Agenda: County in talks for North Star property?

p5_11The very last item for Tuesday’s meeting of the county Board of Supervisors — listed under “closed sessions” — is an interesting nugget:

The county is negotiating with North Star Development of Grass Valley for the parcel once earmarked for a controversial housing project, according to the item.

“The subject property is commonly known as the North Star Mining property consisting of approximately 700 acres, between Auburn Road and Allison Ranch Road in the unincorporated area of Nevada County south of Grass Valley,” according to the agenda item.

The closed-door session focuses on “the property interested to be acquired, the price and terms of payment.”

As previously reported, the North Star property is in foreclosure proceedings. Before the recession hit, it was supposed to be jet-setting developer Sandy Sanderson’s dream of a housing project.

Citizens Bank, our hometown financial institution, is the lender.

A PDF of the agenda (go to the bottom of page 6 for this item) is here: North Star

Tom McClintock, a no-tax guy, votes for a big tax

hflr021209090002807741Our Congressman Tom McClintock is a “no tax” guy — no doubt about that.

But let the record show that he did vote this week to impose a 90 percent tax on executive bonuses paid by insurance giant AIG.

“I reluctantly supported HR 1586 for a simple and singular reason: it will stop or slow the corporate bailouts that are bankrupting our country,” McClintock explained.

Good going Tom! Here’s how the Republicans in the California delegation voted, according to Associated Press.

Republicans — Bilbray, Y; Bono Mack, Y; Calvert, Y; Campbell, N; Dreier, N; Gallegly, Y; Herger, Y; Hunter, N; Issa, N; Lewis, Y; Lungren, Daniel E., N; McCarthy, N; McClintock, Y; McKeon, N; Miller, Gary, X; Nunes, N; Radanovich, X; Rohrabacher, Y; Royce, Y.

Note that Dan Lungren voted “no” on the tax.

“Although the bonus payments are an outrageous and unjustifiable use of taxpayers’ money, taxing the bonuses at confiscatory rates is unconstitutional,” Lungren explained. “This sets a terrible precedent for the use of the tax code against other groups not favored by the government in the future.”

In our district, I hope Tom does a good job respresenting us. He met with our local elected and staff officials from the county, Grass Valley and Nevada City last week.

Tom kept reiterating to the group that he voted against the stimulus package and thought it was a “bad idea,” but he vowed to bring the money to his constituents, according to the county’s weekly memo on Friday.

He seemed sympathetic toward funding for wastewater and roads, according to the memo.

I hope Tom follows through: As I’ve blogged before, wastewater treatment is one of our county’s biggest problems, if not the biggest. I can’t think of a quicker way to blow through our county’s cash reserves.

Is Bleacher Report future of sports journalism?

images33Despite an industry-wide slowdown in ad sales from the recession, a “citizen journalism” site called the Bleacher Report is continuing to prosper.

Launched more than a year ago, it was the brainchild of four young Bay Area sports enthusiasts who wanted to harness the expertise of sports fans.

Sports fans are ideal candidates for “citizen journalists”: a lot of them have in-depth knowledge of the subject, and they like to express themselves.

Thousands of amateur writers publish hundreds of articles per day on the Bleacher Report — at a time when newsrooms are shrinking because of cost cutting. Writers self-publish the articles, and they are edited by paid pros.

The startup has landed millions of dollars in venture capital financing and now provides syndicated content to Fox and CBS. Web traffic has climbed to more than 800,000 unique visitors per month, according to

The success of Bleacher Report needs to give traditional sports journalists pause as they ponder their own future.

More good news on Lake Tahoe’s clarity

images-16Here’s some upbeat news: The clarity of Lake Tahoe’s waters is holding steady.

The waters were clear to an average depth of 69.9 feet last year, according to UC Davis. The figure is nearly identical to the 2007 average of 70.1 feet.

The results from 2007 also confirmed that lake clarity had not been declining as fast as it once was.

