Nevada City sweating it out on Measure C

I notice some “powers that be” and public safety officials in Nevada City are sweating it out on Measure C, a 3/8 of a cent sales tax increase. They are turning to social media blitzes and a full-color postcard that we picked up today.  “Let’s keep Nevada City safe,” it read.

A lot is a stake, including the possibility of higher homeowner fire insurance premiums for residents.

But I wonder if some of Measure C’s most vociferous proponents realize they’ve been their own worst enemies — and have lost some credibility in the community.

These are some of the same people who needlessly piled on and excoriated former mayor and community leader Reinette Senum at a City Council meeting for making some controversial statements about the Dallas police shooting. Senum — who has been widely honored for her community service — apologized twice for her words. (By contrast, 49’ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick is still “taking a knee” for his own beliefs.)

But the hateful attacks and calls for a boycott of Senum’s restaurant didn’t cease — in some cases egged on by public safety associations. Now these same people need to muster community-wide support — a two-thirds majority is required to pass Measure C.

In addition, Measure C is only the latest in a series of tax increases on the ballot to maintain the “status quo” in city services.

Some residents point to a “business as usual” mindset at City Hall. I do notice that City Hall salaries no longer are easily found on the City website, as in the past. That fuels a perception of arrogance.

Many people are wondering if it inevitable that police and fire consolidation occur in the community because of a declining, aging population. Are the tax hikes just kicking a can down the road? Others wonder whether Nevada City can remain an independent incorporated city in the long run. The town faces some real challenges in the years ahead — and the festering divisive politics and personal vendettas only makes matters worse.

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 years, was a founding editor and Editor of CNET News, and was Editor of The Union, a 145-year-old newspaper in Grass Valley. Jeff has a bachelor's degree from UC Berkeley and a master's from Northwestern University. His hobbies include sailing and trout fishing.

37 thoughts on “Nevada City sweating it out on Measure C”

  1. Jeff,

    Maybe you should think about going to one of the coffee house meetings with local LE and dunk donuts with them.
    It’s sort of like “breaking bread”, only earlier in the day.
    I went to one at Foxhound, and it was a revelation.
    One thing for sure, we need to find effective ways to support our thinnest of thin blue lines, in these parts.
    And the thin red line as well.
    Fire and crime are the most urgent issues this community presently faces.
    Sorry, but if you plant your home in a dry, dying forest, you just might have higher fire insurance.
    Vote yes on Measure C.

    1. I’m not sure an independent police and fire is sustainable for such a small town. We are fooling ourselves. The pensions are big, and the approach to administration largely is “business as usual.” It is not too entrepreneurial. Even Ross, one of the most affluent communities in Northern California, belongs to a fire district.
      “Ross Valley Fire Department is a consolidated department with the mission of protecting lives, property and the environments of Ross, San Anselmo, Sleepy Hollow and Fairfax through education, prevention and community service while working together in a professional and caring manner that is fair, honest respectful and ethical.”
      The median home price in Ross is $1.7 million; it has been home to Robin Wright and Sean Penn.
      You should do some more research like this.
      The most urgent issue around here is the lack of good jobs. Without the jobs, we are aging and declining — and we can’t afford independent police and fire, among other things.

      1. I think you’re onto something here jeff .perhaps we ought to look at Truckee ,anyone who’s been there recently could not believe that it’s part of Nevada County. it is excelling in every direction ,economically , City improvement wise ,and as far as taking care of its residents, it has the sheriffs department! I’m not sure how the fire issue works but I believe the consolidated version would be better than an independent one.
        As far as the dispensary issue what restrictions do we put on people who sell wine ,alcohol, drugs, like drugstores who have far more dangerous compounds than any dispensaries has . The tax advantages that legalization of marijuana has brought to Colorado has created a giant economic boom I have just recently been there and seen it for myself . Most dangerous things in America are sold in drugstores quite legally ,without very many restrictions other than a prescription . The facts on these issues speak for themselves it’s only a matter of looking into the facts ,not listening to the barking dogs .our city needs an independent financial committee to see where our money is actually going. I feel certain we would all be surprised ! Our city has not grown in size area or population to any extent yet we cannot operate it as it once was operated ? I believe the answers are there, numbers do not lie !. When we see what independent police and fire cost us in terms of the overall budget ,it controls any growth we possibly could achieve .
        You are absolutely correct it’s about leadership which we are lacking in .

