Opinion Columns

Ned Russell: Nevada County needs more Red Cross volunteers

April 28, 2015 — 

Most of you have probably noticed reports of several fires in Nevada County and other parts of the Sierra over the past few weeks.

With our record drought conditions, it will not be surprising to have many more, and the danger of a big fire is greater than ever.

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R.L. Crabb: It Takes a Village Idiot

April 28, 2015 — 

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Robert Krueger: What about our rights to privacy?

April 27, 2015 — 

It is a fact that California law on electronic technology has not been updated since 1986. Yet over these past nearly three decades the electronics industry has been booming. Besides the fun little iPads, iPhones and vast computer technology, there are many devices being made available to the public and to the government that present threats to our personal security, safety and privacy.

What about our privacy rights? It is a fact that nowhere is the word “privacy” found in the U.S. Constitution. However, our Supreme Court has recognized the fundamental rights to privacy in a long and well established body of case law. The legal basis for the right to physical privacy is found in the U.S. Fourth Amendment, which guarantees “the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures.”

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Justin Augustine: Conserve, not log, burned forest habitat

April 25, 2015 — 

It was refreshing to see Christy Sherr’s article about the importance of high-intensity fire for wildlife. Educating the public about the beauty and ecological necessity of intensely burned areas is essential if our national forests are to receive the protection that they urgently need.

It was not surprising, though, to see the backlash from representatives of Sierra Pacific Industries (Amanda Shufelberger and Robert G. Ingram). The company has benefited financially from the Rim Fire via logging contracts with the Forest Service, and stands to gain even more if the King Fire area is opened up for logging. By demonizing intense fires, and ignoring the research about how important these burned areas are for wildlife, SPI hopes to continue the status quo that allows vital wildlife habitat to be decimated by logging.

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George Runner: The fire fee shell game: you lose!

April 25, 2015 — 

Democrats in the California Legislature seem to be facing the reality that the fire tax they passed with the Governor’s help in 2011 is unfair. Californians who live in rural areas rely on a range of public services from multiple levels of government to combat fires. These residents already pay taxes to fund essential fire services.

The original fire fee was a scheme Gov. Brown came up with after diverting about $90 million a year in fire prevention funds to help “balance” the state budget. Residents have gained nothing since this shell game passed. Not a dime of fire fee revenues can be used for actual fire suppression — trucks, planes or hoses. The funds can only be used for “prevention” efforts, which seem to be few and far between.

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Thomas Elias: Can automatic registration increase voter turnout?

April 25, 2015 — 

THOMAS ELIAS

California Focus

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Sue Clark: Guest appearance brings Bitter And Sweet to life for students

April 24, 2015 — 

Teens may be a bit critical to begin with. But if they have read a book, and you talk to them about a drama made from it, they are educated critics. Brace yourself for outrage.

When I’d assigned them a contemporary novel, “My Sister’s Keeper,” they’d reacted scathingly to the movie version.

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Byron York: Why is the 2016 democratic field so old?

April 23, 2015 — 

There are five Democrats who have either declared or are thinking about running for president. Three — Joe Biden, Bernard Sanders and Jim Webb — will be over 70 years old on Inauguration Day 2017. Front-runner Hillary Clinton will be nine months short of 70. Only Martin O’Malley, who will turn 54 a couple of days before the 2017 swearing-in, has not reached retirement age already.

In 2008, Democrats had a 47-year-old candidate who mesmerized the party and ran away with the votes of Americans aged 18 to 29. Republicans, meanwhile, ran a 72-year-old man whose reputation was based on heroism in a war 40 years earlier. Youth won.

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Special delivery for the plutocrats

April 23, 2015 — 

“Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds” reads the unofficial motto of the United States Postal Service. We now can add to that “nor a national security no-fly zone,” as demonstrated by mailman Doug Hughes. Hughes was doing what he felt was his duty, carrying letters. He had 535 of them: one for each member of Congress, and each signed by Hughes himself. He wrote about the corrupting influence of money in politics. Hughes chose a very high-profile method for delivering his letters, though. He piloted a bicycle-sized helicopter, called a “gyrocopter,” 100 miles from Maryland, and landed on the west lawn of the U.S Capitol, passing through restricted airspace.

Hughes could have been shot down. I asked him if it was worth it. “I’m a father, I’m a grandfather, and I can see the change over the decades as we slide from a democracy to a plutocracy. ... Yes, it was worth risking my life, it was worth risking my freedom,” Hughes responded, “to get reform so that Congress works for the people.” His letter opened with a quote from the secretary of state. Hughes wrote: “Consider the following statement by John Kerry in his farewell speech to the Senate -- ‘The unending chase for money I believe threatens to steal our democracy itself. They know it. They know we know it. And yet, Nothing Happens!’ — John Kerry.” His letter goes on with his analysis of the problem of money corrupting the work of members of Congress “before they are elected, while they are in office and after they leave Congress,” he writes.

