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City at crossroads with traffic concerns

Honorable Councilmembers:

Reduction of “level of service” for problem intersections is the beginning of the end of our last chance at having a decent quality of life in our town and will open many doors to poorly managed growth. The planning department staff changed terms of the conditions of approval for Matt Weaver’s Idaho-Maryland project without public hearings, debate or approval, a move of questionable legality. And now the city plans to change the law to make it OK? The fact that legal advice was obtained tells you something.

There is a large community constituency (beyond Concerned Citizens About Traffic) who is closely watching the city and this business of traffic mitigation.



We can not continue to sell off the city, which has a relatively healthy economy and unemployment rate, to business interests at the expense of the community at large.

Please do not let this badly conceived “solution” take hold, it sets a very dangerous precedent.




Thank you for your consideration.

Terry Lamphier

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For those of you who wonder what happened to this former Grass Valley planning commissioner, here’s proof that he’s still working hard at being the community’s top traffic cop. He sends missives to the City Council and makes sure the newspaper is kept in the loop.

Sometimes the fire in his belly erupts and he jumps to conclusions, such as when he accused the newspaper of looking out for the “good ole boys club,” a group I’ve never met or has ever invited me to a secret initiation ceremony.

I also resent being associated with anything old, although I’m still limping around nearly three weeks after spraining my ankle in a senior league basketball game. Denial, you see, is the essence of my fountain of youth.

The good ole boy zinger was sent my way Tuesday when Terry correctly noted that we did not have a story in that day’s newspaper about an upcoming meeting on the Idaho-Maryland and East Main Avenue intersection, the epicenter in the latest round of the Grass Valley traffic wars.

After Terry straightened me out with the e-mail, reporter Trina Kleist reviewed the thick City Council agenda and wrote a short story for our Web site (theunion.com). Trina also covered the meeting, which was going strong when she had to return to the office and finish writing her story.

Given the magnitude of any decision regarding that intersection, I wasn’t surprised to hear the City Council had taken no action on even a proposed temporary change to the Level of Service. Now, we have time to take a closer look at that intersection and the legitimacy of the claims of those who want to make traffic the top issue in Grass Valley.

Our coverage will include watching that intersection at all hours of the day, explaining the two-second rule, asking the city how much in mitigation fees has been dedicated to that intersection, looking at the formula the city uses to determine how much traffic a new business is expected to generate, and sharing the concerns of Concerned Citizens About Traffic and the business community.

The City Council likely will discuss this issue again at its Feb. 28 meeting. If you have any thoughts you’d like to share on this topic, please send them to me in the next day or two. I’d like to run some of these comments in next Saturday’s newspaper and all of them on our Web site.

While the traffic question is clearly open to debate, I must say that I disagree with Terry’s qualified assertion that we have a “relatively healthy economy.” It’s also interesting that Terry did not mention in that note the cost of housing, which has a significant impact on quality-of-life issues.

There’s no question that the growing gap between wages and housing costs makes it difficult for businesses and government agencies to hire and retain good people. It’s something, however, that I’m sure doesn’t concern those who are driving alone and grumbling while sitting at an intersection or a stoplight.

But I can assure you that it’s a real problem. Since I started working here last year, I’ve had to hire several people and it has been more of a challenge than in other places where I have worked.

I’ve learned, for example, that it’s practically impossible to hire someone who is married unless their spouse is an entrepreneur, a telecommuter, comes from a wealthy family. Couples who own a home in the Bay Area or Southern California are also among those who might move here. If the candidate and spouse are young and have a child, it’s highly unlikely they can afford to live here.

This restricts the pool of candidates. Has it reached a crisis point yet? No. I’m still able to find excellent employees. But the housing and workforce issues need to be considered as well as traffic when we’re looking for the tip of the iceberg.

Speaking of hiring, I have some good news and bad news. First, Brittany Retherford said goodbye to us on Wednesday. She was here for nearly two years and covered the government, growth, politics and business beats. Like all of our reporters, she’s also written on a variety of other topics. This past summer she traveled to Uganda with a small group of missionaries who were joining the Kellermanns to help the Batwa pygmies. She wrote several stories for a special section we produced on that endeavor.

Brittany, an adventuresome soul, is eventually going to Ecuador where a sister now lives. She’s already been to Africa a couple of times, and I overheard her talking about visiting Antarctica someday. It sounds like she will be going where the wind blows for a while. We’re going to miss Brittany but wish her the best of luck as well.

Fortunately, Josh Singer will be starting Monday. He will cover government, politics and whatever else we throw at him. Josh is a graduate of Washington University in St. Louis. He last worked at the Moffat County Morning News in Craig, Colo. He also worked for the Voice of the Hill Newspaper in Washington, D.C., as a court reporter for Morningside Partners in Washington, D.C., and with FEMA, which we didn’t hold against him.

We’ve also added a couple of other people to our staff in recent weeks.

Soumitro Sen replaced David Mirhadi, who moved on to Casper, Wyo., where the wind chill was 36 degrees below zero on Friday morning. Soumitro, a native of India, was working on his master’s degree at the University of Nevada at Reno when we hired him. He is covering education and helping with our Nevada City coverage.

Dave Price is our new sports editor. He comes from The Nevada Appeal in Carson City. Dave has been covering prep sports and the outdoors for more than 20 years in Nevada and Northern California. He replaced Brian Hamilton, who became our city editor in December.

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Pat Butler is the editor of The Union. He can be reached by e-mail at patb@theunion.com or by phone at 477-4235.


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