  2. I found this observation interesting:

    “In addition, Measure C is only the latest in a series of tax increases on the ballot to maintain the “status quo” in city services.”

    There is only so much money in the revenue column on the balance sheet. If costs go up for public safety, and revenue does not increase, either public safety services or some other services need to be cut to balance a budget.

    So there is kind of a two step question here, because increasing revenue in other ways takes time.

    The first question is “do you want to maintain the current level of services or are you willing to reduce City services to maintain public safety?”

    The second question is “what can you do to increase revenue over the long run so you can provide the services the public wants?”

    Nevada City is so cool, is in such a desirable location, has so many cultural and entertainment assets, and so much access to the out of doors that I can;t believe they can’t develop a strategy to increase revenue.

    I suspect that people don’t want to make the choices necessary to increase revenue and are thus faced with tax increases or service cuts.

    Housing (including affordable and secondary units)…renewable energy…arts and culture…TOT generating hospitality….trails and walkability…and small business strongly supported by local residents…local capital to fund start ups and expanding markets for business…all of these things are big opportunities, and it seems that an overwhelming majority of NC residents would support them.

    Letting petty arguments over someones opinion in-artfully expressed stand in the way of progress seems counter-productive.

  3. Yup. It’s a revenue problem. The efforts to increase revenue have been disappointing to date, thanks to a lack of solid, pragmatic leadership: the ERC’s approach (VR and AR technologies) is not pragmatic enough: GV is still “competing” with NC for businesses, such as GV video (which just relocated to GV); there is a jealous/resentful attitude toward NC from oldtimers in GV, based on NC’s economics and politics, etc . Airbnb TOT revenue is not going to cut it. Arts & Culture and tourism (including ecotourism), and the South Yuba have been bright spots, though.

  4. BTW, I suspect the next “revenue generator” will be a marijuana dispensary. We’re a small town for that, and the possible locations are near neighbors — and the site of previous crimes (like two bank robberies in six months). I understand there is a groundswell of quiet opposition, but this is what happens when you sit on your hands too long on the revenue front. You can’t have it both ways.

  5. Here’s what a resident wrote on this blog on 10/13: “Currently, they are 1) the current location of Sauers Engineering Firm above Robinson Enterprises and 600 ft. From Sierra Christian School Preschool (therefore the City Council had to change the standard 1,000 ft.from a school in order to allow this) and 2) on Railroad Avenue across from Northern Queen, where their proprietors rented a lot of units advertised as safe and quiet units, friendly to senior citizens.”

    1. I can’t imagine how having a new dispensary next to a bank, gas station and convenience store that already have been crime targets (i.e., the location on Railroad Ave.) would help.

    2. Well, you’re three for three on the “banks, gas stations, and convenience stores” list in the Railroad Ave area, then. At least there’s no longer a “massage” parlor.
      I’m sure studies will continue to be done on correlation between dispensaries and crime and that’s a good thing. I will say that I lived in a neighborhood in SF in the Inner Sunset both before and after a dispensary went in. I’m not sure what the crime rate did in that time, but the empirical, boots-on-the-ground “nuisance rate” skyrocketed. It was, quite simply, a pain in the keister to live near. Double parking, noise at all hours, armed security guards, screeching tires, the steady stream of non-residents and undesirables — it all sucked, quite simply. My family’s quality of life was one thing before and quite another thing afterwards.
      You can quite rightly accuse me of being a NIMBY on this point, but frankly, I’m entitled — it’s my backyard and I have an eminently understandable interest in keeping it as desirable as possible for me and my family. It baffles me that this town’s management can throw a multi-month conniption fit over terrazzo lights, cell towers, or “overly Asian” barn doors, but if a MMJ dispensary comes calling, we’re ready and willing to throw down nigh on instantaneously with the come hither whistle. Nirvana Silly, indeed.

