Grass Valley needs leadership that embraces both old and new
February 10, 2014
It's not surprising that Patti Ingram chose to write favorably about Dorsey Drive, and, in the process, attack Terry Lamphier (who successfully unseated her husband, John Spencer, for district supervisor).
Furthermore, it's quite interesting that she and perhaps all the others she felt Lamphier "accused" of misappropriating funds have failed to understand what's really important to most of us who live in Grass Valley. And that happens to be addressing an aging infrastructure — namely our streets, sewers and water pipes.
In what Ingram described as Lamphier's "personal puff piece," not once did he accuse anyone of misappropriating taxpayers' money. In his article, Lamphier said, "I learned that the city … diverted a $5 million-plus bond originally issued to fix Grass Valley's streets, water and sewer problems to fund Dorsey." It turns out that a large portion was originally slated for infrastructure improvements. This is an undisputed fact. The actual bond measure reads: "Targeted areas include East Main Street, the general area around the East Main/Idaho Maryland Road intersection, South Auburn and Colfax Ave." The bond money is now partially financing the Dorsey interchange. Though not illegal or misappropriated, it does clearly illustrate how new development is (and has been) favored over renovating and modernizing the infrastructure in our neighborhoods. These are streets on which we live and drive every day, unlike the Dorsey interchange.
Ingram mentions that the new interchange will help people who now have to "cut through" residential areas. Those people must certainly notice the rundown condition of roads, especially in older neighborhoods. We are not talking about just filling in a few potholes (as some have suggested in the past) but about restoring and resurfacing entire streets. The sewer and water pipes are equally in need of servicing and upgrading. Based on their actions (or inaction), this does not seem to be a concern of Grass Valley's elected officials. However, the city staff understands the situation. As one engineer pointed out to us in a meeting, it's the squeaky wheel that gets the grease. There's no plan or money to make significant improvements in the rest of our town.
In contrast, Nevada City employed a novel approach to address its neighborhood infrastructure issues. Like Grass Valley, many residential streets in Nevada City were in disrepair. The difference was that the elected officials provided leadership, made it a priority and addressed the situation head-on rather than ignore it and do nothing. They developed a plan that assessed every street in town and provided a detailed timeline for making improvements. The plan was used to gain support for Measure S, which called for raising the sales tax to specifically renovate city streets. Calling for a specific use of tax dollars, the measure had to garner at least two-thirds of the vote. Backers of the measure went door to door and communicated the plan. Residents were informed of improvements scheduled for their streets and when they would happen if the measure passed. This approach provided clear expectations, which resulted in the measure passing overwhelmingly, with 82 percent approval.
The Grass Valley City Council had the perfect opportunity to adopt and use the same approach. Instead, the council chose to further embrace new development and large scale projects (e.g., the interchange) and let our tax dollars fuel those efforts instead of redeveloping places where we live and really want our tax dollars to have an impact.
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Ingram closes her piece by stating that Lamphier "misdiagnoses the most important economic development project in our county, the Dorsey Drive Interchange."
While I would agree that Dorsey Drive is an important project and has its benefits, I would hardly agree with her assessment of it being the most important project in our county (Our entire county? Does that include Truckee, Nevada City, et. al.?). I would also ask her and her allies to consider what has been and continues to be neglected by our city's elected officials in lieu of it.
It's time to look for new leadership in Grass Valley. We need leaders who are willing to step up to the challenge of revitalizing our entire town. It's time for the old guard to step aside and let somebody actually lead. It's time that Grass Valley embraces an inclusive vision of the city that reinforces the old while building the new. Terry Lamphier is working hard at the county level. We need to augment his efforts with effective and truly representative leadership at the city level.
Larry Hoffman lives in Grass Valley.