The Union resumes a favorite pastime: bashing Nevada City

Never mind that Nevada City has brought the Amgen Tour of California — and all the visibility that goes with it — to western Nevada County three times.

Never mind Nevada City’s significant economic, historic and cultural substance: It is the county seat, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and home to video-tech stalwarts such as Telestream, and the Wild & Scenic Film Festival.

Never mind that Nevada City wins more “best of” town competitions in national magazines for all its attributes to draw more attention to the western county.

Now that the election season is over, however, it’s time to bash Nevada City again — a longtime pastime for many locals who “live in their own glass houses” (and shouldn’t be throwing stones).

Once again, you have to pull out the Cliff notes for our community and understand that the contempt some city and civic leaders have for Nevada City goes back to their high school days when the towns were “rivals” — long before many of us lived here. For others, it might have been a bad business experience in Nevada City.

Bashing Nevada City is not new for The Union. The newspaper has even targeted its energized residents, such as former Mayor Reinette Senum, who founded the farmers market, has helped revitalize the downtown, and just spearheaded an effort to cleanup and paint the city’s historic buildings. Bashing Nevada City and Reinette was a favorite pastime of a now-departed publisher of The Union. It was astounding to watch.

Nowadays, the newspaper’s “paid” weekly columnist “Bored Georgeman,” who is hunkered down in a gated community behind his desktop PC, admittedly turns “left” on Hwy. 49 to go shopping, but once deemed it OK to help run a restaurant in Nevada City (now defunct), uses his bullypulpit in the local newspaper to bash the city. He is a “Mini Me” of that ex-publisher, carrying on the tradition.

Under a nasty-toned and exaggerated headline “Nevada City lets everybody else in the county do the firefighting,” Boardman sides with none other than Keith Grueneberg, a card-carrying member of the “good old boys” public safety cabal, apparently with a gorilla-sized pension to match (that The Union has decided not to cover). More details here.

Instead of creating a joint fire department involving the Nevada County Consolidated Fire District, Grass Valley and Nevada City, “gorilla” Greuenberg supported an effort to abruptly pull firefighters out of the Nevada City firehouse — leaving city leaders in the lurch.

The “brownout” plan for firefighting in Nevada City requires temporary cooperation from Grass Valley — just as Nevada City has cooperated with Grass Valley in loaning an officer for police work. (Imagine that).

Next summer, Nevada City will ask residents for a sales tax increase to raise money for a permanent solution. Though “Bored Georgeman” doesn’t mention this, I’m certain Nevada City will go along with the increase.

By contrast, the chances that voters will agree to spend more tax dollars for firefighting in George’s neighborhood, the Higgins Fire Protection District, is more uncertain. A Higgins Fire tax measure failed back in 2013, thanks to the “get off my land,” “don’t tax me” contingent in his neighborhood (whom The Union energizes in its editorial pages).

To be sure, Nevada City has its own financial challenges. But it is tackling them, including paying down a loan from the county. I have high hopes for the new city manager, who George apparently didn’t interview for his column.

“Bored Georgeman’s” column this morning is another reminder that our political and civic leaders need to “bury the hatchet” and build community bridges, not burn them. And it is a reminder of the petty, provincial politics that has come to define our western county (with The Union leading the charge).

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.

33 thoughts on “The Union resumes a favorite pastime: bashing Nevada City”

  1. That is one massive bankroll…. enough to fund the entire cutbacks just put in place. To put this into perspective, the average small business owner would have to NET $296k per year just to equate what this clown takes in. We truly have morphed into a monarchy.

    1. Fireman you’re so right if what Jeff wrote about the Fire Chiefs retirement is true. It probably is, and the Chiefs not alone with what these people think they’re worth and consequently want. It’s kind of like…be careful about pointing the finger and calling others greedy….cuz eventually your government earned money will testify against you.