Still, the research showed that lake clarity declined sharply during last summer’s California wildfires — to as little as 36.9 feet in August. This is something I’d warned about at the time.

Last year’s results would have been much better without the fires.

UC Davis scientists have been monitoring the clarity of the lake since 1968. At that time, the measurement was 102.4 feet.

My son and I have regularly seen the research boat from the West Shore of the lake. Scientists lower a white “Secchi disk” into the lake to measure its clarity. It’s cool to watch.

“What 2008 highlighted is the impact that wildfires and other factors outside our direct control can have on Lake Tahoe. While progress is being made in both understanding and addressing the root causes of clarity decline, the path to achieving the desired clarity will not be a straight one,” said Tahoe Environmental Research Center director Geoff Schladow.

Gov. meetings soon being streamed to your PC

images31NCTV is expected to begin Web streaming of local government meetings as early as next month, according to my sources.

The plan, which has been in the works, will let residents watch public meetings on their PCs, not just their TVs. The content also will be available as video on demand.

This is a welcome technological breakthrough in providing access to the government channel content. 

Some of our residents don’t receive cable, so this is a much-anticipated feature.

Many people report to me they like watching the meetings on television from the comfort of their home. They can’t always get to the meetings in person. Some are elderly or disabled.

An “on demand” feature would let people call up the agenda items they are interested in watching and skip the rest — a huge benefit because of drawn-out meetings.

You also could watch the meetings while you’re out of town, a benefit of Web streaming technology.

The meetings could become interactive with home viewers if government agencies were to incorporate a technology such as “twitter.”

Don’t laugh: Twitter use is growing at a staggering 1,382 percent growth rate year-over-year, with millions of unique users per month.

(photo from

Is it time for Congress to return their salaries?

Congress for Kids

I’m not going to defend the AIG bonuses. But I find the criticism in Congress ironic: How about Congress return its six-figure salaries, along with the regulators, for helping to create this god awful situation in the first place, because no one was being a “watchdog”?

This belongs in the “gimme a break” department. Let’s hope the press catches on.

(photo from

How a newspaper tried to invest in Facebook

images30I’m in Silicon Valley this week, meeting with some people about a “new journalism” project.

One “coulda, shoulda, woulda” tale being discussed is how The Washington Post tried (but failed) to invest in Facebook.

Instead, it got aced out by a Silicon Valley venture capital firm.

Facebook is one hot tamale, generating buzz that newspapers are not.

The Post is not sitting idle, however. It has an award-winning Web site and owns a Webzine, Salon, which it bought from Microsoft.

Why don’t newspapers discuss their troubles?

images11I’ve often wondered why some newspapers aren’t more candid in informing readers about their financial woes. It’s no secret to the readers that their newspapers are struggling — much lighter editions, for example.

Transparency leads to credibility, and credibility leads to a tighter bond between newspapers and their readers.

Having said that, some outsiders jump to conclusions too quickly, assuming that *all* newspapers are folding or *all* newspapers will go online. That’s wrong too: some newspaper’s problems are more dire than others.

The issue is often complex and “gray,” not “black or white.”

Still, being upfront with readers about the woes is the best course of action.

Here’s an article on the subject, written in the Columbia Journalism Review, titled “A tale of two papers: P-I offers reporting; San Francisco Chronicle offers flackery.”

Area private schools get boost with public woes

images28The layoffs and budget cutbacks at our public schools are generating a surge in inquiries for many of our area’s private schools.

They report more parents are calling than usual, inquiring about enrollment next year. Private school tuition here is a relative bargain compared with many larger communities. 

The classroom size is smaller, and teachers have public-school credentials. Many parents also worry that friction between the public school administrators and the teacher’s union — while understandable — is not in the best interest of their children.

Private schools have suffered their own plights, however: the closure of Sierra Christian school in Nevada City in January, for example. 

Declining enrollment will force an ongoing restructuring of our schools. It is the price we play for not diversifying our economy beyond retirement and tourism.

We need to attract more families and higher-paying jobs, as I’ve written many times before. Can we?