Dave Brooksher

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March 5, 2014
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Nevada City mayor takes new arrival on a tour of the town

When Mayor Sally Harris, who has announced that she will not seek re-election after 10 years on the Nevada City Council, offers to take a new reporter on a tour of her city — you say yes.

As a new arrival in this community, it goes without saying that she knows things that I, eventually, will need to know. I had anticipated an in-depth discussion of the Commercial Street Boardwalk or other local controversies, but in the end, the Mayor delivered exactly what she promised: a tour.

Harris started with the recent pedestrian improvements along Nevada City Highway east of the intersection with Banner Lava Cap Road. A sidewalk has been installed, along with a wide gap on the side of the roadway, to allow a number of large trees to remain in place. Harris feels that walk-ability is very important. It helps make Nevada City a destination for future residents and high-end tech firms that create desirable jobs.

The (formerly known as) Grass Valley Group’s campus has become a home to several other tech companies in recent years, and Harris says that former employees of those firms have been known to stay in the area and start companies of their own, such as Telestream.

“That (dynamic) has spawned a lot of companies and good jobs in this area,” Harris said.

Affordable housing is also a necessary consideration. In order to qualify for a variety of state funding sources, California cities are required to make room for it. The question is: Where can affordable housing be placed? Putting all of it in the same area creates a kind of segregation. Mixing it in with less modest housing can be problematic, however, when property owners or neighbors oppose the idea.

Harris also talked about the importance of honesty, transparency and fairness in small-town governance.

“I find it’s helpful to be as honest and open as possible, because you need the community’s trust,” Harris said.

“You need for them to feel like we’re all in this together.”

That, in her opinion, is what made the passage of Measure L possible. Revenue generated by that sales tax increase, approved in 2012, has made it possible to allocate funding for recreation-oriented projects around the city, including a new deck at the municipal pool and lighting for the tennis court.

Harris’ tour of the city ended with a drive to the top of Sugarloaf Mountain. Access is typically limited to pedestrians only — but that’s one of the perks of volunteering as mayor.

Sugarloaf Mountain made news late last year when a local Rotary club offered to develop a trail system at no cost to the city. That offer was turned down, leading to frustrations for some in the community.

Harris said that decision was based on problems with the paperwork, which was not complete. She also had concerns that maintenance costs associated with those trails might exceed the cost of building them.

After taking in the scenic view from the top of Sugarloaf, however, it’s easy to see why improving accessibility to the local landmark would be a popular proposition.

To contact staff writer Dave Brooksher, call 530-477-4230 or email dbrooksher@theunion.com.

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The Union Updated Mar 6, 2014 02:19PM Published Mar 7, 2014 09:34AM Copyright 2014 The Union. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.