Buy fireworks in Auburn, and light them in NC

I sometimes find the best way to find out what’s happening in local governments on a timely basis is to watch the meetings on TV. Some of them are now streamed via PC.

The meetings aren’t attended by the media as consistently as in the past, and the press apparently hasn’t figured out how to watch them on TV — like me — and post a real-time update on the Web.

Both The Union and KNCO have Web sites. Staffers could post in their jammies, no less.

This reminds me of the potential for “citizen journalism” in small communities such as ours: a network of freelance bloggers who post real-time updates on a Web site.

I often find the meetings entertaining too.

Here’s my report from the tail end of Wednesday night’s Nevada City Council meeting, on two consumer-oriented issues that impact all residents:

•Nevada City contradicted Grass Valley and the county and agreed to allow the use of fireworks on the Fourth of July.

The sale of fireworks in the city will be banned, however.

This contradicts two philosophies often espoused by the council: “buy local, shop local” and going green.

The money from fireworks sales and tax receipts will go to Placer county, not ours. The extra driving will create more pollution too.

Perhaps residents could organize “fireworks carpools” to Auburn.

•After first “pooh-poohing” the idea, the council agreed to approve an application for a grant for a public compost pile. I blogged about this earlier.

The free compost can be used for resident’s gardens. Many other cities have adopted this plan.

•The council also continued to discuss a proposed housing ordinance but took no action.

The council is doing a good job of working together and asking pertinent questions, but I find the “body language” in interacting with one another somewhat hostile at times.

Don’t forget, you’re on TV.

GV Association to discuss ice cream ‘wars’

This blog first reported that Lazy Dog ice cream would be banned from the Thursday night Farmer’s Markets because of a new food vendor policy.

The local media followed up, and the dispute has raised a small-town ruckus.

The issue is on the agenda of the Grass Valley Downtown Association this Thursday, when a change in the food vendor policy will be discussed.

The association said the problem is that Lazy Dog was never given permission to sell drumstick ice-cream from a cart at the event, and it agreed to stop but never did.

In addition, the group wants to promote local merchants with brick-and-mortar stores — “the whole reason for the program is to bring people downtown to enjoy the stores.”

Lazy Dog is a popular ice-cream vendor, with a populist following.

Public compost pile proposed for NC, county

Some recycling minded residents of Nevada City are pitching city and county officials on the benefits of a public compost pile.

The idea is catching on in other cities throughout the nation.

Public compost piles provide free compost for residents to use in their gardens, flower beds and as a lawn additive.

A public compost pile also saves the cities money by not having to haul away the grass and leaves.

Last week, Dunkirk, N.Y., (pop. 13,000), near Buffalo endorsed the idea — urging residents to separate lawn clippings and leaves for a public compost pile at the city barns.

The city of Omaha has a public compost pile.

Other cities, such as Sacramento, Albuquerque and Oklahoma City, have programs for backyard composting.

In Albuquerque, more than 20 percent of what goes to the city’s landfill is grass, leaves tree and shrub clippings and other waste.

Public compost piles carry some risks, however: In Omaha, for example, the compost pile caught on fire and burned for days.

More cities explore dissolving themselves

In March I raised the question “Can Nevada City stay incorporated long term”?

It’s not a civic “cheerleader” topic, but more towns are considering this drastic option.

“As the recession batters city budgets around the U.S., some municipalities are considering the once-unthinkable option of dissolving themselves through ‘disincorporation,'” The Wall Street Journal is reporting.

In Mesa, Wash., a town east of Portland, Ore., city leaders have initiated talks with county officials about disincorporating, the Journal reports.

In California, Rio Vista and Vallejo have said they may need to disincorporate to address financial difficulties.

Rio Vista said disincorporating would eliminate 38 jobs and shift its sewer services to the county, and Vallejo said it would end public-safety-employee contracts, according to the Journal.

Our tax burden now is less, not more

It’s easy to jump on the “tea party” tax protest bandwagon, as many people and the media are.

Many of our residents, largely retirees, will be marching in a “tea party” protest in the Fourth of July Parade in Grass Valley. Protesters also have launched a Facebook site.

In California, we have the nation’s sixth-highest state-local tax burden, at 10.5 percent of personal income, according to the Tax Foundation in Washington. Now it’s probably higher, with the recent round of increases in February.

But don’t forget that we also are *earning less*, thanks to the recession, so our overall tax burden has *dropped.*

“The state alone expects to receive some $14 billion less in general fund revenue during the 2009-2010 fiscal year than it did in 2007-2008, even with boosts in income and sales tax rates,” as Sacbee columnist Dan Walters writes.

“And that means that Californians’ overall tax burdens have actually declined — a silver lining of sorts on the otherwise very dark economic cloud.

“We are being taxed less because we are earning less — with some 2 million Californians on unemployment roles — and spending less on taxable goods.”

Walters concludes: Rough calculations suggest that California taxes will drop, in relationship to personal income, by a full percentage point to about where they were after Proposition 13 passed 31 years ago.

“And our rankings vis-a-vis other states will also drop to somewhere in the middle, maybe 24th or 25th, just about where we were in 1979 as well.

•I made similar points as Walters back in April, with a blog item “Tax Day Tea Parties don’t speak to facts.”

•I also asked whether the “tea party” prosters would cash their stimulus checks.

UPDATE: One of our local, always predictable far-to-the-right bloggers posted a rebuttal to part of Walter’s column, starting with a simplistic definition of “tax burden.”

He failed to mention how taxes offer benefits to all of us (including individuals) that also offset his simplistic calculation.

It’s interesting how many people of this mindset always want to discuss paying taxes as an “individual” issue but never discuss how that “individual” also benefits from the taxes.

Instead, the latter becomes an issue of “hard-earned taxpayer money going down a rat hole,” or something like that.

People who disagree with this guy find it hard to post on his site, however. The guy has two responses from people who already agree with him politically. Whoopdedoo.

Plus, Walters discussed both sides; his was incomplete.

On a related note, an article “Tea parties a test of online conservative organizing” is here.

City buys electric cars from Roseville, not GV

Grass Valley has been slammed by declining sales tax receipts from the closure of its GM and Ford dealerships.

The lone remaining new car dealer, Liberty Motors, is losing the Chrysler franchise.

So what is the city doing? Buying three new electric cars from a dealership in Roseville instead of Liberty Motors, which still is selling used cars and the electric vehicles.

The price per vehicle is $15,601 from Auto West Chrysler Jeep & Dodge, compared with $16,370 from Liberty Motors in Grass Valley.

Two other dealers, Elk Grove Dodge and Next Level Warehouse Services, fell in between.

The background from city documents is here and here.

It’s hard for governments to “shop local, buy local” when the prices are higher.

On the other hand, some government agencies provide a weighting in the bid process to help keep money in the area, as Sierra College did with a recent construction project at the Nevada County campus.

In Nevada City, the bulk of road-repair work recently went to a Sacramento firm.

It’s time for businesses to rethink their pricing, and it’s time for governments to rethink their bidding process.

We sure look silly to outsiders for promoting a “shop local, buy local campaign” when we buy our products from “off the hill.”

New York Times to raise its prices on June 1

The New York Times is increasing the price of home delivery starting June 1, according to letter being sent to subscribers.

Around here the rate jumps to $14.80 per week, without discounts.

“We regret having to raise rates at this time of financial challenge for so many across the nation,” according to the letter.

“It is, however, one of a number of steps we must take in order to secure the core qualities that define The Times and make it so highly valued by the most discerning readers.”

Times are tough for your business when you have to raise prices during a recession. It’s a real “Catch 22.”