Beware: Unmarked CHPs patrolling Highway 49

Returning from the “flatlands” on Tuesday, I noticed unmarked CHPs patrolling Highway 49 and writing speeding tickets galore.

Beware the “Chips” behind the wheel of innocent-looking American-made sedans!

This reminds me of the police cars on the outer islands of Hawaii —  all of a sudden a blue light appears out of nowhere.

It’s good for all of us, though: Highway 49 is a narrow road where people speed all too often. Grant dollars are at work.

Be careful out there.

Can Nevada City stay incorporated long term?

images23It’s a question I increasingly wonder about: Nevada City is one of the smallest incorporated cities in the state, at about 3,000 people.

I value living in an incorporated city, compared with the challenges of living in the rest of 95959 (sewage woes at Cascade Shores, for example).

But the long-term trend for us at three-digit addresses in NC raises concerns:

•Flat to declining population in an economic “cul de sac.” In addition, a lot of people don’t earn much — and, in turn, generate enough tax revenue. The pot of money needed for police, fire, sewer and City Hall is getting smaller, not bigger.

•Public safety. Our police force is costly — and not always as tightly run and effective as it should be. At some point, you have to consider cutting a deal with the county Sheriff’s Office instead.

•Fire protection. Nevada City Fire Department does a great job, but we greatly depend on other fire-fighting agencies for emergency calls as well. Is this cost effective?

•The cost of retiring/hiring government workers. The city manager, police chief, city engineer, public works director, among others, all are nearing retirement. We share the burden of their retirement costs, as well as finding the money to hire their replacements at competitive wages.

The No. 1 problem the city faces is a declining tax base to pay for the growing cost of government. We also face some divisive “cultural” issues: people who try to “hijack” the city to further their own personal or political agendas but are not true stakeholders.

We face some tough choices down the road. We need to diversify our economy: attracting more families and creating more higher-paying jobs. We also need to separate the people who “use” Nevada City from the true stakeholders who really care about its future.

It’s time to buckle down, become more introspective and work together. Can we?

“Pay for play” journalism grows in recession

images22Not all that long ago “journalistic integrity” really meant something: seeking the truth and passing it on to readers. It was a good business proposition too.

Now that’s changing, thanks to the deepening recession.

Almost 20 percent of American marketers said their groups have bought advertising in return for a news story despite growing criticism of “pay-for-play” practices, according to a survey conducted for PRWeek and Manning Selvage and Lee by Millward Brown.

The survey also found that 10 percent of marketers said their organizations have had an implicit agreement with a reporter or editor that anticipated favorable coverage of their company or products in exchange for advertising.

“Questionable marketing practices such as those explored in this survey have generated controversy in recent months, raising questions about the deterioration of news coverage, as well as broader questions about industry ethics,” the report said.

It’s short-sighted plan: When the media loses credibility, it also loses readers. You can’t blame the Internet for that.


Man who fought NC freeway in S.F. Chron

Alfred Heller, now 79, who unsuccessfully fought the effort to build a freeway through downtown Nevada City, is featured in Monday’s San Francisco Chronicle. 


In “Times change — California’s growth issues don’t,” the paper reports that Heller’s group “California Tomorrow” now has its files catalogued by the state’s Historical Society — a triumph. The small group’s files run from 1961 to 1983.

“The issues they focused on are still around,” the Historical Society worker who catalogued the information told the paper. “They laid out all these things, the way to approach problems … and peoples’ behavior didn’t change.” 

in 1962, with “California, Going, Going …” the group warned “the challenge of growth … has reached emergency proportions.”

It called for governmental reforms to right “the smog, the water pollution, the crowded roads, the dirty, blighted cities, the disappearing open space.”

In Nevada City, the battle over a freeway through the city was a heated debate in the ’60s.

As it turned out, the freeway has caused some problems: Nowadays, two once-thriving businesses are shut down at the corner of Nevada and Broad streets— The Stonehouse restaurant and Dos Banditos.

Through the years, any business on the “other” side of the freeway has faced an ongoing challenge of generating enough traffic to keep it thriving, even in good economic times.

(photo from UCSC)

McClatchy to cut 1,600 jobs – 15 percent of staff

The other shoe dropped at the Sacramento Bee’s owner McClatchy on Monday: It will cut 1,600 jobs, or 15 percent of its workforce.

The Bee, McClatchy’s flagship paper, said it is cutting 138 jobs, or 11 percent of its workforce. Other newspapers in the chain will make their own decisions.

The cuts will come at the end of the first quarter. The severance payments will total $30 million.

“The effects of the current national economic downturn make it essential that we move even faster to realign our workforce and make our operations more efficient,” said chief executive Gary Pruitt.

Pruitt will take a 15 percent pay cut and other executives will take a 10 percent cut.

A growing chorus of Wall Street analysts have called for Pruitt’s ouster, citing McClatchy’s ill-timed buyout of Knight Ridder’s newspaper chain. The debt from the deal has added pressure to McClatchy, whose stock is trading at less than $1 per share.

We get a new Web site to find local bargains

A new Web site called is launching this week, highlighting the best bargains for businesses along the Highway 49 corridor, stretching from Grass Valley to Auburn.

Site's new logo
Site's new logo

The bargain-hunting site is the latest example of how the Internet, with no barriers to entry, is reshaping the local media landscape —  long dominated by community newspaper chains and independent radio stations.

“Everyone is looking for deals right now,” said the site’s publisher, Kris Bordessa of Placerville. “And they’re out there. I’m just trying to make it easy for people to find them.”

A site called already is up and running, offering online coupons from local businesses. The startup also owns the domain name to expand the idea.

Besides the new Web coupon sites, a social networking and blog site called has launched. It is running Google ads. caught my attention for three reasons:

•It focuses on the fast-growing Highway 49 corridor, providing new advertising opportunities across two counties, as I’ve blogged about before.

•It also capitalizes on the boom in online coupon clipping, brought on by the recession, as I’ve discussed.

•Last, the new Web site is part of a national, independently owned network,, so it can post information from the other sites — benefitting from economies of scale.

Our area’s media landscape is changing rapidly, thanks to the Web, providing new choices for readers and advertisers alike.

Riding the Rails — now and during the Depression

For $5 (and much less with ongoing discounts), the Sunday New York Times is still a bargain. So much information. This morning’s Travel section has a well-written and researched article titled “Riding the Rails.”


It includes a discussion of one of our family’s favorite trips: the California Zephyr, which you can hop onto the train in Colfax.

“A week-long cross-country trip (is) a way to rediscover America and reconnect with fellow countrymen,” as the article states. Or as one train attendant summed it up: “Life gets discombobulating. This helps.”

As it turns out, riding the rails was popular during the Great Depression — for more practical reasons.

“Many people forced off the farm heard about work hundreds of miles away . . . or even half a continent away,” according to “Farming in the ’30s.” “Often the only way they could get there was by hopping on freight trains, illegally.

“More than two million men and perhaps 8,000 women became hobos.”

(photo from