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Playing nice, so far

If Natural Heritage 2020 was the sharp wedge stuck in the heart of the Nevada County body politic in 2002, none of this year’s supervisorial candidates appears willing to twist it – or any other pointed issues.

At a candidate forum Friday in Grass Valley, all six hopefuls for the three open seats on the Board of Supervisors said they want to work toward consensus on issues. When asked what the biggest problem facing the county is, District 1 candidate Olivia Diaz, a business entrepreneur, said it was the divisiveness spawned in the community during the last election.

One of Diaz’s two opponents for the District 1 seat, retired Navy officer Nate Beason, agreed.



“The aura in the county needs to be cleaned up,” he said.

Steve O’Rourke, a business consultant who is challenging incumbent Supervisor Sue Horne for the District 2 seat, said that if he were elected to a board split 2-2 along ideological lines, he would “be in the middle.” The current majority-minority bloc on the board “is not serving constituents’ needs,” he said.




Without hot-button issues like NH 2020 or Measure D, the run up to March 2 is decidedly less shrill than the last regular election in 2002. NH 2020 was proposed as the county’s blueprint for long-range planning and conservation of open space before it was shelved by a new, more conservative board in 2003. Measure D, had it passed, would have set up a reimbursement process for property owners whose land was devalued because of county regulations.

This year’s issues are long-standing but not red-hot, such as county government finances and services and affordable housing. Development growth is probably the hottest issue, but it hasn’t sparked much debate between the candidates – yet.

Horne said the biggest problem facing the county is lack of infrastructure, particularly sewer and roads. “Onerous” requirements handed down by the state will cost the county “hundreds of millions of dollars” to meet, she said. That spurred her to have the county study the feasibility of hooking into a regional sewage system in Placer County that would serve the Lake of the Pines area.

O’Rourke, meanwhile, argued that the “super sewer” will only create more growth and traffic in southern Nevada County.

District 1 candidate Josh Ramey, a business manager and volunteer firefighter, is a second-generation Nevada County resident. He said he wants the county to retain its small-town characteristics from its past.

“I don’t believe the whole solution is high-density housing and apartments close in to the Grass Valley area,” Ramey said.

During his campaign, Beason said he has knocked on 6,000 doors and the biggest concern he heard, he said, was about traffic, a “symptom” of growth.

Ted Owens, a Truckee construction contractor and Town Council member, is running uncontested for the District 5 seat. He said the county and towns need to unite in order to gain more autonomy from the state, particularly when it comes to spending local tax money.

“I think it’s time the east county came into the west county,” he said. “The bottom line is we’re not in control of our destinies as counties or cities.”

The forum was sponsored by the Grass Valley/Nevada County Chamber of Commerce, Nevada County Business Association and the Nevada County Contractors Association.


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