George Boardman: Grand slam for parks, but swing and miss for Bridgeport bridge
July 25, 2016
Observations from the center stripe: GOP edition
GOOGLE REPORTS a 1,000 percent spike in people searching for “3rd party candidate 2016” during the Republican convention … DONALD TRUMP’S talking big about carrying California in November. That will last until about October 1, when the GOP moves personnel and money to states it has a chance to win … THE KANSAS City Royals have a third baseman named Cheslor Cuthbert. He sounds like a character in a W.C. Fields movie … PEOPLE OF a certain vintage remember Sen. William Proxmire’s “Golden Fleece” awards for useless government-funded research. I thought about that when I read about a Netherlands study that concluded alcohol makes people more aggressive and pot makes them less aggressive …
The good news: There's been no increase in the estimated cost of $3.9 million to restore our iconic Bridgeport Covered Bridge.
The bad news: There's no money allocated in California's 2016-17 budget to fund any of the work, so it hardly matters.
Supervisor Hank Weston, who's been leading the county's effort to rehab the bridge five years after its was declared a hazard and closed, lobbied Sacramento lawmakers to include $2.6 million in the budget that kicked in July 1, arguing a restored bridge would bring more tourists and money to Nevada County.
That plea didn't gain any traction, so Plan B is to include the money in next year's budget. If that happens, work could start on the bridge a year from September — just six years after it was closed. "It's not new ground," Weston told The Union. "It's not a new project."
No kidding. Almost 18 months after the bridge was closed to the public, the Board of Supervisors and city councils finally started making noise about saving the longest single-span covered bridge in the world. By then, the estimated cost of repairs had grown from $680,000 to $1.2 million.
Our local leaders were ready to proclaim victory after enough money was secured to prevent the bridge from falling into the south fork of the Yuba River. But little progress has been made since then. Work that was supposed to be finished in 2018 will start then, if we're lucky.
The money needed to repair the bridge is a rounding error in the state's $171 billion budget, and times are good now. How are we going to secure the money when California's economy goes south again, as it inevitably will?
And where are Nevada County's alleged representatives on this issue, Assemblyman Brian Dahle and Senator Ted Gaines? MIA is one answer. We got more help from a San Mateo County assemblyman, who helped secure the $350,000 needed for the solar project at Malakoff Diggins State Historic Park. Maybe Richard Gordon can work another miracle for us.
But you have to keep things in perspective, according to Caleb Dardick, executive director of the South Yuba River Citizens League. He pointed out to The Union that thanks to local efforts, South Yuba River State Park and Malakoff Diggins have been taken off the state closure list, and the state is committed to restoring the bridge.
"It's a grand slam," he said. But in the case of the bridge, it's been one swing-and-a-miss after another.
California technology companies have made numerous, important contributions to the computer-driven world we live in today. Much of that work was done in Silicon Valley, a major driver of the state's economy.
The world's sixth largest economy will have to fill an estimated 200,000 information technology jobs in the next 10 years, as well as numerous other well-paid positions that will require computer skills that aren't being taught in California's high schools today.
About 35,000 public high school students were enrolled in courses dedicated to computer programming or computer science last school year, according to state figures. Another 22,000 were in engineering or technology courses that likely involve learning computer code. There are 2 million high school students in California.
"Folks are kind of shocked that California is not one of the states that you talk about when you talk about good computer science policy," said Amy Kirotaka of Code.org, a nonprofit that promotes computer science education. "We haven't seen anything come out of California in the way we have other states."
This makes it difficult for public high school students — a majority of them non-white — to be full participants in California's increasingly technology driven economy. In fact, it's one of the reasons cited by high tech companies to explain why they have so few blacks and Latinos in their workforce.
Take Facebook, one of the least diverse companies in Silicon Valley. Maxine Williams, global head of diversity, points out that only one in four U.S. high schools teach computer science, making it difficult for students to acquire the skills they need to work for tech companies. (More high school students in Nevada County take drama classes than are enrolled in computer science classes, according to state figures.)
But never mind that. California's education establishment is busy revising history and social studies books to make sure everybody — and I mean everybody — gets their story told.
Earlier this month, the state Board of Education approved changes in classroom instruction for K-8 students to enact state legislation that added LGBT Americans and people with disabilities to the list of social and ethnic groups whose contributions schools are supposed to teach.
The law also prohibits classroom materials that reflect adversely on gays or particular religions. Second graders will learn about families with two moms or dads, and fourth graders will hear how Harvey Milk became a pioneering gay politician in San Francisco.
Yet to be decided for K-12 students is how the new guidelines will discuss Muslims, Hindus and Jews, and such controversial subjects like Japan's use of "comfort women" during World War II, or the killing of 1.5 million Armenians in Turkey a century ago.
All of this is designed to raise self-esteem and promote inclusiveness of all Americans. "It's about people's stories and for so long, the stories have been narrowly told," said Eric Heins, president of the California Teachers Association.
It's too bad we're not putting that kind of effort into improving the technology skills of those students. It's been my experience that a sizable, regular paycheck does wonders for self-esteem.
George Boardman lives at Lake of the Pines. His column is published Mondays by The Union. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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