Opinion Columns

Hemig: Breakfast with the publisher

September 17, 2014 — 

Want a good breakfast? Want to learn more about your local newspaper? Have a burning question you’ve wanted to ask The Union’s publisher?

Do you have an opinion about the paper, or a specific article? Would you like to support Nevada Union’s High School culinary program?

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In fact, all is well in Penn Valley Fire Protection District

September 17, 2014 — 

On Oct. 3, 2013, The Union published an article written by staff writer Matthew Renda regarding the Penn Valley Fire District chief and the board of directors. The bold headline presented on the front page, above the fold was titled “Residents castigate Penn Valley chief, board.”

The article, in the first paragraph, stated “All is not well in the Penn Valley Fire Protection District.” Included in the article were several quotes and accusations made by a resident of the district, Bill Gassaway, described as “a former volunteer with the district.” Renda attended the Board of Directors meeting on Oct. 1, 2013 and witnessed the comments made by Mr. Gassaway. Mr. Renda made contact with me after the meeting and asked for a response to the accusations. I did attempt to provide accurate information and gave Mr. Renda the names and contact information for several people who had direct knowledge of the topics of discussion. It would have been easy for the reporter to obtain the facts on each of the charges Mr. Gassaway made by simply asking the right people the right questions. Mr. Renda apparently chose not to hear facts but to go with Mr. Gassaway’s comments.

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Liberal Nat Hentoff lays the “I” word on Obama

September 15, 2014 — 

It is just over one year since Nat Hentoff, long a mainstay of the super-liberal Village Voice, in addition to a PBS fixture and revered doyen of what might be called the coherent Left — and, more recently, a senior fellow at the libertarian Cato Institute — mooted the idea of impeaching the current president (“Bringing civics classes back to schools: Obama impeachment?” The Jewish World Review, May 29, 2013)

The problem, as Hentoff sees it, is Obama’s blatant disregard for the Constitution. In his JWR piece, Hentoff urges all of us, conservative and liberal alike, to please, for the love of Pete, sit up and pay attention. There is deeply troubling stuff being done on this president’s watch, possibly even on his orders, says this long-time icon of the Left. Stuff that matters.

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We’re Americans. Aren’t we smarter than that?

September 14, 2014 — 

Growing up in the ’50s, our economy was in full gear and life was good, but my parents remembered the hard times of their youth and taught us the importance of not wasting resources.

Now we consume without thought, sucking natural resources from our environment until Mother Nature screams that there isn’t enough to sustain all. So what do we do? The only thing that an animal as arrogant and shortsighted as a human would do. Don’t fix the problem, just put a pink flowered band-aid on it. That looks better, go home and don’t worry your little head, because all is OK for now.

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Are you a fed up Californian with lots of questions?

September 13, 2014 — 

Well, I, and many thousands of others, especially small business owners, are fed up and we’re asking many questions!

Why do we have such oppressive energy mandates? Why are so many individuals and businesses leaving California (5 percent in 2013 alone)? Why are many cattle ranchers’ hands tied to do what is necessary to keep predators (coyotes from the northern states that have protected status in California) from killing their livestock — their livelihood? Why have our legislators not fought for farmers in the Central Valley to get water to their crops so they and their family’s business could survive, rather than protect a fish? Why is it an either or situation in the first place? Is it really about the fish ... or just more partisan politics on the backs of “we the people?”

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Special interest folks want it their way

September 13, 2014 — 

When we talk among ourselves it appears the “pursuit of happiness” lines have been blurred.

Some folks say that “we” as a country have peaked. I don’t believe for a moment that statement is true. Instead, those people who think those thoughts may have peaked, but our nation by far is the strongest nation in the world and will continue to be so.

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In honor of Women’s Equality Day

September 13, 2014 — 

August 26 was the 94th anniversary of the Constitutional Amendment that granted women the right to vote. The League of Women Voters of Western Nevada County is marking this historic occasion through its ongoing work to engage and empower all potential voters to participate this year.

League members in our community are committed to ensuring that voters have the information they need to participate in elections. The League has scheduled four Candidate Forums for this general election coming on Nov. 4, 2014.

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Crabb: It Takes a Village Idiot

September 13, 2014 — 

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Proposing county authority over public land is ludicrous

September 12, 2014 — 

After reading Mr. Sauer’s Other Voices piece in the Sept. 6 edition of The Union, “A plan to save our forests,” I thought the correct title should be, “A right-wing plan to takeover local national forests,” or maybe, “Norm Sauer’s plan for a Nevada County coup d’état of the Tahoe National Forest.”