  2. Former Supe, hard-right blogger and old-timer Todd Juvinall is a good example of someone stuck in the provincial and myopic “Grass Valley vs. Nevada City” mindset. The good news is that he is unelectable given the change in our demographics. The majority of us have “moved on.”

    1. Here’s Troglodyte Todd’s view of Nevada City: ” If it isn’t about the color of the valance on your house, these people are clueless.” Well, OK then.

    2. Do you really think it’s a NC vs. GV deal? I know when my grandmother died in 2008 at the age of 94, she made it undeniably clear that she was not to be handled by Hooper & Weaver since they had moved from Church St. in GV to Nevada City. That was the last I’ve heard of a NC v. GV rivalry. Nevada Union was formed in 1954; combining the two town high schools.

      I know, having coached at Nevada Union in the 80’s and 90’s, one of the toughest jobs was to get the 7-Hills kids and the Gilmore kids to play together. That problem lasted about a day or two. Now days, with Nevada County inter-league in many sports; i.e. Little League, Jr. Miner football, dance classes etc. those barriers are non-existant. With the advent of travel sports; i.e. club volleyball, basketball, baseball, even regional rivalries break down. My son plays volleyball at NU. He knows, or has former teammates, on every league team and on teams we play in the Bay Area, Fresno, stretching to Nevada and So-Cal.

      I’ve said our Civic Leaders, “need to get out more”. If this is they type of leadership we currently have, the only thing we have to look forward to is ‘evolution’. We need that leadership mind-set to go extinct. The only rivalry they exploit is an economic one; Grass Valley being “blue collar” and Nevada City being “white collar”. I’m not sure that ever existed, but if that mind set still prevails, I hope evolution happens sooner than now.

  3. This mindset still weighs on many old-timers, and you’re right, we suffer from myopic, provincial thinking. Today Todd’s blog refers to Nevada City as the “commie capital of Nevada County.” People such as Keith Greuenberg epitomize the public safety kabal, with a pension that is a “gorilla on our back.” We’re still a generation (and bump in economic development) away from significant change. Meanwhile, the cities all around western Nevada County (Truckee, Auburn, Lincoln, etc.) are “evolving” around us.

  4. And Barry Pruett weighs in: “Nevada City is not what it used to be. It is decline and the folks there need to change their mentality and face the fact that Grass Valley, a better run town, will continue to thrive at the expense of Nevada City. Itvia (sic) not the GOB, it os (sic) the lacking (sic) od (sic) common (sic) awnse (sic) that it strangling Necada (sic)

    Posted by: Barry Pruett | 27 April 2015 at 08:53 PM

  5. Both towns have their quaint charm and uniqueness. A friend who owns a business on W. Main St was required by the City of Grass Valley to put in flower boxes. I don’t see this as being different than colors of valances.

  6. According to Barry Pruett “Nevada City is dying on the vine.” Well, OK then. We better let the Amgen Tour of California know that. Of the hundreds of cities of California, the nation’s most prestigious professional cycling tour chose Nevada City as one of the dozen host cities for the race. Barry is a bigger clown that I thought. Stuck in an ideological rut.

    1. Now Barry Pruett is an expert on Nevada City’s problems. His resume has more holes than Swiss cheese, and he lost a local political election in every single precinct (including his own neighborhood, and after having lost another one in northwestern Indiana). But he’s still an “expert.” ROFLOL.

  7. If anything is dying on the vine, it’s western Nevada County. School enrollments 50% of 2000-2001, 67% of population retired.

    And the ‘Elephant in the Room’ that our governing bodies (all of them; BOS, city councils, school boards, etc), Chambers of Commerce, Board of Realtors, schools and service clubs continue to ignore; we have alot of poor people here. We have digressed from the 80’s & 90’s. We’re not ‘Little Marin’.

    1. I know the decline at Nevada Union has been something around 50% but I also believe that Charter Schools offering an alternative to the failings of NU are on the increase.