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John Carr: Carrtoon

April 22, 2015 — 

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R.L. Crabb: It Takes a Village Idiot

April 21, 2015 — 

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Fran Cole: Outdoor Event Ordinance and the importance of thoughtful regulation

April 18, 2015 — 

Several important principles of good regulation appear to be missing in the saga of Nevada County’s Outdoor Event Ordinance.

The first principle is that governmental action through regulations, especially regulations affecting business and property rights, should be drafted narrowly enough to address the stated problems without spilling over and negatively impacting others. The ordinance swept up legitimate businesses into its net, because it was not precisely fine-tuned to target only the problem. What was never explained to the public was why the then-existing enforcement tools were inadequate, and that should have been the starting point for the discussion.

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Kathie Beckham: More questions than answers on Newmont passive water treatment

April 18, 2015 — 

As a longtime resident of Grass Valley, I too am concerned about this Newmont Mine Passive Water Treatment proposal.

At first I was really happy that they were going to clean up the water, but upon further research into the background of Newmont Mining I became concerned about a few things.

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It takes a village idiot

April 18, 2015 — 

R.L. Crabb

Cartoonist

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Elizabeth Appell: Which do we need more: bullet train or water?

April 18, 2015 — 

Why are we wasting our time and money, $98 billion, on a bullet train that will accommodate only a small portion of California residents when we desperately need water to accommodate all the people living and working in our beautiful state?

To help solve our water problems, why not consider scrapping this project, which is already costing billions and going nowhere, and concentrate on a water pipeline network from Washington, through Oregon, and ending in Northern California? This is a project worthy of completion and one that is long overdue. If you don’t think a pipeline is the answer than maybe you would consider building desalination plants up and down the coast of California. Either one of these solutions could solve our future issues with drought. It will not go away just because we wish it so.

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Manny Montes: Progressive campaign mantra is 'we know what's best'

April 17, 2015 — 

Beyond protecting individual rights, and providing for the national defense, our government inexorably becomes a usurping beast. Recall Lord Acton’s observation, “power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

Our government beast feeds on an exclusive diet, power. Its hunger is never satiated. The beast forever cries, “feed me.” The inverse relationship between the beast’s growing power and the diminution of individual liberty is as certain as two plus two equals four. Progressives’ campaign mantra is, at bottom, give me more power; we know what’s best. They have successfully weaponized terms and phrases like “compassion,” “for the children,” “fair share” and “invest.” This last is a disingenuous way of saying “spend.” All financial indicators are flashing red, and the beast persists on wanting to spend more. Nancy Eubanks’ March 7 article calls for a litany of initiatives all of which are government directives, and calls for more spending. When is enough, enough? Never.

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Robert Ingram: Environmentalists blowing smoke

April 16, 2015 — 

Do environmentalists like Chad Hanson and his newest disciple, Christy Sherr, care about our environment? Obsessively so. Are they honest in their attempts to “save” the Sierra? Absolutely not.

Hanson, as high priest to the cause, deems all commercial logging of federal lands a crime against nature and will do or say anything to stop it. His latest humorous attempt, authored by Christy Sherr in The Union on April 1, borders on fantasy. Hanson and Sherr’s contention that a “Snag forest, or ‘complex early seral forest (CESF)’ created by high intensity fire (75 to 100 percent mortality) is the most ecologically diverse and wildlife rich forest habitat type in the Sierra Nevada.” Really? No, not really. Below are a few glaring gaps in their half-truths and faulty logic that just doesn’t pass the smoldering forest smell test.

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Reinette Senum: Nevada City's inaugural 'Spring Madness' a success

April 16, 2015 — 

Last week Nevada City successfully launched its first spring-cleaning called “Spring Madness Hits Nevada City.” The three-day event proved to be an empowering exercise in community.

The need for the citywide cleaning arose out of an ad hoc community group that includes Nevada City merchants, the Nevada City Police Department, the Nevada City Chamber of Commerce and homeless and community advocates, including myself. The group has been meeting for over a year so as to address issues we see throughout Nevada City, such as vandalism, homelessness, and general activity on the streets.

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John Carr: Carrtoon

April 15, 2015 — 

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Linda McQueen: Excessive use of water by agriculture? Think again

April 15, 2015 — 

Last week the governor of California mandated an unprecedented reduction of 25 percent of water use due to our severe drought condition. Certain media — national and local — have focused and spun agriculture as an abuser of water without similar restrictions. I would like to take this opportunity to discuss California agriculture in a more complete perspective.