It’s really sad! And, as a friend pointed out, “to people who think like Norm does, ‘law’ is just an inconvenience to be used as either a distraction or skirted at the convenience of ideology. It is ironic for people who claim to be Constitutionalists.” Good point!

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Do not forget

September 11, 2014 — 

Today, on Sept. 11, 2014, two years have elapsed since Islamic militants attacked the American consulate in Benghazi, Libya, murdering four Americans including U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens.

Stevens was the first U.S. ambassador killed while on duty since 1979.

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Hemig: The debate to hold the Measure S debate

September 11, 2014 — 

Last Friday, in my column, I announced I would moderate a Measure S debate the evening of Sept. 23.

My column was simple enough. I mentioned the location, date, folks involved and a little about Measure S.

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Falls Prevention community event to feature senior chorus

September 9, 2014 — 

The Falls Prevention Coalition will present its seventh annual community event from 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Wed., Sept. 17. While we always love putting the event together, we are particularly excited that this year we will highlight the “Forever Young Senior Chorus.”

The Coalition decided to begin a chorus for seniors because we learned of research that correlates singing with a reduction in falls … yes, singing! How could we not jump on that emerging data and bring seniors together to sing, since we are interested in any approach that could reduce the alarming rate of falls in Nevada County.

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It takes a village idiot

September 9, 2014 — 

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Moses, are you out there?

September 9, 2014 — 

Springs of living water flow down from the snowy mountain tops of the Sierras forming waterfalls and rivers of life, touching the earth and following a crystal path of least resistance. Capturing this water and saving it for another day is the job of the Nevada Irrigation District (NID) located in Grass Valley and they’ve been doing this faithfully since 1921.

Back then, the oldest water rights in the state were secured and a blueprint was drawn up as the winter snows finally came, whereby eventually a system of 453 miles of flumes and canals, seven hydroelectric dams and various lakes began bringing precious surface water to 98,000 people as of 2014. What an achievement!

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Coaching boys into men

September 7, 2014 — 

The NFL recognizes its “role and responsibility to have a positive impact beyond professional football” – NFL Commissioner, Roger Goodell

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Forget platforms, let’s focus on what we love

September 6, 2014 — 

It is political platform season. To me, this is worse than the cold and flu season.

As soon as people hear that you are running for city council, the first question they ask is ... “What is your platform?”

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A plan to save our forests

September 6, 2014 — 

Last week our Nevada County Supervisors properly passed a resolution declaring a local state of emergency resulting from our overgrown forests coupled with drought, and the likelihood of catastrophic fire especially in national forests.

They resolved to ask Gov. Brown to get involved and work with the federal government to alleviate this emergency.

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4-H is far more than a ‘rural’ program

September 6, 2014 — 

For than more than 100 years, 4-H has been a cornerstone organization for American youth. While, as a community, we’re committed to our farms, ranches, our livestock, and our way of life, we’re even more committed to raising responsible, caring members of society.

4-H is a community of young people across America who are learning leadership, citizenship, and life skills as they work in partnership with caring adults. What does that mean? In 4-H, we are committed to helping young people develop skills that will help them succeed. We want to empower all youth to reach their full potential.

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Measure S would weaken county’s marijuana cultivation ordinance

September 6, 2014 — 

For a moment, set aside these facts: that marijuana is listed by the Federal Controlled Substances Act as a Schedule 1 Drug which has a high potential for abuse; that, according to Dr. Mitchell S. Rosenthal founder of Phoenix House, substance abuse treatment and prevention center, “… pot damages the heart and lungs, increases the incidence of anxiety, depression and schizophrenia …”; that marijuana does lasting damage to the brains of adolescents and it impairs learning, memory and judgment according to Dr. Nora Volkow’s research at Northwestern University; that Colorado and Washington states have legalized recreational use of marijuana; that California voters in 1996 approved Prop 215 allowing marijuana cultivation for medical purposes only; and that cities and counties may adopt and enforce ordinances consistent with the state’s health and safety code.

What we do need to focus on right here in Nevada County is Measure “S” on the November ballot. According to Nevada County Supervisor Richard Anderson, proponents of Measure S want voters to replace a liberal ordinance with a more liberal ordinance. The current medical marijuana cultivation ordinance, adopted in May 2012 specifies where, how, and how much medical marijuana may be cultivated in unincorporated residential and agricultural areas of the county. The current ordinance has enforcement, appeal and abatement provisions, and provides the community a means to alleviate nuisance marijuana “grows” and encourages those who legitimately grow it for their personal medical use to be good neighbors.

