Brace for lots more truck traffic here this summer

images25While we debate the extra truck traffic that would be generated from reopening the Idaho-Maryland mine, roadwork out on I-80 this summer — another “big dig” — is going to send more truck traffic through our communities and up/down Highway 20 much sooner. Ugh!

The bulk of the traffic is expected to occur Monday through Thursday at night-time from April to September, including the stretch that pierces our hometown. This is one of the biggest detours in a while — and we’ll feel the pain.

I hope the local officials get together with the media to publicize this. People will need to be prepared — to wear earplugs or go on vacation.

Stock celeb Jim Cramer is swimming upstream

images-13I first met now-famous Wall Streeter Jim Cramer in the mid-90s. A friend and collegue of mine at The Chronicle, Herb Greenberg, had gone to work at Cramer’s startup thestreet.com. 

My wife and I visited their offices in Manhattan during a vacation — high-priced digs on Wall Street in a different era.

My fondest memory of Jim is sitting on a stool all by himself in the offices of CNET at 8 a.m. sharp, waiting for an Internet radio interview when both were just media “startups.” Jim (a veteran hedge-fund trader) now has his “Mad Money” show on CNBC, and CNET was just sold to CBS.

I don’t depend on Jim to pick stocks, but I think he’s good at spotting trends — and entertaining to boot. Being more of a “bull” than a “bear,” he’s swimming upstream nowadays.

I like reading Cramer’s blogs. Again his humor shows.

“I had almost forgotten money can be made, not just lost, in the stock market,” he wrote Thursday, after a rare triple-digit Dow gain.

Humor helps heal the wounds of a deep recession, where people’s net worth fell an average of 18 percent, erasing four years of gains, as The Wall Street Journal reported.

After all, Jim is part comedian.

‘Let’s make a deal’ raises ire about justice

images8More plea bargains in our local courts, AKA “let’s make a deal,” are raising the ire of residents and victims this week — an ongoing issue.

In one high-profile case, a mom and pop cabinet maker pleaded “no contest” to some of the charges after being accused of ongoing poor workmanship and not reimbursing some funds to clients. His wife could get off the hook all together.

The local contractors association fielded numerous complaints from area residents, including some well-known families. It attempted to shine a light on the allegations, which can hurt the reputation of all contractors.

In another case this week, a local man who was accused of repeated incidents of child molestation pleaded “no contest” to some of the charges. Other charges, including oral copulation on a child, were dropped.

Both are expected to land behind bars (the latter for sure), but for a shorter period of time than otherwise might occur. Is this justice or not?

Plea agreements help the DA meet his budget (fewer legal expenses, trials, etc.) but also make people wonder about the long-term benefits (bringing people to justice, setting examples for others, victims’ rights, the recurring costs for repeat offenders). I’d be willing to spend more to ensure people are brought to justice.

The courts, DAs and public defenders often get unglued when the plea bargains are criticized. I’d like to see some more in-depth reporting — of the short-term and long-term impact. Robyn Moormeister wrote about some egregious examples when she was The Union’s crime reporter — child molesters, multiple DUI offenders and others.

Shining a light on an issue can help bring about reform, rather than just sweeping it under the rug.

New stone cottage in Pioneer Park worth seeing

5ead9202_590038Can’t make it to the Black Forest? Go to Pioneer Park in Nevada City and check out mason Dan Reinhart’s new stone cottage.

The cottage near the tennis courts is a work of art — like something out of Hansel and Gretel. Dan is a neighbor of ours, and we make a point to walk past it whenever we can.

Dan’s been working on the cottage a long time, and it’s been fun to see it being built. My son likes to count the stones.

Dan’s new cottage is a reminder of the wealth of talented crafts people who work here.

(photo from www.danreinhartmasonry.com).

Northridge offers coupons on its *own* Web site

lopimgWe’re big fans of the Northridge — as a casual-dining restaurant but also a successful, booming local business. The food is good, the waiters and staff people are ebullient, and its expansion into LOP worked.

We were around LOP the other afternoon, so we stopped for lunch. At the end of the meal, the waitress reminded us to check out the Web site at www.northridgerestaurant.com for coupons. Sure enough, I checked from Shannon’s iPhone and it was true. (Too bad a printer wasn’t there!).

I noticed a sign in the window promoting the online coupons too.

Is this the future of ads: word of mouth grows a small business in a small town, then it directs customers to its own Web site to cut out online coupons and come back. Where’s the online “coupon mall” and media in all this? Eating pizza at least.

(Photo of LOP Northridge from northridgerestaurant.com).

What if we could Twitter our ‘?’s to City Council?

images7My wife and I poured ourselves a glass of wine and turned on NCTV to watch the Nevada City Council meeting Wednesday night — hometown theater.

Short of setting up a Tiki bar in the back of council chambers — a money-maker in a recession—this is the most relaxing way to watch the drama unfold. You also can blog the outcome in real time.

The highlights: You can’t fight City Hall, so the outcome on disbanding the city’s finance committee was a foregone conclusion — despite some opposition. In most small-town governments, the staff directs the council, not the other way around. 

I hope a plan to form a new “citizen’s advisory committee,” as well as depend more on City Hall staff to help guide the council, works out.

But it was disturbing to see the staff errors that were corrected throughout the meeting: in the minutes, as well as a housing report. (In one case, the sales-tax rate from Measure S — common knowledge — was stated incorrectly.)

I’m all for working together, but our “public servants” need to be more careful in their work. We put our trust in them. City Hall jobs, and the benefits that go with them, are among the highest-paying jobs in a rural area.

Too often I kept hearing about how the council was a “volunteer” group, but we depend on them to be our “watchdogs” on complex matters. Some people might be offended, but you need to ask tough questions. 

We also elected our Treasurer, who sits on the finance committee. I was disappointed to see this item on the “consent agenda.” People want an open debate — without having to ask for it.

Most people attending the meeting were the regulars. Here’s a thought: What if people who watched on TV from home could “twitter” some questions to the council during the public comment period?

It would add an extra dimension — and maybe some more thoughtful dialogue — to the proceedings.