Opinion Columns

David Briceno: Bring back the parties

May 4, 2015 — 

Political parties are dying. They’ve been dying for years. The decline-of-parties theme has persisted since the late 1960s. Though the public image of political parties has eroded considerably, what lies behind their actual decline today?

There’s no question that Republican and Democratic party members have been, and are presently, exiting California’s two major political parties in droves. Americans are increasingly declaring themselves as Independents — those not associated with a party.

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Michele Spencer: How shall we contain the cost of a college education?

May 2, 2015 — 

Talented children in this country are being discouraged from furthering their education because of its skyrocketing cost and their family’s shrinking incomes. Given these circumstances are beyond their control, we have an obligation to the younger generation to do something about it.

Isn’t access to higher education a public good, essential for maintaining the middle class and strengthening our country’s economic future? Don’t we need a highly skilled workforce to compete globally now and in the future? If your answer to those two questions is yes, then why have we tolerated a 1,120 percent increase in the cost of a college degree over the past 30 years? Who is to blame? Is it due to a lack of state or federal funding or because of it? Is it due to an increase in college administration expenses? Are college salaries too high? What should be done?

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Charles Wilder: Watch the meter spin or let the sun shine in?

May 2, 2015 — 

In recent months, neighboring counties have chosen to drive cannabis growers indoors, because some folks don’t like the smell, looks, or people involved. However, in my experience as an electrician, this has some consequences that affect almost everyone else.

The use of enormous amounts of electricity to grow plants (any plants) indoors is the most inefficient/expensive way to grow anything. And the costs are staggering. The cost to the small medicinal grower, who instead of using the sun, is forced into using high intensity lights, could see his PG&E bill easily triple for just six plants.

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It takes a village idiot

May 2, 2015 — 

R. L. Crabb

Cartoonist

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Bob Williams: Sign of inconsistency in Grass Valley's rules?

May 1, 2015 — 

Several years ago the First Baptist Church, Grass Valley (Ridge Road, across from Nevada Union High School) contracted with a company to replace the church’s sign.

Since the high school had a digital sign, the same company that provided it was contacted. A contract fee and design were agreed upon with the company getting the city permit. Since this sign was like the one Nevada Union had, they felt it would not be a problem. Well, it became a problem because the church is in the city limits and the high school is in the county.

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Byron York: 2016: yes, it's early, but pay attention now

April 30, 2015 — 

It’s conventional wisdom that the 2016 Republican presidential race is at such an early stage that the polls don’t matter. They’re just a measurement of name recognition at this point, some observers say, and the only people really paying attention to the campaign are reporters and hard-core party activists.

Maybe that was true in earlier years. But it doesn’t seem to be the case now. “One thing about this election — Republicans are paying attention,” says a GOP pollster not affiliated with any campaign. “They are very concerned about who the nominee is going to be, and the idea that what a candidate says now doesn’t matter could not be further from the truth.”

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Amy Goodman: A century of women working for peace

April 30, 2015 — 

THE HAGUE, Netherlands — One hundred years ago, more than 1,000 women gathered here in The Hague during World War I, demanding peace. Britain denied passports to more than 120 women, forbidding them from making the trip to suppress their peaceful dissent. Now, a century later, in these very violent times, nearly 1,000 women have gathered here again, this time from Africa, Asia and Latin America, as well as Europe and North America, saying “No” to wars from Iraq to Afghanistan to Yemen to Syria, not to mention the wars in our streets at home. They were marking the 100th anniversary of the founding of WILPF, the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom. Dr. Aletta Jacobs, a Dutch suffragist who co-founded the group a century ago, said the purpose of the original gathering in 1915 was to empower women “to protest against war and to suggest steps which may lead to warfare being an impossibility.”

Among the women here were four Nobel Peace Prize winners. Shirin Ebadi was awarded the prize in 2003 for advocating for human rights for Iranian women, children and political prisoners. She was the first Muslim woman, and the first Iranian, to receive a Nobel. Nevertheless, she has lived in exile since 2009, and has only seen her husband once since then. “Had books been thrown at people, at the Taliban, instead of bombs, and had schools been built in Afghanistan,” Ebadi said in her keynote address to the WILPF conference this week, “3,000 schools could have been built in memory of the 3,000 people who died on 9/11 — at this time, we wouldn’t have had ISIS. Let’s not forget that the roots of the ISIS rest in the Taliban.” She was joined by her sister laureates Leymah Gbowee, who helped achieve a negotiated peace during the civil wars in Liberia; Mairead Maguire, who won the peace prize in 1976 at the age of 32 for advancing an end to the conflict in her native Northern Ireland; and Jody Williams, a Vermonter who led the global campaign to ban land mines, and who now is organizing to ban “killer robots,” weapons that kill automatically, without the active participation of a human controller.

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John Carr: Carrtoon

April 29, 2015 — 

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Clearing the smoke on high intensity fire

April 29, 2015 — 

The April 16 opinion piece featured a forester with Sierra Pacific Industries who discussed historical assumptions about our Sierra Nevada forests and their complex relationship with fire. His three assumptions were that high intensity fire is unnatural, that this fire is increasing because of human activities, and that mechanical thinning (i.e. logging) will fix the situation. While at first blush this may seem compelling, scientists are examining these assumptions, and finding repeatedly that these assumptions are wrong.

Instead, scientists are finding that older, even dense forests, burn at the same or lower intensity than logged or mechanically thinned forests. Older, dense forests that burn at high intensity re-burn at the same or lower intensity if left unlogged. Forests that burn at the highest intensity are those previously clear-cut in Sierra Pacific Industry fashion.

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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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