A majority of the people speaking at last night’s Nevada City Council meeting were in favor of year-round string-lights in downtown. They included the small business owners who are “economic engines” in the downtown, creating jobs and drawing locals and visitors.
Without the lights, it is too just too dark downtown for businesses and their patrons, they kept saying. Nevada City’s street lights are gas lamps. The pro-lighting advocates included popular downtown businesses such as Treats and Matteo’s Public.
But the Council — reflecting a Laurie Oberholtzer political mindset that has long gripped the city — said “no,” you can only have the string-lights between November 15 and January 15. This included two council members, Jennifer Ray and Terry Anderson, who effectively act as Laurie O.’s “proxy” on the council.
This time the vote was 4-1, with Evans Phelps the lone dissent. Evans also objected to the Council’s decision to reject a privately funded trail at Sugarloaf and ran for City Council. The Sugarloaf decision left me shaking my head, too, as I discussed it with Tom Mooers of Sierra Watch one afternoon while we were both in town — he with his dog, and me with our magazines.
Ray, Anderson, Duane Strawser and Robert Bergman all voted for the lighting restrictions. Compliance will be voluntary, however.
On Facebook, Reinette Senum was critical of Laurie O. “Let’s talk about the fact that you are the one behind the anti-boardwalk campaign and won’t let it rest, Laurie,” Reinette wrote. “That’s why you went after the terrazzo lights, because, god forbid, it actually was good for Commercial Street and that damn boardwalk.”
To be sure, Laurie O. has been good for the city in some respects, honoring the need to maintain its historic character, as stated here before.
But the rigidity has also been polarizing and unrealistic. And a good example was the outcome last night.
We get around to a lot of towns in our business — from Truckee, to Tahoe City, to Old Town Auburn, to Auburn, to Loomis, to Lincoln and to Grass Valley. Most of them are being revitalized with new businesses and energetic entrepreneurs.
Comparatively speaking, Nevada City has too many vacant buildings, particularly on Broad Street. In fact, there’s no restaurant anymore on upper Broad Street, with the closures and continued vacancies of Las Katarinas, Cirino’s and Citronee. A worthy addition has been the Szabo tasting room, however.
Commercial St. is the “new” Broad St.
I would argue much of the action has shifted to Commercial St., with Matteo’s, Three Forks Bakery & Brewing Co., the Boardwalk and stalwarts such as J.J. Jacksons, Ikes Quarter Cafe and Sopa Thai.
Reinette Senum has been a force in bringing new vibrancy to Commercial Street, thanks to the Nevada City Farmers Market (which the “old guard” did not think of), and — yes — the Boardwalk. Reinette also was a major force in getting Three Forks to open.
The First Friday Artwalk is a wonderful event, bringing locals and visitors alike to town. It features the Boardwalk, which also is home to the annual farm-to-table dinner and live music weekly.
Nevada City needs some downtown business owners on the City Council. There was apathy in the last election, much of it from dissatisfaction with the “old guard’s” lock on city politics. But Evan Phelps has helped change that, though she was a lone voice last night.
We need to celebrate the innovations in Nevada City and the innovators, not live in the past. It’s the right thing to do, but Nevada City also faces too much competition from neighboring foothill towns. It’s living on a reputation from the past, a dangerous economic dilemma.
(Photo: Reinette Senum’s Facebook page)