California GDP is over $2 trillion and represents the largest GDP of any state in the U.S. — even ranking eighth in the world. Agriculture is one of the vital elements of the state’s economy. California leads the nation in the production of fruit, vegetables, wine, nuts and dairy. It is true that direct production ag is only 2 percent of the California economy; but government, followed by health care and social assistance are the largest. Agriculture is a major contributor to the economy valued at $43 billion, plus more than $100 billion in related economic activities. Ag is not only important to California, but also to the U.S. Per CDFA, California ag sales exceeded twice the size of any other state’s agriculture industry.

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Jim Firth: When the well runs dry

April 15, 2015 — 

When my wife and I moved to Grass Valley six-plus years ago, we immediately began improvements on our property. Landscaping was part of the improvement package and along with a freshly planted front-scape, we chose to put a relatively small lawn (about 1,200 square feet) in the back area off the deck.

This work required removing rock, various pipes, moving the “red” dirt so prolific around here, and bringing in soil and sod.

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Steve Zager: Putting out the fire of trauma

April 14, 2015 — 

My friend John almost lost his life in a house fire in Grass Valley.

For the next few months he became unemployed, homeless, depressed and anxious. He had trouble sleeping.

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April 14, 2015 — 

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Fran Freedle: It's time for a fair tax

April 13, 2015 — 

Every April as we hunker down to struggle through the tax maze, enduring the misery of the hopelessly complicated tax code, I wish we had a simple and fair flat tax.

The Internal Revenue Code is 3.8 million words, over 11,000 single spaced typed pages and one of the most complicated in the world.

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Greg Goodknight: Common Cored indeed

April 11, 2015 — 

On May 30, 2014, in a letter, “A little knowledge is a dangerous thing,” Linda Campbell landed low blows attacking my earlier piece, “It’s time to do the math” (5/20/2014).

I cited California Dept. of Education STAR, API and Similar Schools data to bring into focus the poor performance of too many Nevada County schools for the upcoming election.

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Paula Orloff: Why stop smart meters?

April 11, 2015 — 

The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) granted utility companies the right to roll out smart meters. Now state and U.S. Attorney Generals are conducting a criminal investigation of the former CPUC president for corruption, bribery and collusion with utility companies. The CPUC is supposed to protect the interests of consumers rather than the handsome profits of utility companies. New emails brought to light between the CPUC and utility companies reveal the extent of corruption and backroom dealing that resulted in the state’s smart meter program:

1. Smart meters have caused extensive overbilling. No less than the now-former CPUC president, Michael Peevey, complained to PG&E there was something “screwy” about his utility bill, which doubled when a smart meter was installed on his spacious 3,118-square-foot second home. I’m sure the utility adjusted his bill pronto, unlike overbilling complaints by many thousands of ordinary customers. Other emails show that on Aug. 31, 2010, PG&E’s Brian Cherry sent an email to Peevey, warning smart meters were overcharging. In April 2011, CPUC’s Aloke Gupta emailed staff about inflated billing from smart meters.

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R.L. Crabb: It Takes a Village Idiot

April 11, 2015 — 

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Amanda Shufelberger: High intensity wildfires devastating to forests, wildlife and people

April 10, 2015 — 

When I read the title, “Animals like their forests well done” in Christy Sherr’s Other Voices column on April 1, 2015, I was appalled.

I am a wildlife biologist who frequently works in the nearly 100,000 acres of the King Fire.

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Byron York: In emerging race, O'Malley new target of Clinton machine

April 9, 2015 — 

Recently, a representative from the Hillary Clinton camp delivered a message to Martin O’Malley, the former Maryland governor preparing to challenge Clinton for the 2016 Democratic nomination.

I have some good news and some bad news, the messenger said.

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Amy Goodman: Capital punishment — A dead policy walking

April 9, 2015 — 

A jury in Boston has returned a guilty verdict on all 30 counts against the Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. Now the jury must deliberate on the punishment, which could be either life in prison or death. Capital punishment is outlawed in Massachusetts, but Tsarnaev was tried in federal court, where the death penalty is allowed. The jury will have to decide whether he lives or dies. The case provides a new reason to take a hard look at capital punishment, and why this irreversible, highly problematic practice should be banned.

Anthony Ray Hinton is alive today, a free man. But just last week he was on death row in Alabama, where he spent 30 years. Hinton was the 152nd person in the United States to be exonerated from death row, where he spent three decades for a crime he did not commit. He was accused of killing two fast-food restaurant managers in 1985. There were no eyewitnesses, nor fingerprints. Prosecutors alleged that bullets found matched a revolver belonging to Hinton’s mother. Hinton had ineffective counsel, and no money to mount a credible defense or to hire a genuine expert witness to challenge the ballistics.

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