Running for Council: Nevada City Council has 2 seats up for grabs
Meet the city of Nevada City Council candidates
Four candidates are running for two open seats on the Nevada City Council — Lou Ceci, Adam Kline, Ken Merdinger and Erin Minett.
Minett is an incumbent seeking her second term. Council member Duane Strawser isn’t running for reelection.
The election is June 7.
Lou Ceci sees several issues as matters of concern to Nevada City — fire safety, water security, housing, preserving the city’s historic character, the economy and homelessness.
In the past four years, most of the city’s fire preparedness has been carried out by local Firewise communities, Ceci said.
“They have done an excellent job, but it’s time for the council to take the lead in the defense of our town,” he said. “We must complete a Community Wildfire Protection Plan. To help fund this process, we should hire a grant writer.”
Ceci said Nevada City runs out of water every year, and it needs about 900 acre-feet per year.
“But Little Deer Creek, where we have water rights, runs dry after only 400 acre-feet,” Ceci added. “The rest, over half of what we need, we buy from (Nevada Irrigation District). We need greater security in our contract with NID.”
Ceci said the city should not sacrifice the city’s charm on the theory that more housing will mean cheaper housing.
“Nevada City has a balanced housing plan: the housing element of our strategic plan,” he said. “We need to stick to it. With Cashin’s Field, we are ahead of most other communities in the state for meeting our low income housing target. Now we need to work on our moderate income housing.”
The unique character of the city must be preserved, he said.
“Commercial Street is one of the oldest streets in town,” Ceci said. “Its narrowness is a feature and a big part of its charm. But there just wasn’t enough room for the sidewalks, parking, and two lanes of traffic.
“The compromise which was struck by the council proves we can keep our motherlode look while adjusting to changing circumstances, needs, and traffic patterns,” he added.
A major threat to the city is the loss of the courthouse, he said.
“To move the courts from downtown would cause tremendous economic hardship,” Ceci said. “To tear it down in the name of efficiency would ignore its potent symbolic value. A town needs more than just efficiency and commerce to survive. It also needs a heart.”
On homelessness, it’s going to take public/private cooperation to make an impact locally on what is a national problem, Ceci said.
“Low income housing is part the solution,” he said. “The county’s Continuum of Care projects, such as Brunswick Commons, is another. Nevada County Home Path is a third approach. It seeks to provide monitored campsites. I applaud their efforts, and on the council, I would reach out to support them.”
Adam Kline stressed preparedness as a need of the city, which would include an active plan and communication strategy to handle the threat of fire and extreme weather events.
“Our changing climate means these dangers aren’t going away, so we need to do everything we can to keep our people, property, and land safe, and mitigate harm as best we can,” he said, adding, “Housing, our lack of inventory, is pushing our young people and workforce out of town, and making it difficult for people who’ve spent their lives here. We need to encourage developers to build starter homes for individuals and small families, and apartments and cottages for our young adults.”
Meanwhile, he would like to see the 7 Hills Business District become more walkable and beautiful.
“Filling those empty storefronts by bringing in new restaurants and retail will give our locals and visitors more choices. Strong businesses help create a healthy city budget,” he said.
Kline said it’s important to keep the courthouse at its current location.
“Our iconic courthouse provides jobs and brings people downtown,” he said. “We’ve got to do everything in our power to see that the building is fixed up and stays put, while having a plan if the decision doesn’t go our way.”
Kline also spoke about the necessity of improving citizen/police relations since the August 2020 counter-protest.
“This is going to be a big part of the job for our next permanent police chief,” he said. “The city will have to recruit a new police chief experienced in community-orientated policing.
Talking about downtown, Kline advocates for enhanced parking while maintaining the city’s aesthetic charm.
“I support turning one of our existing lots into an attractive parking structure that can accommodate more vehicles,” he said. “And this works to make Nevada City more walkable, so fewer people are bringing their cars into town.”
Kline also pointed to the need for water conservation.
“We can’t wait until the later summer months when the city supply gets low, and we’re buying water from NID,” he said. “It’ll be entirely manageable if we’re all on board, so the city will need to communicate clearly why conservation is necessary.”
