I laughed out loud when I read The Union’s editorial this weekend “We’ve heard the ‘outrage,’ but where are the people?” about the Dorsey Marketplace shopping center, complete with three proposed drive-throughs and a Facebook page with only 27 “likes.”
“And as a community constituent, it only benefits your representative if you are more involved and more educated on the topics at hand, and very likely will result in much more informed decisions by those we elect to make them,” the editorial read.
“We have 13,200 residents in the city, but tonight we only have about 22-23 people here,” Mayor Jason Fouyer said. “Whether you are for or against the project, I think this is a good opportunity for the community to have a discussion of what we want to do when we grow up.”
Here’s why the people don’t show up for an intelligent, all-inclusive discussion about development in Grass Valley:
First of all, the city’s often ugly and petty political culture — well known in our community and in Truckee — has to “grow up,” because it stifles debate about development, a recurring theme.
In the 10 years we’ve lived here, I’ve seen a “my way or the highway” approach to development in Grass Valley with little to no compromise that is unparalleled in our region.
And it doesn’t matter whether you’re a liberal or a conservative — what matters is whether you support the development. It is a Yosemite Sam-like “you are either for us or against us mindset,” stifling intelligent and civil debate. Some examples:
•Around 2004, Phil Carville and the Getty Trust came up with an award-winning “smart” development at Loma Rica, yet it was shot down by “powers that be” — ironically for the some of the same reasons that the same people are “turning the other cheek” when it comes to the Dorsey Marketplace: that is, whether the development hurts the downtown merchants.
•In 2011, some of the agitators in the airport land-use dispute in Grass Valley wound up endorsing tea-party candidate Sue McGuire rather than incumbent supervisor and airport commissioner Nate Beason, a moderate Republican who supports development — but who also had the “audacity” (and I’m being sarcastic) to join in the majority vote supporting the land-use plan mandated by federal authorities, against the agitators’ wishes. The politicking included signs directed at Beason, such as “So Nate aren’t two terms enough?”
•Who can forget what has happened to Terry Lamphier? Terry has been a longtime critic of development in Grass Valley, including the Dorsey Marketplace. You can argue whether there is a “cause and effect” relationship in Terry’s case, but few people would want to experience that. As for Terry’s legal case, let “due process” run its course. But some people don’t seem to want to.
•Former Nevada City Mayor and business owner Reinette Senum has faced personal attacks for criticizing the Dorsey Marketplace, including comments on the “Don’t Roseville Nevada County” Facebook page (with 1,767 “likes” compared with 27 “likes” for the Dorsey Marketplace Facebook page). Reinette is from Nevada City, and the discussion also has led to unfriendly comments about Nevada City — rekindling a long simmering rivalry that goes back to high school with many of the local old-timers.
In addition to all this, most people think the Dorsey Marketplace has enough City Council votes to be approved. “Why bother?” many of them now think. Others note that BriarPatch Coop decided to pass on Dorsey Marketplace and expand at its current location instead — a decision that satisfied them.
Until Grass Valley (and The Union newspaper, for that matter) can think more seriously about how the city’s own political culture contributes to a lack of participation, the city “fathers” and “mothers” will largely be on their own when it comes to scrutinizing the Dorsey Marketplace — and dealing with the intended and unintended consequences as our elected officials and city planners. Good luck!