Nevada City Council votes 3-2 to remove Laurie Oberholtzer from the planning commission

The 3-2 vote is at about 4:18:21 on this video after a marathon Council meeting (I watched a couple of baseball games in between). The “yes” votes were Daniela Fernandez, Duane Strawser, and Erin Minett, and the “no” votes were Doug Fleming and Gary Petersen. Although I didn’t always agree with Laurie O., I want to thank her for her volunteerism and tireless efforts to protect the town’s R1 neighborhoods over the years. In my view, Laurie O. largely fell victim to small-town politics, some deep-seated personality conflicts, and/or a “power play,” as Doug (go Northwestern Wildcats) succinctly put it. We all have something to contribute. “And the band played on???”

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 SierraCulture.com. 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.

13 thoughts on “Nevada City Council votes 3-2 to remove Laurie Oberholtzer from the planning commission”

  1. Jeff:

    I realize I haven’t lived in Nevada City for several years, but my memory of planning commission removal (at least up until July 2008) remains clear: All commissioners served at the pleasure of whichever councilmember appointed them, and a commissioner could only be removed by a super majority. At least that was the procedure in the “old days,” when I wrote and introduced the concept.

    The 4/5 vote was to protect against a rouge commissioner becoming a disruptive element and the responsible councilmember refusing to replace them. In Laurie’s case, the removal seems fully political and a slap in the face — both to her and to Doug. Believe me, politics were never a consideration with previous commission appointments. It’s all part of reflecting the political balance of the city council, which is a balance of community attitudes.

    When did the requirement of 4/5 super majority for removal get replaced with a simple majority? Removal by a 3-2 vote is a lousy idea and not what was intended by the procedure we adopted when I served. But as mentioned, I haven’t been around City Hall for a few years, and times (and City Hall) seem to be very different these days.

    Laurie and I had our disagreements, but giving her the hook on a 3-2 vote is sad. Very sad. I think Doug should reappoint her and to hell with the three who voted for removal.

    Also, if the current Ordinance does, in fact, allow for removal on a 3-2 vote, it needs to be amended to return to a 4/5 super majority that was in place when such appointments fell to individual councilmembers and no longer a vote of the full council.

    If the current power brokers want an unbalanced commission, voters need to know that a 3-2 majority can control all five seats (and that used to happen with regularity). That’s why the process was changed during my time on the council, and needs to be revisited ASAP.

    1. 2.36.040 – Removal from office.
      Any planning commissioner may be removed by a majority vote of the total voting members of the council.

      Steve ,you removed a whole Planning Commission when you were Mayor with this section of the Ordinance . I remember that evening well as I was one of the Commissioners removed.
      Niel locke

      1. Niel:

        That took place before the supermajority requirement came to be.

        You may recall that when Pat Dyer wanted to remove his commissioner in probably 2002, (but definitely after City Hall was remodeled), Conley, Kerry and David insisted that even removal by the appointing councilmember required four votes. I said at that time that a supermajority vote only applied when the appointing councilmember refused to remove their commissioner (which was the case with Doug). I disagreed with the other three councilmen, but lost the argument, and the commissioner was removed on a 4-1 vote. I believe the minutes of that meeting will show that I said Pat’s decision to remove his commissioner was “none of our damn business.”

        At some point after 1996 and before publication of the current Municipal Code referencing Ordinance 96-03, it seems the supermajority requirement for removal either fell through the cracks or was rescinded by a subsequent council. But in neither case was it part of 96-03. That’s why the 3-2 vote to remove Laurie seems to me to be at odds with council policy.

        I suspect that minutes of the meeting where Conley, Kerry and David insisted on a 4/5 vote to allow Pat to remove his commissioner has some relevant references to the requirement’s origin, because in those days, as you will recall, minutes were pretty detailed.

      2. This all took place while you were on the Council, how did this slip through the cracks ? The minutes today are much better because of ZOOM, UTUBE and GRANICUS. In your lifetime, the City Clerk,the City Treasurer will be appointed.
        I cannot believe you not follow through on the 4/5 vote during your time on the Council, as if it never existed, only in your imagination.

  2. Somebody needs to do a story on how Nevada City city hall staff members have jumped ship in droves. I left because there was no saving NC, particularly around what was happening with Covid. The petty personal politics that I was subjected to because I had a different of opinion and style was relentless.

