Two local elected officials came away less than impressed from a town hall forum featuring State Senator Ted Gaines, who represents Nevada County in the California legislature.
Nevada City Mayor Duane Strawser called Wednesday night’s meeting a “Tea Party love fest” and accused the senator of “preaching to the choir.”
At the forum, Strawser attended and asked the state senator for his help in addressing a fiscal emergency facing the city.
Nevada City may have to let go of Nevada City Police Chief Jim Wickham due to pressure from CalPERS, meaning the city will have to hire a new chief who may cost the municipality more.
“It’s our charter to be fiscally responsible,” Strawser said during the form, adding that Wickham, who is a retired annuitant, saves the city money because they don’t have to pay into his retirement benefits package.
He asked Gaines if there was anything to be done about advocating for small cities that rely on annuitants to save money.
Gaines said abuses like double-dipping, which describes when a public employee gets retirement benefits from two different public agencies caused him to vote for reform that prevents situations like Nevada City’s from occurring.
“There were just too many abuses,” Gaines said.
Strawser said Friday that he is frustrated that Nevada City’s quandary is not being properly addressed at the state level and asserted Nevada City’s situation has less to do with a potential for abuse and is more about CalPERS wanting to enhance its bottom line.
“Gaines told us he understood our plight and that it affects 80 percent of small communities in California, but then he flipped on the vote,” Strawser said.
The mayor said Nevada City representatives plan to take their concerns directly to the office of Gov. Jerry Brown if Gaines and his staff continue to be unreceptive.
Supervisor Terry Lamphier, who represents Grass Valley on the Nevada County Board of Supervisors, also attended Wednesday’s forum and also expressed dissatisfaction with the senator’s ability to represent the entire community and not just the slice of the population that voted for him.
“It was obvious that his conservative beliefs reflect many of those in attendance, but I am disappointed that his message did not reflect the complexities of the issues we face nor acknowledge the nearly 40 percent of the electorate who didn’t vote for him,” Lamphier said. “Good policy-making is more than a winner-take-all approach.”
Gaines, who called for smaller government, zero tax hikes and questioned the competency and performance of many of California’s public departments, did so in front of an audience comprised of many people wearing the distinctive Tea Party Patriots T-shirts.
Gaines admitted during the town hall forum that many of his speaking engagements consist of “speaking to the choir.”
To contact Staff Writer Matthew Renda, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 530-477-4239.