A different mood at this year’s forum | TheUnion.com

A different mood at this year’s forum

I attended the Supervisor’s Candidate Forum in Grass Valley on Friday. It was an excellent opportunity to view and listen to all the candidates in one place, and a word of praise is due its sponsors (the Nevada County Business Association, the Nevada County/Grass Valley Chamber of Commerce, and the Nevada County Contractors’ Association) for opening it to the public.

The mood at this lunch was noticeably different than a similar forum held before the election a year ago November. At that time, tempers were still running hot from the controversy over the Natural Heritage 2020, an environmental planning study that became a metaphor for government usurpation of property rights.

New in town, I was invited to attend and sit at the table of a group called Citizens for Property Rights in Nevada County, which was formed to fight NH 2020. Even though by that time the study supposedly had been abandoned, its foes obviously believed that if incumbent supervisors Izzy Martin and Bruce Conklin were re-elected, NH 2020 would be revived.

So tensions were high in the room that day. It was useful to talk with the CPR-INC folks at my table, because I was trying to understand the passions that had engulfed the community over this issue.

The man who invited me, and who was head of CPR-INC at the time, was Bill Weismann. Yes, the same Bill Weismann who recently was sentenced to prison for hiring a hit man to kill his Lake of the Pines neighbor over a property dispute.

I bring this up not to malign CPR-INC or their goals – or even Mr. Weismann himself, whom I found on that day (the only time I met him) to be a friendly gentleman eager to share his group’s views.

But a clear memory from that forum was Weismann muttering angrily under his breath every time Supervisor Martin rose to speak. In hindsight, it foreshadowed the rage or despair that was to lead him to seek out somebody to attack his neighbor – and thus shattering his life and that of his family.

Perhaps, it was the reflection on Weismann, as well as NH 2020’s impact on the community, that prompted the mood of collaboration and consensus that was an underlying theme of Friday’s forum.

The candidates seemed to be jockeying for the middle ground in their statements, and often credited other panelists – even opponents – with making good points. It may not have been as dramatic as the last forum, but I don’t think I was the only one who went away feeling that these candidates see working together as the right way to help Nevada County.

Which one can do the job best will be up to the voters, who will get excellent opportunities in the coming weeks – in The Union and elsewhere – to see how the candidates feel about issues confronting us all.

Another flashback this week came with the death of Ann Miller, the long-legged tap dancer famous for her movie musicals in the 1940s and ’50s. One my favorites was “On the Town” with Gene Kelly and Frank Sinatra, but if you remember the great age of big-screen musicals, she was in a bunch of them. Her New York Times obituary said her agent claimed she could do 500 taps a minute, and nobody doubted it.

(Younger readers who aren’t fans of old films may recognize Ann as one of the dancers – Debbie Reynolds was the other – caricatured in the reoccurring “Leg Up!” sketch on “Saturday Night Live” a few years ago.)

What is fascinating about Miller is that she continued to perform until quite on in years – at least, for a professional tap dancer. The Times noted that in 1979, after a long hiatus, she made a tremendous comeback, starring with Mickey Rooney (no spring chicken himself) in “Sugar Babies,” a musical salute to vaudeville. It ran for nearly three years on Broadway and another five years on the road before she hung up her tap shoes for good.

In the late ’80s, my then-wife and I were in Minneapolis to see a play at the Tyrone Guthrie Theater. Afterward, we had dinner at a popular restaurant, the Market Barbecue.

“Sugar Babies” was in town, and into the restaurant swept Ann Miller, along with her corps of young dancers. She played the diva to the hilt, complete with flamboyant appearance and elaborate lacquered black wig. If it’s true that she was 81 when she died this week, then she would have been about 65 then – and still looked terrific, even down to those dancer’s legs. She’s one of those performers about whom we say, “There will never be another one like her.”

Richard Somerville is the editor of The Union. His column appears every Saturday.

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