New columnist “true confessions”: More corporate PR than journalism

George Boardman, the Union’s new weekly columnist, has wasted no time confirming he is an Ackerman “mini me.”

Though promising to find a “middle ground,” his blog wastes no time ridiculing my personal appearance and even my business, which unlike (The Stonehouse restaurant his family once ran) is thriving.

Why so petty? Because he doesn’t have anything tangible to grab onto, so he throws rocks from the sidelines.

Though The Union editor praises George’s “career in journalism,” George confesses that he spent “most of working years in corporate public relations.” (He left the word “my” out).

George is already being spun by the hard right, clueless about their tsunami that is about to engulf our local political scene for the 2014 elections, including the “nonpartisan” posts (because he has no “sourcing”).

You can also be sure that Ackerman has a direct pipeline to Boardman’s email “in” box, as he has in the past.

George promises to report from the “center,” though he ridicules the sustainable food movement, laws to protect the transgender community and praises McClintock’s legislation.

So what’s new at The Union? Nothing. Our western county politics is about as toxic as it gets. First Amendment rights are OK — as long as they are like-minded opinions.

Our local newspaper bags ex-publisher “mini me” to write a weekly column — whoo hoo!

UnknownLess than a few days after The Union painted our community as yahoos to the world with sloppy reporting on a “Support Our Troops” sign at a church, the editor is gleefully announcing that George Boardman — a “mini me” of our ex-publisher, in style and substance — will write a weekly column each Monday.

George is a friend of Jeff Ackerman and his glory days of journalism were spent at The Union, though he might have climbed as high up the ladder as the Palo Alto Times. George’s family was involved in running The Stonehouse Restaurant in Nevada City, which closed.

He also worked in PR, often considered a “cop out” for serious journalists, at least in George’s era.

George lives in Lake of the Pines. When I read his columns, I regularly conclude that he should mingle more with Californians — on the Coast or at least in Sacramento or Tahoe.

My main complaint about George is that he’s really average, bouncing around in the minor leagues of journalism without much entrepreneurial achievement, but he pretends to be a real “know it all.”

In fact, he’s guilty of the same common journalism flaw as his friend Ackerman — “jack of all trades, master of none.”

It’s a classic “big fish, small pond” syndrome, “all hat, no cattle,” or a guy who throws rocks from the sidelines but never has won many big games.

I figure The Union brought him onboard to placate the “righty’s” of our community, who complain the new publisher is too soft compared with Ackerman. It came after a “readership survey.” On the hard-right political blogs, one reader has been speculating about another looming management shakeup.

It’s a safe move too. George also is popular with the RL Crabb contingent, many “shifters” and other community old timers. They defend him wholeheartedly, like mother hens.

It’s a big mistake if The Union ever expects to grow its readership — and a classic “inside the box,” “cul de sac” recruit. And to preserve what? The readership is aging and declining.

On George’s blog, you’ll find headlines like “Is ObamaCare on its way to becoming ObamaGeddon?”

Or “Transgender bathrooms? In elementary school?,” where he writes: “But the conservatives have it right with their latest cause, repeal of a new California law that lets transgender students choose which bathrooms and locker rooms to use, and which sports teams to join based on their gender identify.”

George also thinks Tom McClintock’s bill to salvage timber — widely criticized by knowledgeable environmentalists — “should be given serious consideration.”

You can also read George making fun of real-food author Michael Pollan when he came to town, while also belittling the sustainable food movement — even though it is gaining traction in our community.

“GM crops have helped ensure food security and bolster incomes for farmers, and better GM crops are in the pipeline. Billions of people are leading longer, healthier lives since the commercialization of GM foods over 17 year ago,” he wrote.

George also likes to bring up the old saw that healthier food costs more. “Duh”! as he would put it. “Organic? Eat a Big Mac and pocket the change,” he writes.

George likes to make fun of our County officials, referring to their “clueless comments” but again, I’d cringe to think of him executing any county responsibilities. Talk is cheap.

He also was a business writer but shows a poor understanding of Silicon Valley’s role in propelling our state economy out of the recession, using trite phrases such as “irrational exuberance.”

George makes fun of Netflix, which would have made him a bundle if he’d bought the stock instead of made fun of it.

