George Boardman

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June 29, 2014
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Boardman: What we have here are 3 failures to communicate

The Nevada Joint Union High School District’s trustees are well known for their unwillingness to communicate with the public when major personnel changes are made, but who would suspect that they don’t even communicate with each other?

Trustee Wayne Klauer revealed at a recent board meeting that he was the anonymous citizen who complained to the county grand jury that fellow board members weren’t familiar with their own policies and that district personnel haven’t received mandated training in ethics, conflicts-of-interest and other areas.

The grand jury found merit in Klauer’s complaint and recommended that trustees and the superintendent take the required training. When contacted by The Union, Supt. Louise Johnson and two trustees declined to comment, and the district has yet to respond formally to the report.

Aside from saying he was disappointed the grand jury didn’t do more, Klauer had little to say about the incident. Did he raise the issue with his fellow trustees? Did they ignore him? Klauer didn’t respond to a request for comment.

After all, he is a high school district trustee.

* * *

“I don’t remember talking about weddings at all. I had no idea there was this whole underground wedding business going on.” —Nate Beason, chairman of the Nevada County board of supervisors

That would qualify for clueless quote of the year except that apparently no other supervisor was aware that a steady stream of weddings generate significant revenue for rural property owners, wedding planners, salon owners, caterers, hotels, photographers, musicians and others in Nevada County.

But the supervisors know now after 175 people showed up at the Rood Center to oppose a county ordinance regulating outdoor noise. After being presented with a petition with 2,100 signatures opposing the measure, the supervisors voted to delay action for 60 days while a committee of stakeholders tries to create an ordinance that will satisfy all factions.

“It seems evident that they don’t understand our industry,” said Donna Hoekstra, a wedding coordinator and founder of Joy of Life Events. “My feeling is that this ordinance wasn’t written with the wedding industry in mind.”

Every supervisor represents a district, in theory giving him insight into what his constituents want and giving them a voice during board deliberations. Come election time, incumbents love to brag about all of the events they attend and what they’ve done for their constituents.

By one estimate, 58 venues in the county host almost 500 weddings a year, but none of the supes appeared to be aware of this “underground” industry. They heard complaints from people who apparently don’t like these events and crafted the ordinance with them in mind.

People in the wedding industry should follow the example of the county contractors’ association and form their own advocacy group with a political PAC that contributes money to local candidates.

Nothing can rival money when it comes to getting the attention of an elected official, even one who’s supposed to be representing your interests.

* * *

Local television news operations are good at reporting visual stories — the pictures tell the story, viewers don’t have to think too much and reporters don’t have to dig too deep. As they say in the business, “If it bleeds, it leads.”

But when it comes to doing complex stories — the kind of stuff that can actually give you a better understanding of the world you live in — news staffs aren’t always up to the task. Take, for example, CBS 13’s recent story on Nevada Irrigation District’s 6 percent rate increase.

A Sacramento station wouldn’t normally bother with a story like this — heck, the rate increase is old news — but the eagle eyes at Channel 13 apparently saw a story in The Union about somebody complaining about the rate increase to the county grand jury.

That was enough for the eyewitness/action/news team/gang to spring into action, dispatching reporter Anjali Hemphill and a videographer to NID headquarters in Grass Valley.

The reporter was told that nobody was available to comment — the last time one of their reporting teams was in town, Supervisor Terry Lamphier stood still for an interview, and we know what happened to him — so she stood outside NID’s building holding the grand jury report up to the camera. This was interspersed with comments from a local business owner lamenting the rate increase.

If the reporter had actually bothered to read the report, she would know what everybody around here has known for years — the water district has been spending down its reserves to avoid rate increases and has now reached the point where it has to hike rates.

The report noted that “NID has made proactive fiscal decisions to control operating and maintenance costs and rebuild reserves,” and the rate increase was in accordance with the law.

Anchor Sam Shane introduced the story by suggesting mismanagement led to the rate increase. You can only come to that conclusion if you don’t let the facts get in the way of the story.

George Boardman is a member of The Union’s editorial board and lives in Lake of the Pines. His columns appear Mondays in The Union.

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The Union Updated Jun 29, 2014 11:33PM Published Jul 9, 2014 11:08AM Copyright 2014 The Union. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.