Whiskey at five months

whiskey1Here’s a photo of our fox-red English labrador retriever, Whiskey, at five months. That’s her frog toy, which she snatched from my son.

We named her Whiskey because her coloring resembles a bottle of Woodford Reserve whiskey. Ray Shine, a fellow Cal alum who helps us interview incoming Cal students for an annual scholarship, pointed out correctly that the spelling is “Whisky” for a UK dog named Whisky.

Since Woodford is Kentucky bourbon whiskey, we went with the American spelling. It’s on her AKC papers.

We also debated the merits of having our seven-year-old son run around the house shouting “Whiskey, whiskey,” as he does regularly. But that didn’t last too long: We’re older parents and kind of laid back about this sort of thing.

A history of the fox-red lab is here and here. It’s a cool dog with a gentle personality. I can bath her in the sink, and she just sits there, loving it.

“Fox red is not a separate color of the Labrador but only a shade of yellow,” according to the write-up. “In the early years of the breed development, fox red or dark yellow was the original yellow shade of the Labrador Retriever.”

We miss our previous yellow lab, Gretchen, terribly. We had to put her down just before Thanksgiving after more than 13 years. But Whiskey keeps us focused on the future, not the past.

At the same time we got Whiskey, we made a donation to a local shelter for homeless dogs — a mounting problem in the recession.

Suit against newspaper: “He made us pray”

I’ve heard about praying for a rebound in the newspaper business. But, if true, this seems a bit extreme.

According to a lawsuit filed by an ad salesperson of the Glenwood Springs Independent, a sister paper of The Union, “her former supervisor ended staff meetings with prayers and ordered her to spend her lunch hours attending church.”

The woman claims she was improperly fired, because she didn’t share her boss’s religious beliefs.

The report appeared in realvail.com, a rival to Colorado papers owned by parent Swift Communications.

Let’s be fair here: Anybody can file a lawsuit, and we don’t know what really happened. Still, it seems strange, or at least timely, given the newspaper industry’s need for help from a “higher authority.”

California’s tax revenue free-fall vs. other states

I’ve written before about the free-fall in California’s tax revenue, suggesting that spending cuts alone won’t do the trick to close the gap.

While unpopular, you have to turn to tax hikes or gut basic services. This is why the politically motivated Tax Day Tea Party protests next week are misguided. As reported, a county like ours is quite dependent on government and social services because of our demographics.

A chart outlining the falloff in tax revenues, courtesy of Thursday’s Wall Street Journal, is here.

One of the ways to help bail us out is a run-up in the stock market, providing money from capital tax gains. More than half of Americans own stock. The argument about Wall Street fat cats is overstated.

Meanwhile, a county-by-county breakdown for falling tax revenues in our state would be good information to include in any newspaper’s Web data base.

New blood at NCTC — sort of

With little public fanfare, the new lineup for the Nevada County Transportation has rolled out.

Larry Jostes, of the county Sheriff’s Search and Rescue group, has replaced Russ Steele as the appointed at-large member. I know other applicants included some of the young people who belonged to “The Exchange,” a group of up-and-coming business people who want to make Nevada County their home. The background is here.

Jostes doesn’t seem to have an anti-global warming blog, as his predecessor did.

I always find it odd how our nonpartisan posts often are filled with vocal partisans: reflecting a real provincial mindset and giving rise to the perception of a “good old boys network.” We’re an insular bunch.

I’d applaud pollinating *more* of our appointed posts with young entrepreneurs who choose to come here and settle down, with all the obstacles they face — setting a role model for others and providing insights as people who are looking “in,” not the other way around.

I’m a big fan of the county Economic Resource Council’s “bring them home campaign” to attract younger people to our area.

“Young people sometimes aren’t the loudest voice and can be lost in all the political noise,” one of them once told me.

I at least hope the NCTC updates its Web site, not just its newsletter, with a list of the new members. Bios would be helpful, too. This is a vitally important group.

The 2009 group is: Nate Beason, Nevada County District I Supervisor; Tim Brady, Chairman, Member-at-Large; Carolyn Wallace Dee, Vice Chairman Truckee Town Council; Sally Harris, Nevada City Council; Larry Jostes, Member-at-Large; Chauncey Poston, Grass Valley City Council; Ed Scofield , Nevada County District II Supervisor (replacing John Spencer).

The next meeting of the Nevada County Transportation Commission is scheduled on: Wednesday, April 15 at 8:30 a.m., Nevada County Board of Supervisors Chambers, 950 Maidu.

New baseball option: Reno Aces

120px-aces_iiAnother option for baseball fans in the Sierra foothills and Sierra is coming starting April 17: a trip “over the hill” to Reno to watch the Aces.

The Aces are the AAA club for the Arizona Diamondbacks. The team plays in the Pacific Coast League, with teams from Sacramento and Fresno, among others. The Ace’s coach is former L.A. Dodger Brett Butler.

The team will play in a new $50 million downtown stadium near the Truckee River, and tickets start at $7 for general admission. A Webcam showing the ballpark construction is here.

The Aces franchise was purchased by SK Baseball, led by managing partner Stuart Katzoff, in 2007. The team had been the Tuscon Sidewinders, a cool name to drop.