      1. I was part of a study NUHSTA did to look at the students who were leaving NU. We looked at the Fall semester 2011. From August 2011 through January 2012, 110 students left Nevada Union. Some were the first week of school, some the last. 110 students left. Of the 110, 52 moved out of the area. 58 remained to go to Charter and Private schools. We keyed on three variables; grades, attendance, discipline. Of the 58 students all but one had major issues in one or more of these areas. For example, 40 students had G.P.A.’s less than 2.0. The average number of disciplinary referrals was just under 5. Attendance was no better than 80%.

        In short, these kids were on their way to Continuation School. For the most part, NU isn’t competing with Charters, Park Avenue is.

      2. You’re right Greg. Our grandson loves his charter school. Couldn’t get anything done at NU. If you don’t get your class work done you don’t get to attend the charter school. They have a long waiting list with people who want to learn who will be happy to take your place.

      3. Both of our kids attended and graduated from Nevada Union. I also have coached at the school for years. The school might not be for everybody but what school is? Compared to the school I attended NU is amazing. I think its size can be a bit overwhelming to some students but the school actually does a really good job to have something for everyone. As Chris Bishop mentioned poverty is a big factor and having support(nutrition, books, parents who help with school work and extra curricular activities, ect…) at home is a key to successful students but not always. My brothers and I had plenty of support at home with a teacher as one of our parents but we were all very poor students. Sometimes kids just don’t match the system and that is where the charter schools come into play. My mom tried to pull us out of the public schools system to home school but back in the day there had to be physical or severe mental issues I am told for a parent to pull their kids out of school.
        The thing I do not like about charter schools is they pull funds away from public schools. It seems like a back door way to break the teachers union. For the record our daughter attended charter schools until her 8th grade year in Nevada County. She finished 8th grade at 7 hills, which was a great academic switch for her to prepare her for higher level classes at NU.

      4. The state has a Similar Schools ranking that takes into account the challenges that Chris alludes to above and compares schools with similar demographics so that performance can be assessed fairly. Nevada Union High School scored in the bottom 20% of comparable schools. I submit that one reason the demographics in Nevada County are shifting away from high school attendance is because parents research out schools as part of their due diligence for moving here and decide not to come.

        It isn’t right to generalize the students leaving Nevada Union as on a track for continuation school. I student taught in a science classroom where the teacher had this attitude and when the “bad” students he gave me to work with started out performing his top student his response was to get rid of me.

      5. Ben, I think I had your daughter. Greg, it has nothing to do with attitude. It’s what the data showed.

      6. I had 3 daughters graduate from NU; 2007, 2012 & 2014. All three were successful students. Each daughter found a peer group, kept a focus on studies and was able to earn scholarships. One daughter was in music and my youngest an NU Diver. I think the core to the success was the combination of their work ethic, parental support and engaged teachers. Some teachers were better than others, but my wife and I required our daughters to focus on the topic being taught and ask questions. I now have my middle daughter in UC Santa Cruz as a junior and a straight A student. My youngest is a freshman at Ventura Community and is doing well. Our family relocated to Ventura County as my employment ended in Nevada County and I took a great offer in Ventura County. I was impressed with the quality of the Nevada County schools, but I know that it is an effort of student, family and educators.
        Given the economy of the county the trend of decreasing enrollment will continue.

  8. And that’s why people such as Barry Pruett (a self-appointed “problem solver” on any given subject, at least in the blogosphere) in fact has hung out a shingle for “elder law.”

    1. Instead of worrying about others, Barry Pruett ought to be asking himself why he lost a local election in every precinct, including his own neighborhood. Talk about a rebuke.

      1. Now Pruett is mocking my friendship with the late Herb Caen in the hard-right blogosphere. He runs his life like he ran the political campaign against Greg Diaz — where he lost in every precinct.