  6. NIMBYism is alive and well in Nevada City.
    A dispensary is just a business, nothing more.
    The imaginations and prejudices of fearful people make everything scarier in their minds.

    1. Then why don’t you and Laurie O. volunteer for one in your neighborhood on Nevada St.? I think it would look great next to “Mt. Vernon” with an extended white picket fence. I’m all ears!

      1. Judith,
        As Brad said, “A dispensary is just a business, nothing more.” So what’s the big deal? 😉

      2. Ok, so that is the second crack you have made about my house. I guess I will have to check out your place now.

        The thing I like the least about ‘Mount Vernon’ are the round white columns. I would have opted to eliminate or change the column design. However, the structure is pre-1940s, and I think there would be pushback from my neighbors if I wanted to change that aspect of the design. I could see that, originally, the house was built with 2 dormers instead of 3 and had proposed going back to two larger dormers, but that idea was rejected since I did not have a photo to ‘prove’ it.

        I just found examples of the original stucco color, and, guess what, it was not white when it was built. But I will make sure to paint the columns glossy white just for you!

      3. Ha! The backstory on “Mt. Vernon” is more a term of endearment. We looked at that house when we moved here, and I coined the term. In the end it was too much money and too much work for us. I would enjoy doing cannonballs in the pool, however.

    2. It’s easy, of course, to loft the NIMBY accusation when it’s not your BY! Plus, I preemptively copped to it, so I’m afraid you’re out of luck, rhetorically speaking ;-).
      I’m speaking from personal experience of living four doors down from a dispensary, both before and after it went in. For me, at least, it has nothing to do with “imagination” or “prejudice” and everything to do with my own firsthand observations of the quality of life changes experienced by me and my neighbors. And it was a bummer. So, I wouldn’t say I’m “fearful” so much as I’ve been around this particular block before and have no real interest in visiting it again.
      Have you lived next to a dispensary? Not visited one, but lived next to it? Because I’d venture that your charitably rosy characterization of “just a business, nothing more,” might see some changes once you’d done so!

      1. Steve,
        I, for one, appreciate the first-hand account. Thanks for being brave enough to post your experience. 😉

      2. Steve, is this the dispensary you lived near?

        If so, you were living near a criminal enterprise that was shut down.
        That would be an unfortunate experience for the neighborhood.

        But, to paint every dispensary with the same brush as the former Sunset dispensary is an unfortunate and biased generalization.
        Apparently you live on Long St. since the only available industrial-zoned lot on Railroad is the Nevada City Auto repair lot. Your backyard must back up to the auto repair facility.

        Screeching tires, comings and goings at all hours, etc. is not something that would happen here. Dispensary regulations limit hours of operation. Railroad is not an excessively congested road. You will get more noise from the freeway traffic than you will on Railroad.
        And, by the way, I don’t think there is any available space at that location, so you can relax- for now.

        There might be a location on Lower Grass Valley Ave. near Robinson Enterprises. That hardly classifies as a quiet residential area.

        My sweeping generalization is that those who oppose a dispensary do not have marijuana recommendations and have not seen the inside (or outside) of many dispensaries. I have, and with some exceptions, they have all been well run, staffed with courteous people, and located in commercially zoned locations. Customers would be your neighbors.