Regarding homelessness, Kline said, “Nevada City’s relatively small budget means we have to rely a lot on the county and work with the excellent local organizations. We wouldn’t be true to ourselves if we didn’t do everything we could to help folks in need.”
In addition to fire and water, some other pressing issues face Nevada City, said Ken Merdinger.
The determination of the courthouse’s location, strengthening downtown businesses post-COVID-19, increasing local and tourist dollars, and improving the city’s infrastructure.
“I think the Commercial Street rehabilitation project will be a great improvement to the city,” he said. “Once the new infrastructure is in place, everybody will be able to enjoy what our community offers: Victorian Christmas, downtown shopping, Summer Nights and parades.”
Merdinger said he favors keeping the courthouse in its downtown location, adding that all options need to be addressed so that the best one meets community needs.
“As I see it, there are four options: Remodel the existing building according to code, tear down the existing building and rebuild, build a new courthouse in another location with better parking, or adopt a hybrid approach with two courthouses — one in the downtown location to handle certain functions and another at the Rood Center.”
Talking about the importance of affordable housing, Merdinger said, “I’d like to give a shout out to those who were responsible for the Cashin’s Field development. But in order to keep this momentum going, we are going to need more partnerships between the public and private sectors.”
Merdinger said that efforts to improve police relations face a challenge — passing a budget to provide adequate funding for additional personnel, while implementing improved police training on the appropriate response for various confrontations as well as more police visibility on foot or bicycle.
“We have wonderful organizations in our area whose focus is to support the homeless,” Merdinger said. “There’s Hospitality House, Sierra Roots, Turning Point, and Advocates for Mentally Ill Housing. Sierra Roots provides a warming shelter, weekly lunches to those in need, and has aspirations to build a micro-village to provide permanent housing. And the Brunswick Commons project, a joint venture between Nevada County and Hospitality House, will soon be completed with 41-units of affordable apartments for those who are mentally ill, homeless, or at risk of being homeless.”
Erin Minett has served on the Nevada City Council for one term. She identified four major issues to address.
“I’ve been building relationships at all levels to help us with them — fire safety, water, housing and homelessness,” she said.
Fire safety affects homeowners, businesses, insurability, and costs, she said.
“I started the Advisory Committee in 2019 alongside several knowledgeable and committed citizens,” she said. “We’ve added two weekends a year of free green waste (disposal). And I started the ‘Adopt a Sliver’ program so people could adopt Nevada City’s many small pieces of land.”
If climate continues to change, water issues will likely worsen.
“We need to formalize our plans and access to water to continue to meet residents’ needs,” she said.
She identified Cashin’s Field as a significant step for workforce housing.
“With community input, we will adjust our zoning and building codes to comply, yet keep our historical charm,” she said. “There will be more opportunities for workforce housing which will be essential for the success of our local businesses downtown, in 7 Hills, and the rest of Nevada City.”
Regarding homelessness, she said, “Hospitality House and others are addressing homelessness in Nevada County. I will continue to find solutions that are effective and affordable. I want to see the 7 Hills district and downtown thriving, with a perfect balance of busy, but still sweet and peaceful.”
The courthouse, with its iconic facade, is one building the city wants to preserve.
“Having the courts in town is an important source of economic activity for our businesses and restaurants,” she said. “And our community has been clear that we want to keep our own police force and move towards a community policing model. Council has taken the critical step of hiring City Manager Sean Grayson. Next, he will hire a new police chief with the approval of council. I will continue to work hard to hear our neighborhood voices and make responsible decisions for Nevada City’s future.
William Roller is a staff writer with The Union. He can be reached at email@example.com
Name: Lou Ceci
Occupation: Owns a small publishing house
Name: Adam Kline
Occupation: Songwriter/e-commerce developer
Name: Ken Merdinger
Occupation: Retired public school teacher
Name: Erin Minett
Occupation: Council member
Nevada County officials have counted all the ballots, and certification of the local vote is expected by Wednesday.
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