On top of a tight presidential election, local races — with everything from municipal tax measures to contentious school board contests — are also shaping up to be nail-biters, leading local political players to entice residents to vote local.
“I think most believe this could be the most important election in our lifetime,” said Richard Ulery, chairman of the Nevada County Republican Party “It is important to get out and vote on everything local to the presidency.”
Both Grass Valley and Nevada City have tax measures on the ballot, as each municipality struggles with decreased revenues stemming from the economic downturn.
Grass Valley’s estimated nearly $10.1 million general fund is $1.5 million lower from its fiscal year 2007-08 peak at nearly $11.56 million, while Nevada City has lost $487,000 from 2008-09 levels, according to city documents. Nevada City administrators placed a three-eighths of a percent sales tax increase, called Measure L, on the ballot, followed soon after by Grass Valley, which placed a half-percent sales tax, Measure N, before voters.
Leaders from both communities argue that without the increased revenues, city services will face further cuts, including to police and fire departments.
Grass Valley also has a city council race in which two incumbents and four candidates vie for three seats. With Councilwoman Yolanda Cookson not seeking re-election, Mayor Jan Arbuckle and Councilwoman Lisa Swarthout are hoping to retain their seats from challengers Jim Firth, Justin Gross, Howard Levine and Patricia Tureaud.
“There are all kinds of local elections that are important to people locally. That is why it is important for people to vote because in these local matters, every vote counts,” said Rosalie Adduci, a member of the Nevada County Democratic Party’s finance committee.
Many of the races are taking place in Nevada County’s school districts.
Nevada Joint Union High School District board president Katy Schwarz is facing challenger Jim Drew, while appointed board member Jim Adams is facing opposition from two contenders — Paul Aguilar and Cindy Latimer.
Nevada City School District board president Paula Campbell is also defending her seat, along with board member Trish Gerving, against newcomer Eir Ruark-Minett.
Pleasant Ridge school administrators are asking voters to approve Measure K, which would raise the annual rate of the per parcel tax by $92 to all land parcels within the district’s boundaries for five years. All three of the school board candidates — incumbents Scott Hopper and Robert Tice-Raskin and challenger Mary Newberry — support the tax measure.
One of the most heated races is for seats on the board of directors for the county’s consolidated fire district, which was recently rocked by internal strife after its chief stepped down amid allegations of employee abuse. All this happened as the fire district battled budgetary issues that pushed administrators to pursue an ultimately successful sales tax increase.
With boardmember Ralph Hitchcock not seeking re-election, newcomers William Habbelett Jr. and Linda Chaplin are vying for four, four-year seats against incumbents John Leonard, Robert Rhodes and chair Warren Knox.
Nevada Irrigation District’s board of directors has contenders challenging two incumbents. Both Nick Wilcox and Scott Miller must defend their seats from John Meeks and Guy Tortorici, respectively.
“I just think people getting out to vote and expressing their viewpoint on each of these issues is so important,” Ulery said.
More than 40 percent of Nevada County’s 62,853 registered voters (out of 76,000 eligible individuals), had already cast early ballots as of Monday morning, according to the Nevada County Elections Office.
Slightly more than 39,000 early ballots — 61 percent — were cast in the 2008 presidential election, where President Obama carried 51.43 of the total votes cast even though Republicans comprised the majority of the registered voters with 40.76 percent of those who declared a party affiliation. Democrats composed 34 percent of the county electorate in 2008, while 19.33 percent of voters declared no party preference.
Republicans still make up the largest affiliated group in the county, representing 38 percent of the registered electorate, while Democrats comprise 33 percent of county voters. About 13,600 voters in Nevada County, or 21.75 percent of registered voters, have declined to provide a party preference.
Early voting continued Monday, when the county’s election office opened as an early polling site. Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. today. The elections office is located at the Rood Center 950 Maidu Ave., Suite 250, Nevada City, 95959.
Vote-by-mail ballots should no longer be sent in the mail, as the deadline to do so was Nov. 1. Voters can, however, bring their ballots to any polling location on Election Day, including the Nevada County Elections Office.
Both Nevada County’s Republican and Democratic parties plan to provide transportation to voters needing a ride on Election Day. The parties also offered to help voters locate their polling location if they are unable to reach the county elections office.
To reach the Nevada County Elections Office, call (530) 265-1298. To reach the county Republicans, call (530) 455-5400. The county Democrats can be reached at (530) 477-1804.
To contact Staff Writer Christopher Rosacker, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (530) 477-4236.