t, because they both want Dan Miller to win. Both have supported his campaign: the building owner is sponsoring a fundraiser for Dan, the Chamber Co-CEO is Dan’s friend since high school, the other Chamber Co-CEO (his wife) contributed to Dan’s campaign, and Dan’s campaign manager works in the Chamber office. They are like-minded political allies. The issue is that the Chamber is engaging in double-talk: Calling itself “nonpartisan” while its management supports one candidate over the other in the District 3 supervisor race. That’s wrong. Either the chamber, Dan or the building owner (or all of them) should see this and relocate the signs.

      2. the real let-down is that none of the involved entities see any problem with it, and if they do see anything wrong with it, they don’t / won’t act until/unless backed into a corner about it, i.e. until their internal cost-benefit analysis says it’s easier to take the sign down. It’s pretty easy to believe that their vision is so distorted by the culture they surround themselves with that they honestly see no problem with it, just like they probably feel that our vision is so distorted that we do see a problem with it. At the end of the day, none of the involved entities show any interest in doing the right thing. Standard operating procedure. Not exactly a news flash. But what do we care – time to clock out – it’s Miller time!

  9. While making my way around District 3 I noticed there are several Dan Miller signs on one property in several places around town. Gave me the impression that he may not have but a few enthusiastic supporters.

  10. If you go to “street view” in Google Maps, for 128 west main, grass valley, what do you see? The same place were Miller time is now has a Sue McGuire sign. Ha, imagine that.

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