Boardman: Pandemic didn’t dampen the competition for coveted local awards |

Boardman: Pandemic didn’t dampen the competition for coveted local awards

Anybody who thought the coronavirus pandemic would put a damper on the 2020 edition of the You Can’t Make This Stuff Up awards underestimated the zaniness and clueless behavior of many of their fellow citizens in western Nevada County.

The pandemic still provided an endless array of possibilities to compete for the seventh year of the coveted awards, whether it was KNCO realizing Rush Limbaugh is a divisive person and canceling his show, or that taxpayers weren’t allowed to observe planning to reopen the economy.

Grass Valley decided to turn its vacant retail stores into a Potemkin village and voters gave the OK to reap the tax benefits of the pot business, a subject the City Council wouldn’t even discuss a couple of years ago. Then there was the Chamber of Commerce’s endorsement of a rally to reopen business that was withdrawn because of criticism. Of course, the Grass Valley chamber actually has somebody to run it, unlike the one in Nevada City.

Speaking of Nevada City (and we always do when these awards are announced), the police couldn’t find anybody to arrest when a group of thugs claiming to back the police assaulted several participants in a Black Lives Matter march. Then there were the people who tried to protect a tree from PG&E’s chainsaws, only to learn the tree was dying.

All of this gives us the opportunity to fulfill the charge of Chicago journalist and humorist Finley Peter Dunne, who believed “the job of the newspaper is to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.” What follows helps us fulfill that mandate.

HISTORICAL ARTIFACT AWARD: To Jedidiah Watson, a former member of the Grass Valley Historical Commission, who posted small Confederate flags on the Fourth of July weekend.

NOW YOU TELL US AWARD: To KNCO, which announced it was dropping Rush Limbaugh in part because the county doesn’t need so much “divisiveness” and hopes the change will “lead to healthier and more respectful discourse.”

PARTY CANCELLED AWARD: To a Penn Valley woman who was arrested after sheriff’s deputies allegedly found a half-pound of meth and an ounce of heroin in a Party City bag.

USE IT OR LOSE IT AWARD: To Nevada County, which started planning for the Dog Bar Road Bridge Replacement Project that would put the new bridge under water if the Centennial Dam is ever built in order to secure state funding.

JUSTICE DELAYED CAN BE DANGEROUS AWARD: To law enforcement officials who arrested a Smartsville man for allegedly ramming another car while drunk almost two years after a warrant was issued for his arrest on another drunk-driving charge.

BAD TIMING AWARD: To NID, for closing Scotts Flat Trail to the public on Presidents Day, a sunny day with the temperature in the mid-60s.

WHO CARES AWARD: To Assemblywoman Megan Dahle, who was reported playing with her cell phone while two of her constituents, Nick and Amanda Wilcox, were honored by the California Assembly for their work on gun violence, particularly their pioneering advocacy of what are now known as red flag laws.

BIG SPENDER AWARD: To Deborah Wilder, who outspent each of her two opponents in the race for District 1 supervisor. She finished third in the vote count.

IS THERE A THERE THERE AWARD: To Grass Valley, which now requires landlords to dress up the windows of empty store fronts to give the appearance “there’s a presence there,” according to Community Development Director Tom Last.

THE PEOPLE SPEAK AWARD: To the residents of Nevada County. With the blessing of the Board of Supervisors, Waste Management limited access to the transfer station to 200 vehicles a day. After loud protests, WM lifted the limit two days after it took effect.

THE PEOPLE ARE SILENCED AWARD: A 16-member advisory committee developing a list of safety measures for reopening local businesses barred the public from listening to or watching its meeting because it might slow down the panel’s work, according to Mali Dyck, assistant county executive officer.

THE PEOPLE ARE IN THE DARK AWARD: To county health officials, who refused to provide the detailed descriptions of COVID-19 deaths released by other counties, citing privacy concerns.

WISHY-WASHY MEDICAL ADVISORY AWARD: To the Nevada County Public Health Department, which warned people not to ingest water, swim or splash in areas with high levels of E. coli, but didn’t recommend against swimming in Lake Wildwood, which has had an E. coli problem since 2017.

NO GUTS, NO GLORY AWARD: To Supervisors Dan Miller and Sue Hoek, who backed out of commitments to speak at a ReOpen Nevada County businesses rally after the event was criticized. That didn’t stop Rep. Doug LaMalfa from speaking at the rally.

