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City Hall open to all

To Grass Valley Mayor Mark Johnson, increasing the number of public hearings on controversial issues and making residents comfortable at City Hall is key to coming up with good solutions.

Now in his second tenure on the City Council, Johnson, 46, says that the “open door” policy has yielded many solutions and helped contribute to a more enjoyable atmosphere.

“It’s my primary job to make sure the doors of City Hall are open to voice concerns or ideas,” Johnson said.



At the same time, Johnson is not one to shy away from a public celebration.

In honor of Grass Valley’s 114th birthday on March 13, Johnson’s wife, Mary, 45, baked cupcakes and brought them to the Grass Valley City Council to celebrate the occasion.




“We try to have a little bit of fun,” the mayor said.

Johnson was appointed mayor by fellow council members in December to accomplish a lot and have fun in the process.

The mayor sees at least three main issues the city faces.

Traffic circulation concerns, improvements to the waste-water treatment plant mandated by new state regulations and deciding long-term growth patterns are top concerns, Johnson said. Getting a new city administrator in place later this summer and more affordable housing follow behind those main issues, he added.

“This current council is interested in resurrecting (a transportation tax),” Johnson said.

Measure T, a half-cent sales tax, was approved by a majority of voters in November but failed to gain the two-thirds vote needed to pass.

Johnson said he thought the tax measure failed because city leaders weren’t specific enough about the projects that would be funded.

“It’s an investment for our town,” Johnson said. Without such added funds, the city doesn’t have money needed to support construction of a Dorsey Drive interchange at the Golden Center Freeway, he said.

Such a tax could go to voters again as early as next spring, Johnson said.

Growth plan needed

It’s unclear how soon various housing developments approved and under consideration might be completed. Johnson and fellow council members are concerned that trend may continue with a downturn in the real estate market.

Johnson said he favors what he calls a “growth management plan” to offer more assurances to citizens and developers alike as to how and when major projects may come to fruition.

“Developers could lose their entitlements in two years, 10 years or 20 years if they don’t build their project as approved,” Johnson said of a plan he is considering. However, legal issues of such a measure have yet to be resolved, he said.

Back home

One thing Johnson resolved years ago, he said, is his love of Grass Valley.

Johnson left Grass Valley to get his bachelor’s degree in accounting from Sacramento State University. He worked in various accounting jobs in the Seattle area before the lure of his hometown caught up with him in 1992.

“I had a real affinity and desire to move back,” Johnson said.

When he came back, he returned to the family business, Foothill Flowers, which his mother, Marie, 76, has owned since 1966. He’s the general manager of the business and owns the building.

“There’s a lot of camaraderie in the downtown,” Johnson said. “It’s an interesting place to work.”

Foothill Flowers, at 102 W. Main St., is just across the street from City Hall.

But don’t think it’s all work and public service for Johnson. He and his wife like to unwind, too.

Johnson plays squash, which he says is similar to racquetball. He and his wife also enjoy walking and running the Empire Mine trails.

Johnson’s tenure as mayor runs until December 2008. He said he’s uncertain about whether he’ll run for City Council again.

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To contact Staff Writer Greg Moberly, e-mail gregm@theunion.com or call 477-4234.


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