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Crabb: It Takes a Village Idiot

September 6, 2014 — 

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Now is the time for principled, pragmatic leadership

September 5, 2014 — 

A wise friend of mine, Machen MacDonald, once said to me, “Don’t worry about showing off, just keep showing up.”

I took that advice to heart and continue to apply it to my business, volunteer opportunities and my campaign for Grass Valley City Council.

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Hemig: Join us for a Measure S debate

September 5, 2014 — 

Nevada County voters will decide between two radically opposing viewpoints of Measure S on Nov. 4.

Measure S is a proposed revision to the county’s existing medical marijuana cultivation ordinance.

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Misguided Israeli policies

September 3, 2014 — 

This letter is in response to the pro-Palestinian political group who often submits articles to this newspaper.

Every time I have read one of their submissions, Israel is portrayed as the tormentor and the party responsible for all of the problems of the Palestinian people.

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Continuing contention over property rights

September 3, 2014 — 

A continuing source of community contentiousness is the issue of property rights — what is allowed and what should or shouldn’t be allowed for one’s use of one’s property.

Ideas on use of property range from “sovereign” (“I can do what I want”) to “commons” (land or resources belonging to the community). What is appropriate?

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Carrtoon: Sept. 4, 2014

September 3, 2014 — 

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Yes, voting really does matter

September 1, 2014 — 

One of my favorite local activities is attending the Nevada County Fair each August. This year the weather was great and last year’s controversy surrounding elephant rides was gone. Locals mingled with visitors, families and extended families alike experienced great music, exhibits, farm animals, Treat Street food, and carnival rides for all ages, while the fair staff was, as always, courteous and helpful.

I also spent some time at a fair booth registering voters. Nevada County has a large percentage of eligible voters registered already, which is great, but there are always people reaching voting age, moving to our county, moving within the county, or changing party affiliation. It was no different this year, with one disappointing exception: more young adults than ever appear uninterested in voting.

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Elias: Signs indicate California recovery will last

September 1, 2014 — 

THOMAS ELIAS

California Focus

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It Takes a Village Idiot

September 1, 2014 — 

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SYRCL’s story, from the beginning

August 31, 2014 — 

At no time is the value of our South Yuba River more evident than during the summer heat, so I thought this would be a good time to share the early history of SYRCL (aka South Yuba River Citizens’ League).

I have enormous respect and eternal gratitude for every volunteer, member and staff person who has ever worked for SYRCL. Their immeasurable work and dedication has indeed protected our beloved South Yuba and her watershed for 31 years!

That being said, last September someone who is often inaccurately credited with founding SYRCL was quoted in The Union as saying something like: “The people who started SYRCL had good intentions, but didn’t really know what they were doing.” On the SYRCL website, the original founders are called “a group of concerned local citizens,” which is also incorrect.

Allow me to set the record straight: We were a group of committed local citizens. (There’s a world of difference!) The real father of SYRCL is Dennis Barry, and I, Gracie MacKenzie, am her mother. And we definitely knew some things when we conceived and birthed her in 1983.

Here’s what happened:

I worked for the Mountain Messenger when an article appeared about a proposed hydro-electric project at Hoyt’s Crossing, more commonly called “Pan’s Pool” or “Miner’s Tunnel.” My exact words at that time were: “Oh, no they’re not!” Fresh out of training where I’d learned that my intentions and my word were powerful, I set an intention to organize a group whose mission would be to preserve and protect the South Yuba between Englebright and Spaulding dams.

Around that same time, Dennis Barry read that the county was proposing a feasibility study for themselves to build a hydro-power plant there. Outraged, he wrote a letter to the editor expressing his views. We’d never met, but reading his letter moved me to call and ask if he knew of anyone who was doing anything about it. He didn’t, so I said “Let’s do it,” and we scheduled a meeting.

Dennis made a flyer and posted one at Misty Mountain, now the South Pine Café in Nevada City. Rob Sinnock had been going to the Yuba with Dennis since they were kids. They had been doing their own river clean-ups for a long time! Vince Haughey had worked several years as both a river rafting guide and a volunteer with “Friends of the River,” and met Dennis when he stopped to read the poster.

We four sat in a circle for our first meeting, sharing stories and intentions, planning the next steps. Dennis and Rob would make a video; I would write copy for promo materials; Vince would get the paperwork for a petition to be filed with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission; we would gather signatures, put up posters, tell everyone and invite them to join us in our work. We knew exactly what we were doing. We had no doubt. We were starting a group that would preserve and protect the 39-mile stretch of the Yuba between Englebright and Spaulding.