But naming a team after a playing card is more in line with Reno, and the “Biggest Little City in the World” could use a shot in the arm tourism-wise. Vegas and Indian gaming have taken a toll on Reno, even before the recession.

Katzoff’s group also has plans to build a retail complex adjacent to the stadium, sprucing up a more rundown part of town. A similar plan worked in downtown Fresno.

Minor league ball is a fun, less expensive and more intimate experience than going to a major league game. While it’s tough to beat AT&T Park in San Francisco, we’ll give it a shot this summer.

If we did some shopping at Cosco before heading “over the hill,” to Tahoe or back here, I’d never tell you. There’s also a cool butcher and fresh-fish market in Reno called Butcher Boy Prime. They’ll pack your order on ice to go. And there’s the new Cabela’s, off I-80 in Boomtown.

What happened at end of NC council meeting?

As I’ve written before, the Nevada City Council meeting always is good theater, and Wednesday night was no exception.

Better yet, when you watch the show on NCTV, you can stay for the whole shebang — in your “jammies,” no less.

On Wednesday night, the Council saved some of the best for last — though few people knew.

Why? The audience and the media had all gone home by then.

After a drawn-out discussion about a community garden, the council unanimously approved a street repair project to a Sacramento-based firm, Teichert Construction — one of its biggest outlays of the year. Only $25K of the more than $400K went to a local outfit, Hansen Bros. of Grass Valley.

Despite all the concern about keeping local construction work local, largely fueled by Obama’s economic stimulus package, nobody asked why the money went to an out-of-town firm instead, as it did last year. In this case, the money came from a city taxpayer supported initiative, Measure S, passed in 2007.

For background, read “We need a home-grown stimulus package” here.

There’s always a good reasons for going to outsiders: lower cost and more expertise for some projects. But the issue was not discussed.

On the other hand, the council made a point of complaining about another contract with the county Sheriff’s Office for police dispatch —also at the end of the meeting. Rood Center workers spend $$$ in Nevada City restaurants for lunch and shopping daily — nothing to sneeze at nowadays. The deal was approved.

The bulk of the meeting was a vintage Nevada City discussion about a small community garden: in this case, growing food locally. This proved to be a bigger deal politically than whether you plunk down 400K for road repair locally.

Despite the best of intentions, not everyone in the community was behind the concept of creating a community garden on private land off Broad Street. Still, some council members seemed eager to go ahead anyway — despite a neighbor’s legitimate concerns.

A better venue is within a public park: Callahan Park or Pioneer Park, for example. I’d go for that. Just address the cost and liability issue. The garden party was tabled for further discussion.

Council member David McKay made a good suggestion: put the garden in Callanan Park to help discourage the ongoing problem of loitering and concerns about illegal drug use —right across the street from the DA’s office, no less.

It sounded like a “twofer” solution and more natural than piping in classical music to encourage more peace and harmony.

I highly recommend watching government meetings on NCTV, where you can “stay” until the bitter end — in your PJs. It’s extremely enlightening if you really care about your community’s future as our family does.

A Council member forwarded the bids on the road-repair work late Thursday morning and apologized for not discussing the process at the meeting, which was running late from the “garden” discussion:

The bids were:
Hansen Brothers $84.89/ton $492,362 total
Teichert Constr. $74.49/ton $432, 042 toal
Central Valley Constr. $82.92/ton $480,936 total

As I suggested, the low bid was accepted. But what if local businesses were given a 10 percent preference, or something, on bids. As reported, a plan like this is in the works at Sierra College for construction stemming from a voter-approved ballot measure.

The “trickle down” impact on “shopping locally” is important in this day and age. Also, it’s always good to see if the low bid turns out to be just that — after “change orders” are accounted for. Just a thought.

Hope ‘springs’ eternal in local real estate

Who said we’re in the worst recession in generations? As spring rolls into full gear, some homes in historic Nevada City are still going on the block for around $1 million.

I don’t know what zillow.com research shows, but here’s what the real estate handouts read:

“One of the most recognized properties in downtown Nevada City, dating to the Gold Rush era, is now offered for sale,” it reads. “Own a piece of historic Nevada City.”

This home, at 421 Nevada Street, has been for sale on-and-off for years, with a different realtor (Cheryl Rellstab) at the helm. The latest asking price: $1.2 million.

Though the home has curb appeal, we think it needs some interior work. We’ve walked through it. We’ve nicknamed it “Mt. Vernon.”

Not far away — near Pioneer Park — is another “true Nevada City home of history.”

This one, at 225 Park Avenue, is listed at $939,000. I noticed a lot of work going on during the winter, including a new lawn. The upgrades definitely add curb appeal.

I hope both homes sell for full asking price.

It will be a challenge, though: The buyers of *these* would-be buyers’ homes — typically in the Bay Area and Southern California— still will struggle to qualify for a jumbo loan down in the “flatlands.” So the would-be buyers up here, who depend on them, are stuck.

This is the “food chain” of California real estate. It always will be, too, until we can diversify our economy beyond wealthy retirees and tourists.

The sales of $1-million homes in Nevada City will be a barometer of what our higher-end real estate is really worth nowadays.

I guess you can’t fault our local real-estate agents for trying, though a part of me says it’s not prudent. I’ll give you an update after the summer-buying season ends.