Local Web sites embrace Twitter to grow

twitter-bird-wallpaperA growing number of Web sites are launching Twitter feeds to build a social network around their *business*, not just for idle chit chat, including around here.

One example: I noticed that Goldcountryonthecheap.com, which I wrote about in March, has a Twitter feed that now has 127 followers as of Wednesday morning. Goldcountryonthecheap informs readers of area freebies and discounts, as well as calendar items. (You can see the feed in the lower left-hand corner of the Web site).

One Tweet, for example, directs people to a speech by Mary Roach, a longtime Reader’s Digest columnist, who’s speaking at the Center for the Arts in Grass Valley on Thursday.

The event also is a centerpiece in Wednesday’s print edition of The Union. It has been covered in other media as well but not via Twitter, as goldcountry has done.

Another goldcountry Tweet directs people to a 2-for-1 breakfast special at Denny’s— a free “Grand Slamwich” with a “Grand Slam” breakfast. (Got some Alka-Seltzer — or breakfast compainion?)

This is an example of how businesses are embracing Twitter, a hot technology among 30-somethings and older — a good business demographic.

Surprisingly, Twitters tend to be older, as Mark Cuban writes in his Blog Maverick. “It could be the first new social media platform to start old and get younger,” he notes.

A growing number of businesses see the potential.

“Think for a moment about the way we use Twitter, and the way that facility could change online interactions,” writes new media marketer Chris Brogan in his blog.

He lists some of the Twitters we should want, including ones centered around business:

•Health care help
•Product purchasing help
•Prenatal care, postnatal care

The challenge will be creating the right customization and filters, but as you can see with goldcountryonthecheap.com it’s working now.

Two-seat, two-wheel electric vehicle coming

The Project P.U.M.A.General Motors and Segway are teaming up to develop an electrically powered, two-seat vehicle with only two wheels.

Called project P.U.M.A. (for Personal Urban Mobility and Access), it is designed to allow up to two people to travel safely and cleanly — at a low cost.

The vehicle can travel at up to 35 miles per hour at a range of 35 miles on a single charge at a cost of 35 cents per charge, according to the companies.

Though ideal for cities, P.U.M.A. also could handle jaunts around Grass Valley and Nevada City in western Nevada County. This area’s appetite for electric vehicles, and electric charging stations, is growing. I see more and more of them.

“Imagine moving about in a vehicle that ‘connects’ you to friends and family . . . for one-fourth to one-third the cost of what you pay to own and operate today’s automobile,” said a GM executive.

GM’s OnStar system could relay the locations of your friends and family, according to the CrunchGear blog.

No price or release date has been announced. Segway is known for its two-wheeled scooter, which you see tooling around our towns, including in the annual Fourth of July parade.

(photo from GM and Segway)

Tax Day Tea Parties don’t speak to facts

Too much hoopla is being made of the “Tax Day Tea Parties” on April 15. It’s a classic example of “playing to the crowd,” without thinking enough.

If you dig a little, you find California has among the lowest property tax rates in the nation. One study is here.

The same goes for our county, where the majority of people have lived in their home for many years. Their property taxes are based on much lower valuations, even with the recent housing crisis. It’s one of the rare economic “upsides” of a stagnant, older population such as ours, at least for them.

As for income tax, that’s less of a deal up here as well: Our family always has received refunds every year we’ve worked up here — in contrast to the taxes we paid from our higher wages when we worked in the city.

But that’s not all. How many people do you think are going to be paying capital gains taxes this year, thanks to the plummeting stock market? Not many. Their stock portfolios and 401K’s are in the dumper.

In short, we will have a tax *shortfall* or at least declining receipts this year in Nevada City, Grass Valley, our county, the state and the rest of the nation. And we will for years to come: This year’s unemployment rate — 10 percent in our county alone — also will dampen next year’s tax receipts.

I’ve always been a proponent of “small government.” But we ought to be more worried about funding roads, sewers, schools, public safety, mental health and child development this year — you know, the basics — rather than taking a bus ride to Sacramento to protest taxes.

Save yourself the gas tax money and spend more time pondering the real issue: The working class families in our community — who on average still earn less than a supposedly underpaid county supervisor — are more dependent on government/social programs than in many other places.

That’s the unfortunate downside of an economy dependent largely on wealthy retirees and tourists — the “crowd” or target audience as it were. It’s only one part of the picture, however.

‘Surety bond’ on Walgreens debacle?

Whenever I drive by the now-stalled Walgreens project in Burger Basin, I wonder how badly the City of Grass Valley got duped by the builder.

Beyond the painful delay, enough of a disappointment, did the city require a “surety bond“? In the construction trade, a performance, or surety bond, is routinely requested. It helps ensure that builder promises to do what he/she says.

With a surety bond, the city might at least collect some needed money down the road, rather than just watch the weeds grow again on the site of the former Jim Keil Chevrolet.

Meanwhile, I notice a new Walgreens has sprung up in the fast-growing Highway 49 corridor in North Auburn. What a debacle.

Downside of NCTV: public access programming

We enjoy watching local government meetings on NCTV: It’s a valuable and expanding public benefit.

We pay for it, mind you: through a monthly charge on our Comcast cable television bill. Check out the line item on your bill next time.

But some of the programming is truly God-awful: Take the show, “Grass Valley News,” for example, which sucks up almost a half hour of programming — sometimes twice daily.

After watching a re-run of a Grass Valley City Council meeting Monday night, which included an important discussion on changing the city’s general plan so Berriman Ranch could “cut in line” (a controversial, under-covered topic), the station switched to this “news” show.

It was about as Bush League as you can get: Somebody read the local police blotter while showing generic photos of Paris Hilton in black leather, a Rambo guy toting a gun, a woman in a bikini, and an almost nude old man on a bike. It was totally unrelated to anything local.

An equally bush “world news” segment of the show followed.

Hey, NCTV: Find some better programming or we might as well lobby Comcast for reruns of the “Beverly Hillbillies.” This is truly the downside of a flat population: a shallow pool of professionalism.

I know this is a waste of our family’s money, and if better understood, probably yours.

Sierra Christian School to rebuild — differently?

After closing in January as a full-fledged school and now operating as a “home school,” Sierra Christian School in Nevada City plans to rebuild and grow into a K-12 school.

This time around, the approach seems decidedly more fundamentalist.

“The situation in public schools got progressively more hostile toward God, with the passage of gay rights supported SB117, forcing the public schools to teach their agenda as ‘normal,'” reads a letter being sent out to generate support.

It adds: “If you get a chance to participate in ‘The Truth Project,’ please do so. This Focus on the Family produced series clearly illustrates how the atheistic agenda has reached into our families, our jobs, our government, our schools, our science and every aspect of lives to promote alternatives to biblical principles.”

Wow. I was disappointed in this marketing approach. I thought religion was about teaching tolerance. To each his/her own, I guess.

I prefer the “glass is half full” approach in teaching children about the complexities of life, not such a negative one.

It will be interesting to gauge the demand: The demographics of our county is changing. Or is it? This will be an interesting barometer.

Sierra College, local highs benefit in 500K grant

Here’s an economic bright spot: Sierra College has won a $500,000 grant to draw local students to technical careers.

There’s nothing like people with skills in science, technology, engineering and math to help sustain and fuel our area’s economic growth.

Among other high schools, Nevada Union High is teaming up with Sierra College to offer more STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) curriculum.

This is a cool way to train our young people and help keep them here, filling jobs in the tech and science sector. They can begin learning the skills in middle and high school and further hone them at local Sierra College campuses.