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Boardman: Taking the guess work out of decision making, and other issues

George Boardman
John Hart/jhart@theunion.com | The Union

Observations from the center stripe: Football hero edition

DESPITE THE fact that major football decisions are made by owner Jerry Jones, the Dallas Cowboys are the most valuable sports franchise ($3.2 billion) in America, according to Forbes magazine. The National Football League really is a money machine … TAKE YOUR pick: Stanford figures to win a lot of games while playing a boring style of football, while Cal will be entertaining as it loses a lot of games … YOU HAVE to admire Cal coach Sonny Dykes’ sense of humor. He’s going to need it as the season unfolds ... THE DOWN side of football season: We have to put up with announcers Joe Buck, Gary Danielson and Kirk Herbstreit ... THE 49ERS figure to make the playoffs again this year, while the Raiders will be lucky to break even ... DON’T FEEL too sorry for the St. Louis Rams because their starting quarterback is out before the season starts. The last time that happened, a back-up named Kurt Warner led them to a Super Bowl victory ... I’M GLAD to see my favorite college player (name division) from last year, defensive back Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, will probably make Green Bay’s final roster ... ERIN ANDREWS, who left ESPN for Fox Sports because she wanted to do more than sideline reporting, will be a sideline reporter for Fox’s coverage of the NFL this season.

The contentious debate over the new anti-noise ordinance showed Nevada County is sorely lacking in reliable economic statistics.

Various factions of the wedding industry that opposed the ordinance trotted out a series of statistics designed to illustrate the grave losses they would suffer if this draconian measure passed.

I’m in no position to challenge the validity of the numbers they trumpeted, but the stats bolstered the case of the people who did the studies. This is not the dispassionate information — the kind routinely generated by economic development offices — that leads to confidence-building decisions.



Supervisor Nate Beason was less than impressed with the numbers produced by the Nevada City Chamber of Commerce, which led to a brief, tart exchange between Beason and incoming chamber head Paul Sieving at the final hearing on the ordinance.

But Beason didn’t have any numbers either, and that’s the problem. What economic numbers you see around here are extrapolations of U.S. Census data, narrow studies commissioned by various government agencies, tax revenue and economic data from the state, and marketing studies generated by private business.




A discussion of the county’s economic future based on piecemeal statistics and anecdotal evidence will make key decisions by our leaders nothing more than good guesses. We’re flying blind until we spend the money needed to know what we’re talking about.

— — —

I don’t have an opinion about the sculpture created by Kurt Steger that was installed by Grass Valley at the intersection of East Main Street and Idaho-Maryland Road in 2010. I’m told it honors the city’s history, but I’m too busy dealing with the traffic in the roundabout to get a good look at it.

That’s the problem with public art that’s installed in a place where you don’t have an opportunity to appreciate it, a problem that’s being compounded now that the Grass Valley City Council has voted to install a sculpture at the roundabout on Sierra College Drive.

The new piece is a 6-foot bronze created by deceased local sculptor John Mowen and installed at the county Office of Education’s Imaginarium until it closed in 2009. The sculpture will be on permanent loan to the city.

According to the city, roundabouts provide a unique opportunity to display artwork and define gateways. The artwork also creates a traffic hazard and is difficult to appreciate.

Just about every U.S. city I’ve ever visited that has public art displays it in a plaza or park setting, where people can relax and enjoy the work. You’ll find people eating lunch, visiting with friends as they view the art, or just taking a break from their hectic schedules.

Good luck doing any of that when the art’s in a roundabout, where it’s more of a distraction to drivers than anything else. As the police can tell you, distracted driving is the No. 1 cause of accidents.

I think resident Frank Willington had it right when he told the council: “It would be very nice if you could walk to, get up close, and observe the sculpture. But at a roundabout, you’re looking away from the center.”

The city should find another place to put the Mowen work.

— — —

People process information through their own filters, something that was evidence from the reaction of many to last week’s column. The opinion piece — emphasis on opinion — pointed out our preoccupation with the food we eat while we have hungry people among us, but some foodies read it as an attack on organic food.

As we’ve come to expect in the age of the Internet, their response was less than civil. Among other things, my parentage was questioned, I was encouraged to try something that’s anatomically impossible, and some people offered to fertilize my lawn in a manner I won’t describe here. (I’m guessing these are the same people who promote the humane treatment of the slaughtered animals they eat.)

My critics who made the argument that organic food is the wave of the future started with the assumption that genetically modified foods are evil and bad for you, an argument that’s not supported by the science.

GM crops were first commercialized in 1996, and nobody has produced evidence that will pass the scientific smell test that these foods harm people. Among others, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the World Health Organization and the British Royal Society have all concluded GM crops are as safe as conventional crops. In fact, people are healthier and living longer than they ever have.

There’s nothing new about the genetic modification of crops. Farmers have been improving crops through breeding for about 11,000 years, and none of those improvements had to jump through the regulatory hoops GM seeds did before they could be sold to farmers.

I’m all for eating organic, if that’s what you want. That cohort includes my daughter, who spends so much money at Whole Foods when she’s in the states that she bought stock in the company. But that kind of farming alone won’t feed the nine billion people who are expected to populate earth by 2050. Like it or not, we’re going to need GM crops.

George Boardman lives at Lake of the Pines. His column is published Mondays in The Union.


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