What local leaders own Emgold stock?

I’m increasingly wondering how many of our community leaders who support reopening the Idaho-Maryland mine – government, civic or major business advocates – own stock in parent company Emgold?

They obviously would personally benefit if the mine were to win approval to reopen.

As a journalist, I certainly would disclose that. (Most news organizations *require* that if you write about them). Others should too, no matter what their occupation.

Likewise, I suppose, I’d like to hear from mine opponents who are “shorting” the stock – that is, betting it will go down. (A less likely group of people, but who knows?)

I raise this because I’ve been *astounded* at the “conflicts of interest” that routinely go on around here but are not fully disclosed – something I’ve written about before. Living in a “small town” is not an excuse.

Raising the bar on professionalism is a big step toward attracting more professionals to our area.

BTW, I don’t own any Emgold shares. I’m also still on the fence about reopening the mine. It’s much too early in the process to take sides.

Put on a wedding ring at 30,000 feet

Richard Branson and a friend
Richard Branson and a friend
You’ve heard of the “mile high club.”

But Virgin Atlantic Airways has a twist: air weddings. As a business, I’ve always admired Virgin and founder Richard Branson (whom I’ve interviewed half a dozen times) for getting “out of the box” in a “me-too” industry such as airlines. Others in autos and old media could learn from him.

Here’s the email sent on April Fools’ Day:

“We are proud to announce a once in a lifetime opportunity – air weddings.

“Take over our Clubhouses for your bachelor and bachelorette parties, then take off with up to 300 guests for your wedding in the sky, complete with pilot officiator and air hostess bridesmaids.

“Enjoy a champagne reception (with real champagne flutes), followed by a three course meal and speeches through the headphones.

“It’s all the excitement of a wedding, elopement and honeymoon rolled into one, with your friends and family along for the ride. Now all you need to do is say ‘I do’.”

Sound cool? If you click on the email, it reads, “GULLIBLE ISN’T WRITTEN ON THE CEILING,

“And unfortunately, we can’t help you tie the knot on board – at least not yet!

“That was just our little April Fools’ joke to jump-start your month – did we get you? Forward the email onto your friends and see if you can catch them out as well!”

90-foot antenna ‘tree’ is 70 feet from GV homes

Ah, “progress.” In this case, a teleco is proposing to build a 90-foot fake pine tree, AKA communications tower — just 70 feet from an apartment building in Grass Valley. Four antennas also will be poking out toward the top, all towering over the neighborhood.

This proposed “plant a metal tree” project — part of a growing, controversial trend — is at 531 South Auburn Street in Grass Valley, near East Empire Street. The apartment building is 70 feet to the east.

“The project includes artificial needles, branches and bark on the mono-pole to create a conifer tree appearance, similar to conifer trees in the immediate area,” according to a city legal notice.

Of course. An environmental report shows “no significant environmental impact,” according to the city. The project is occurring in a “communications compound” in the neighborhood.

Let’s see what the neighbors think. A 30-day comment period starts in April.

”This thing is just a horror,” a suburban New York resident told The New York Times when a cell-phone tower looking like a tree was installed in his neighborhood. He referred to it as ”our monstrosity.”

Tourism could suffer from ban on stocking trout

The weather is warming up and trout fishing season is just around the corner in the Sierra and Sierra foothills.

But a court order stemming from a 2006 lawsuit will prevent fish from being stocked in many lakes and rivers, including Scotts Flat, Bowman Reservoir, Spaulding Reservoir, Rollins Reservoir, Donner Lake, the North Fork of the Yuba and the Truckee River, among other places, my research shows.

These are among the area’s most popular fishing holes that are subjected to the no-fish stocking lockdown.

It could hurt the summer tourism business, too, because many people come here to fish. Fishing is much slower when the fish aren’t stocked regularly. Just what we need on top of a deep recession.

The ban on stocking fish in many lakes and rivers — a common practice — stems from a November court order on a 2006 lawsuit.

A group called Pacific Rivers Council sued Fish and Game over stocking programs, arguing no environmental impact report had occurred for the programs. A superior court judge ordered the agency to complete a report, which won’t be finished until January 2010.

Meanwhile, planting of trout is not permitted in many places. Here’s the full list of lakes and rivers where fish will be stocked and where they will not: list.

My son and I noticed that a few of our favorite spots will still be stocked, so I’ll take him there. You can always catch the other fish that aren’t planted this year, too — and they’ll be even bigger!

Tahoe papers to launch weekend e-edition

The Sierra Sun in Truckee, Tahoe Daily Tribune in South Tahoe and Bonanza in Incline Village all will launch a weekend e-edition this spring that is mobile-friendly, shifting more effort online.

The e-newsletters called iSun, iBonanza and iTrib will contain coverage of weekend news and events.

“E-mails will go out on Mondays giving residents and visitors a recap of weekend news and events, slideshows, photo galleries, videos, multimedia features and a recap of weekend sports,” according to the Tahoe Daily Tribune.

As for Truckee’s Sierra Sun, the free tabloid publication has cut its print circulation back to only on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday since January, down from five days a week last year, to cut costs.

No mention was made whether any further cuts would be made in print circulation to the Tahoe papers. For years, larger newspapers have launched e-editions with mobile features. Online-only publications, such as CNET, depended greatly on them.

The Tahoe papers are sister papers of The Union. All are owned by Reno-based Swift Communications, a closely held family business.