Like Ackerman, George has a chip on his shoulder and is insecure around people who are smarter or more successful than he is.

Congratulations to The Union! It is starting off the new year taking a giant step back to the days of its ex-publisher. And drawing a smaller circle around itself.

Local economic development that looks forward, not backward

I’ve long been skeptical that our western county was big enough to attract a big store like Target, much less a Trader Joe’s. We are a declining, aging population with about 60k widespread residents.

In addition, Target also has a new expanded store in North Auburn. We don’t shop there (except when my son was more interested in Legos), but locals tell us they like it (and don’t mind the short commute).

Sources confirm my suspicions that we’re a diminishing target for Target, so we might need to settle for a Kohl’s or some smaller “big box” store to generate needed tax receipts. Fine.

But instead of going down the humiliating “always a bridesmaid, never a bride” path, I’d argue that now is the time to rethink our economic development, focusing more on the future than the past, as well as our unique strengths. In short, we need to diversify.

We also need to be realistic about our growth potential: The Great Recession will make it harder for construction and real estate — longtime local economic engines — to propel our growth.

Mining and timber — despite what some “old guard” right-wing extremists might tell you — are much less exciting than in the past with our state’s changing demographics.

Our forests can be “monetized” with recreation, not logging. And mining carries too many risks when it comes to preserving our unique lifestyle.

So here’s a thought:

•What if Loma Rica became a destination for outdoor recreation instead of a housing project? The hottest attraction in Tahoe this summer is a new adventure park with zip lines, commonplace in Europe. It is attracting a youthful, affluent (and tech-oriented) demographic. And it is a low-impact, eco-friendly and unique attraction for regions like ours.

In a nutshell, active people from more urban areas love it.

Attractions like this also can help generate revenue to our community’s other “mom and pop” businesses, still the lifeblood of our local economy. There is real “synergy” between small towns like Grass Valley and Nevada City and ecotourism or geotourism.

The Loma Rica Ranch organic farm was popular; it could be expanded. The organic food industry is booming. Loma Rica could become a destination for outdoor entertainment too.

The Getty Trust really ought to rethink its current strategy of unloading a “shovel ready” Loma Rica to help recoup losses from its original investment. It has a lot more potential that is consistent with Getty’s supposedly more “sustainable” Sierra Nevada investment philosophy.

The developer could still build houses there; just not so many of them.

Though some are loathe to accept it, our community could become a “magnet” for coastal California, with a focus on a back-to-the-land movement. Modern homesteading is on fire (just ask Peaceful Valley Farm Supply, Williams Sonoma and others). Again, the demographics are affluent and tech-oriented.

•Next up: What if the Gallelli land that is supposed to be home to a Target were home to an expanded BriarPatch Co-op and state-of-the art Sierra Cinemas? BriarPatch is one of the fastest-growing businesses and biggest employers in our county. It has effectively outgrown its current space and is one of the biggest “growth” stories around.

Though we write about it in our magazine regularly, this trend is vastly under-reported in the local media. The visibility is rising, however: Food activist Michael Pollan is speaking in Grass Valley in November, sponsored by Center for the Arts and BriarPatch. You will see more of this.

As for a business like Sierra Cinemas, internet search analysis for our own business shows a persistent, ongoing interest in going to the movies. I suspect it’s attractive entertainment for retirees in a rural setting. At any rate, it is a growing trend (despite the home theater digital revolution).

To be sure, we could benefit from “big box” stores and housing projects. And in theory, I totally support them. This is not an “either-or” proposition; it is an inclusive proposition.

Scoop: The Union’s FOI lawsuit cost our schools about $17,000 to defend — legal fees will come from district’s general fund

The Union’s Freedom of Information Act lawsuit has cost our schools about $17,000 to defend, and the money will come out of the Nevada Joint Union High School District’s general operating budget to pay for it, Sierra Foothills Report has learned.

We calculated the legal tab from our own FOI request, and Karen Suenram, assistant superintendent of business services at NJUSHD, confirmed that the fees will come out of the district’s general coffers.

“Hi Jeff – You are correct,” Suenram said in an email. “The expense is currently close to $17,000. The District’s insurance does not cover this type of legal expense. The money will come from the District’s general operating budget. – Karen.”