        Here are some examples in Bend, Oregon,-121.3320211,13z/data=!3m1!4b1

        Diamond Tree is located in a former bank/savings and loan building on a major intersection.,-121.2631892,3a,75y,90t/data=!3m8!1e2!3m6!1s-3bnpKcuBssg%2FV6jh5M7YOEI%2FAAAAAAAAAEQ%2F1qRxFU8vLy4gPypI_O5hiapW6siL69KCQCLIB!2e4!3e12!!7i1350!8i900!4m8!1m2!2m1!1sbend+oregon+dispensaries!3m4!1s0x0:0xa099268b15c932c5!8m2!3d44.0546624!4d-121.263206!6m1!1e1

      3. Brad,
        Steve raises some good points. Let’s hope any marijuana dispensary in Nevada City is not screwed up like city’s handling of the “granny” unit (AKA Taj Mahal) in our neighborhood. I’m skeptical — and I have good reason to be. To write this off as NIMBYism is wrong: it’s rank incompetence in city planning. Without any accountability in the aftermath.

      4. Steve,

        You are right about living next to a nuisance, but that’s California for you.
        Nevada City could use the revenue from a dispensary, but it just isn’t ready for one yet.
        Look at all the squabbling going on between the different stakeholders and there isn’t even a business here yet.
        I avoid going to Sac dispensaries because I visit Bend, OR regularly and that city has about 20 dispensaries, mostly nice ones.
        I have never seen an armed guard at any of them as you do in Sac.
        It’s great to have a choice of establishments as they each have their own unique business model and clientele.
        Cannabend is about as by the book a dispensary as it gets, with a very knowledgeable staff, and it is no where near homes.
        It has an extensive medical product line and good prices, so I see a lot of seniors there when I shop for my RSO.
        I also favor Tokyo Starfish for location, classiness and relaxed friendly staff. Plus, there is a gourmet food truck that parks next door, so it’s a “two-fer” stop for take out dinner.
        Bend’s population helps, it’s about the size of Chico, so there are a lot of suitable sites for a dispensary and it is simply a more prosperous sophisticated town than tiny Nevada City, which might have room for one or two stores, but then we would have a kind of monopoly and could lead to problems and more squabbling.
        Grass Valley has a better chance of succeeding in the industry because it’s bigger and has more likely locations.
        Again, not sure this county is ready for all the responsibility that goes along with this kind of business.

      5. Brad, that’s top-notch sleuthing on the dispensary — that’s the very one! I did not know it was eventually busted; I moved away before it closed. The climate for dispensaries was much different then, as the article notes, both in terms of the people running them and law enforcement’s attitude towards them.
        I know that the process can be managed well. I have close friends in Washington State and have visited a few dispensaries there that presented more as high-end boutiques than the armed-guard variety you see in some parts of Sacramento. That said, there are still exposures that need to be responsibly managed to prevent the experience from going south on the city. I’m not encouraged by how that process has begun.

  7. I agree Brad. Homeless shelters, food banks and needle exchange centers have proven over and again to become hot spots for crime. I would have a hard time not fighting one of these close to my home. A well-run dispensary, not so much. The dispensary in Colfax was a great example of a non issue.

    1. And who can forget City Hall’s world-class track record (not) when it comes to executing affordable housing (AKA “granny units”) in our neighborhoods? Or allowing businesses to suddenly pop up unannounced in R1 neighborhoods? I’m sure it will be a similarly disappointing story with the marijuana dispensary.

  8. Jeff,
    It is quite clear that you idolize Councilwoman Senum and therefore cannot hold her accountable for the notoriety she brought to this town with her rash statement about LE and its apparently murderous agenda.
    Even so, people would probably forget her unfortunate public remarks if you would just leave it alone.
    Your need to constantly champion this woman gives you no cause to mock my home or the incredible job my husband and the crew are doing to restore yet another “orphan” property in this sad little wreck of a town.
    While some folks might consider Nevada City a piggy bank for funding personal projects and visions, we have never sponged off this community or asked for a single nickel to pay for anything we have done to improve our property or the community around us.
    Your remarks about our personal life lately, have me seriously wondering why we bother.