Sales of second homes have tumbled 30 percent last year, according to the AP. Many of Swift’s markets are in communities dominated by second homeowners, such as Tahoe and Vail.

My habits are to read the Sierra Sun’s e-edition when I’m not in the Tahoe area. But in the summer, the busiest time of year, I like to crack a hard-copy by the lake or a restaurant – not read it online.

I also miss the weekly Tahoe World, which provided more “hyper-local” news for Tahoe City. For long-timers, Truckee and Tahoe are different markets. I hear a lot of the same concerns from full-time residents too.

Either way, the papers are going to have to beef up their local news coverage of government meetings, including the school districts, water boards, TRPA, etc. – something that has suffered in the recent cutbacks.

Some major “hard news” issues have fallen through the cracks, too, such as the ongoing water and sewer problems in neighborhoods around the lake.

When it comes to entertainment and calendar items, a weekly print publication called “The Weekly” also provides another choice for readers. It also has a Web site.

Newspapers and automakers in same boat

What do newspapers and automakers have in common? A lot.

Both industries have broken business models, and the managements of both have dragged their feet to bring about meaningful change — resorting to the “band aid” approach instead.

The U.S. government’s decision to reject the GM and Chrysler restructurings as inadequate on Monday, as well as throw out the GM chief executive, is the right one. In fact, it took too long.

Sure, the decision is partly political: the AIG bonus debacle left the Obama administration with egg on its face after taxpayers shelled out billions to bail out the troubled insurer.

But the decision also shows that it’s time to “put up or shut up” when it comes to fixing a broken business model in autos: Either deal more aggressively with the systemic problems or go bankrupt.

The same thing should be happening with newspapers. But who will do the prodding for them?

In the meantime, as with the automakers, the product side bears the brunt of it. This adds additional risk: losing credibility with your customers, who can “vote with their feet.”

Would In-n-Out replace Arby’s in GV?

The Arby’s in Grass Valley, across the street from the Pine(less) Creek Shopping Center, has closed. “Thank you, GV. We will miss you,” reads a sign.

It’s a valuable asset, though: A retail space that *already* is zoned for a drive-through.

The city has cast a weary eye on approving new drive-in locations: for a Walgreen’s at the old Hills Flat store and a Starbucks in “Burger Basin,” for example.

Like Trader Joe’s, In-n-Out has a cult following, with many locals praying to the fast-food Gods that one will come here.

Will it? Doubtful. There’s one in Auburn and our population is flat. Heck, our car dealerships are disappearing.

In the meantime, the Arby’s space sits vacant, with peeling paint on the exterior. Note to The Union: You might want to remove your powder-blue news rack from the entrance and redeploy it.

St. Mary Academy of GV humming along

In January 2007 Mount St. Mary Academy of Grass Valley, the oldest continually running Catholic school west of the Mississippi, faced closure because of declining enrollment.

Now, however, it’s humming along, thanks to hard working and dedicated parents and parishioners.

On Saturday night, the school held its 16th annual gala and fundraising auction. Despite the deep recession, more people attended this year than last.

The Grass Valley Veterans Hall was packed and decked out in style: with gold and black baloons, white tablecloths, wait people, and a filet or grilled salmon (plus veggies) meal. Wine was included. Tickets were $55.

Many families donated items for the auction. We donated a weekend at our cabin in Tahoe, and the sheet was filled with names and bids. One mom offered to match the highest bid and donate the money to the school — a “twofer.”

Saturday night’s fundraiser was a big success, raising many thousands of dollars. Next year, the school expects to add some more teachers, and parents are phoning to inquire about enrolling their children next year. The problems in the public schools are raising concerns.

Mount St. Mary’s turnaround exemplifies the “can do” spirit in our towns.

County wins $300K grant to grow local business

Highlights from a newsy version of County Executive Officer Rick Haffey’s Friday memo, including a long-awaited dose of good economic news:

•The county won a $300,000 grant to provide loans for expansion of businesses and job creation. The deal referred to businesses in unincorporated Nevada County.

But as reported in November, grant money such as this could eventually help clear the way for businesses such as California Organics to occupy space in the former Broad Street Furnishings in Nevada City. The background is here.

Thanks to the county’s Kyle Thompson, who spearheaded the effort to land the grant. I enjoy my discussions with Kyle, a “rising star” in county government.

•Nevada County released a draft of its energy plan on Friday, meant to reduce energy use in county facilities. The plan calls for reducing energy use by 10 percent in the first year, 20 percent in the second year and 5 percent in the third year.

A copy of the plan is at county’s draft energy plan

•The county also intends to crack down on illegal roadside vendors who sell fruit, firewood, tools and other goods. It will start on Saturdays in April.

‘We’ve Got Scrubs’ opening in GV on April 1

Here’s an economic bright spot: I took a spin up to Colfax on Friday for a lunch appointment – convertible weather – and drove by a cool business that is opening on April Fool’s Day.

Next to Goomba’s on Colfax Avenue, it’s called “We’ve Got Scrubs,” and will sell all colors and sizes of scrubs for doctors, nurses and vets, along with other supplies for them.

Talk about a business that plays to our demographics! Good going and good luck. I keep wondering if there’s also room for more medical supply businesses in our area.

Besides being the HDTV capital, we could be the medical-supply capital. How about a store called “Bedpan Bargains”? TGIF.