Earlier this month, Sierra Foothills Report sent a public records request to the Nevada Joint Union High School District to find out what The Union’s recent FOI lawsuit against the District cost our schools — at a time of tight school budgets and cutbacks.

The Union lost the suit, as previously reported. We felt the FOI suit was misguided, because there was no “smoking gun” documents in the termination of Superintendent Marianne Cartan’s contract, just an honest professional disagreement about performance. It happens.

A judge agreed with the District’s position.

The incident cast a light on The Union’s lack of sourcing in its beat reporting more than anything else. Now the financial consequences — a $17,000 legal bill for our schools — are surfacing.

Our FOI request turned up the legal tab in detailed invoices: one for $14,790.76 in June and other for $2,100.46 in May for a grand total of $16,891.

We suspect our own FOI request will add some cost to the total as well and apologize for that. (We’ll match our cost with a donation to a high-school fundraiser, we told Suenram).

Atkinson, Andelson, Loya, Ruud & Romo, from Fresno, who handled the FOI case, are billing at the rate of $175 an hour — a reasonable enough rate. The case sucked up almost 100 hours in legal time. We’re not surprised.

Examples include a $43.75 bill for a telephone call to The Union’s City Editor regarding The Union’s petition for writ of mandate. The district also paid $43.75 for the law firm to “read and review The Union’s article re: filing of petition for preemptory writ against the district.”

Case research gobbled up most of the time.

A detailed invoice an introductory letter to Sierra Foothills Report totaling 21 pages can be read here:
Pelline Response to Public Records Act Request-1

CABPRO’s Agenda 21 speaker in GV: “Don’t be so nice. This is war.”

“Rosa Koire, a self-proclaimed liberal and author of ‘Behind the Green Mask: U.N. Agenda 21,’ told scores of people at the Grass Valley Veterans Hall Tuesday that development efforts billed as ‘sustainable’ or ‘smart growth’ are just the tip of an iceberg designed to strip rural communities of their property rights and turn them into dense urban centers,” The Union is reporting.

“Koire further told the crowd to become proactive, attend government meetings and speak out against Agenda 21-related matters during the open-topic comment portions of such public gatherings.

“Dominate your government meetings,” Koire said at the three-hour lecture put on by the California Association of Business, Property and Resource Owners, or CABPRO.

“You are going to go and talk to your elected officials and if they blow you off, you are going to target them for removal,” Koire told the crowd about voting uncooperative representatives out of office.

“If a nonprofit supports the kind of sustainability development or receives funding from Agenda 21-related organizations, cease supporting them, she said. Koire implicated the Sierra Business Council and Nevada City’s Sustainability Team as such organizations.

“She also requested that those who attended Tuesday’s meeting copy fliers she supplied and leave them on doorsteps.

“’Have compassion,’ Koire said. ‘People don’t get it right away … Have patience.’

“However, that statement was followed with the advice — ‘Don’t be so nice,” she said. “This is war.’

The rest of the article is here.

Bear River Mills update

From the county’s Friday memo:

“County and Grass Valley city staff met on Wednesday in a very positive and productive working session to further discuss the Bear River Mills General Plan amendment and Zone Change project. As you’ll recall from previous ‘Friday Memo’ updates on October 21st and November 10th of this year, County and City staff have initiated a review of the General Plan and Zoning Ordinance designations in the area surrounding the old Bear River Mills site to accommodate the County’s Corporation Yard project and future development patterns desired by the City of Grass Valley.

“The most recent meeting, attended by Tom Last, City Planner and Dan Holler, CAO from the City, Laura Matteson, Steve DeCamp, Brian Foss, Tyler Barrington and myself, revealed the City’s desire to expand the study area boundaries beyond that originally envisioned by County staff. The County and City agreed that next steps will include a collaboration on a joint City/County letter to potentially involved property owner’s to help assess their level of interest and future development preferences. The results of this survey and a neighborhood meeting will help define the ultimate project boundaries. If expansion of the study area boundaries proves to be appropriate, some minor amendments to the work program and timeline distributed to you in the November 10th Thursday Memo may be warranted.”