    1. Judy, Judy, Judy- Where on earth do you get that Pelline is idolizing Reinette, or he cant hold her accountable, your dreaming. You mean if Jeff didn’t plle on her like these idiot so called peace officers, he is some how championing her? What trash. You cannot go back and show me any thread that does that.
      Senum pointed out what is a National disgrace, and it goes on daily. Your remarks leave me wondering why your not drawing parallels between cops murdering blacks and your Indians treatment-

      1. I agree. Most of the posts from Jeff referencing Senum includes the caveat that he doesn’t agree with many of her stances but admires much of the good she has done for NC. You’re either way out of line Judith, or delusional.

      1. Steve,
        You ought to try the Aztec soup at Los Mineros! On Saturdays you can enjoy it on the Boardwalk while listening to Latin guitarist Michael Padilla. I know it’s a “new” experience for Nevada City’s “old guard,” but it’s a real California experience for the rest of us.

  9. Judith,

    I do not idolize Reinette any more than you detest her (judging from some past comments). I did not agree with Reinette’s comments, as I’ve said, but I found the orchestrated campaign against her to be more disturbing — from law enforcement calling for boycotts of her restaurant, to people calling her the “c-word” in social media, to fellow council members excoriating her in public and calling for her resignation. She apologized twice; Colin Kaepernick is still “taking a knee.” The local police association has yet to break bread with Reinette, I learned this afternoon.

    I appreciate Reinette’s contributions to our community, from helping to found the farmers market, to working with the homeless, to volunteering countless hours to clean up the city. Likewise, I admire your efforts, including the work at the Powell House, as I’ve written many times before. In fact, you and Reinette have a lot in common: both of you have been honored by the city for your civic work!

    I found Brad’s comment (“a dispensary is just a business, nothing more”) to be a mocking and flip response to legitimate concerns about a marijuana dispensary, especially from a former Planning Commissioner. I doubt those on Nevada St. (who are opposed to the HUD housing project) would want a dispensary in their neighborhood without raising concern. I guess NIMBYism is in the eyes of the beholder.

    Thanks again for all you do!

  10. Jeff,

    Since I don’t really know Ms. Senum personally, my differences wth her have to do with her public leadership style.
    I know a lot of folks who quietly do more to help our community, without the fanfare, and`controversy.
    My issue with the councilwoman is that she has not yet met with the NCR, even back when she was mayor, years ago.
    However she did officiate, as Vice-Mayor, at the giving away of Robinson’s Corner to Don Ryberg.
    The councilwoman’s allegiance to Don Ryberg and his Corporation needs examining.
    I don’t participate in social media sites like Facebook but I understand she posted her support of the Tsi Akim Corp. celebration at Sycamore Ranch Park in Yuba County last weekend.
    That’s quite telling, and I seek answers.
    Serious ones.

  11. Bruce and Chip
    Care to place a little wager that?
    I am not delusional so much as knowledgable about things that just fly right by you two.
    You are in the dark and know very little of the tribal situation in Nevada County so I can forgive you for what you say, for you know not what you say.
    But some folks do know and they will have to summon the “courage’ to come out and ‘fess up.
    That’s what this situation calls for and to not do the right thing here is to possibly jeopardize all of the county.
    Unless we are in the business of enriching Plumas County rather than our own.

    1. Judy- I’ve asked before to explain what it is you want, and you have yet to say. Money, you want Cement Hill back, a statue, what? You still won’t say-
      You have an axe to grind with Senum, from long ago. Again, Jeff wont get on board with you does not make him her surrogate. Get over it, bet on that-

    2. “I can forgive you for what you say, for you know not what you say.”

      Are you representing Jesus now. Narcissism much? It’s nice you think so much of yourself and your opinions. But you know what they say…”Opinions are like a** holes, everyone has one.”

  12. Judith, you say in a conspiratorial tone, “You are in the dark and know very little of the tribal situation in Nevada County so I can forgive you for what you say, for you know not what you say.”. WHY are we in the dark?? WHY don’t you enlighten us rather pick away at our ignorance. It seems you take some dark power in “knowing” something we aren’t allowed to know. Until you are willing to teach in plain English rather than in cryptic bites, I’d rather not hear you preach.

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