Meeting in a circle, our numbers grew. The petition was successful and the projects were stopped. We needed a name and I made one up. Pronounced “circle,” the acronym reflected the coming together of neighbors, committed citizens, standing for the Yuba.

As it unfolded, Dennis and I both had to shift priorities to our families when his son became ill and I found my daughter who’d been missing for 11 years. We consciously turned our “child” over to professionals who asked to adopt her, and SYRCL was nurtured by many foster parents on her way to becoming the premier river protection group celebrated today. Every one of them is my hero.

I offer this historical review not for recognition, but to shed light on a powerful concept; and to empower anyone who feels small or impotent in the face of current issues. Margaret Mead said: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

It is potent to live with intention. And in gratitude for those who came before us, and on whose shoulders we stand; as well as for those who will take up the work and carry it forward when we move on.

I invite you to stand for something. Organize. Act. Lead. You don’t have to know everything it will take – just that it’s possible, and that you make a difference. It is and you do.

Gracie MacKenzie lives in Grass Valley. Dennis Barry contributed to this column.

Natividad: Thank you, Nevada County, from my family to yours

August 29, 2014 — 

Many Nevada County natives refer to the Yuba River as a sacred place. The first time I took my family to the South Fork, I understood why.

It is such a peaceful, calming and fun place to be, which is why it was very troubling to hear from my in-laws about a hateful incident they recently experienced at the river, while visiting from San Francisco.

According to my father in-law, a couple of weeks ago he took my 2-year-old son, his wife, cousin and two nieces to Edwards Crossing to enjoy the river. As my family began to cross over some rocks to get to the shaded side of the river, they encountered a couple sunbathing.

The couple began to yell obscenities at my family, trying to discourage them from crossing. They threatened to sick their dog on my family if they didn’t leave, yelling a racial slur, then demanding them to go to another part of the river. To avoid conflict, my family walked away, but were so disturbed by the altercation that they left the river and drove back to my house.

My father-in-law, who is of Chinese and Korean descent, said that it was the first time he had ever encountered racism in his more than 30 years of living in this country. I, myself, have had a different experience.

As a military brat I moved around a lot. My father served more than 25 years in the U.S. Navy, and we lived in different parts of the country, from Hawaii to Washington D.C. I have Filipino, Spanish and Indian ethnic roots in my family lineage, and needless to say, I have personally encountered racism in some form or another, everywhere I have lived.

Experiencing an act of racism, like other hateful acts, can be a very traumatizing thing. It brings about a myriad of different reactions, from anger, disbelief, rage or even a feeling of injustice.

But most of all it makes you feel alone, as if you are not part of the world with everybody else. Marginalized.

After hearing what happened to my family that day, I felt a mixture of all of these things. And although the couple my family encountered did not yell that ignorant mess of a rant specifically at me, they might as well have.

That night I could not sleep.

All I could think of was my son, who went through his first experience of bigotry without me there to protect him. To stand up for him. To hold him and explain to him that some people hate, not because they are bad people, but because they have been taught to hate people who are different from them.

As someone new to the area, I was also discouraged. Does this happen to people of color in this county a lot?

So out of frustration and curiosity, I posed that question on a couple of our local Facebook group pages, while also describing what my family experienced. It gave me some kind of solace to sleep.

I woke up the next morning to more than 100 responses from people in the area, apologizing for what happened to my family. They were encouraging words of support from people I had never even met, and some folks were even brave enough to share similar experiences of racism they have experienced in the area as well. I also continue to get phone calls and emails from local business owners, educators and community members giving us words of support, welcoming us to the community.

When I told my in-laws about the outpouring of support for them and what they had experienced, it made them feel much more comfortable visiting us again.

Recently, my son and I crashed a kids birthday party at Condon Park, and a woman who recognized me came up to us and shared her and her daughter’s experiences as a multi-racial family in the area. She explained that she had experienced similar things with her family, but assured me that it came from a very small minority of people in the area. She then encouraged my son to stay at the party for some cake.

As I watched my son play with the other kids at the birthday party, I couldn’t help but smile.

They were kids from all different ethnic backgrounds, running, screaming and hugging each other the way only kids their age can. Not a care in the world. And I could only think that, if it were up to them, the river, and this world would always be a peaceful place.

And I no longer felt so alone.

To contact Staff Writer Ivan Natividad, email inatividad@theunion.com or call 530-477-4236.

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