    Catrina Olson now works for the city of GV. Desirea Andreson, who worked in the front office, now works for the city of GV as well. Our former City Police Chief, Chad Ellis, jumped ship and moved out of state following Olson. Head of finance, Loree McKay, jumped ship and went to work for Elevation. Officer Rody now works at Riebe’s Automotive. Bubba, head of Public Works, jumped ship. And now Laurie O. is gone.

    Sorry, while I know I had been the convenient scapegoat for years, you can’t blame this implosion on me. What we are seeing be revealed is the true spirit of the city council. This has actually been the case the entire time.

    Nevada City is imploding and while I know many felt Laurie was out of control (and, yes, she did do some good), we have a bad pattern here within the city. Our council is literally destroying the city from within.

    We can only hobble along for so long until we lose most of our institutional memory, as well as staff morale, which is at an all-time low, and then we’ll lose the city. There is a real reason why NC is struggling and GV is shining brightly. The council can’t see straight.

    Everything is personal to them and they can’t get out of their own way. I knew this was the case when two years ago they shot down my homeless/forest restoration program, The Restoration Rangers, simply out of petty personal politics, and not having a backbone, allowing the County to strong-arm them into voting it down. Their decision-making isn’t about what is best for Nevada City. It is what is best for their personal little tit-for-tat vendettas.

    The “disfunctionality” of the city, as Doug Fleming mentioned, stems from the majority of the current city council members. It never went away. It just went under the surface. The public simply doesn’t know this because nobody is reporting on it. It only now has become apparent because Laurie O. had to be voted out of her appointed position by the city council.

    This internal deterioration isn’t just happenstance. This is the gestalt of the current city council and has been for many years. If you don’t go along with their “will” they will go out of their way to destroy you. How democratic is that?

  3. Amid the renewed political turmoil in Nevada City, I wanted to give a shout out to relatively new council members Doug Fleming and Gary Petersen. In watching last night’s marathon meeting, I found their comments to be cogent and thoughtful. There is a light at the end of the tunnel (I think). Thank you!

    1. Yes, Doug and Gary are the real deal! Thank you, Laurie for encouraging them to run for office. Tom Nigh and Peter Van Zant are working hard and will miss Laurie’s understanding of the housing element, ordinances, etc. in spite of other commissioners’ lack of appreciation and/or willingness to learn from Laurie.

  4. Niel:

    I say again, the requirement for a 4/5 majority vote for removal of a planning commissioner was adopted by the council subsequent to Ordinance 96-03. Yes, it happened; it is not a figment of my imagination, and I believe the truth of my comments can be found in past minutes.

    It’s possible that when the Municipal Code was assembled as a single document a few years ago, the 4/5 requirement was inadvertently overlooked by the company hired to consolidate city council ordinances, resolutions, practices and policies. Then, by the time the city’s manual of Standards & Procedures was adopted in 2020, the requirement had fallen through the cracks because councils change, city managers change, city attorneys change, and few (if any) commissioners have been given the boot since Pat Dyer’s decision to remove his commissioner nearly 20 years ago.

    But I haven’t disremembered the requirement. And if you don’t believe me, ask Pat about the night Conley, Kerry and David insisted that removing a commissioner — even at the request of the appointing councilmember — required a supermajority vote. Cathy used to do a great job preparing detailed minutes, so the truth of my comments here will be evident to anyone who takes the time to search the pubic record. And if, as you say, it never happened, I will gladly confess to a faulty memoy. Hope you will do the same if a search of past minutes confirms the truth of my inquiry.

    Do not, however, confuse my comments as being a statement of support for Laurie. I simply believe that unless a post-2002 council rescinded the 4/5 requirement, the other night’s 3-2 vote fell one vote shy and she is still a planning commissioner.

  5. Niel:

    It’s getting ridiculous, so this will be my final comment:

    I served on the city council from 1992 to 2008, so if the 4/5 requirement fell through the cracks, it happened over the past 13 years. As for your claim that the 4/5 vote requirement existed only in my imagination, you are simply mistaken. (And that’s the most polite way I can say it).

    Now, as Samuel Goldwyn famously said, “You can include me out,” and the floor is yours for whatever baseless personal attacks you care to keep throwing my way.

    1. My final Comment. I just finished reading all the minutes related to this Ordinance. Never, never was a mention made of a Super Majority either You, another Council Member nor Public Comment. I am tired of people that sow Seeds of Dissension just for the joy of creating confusion.

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