CLUELESS ENDORSEMENT AWARD: To the Grass Valley Chamber of Commerce, which thought the county and Grass Valley endorsed a rally to reopen businesses in Nevada County because two supervisors announced they would speak at the event and the city allowed the rally to take place. The chamber withdrew its endorsement after citizens opposed the event.

BENDING THE RULES AWARD: To Grass Valley, which permitted a rally on city property even though event organizers lacked the insurance required by the city.

LAW AND ORDER REWARD: To Rep. Doug LaMalfa, who appeared outside a Grass Valley restaurant to voice skepticism about pandemic rules shutting down businesses. The restaurant was later cited by authorities for violating pandemic safety regulations.

COUNTY VISION AWARD: To Supervisor Ed Scofield, who championed development of Higgins Marketplace as a way to create new jobs in the south county. The shopping center’s first — and still its only — tenant, Holiday Market, has been in the south county for years.

MISINFORMATION AWARD: To supervisors chair Heidi Hall, who pulled consideration of an emergency ordinance to crack down on violators of COVID-19 regulations so the county could do a “good job correcting the misinformation.” The revised ordinance was still rejected by the supervisors.

JUSTICE IS SLOW AWARD: To legal authorities, who issued an arrest warrant 13 months after an alleged sexual assault. Authorities said they were waiting for the results of a DNA test at the state crime lab in Sacramento.

INSPECTOR CLOUSEAU AWARD: To the Nevada City Police Department, which couldn’t find anybody to arrest at a Black Lives Matter demonstration broken up by thugs.

THE JULIA “BUTTEFLY” HILL AWARD: To a group of tree lovers in Nevada City who occupied a blue Atlas cedar named “Bella” to prevent PG&E from cutting it down. It turns out the tree was suffering from heart rot and had to be cut down.

GRATEFUL COMMUNITY AWARD: To Reinette Senum, who resigned from the Nevada City Council because “I feel I can be of best service to humanity …” by focusing on other things.

FIFE AND DRUM CORPS AWARD: To a “pots and pans” brigade partially organized by Senum to protest Nevada City’s “draconian decisions” to fine people who don’t wear masks in public.

INFINITY AWARD: More than nine years after it was closed because it was unsafe to use, restoration work on the Bridgeport Covered Bridge still isn’t finished.


“I worry that actions and decisions by the current board will have severe long-term consequences that will lead to an uncontrolled downward spiral for the district. … I believe that the future of NID is in peril.”

Nick Wilcox, announcing he will not seek reelection to the NID board. He refused to elaborate on his statement.

“People were getting in staff’s face, yelling and not being nice.”

David Garcia, county solid waste program manager, after access to the McCourtney Road Transfer Station was limited to 200 vehicles a day. The limit was lifted two days after it was imposed.

“Since this event continues to move quickly, we want to create a process where they can provide the guidance to businesses efficiently and without pause.”

County CEO Alison Lehman, explaining why the public was barred from observing the meeting of a committee creating guidelines for the reopening of businesses.

“(Businesses) are really taking this seriously.”

Amy Irani, the county’s environmental health director, speaking about the precautions businesses were taking against the coronavirus. The quote appeared in The Union next to a picture of a barber and customer unmasked, violations of state guidelines.

“I think the police here are really good. They’re less corrupt than others.”

Semeria Bjorkman of Chicago Park, speaking to a reporter at a rally denouncing police violence.

“As you go about your business today, know that there is no law that orders you to wear a mask. Our governor does not have the unilateral power to make such orders. While I know the headlines over the last couple days have stated something different, that is because journalism is dead.”

Nevada City Mayor Reinette Senum, after Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered Californians to resume wearing masks in public.

“Wear a mask, wash your hands, practice social distancing, and please be kind to one another. … I find it hard to believe that the hill we’re willing to die on is masks. There are so many more important things in the world.”

Grass Valley Mayor Lisa Swarthout.

“If you don’t like our mask mandate, don’t go downtown.”

Nevada City Councilman Doug Fleming, reacting to objections to a new city ordinance that will fine people who visit the downtown area unmasked.

“We’re rolling along, but we’re rolling along in a manner that I think most rural counties would be envious of.”

Supervisor Dan Miller, after the supervisors allocated $1 million to improve broadband communications for students in the Peardale area. Educators pointed out the problem in March, but the contract wasn’t awarded until September, and the technology wasn’t operational until this month.

George Boardman lives in Nevada City. His column is published biweekly on Tuesdays by The Union. Write him at

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