  9. regarding schools – annual report by the Sup of Schools, 13-14 data: nevcounty school population: 12,354 (down 2200 in last 10 years); charter school population: 2287 (including Muir Charter – 4043, 18% attend charters)…eligible population for free and reduced lunches in last 10 years went from 15% to 37%…so we have a definite economic shift…what we need is cooperation across all sectors to help our kids become the best they can be despite their economic situation…many of our kids are living in truly stressful and adverse situations…creating a big impact on rural communities in so many ways…

  10. Hi Lindy,

    I think the number in attendance for John Muir Charter is statewide. They do have a small presence here this year. Very innovative.

    Hard to tell from your data but the increase in free and reduced lunch can be partially explained as the number of non-qualifying leaving the area and the qualifying remaining the same. The marijuana growers who work in the shadow economy also take advantage of being able to qualify. If we know the cause we can start to address it. It isn’t that we are being flooded with poor people.

    Chris Bishop reveals above a dangerous inclination to use statistics to group students. Groups always perform to expectations not because of the diverse populations in them are the same, but because they are treated the same. It is called confirmation bias. Every kid is a unique human being and will invariably do well if treated individually with respect and love. I think your important work at Big Brothers Big Sisters confirms this.

    1. I’m not grouping anyone, Greg. There is no confirmation bias, because there was no bias to begin with. If the data said differently, then we’d say that. You make it sound like I’m the one putting these kids in their situation. Yes, they are being treated the same. The same grading scales. The same expectations on attendance. The same expectations on behavior. We do have programs and support for students who need it.

      1. Let me explain one more time what happened. For years, our administration wanted to know why kids were leaving the district mid-term. They said they were going to conduct Exit Surveys. They never did. All there was was conjecture and personal opinion. Finally, our union decided we need some hard facts. It was reported by staff that of the kids they knew who had left, they seemed to be in trouble in terms of grades, attendance and behavior. So that is what we looked at. Of the 58 kids we looked at that semester, all but one had “red flags” in at least one of these areas. This is not a meta-analysis. Just a quick survey to see, if in fact, this hypothesis could be true. It was not my hypothesis. I had no preconceived opinion or idea. It was not my study. I helped along with 3 other teachers. I did not know any of these students and I didn’t have access to their records. What was found was all of these kids were on their way out of Nevada Union (we have other programs and support). Instead of accepting these alternative educational experiences from NJUHSD, they chose other options that were available to them.

        On a follow up note. I’ve been told by our administration that many of the students who leave end up coming back to the district. They continue their M.O at Charter School and they end up getting the boot there because Charter Schools have expectations also.

      2. It appears that this survey indicates that the students leaving NU were discouraged or did not fit in. I read a most interesting book while getting my credential called Creating the Inclusive School by Villa and Thousand. The message was that the most effective schools were the most inclusive to students with challenges. Nevada Union might take a more inclusive approach to students who are not doing well so they would not feel the need to leave and the school would be better as a whole. I know teachers are overburdened as it is and it would not be reasonable to give them further responsibilities, but instead the school culture is developed so that students and teachers work together on these challenges. Such an approach is beneficial to all concerned.

      3. I totally agree. Hopefully the school and district will look at this information and make a plan. Is there anything we can do to meet their needs? I know some of the staff have a few ideas.

  11. A very good educator friend of mine, as part of her doctoral dissertation in education, was a member of a statewide research group that looked at why some students did better than others and what role funding played in student success. The result was funding made no difference at all. Socio-economic factors and parental involvement were not consistent predictors of success. The strongest predictor of success was parental ‘attitude’ toward education. If the parents thought an education was important then students did better in school. If parents thought an education was a waste of time, then so did their children.

  12. To be sure constructive school change must engage a perception of relevance at the family level. Schools must demonstrate that they are contributing to a future that is highly valued in order to secure the commitment they need to do that.

    There are no silver bullets. Change begins with a core group of teachers intelligently engaging in a process of building a different school culture that is an inclusive learning community. It can be done. For the sake of our children, and the world they will create, it needs to be done.

    In my “retirement” years this is where I choose to focus my effort.

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