Christian Stewart: Mine foes out of touch with life here
Over Memorial Day weekend I sat down for a nice meal at the Old Town Cafe and struck up a conversation with a man I’d never met who is in the process of moving to Grass Valley from New York state.
We talked about the things we love about Grass Valley — the history, the natural beauty, the local character. And then he told me that he had already joined protests against the reopening of the Idaho-Maryland mine.
I was dumbfounded, and angry. This guy hasn’t even finished moving here yet, but somehow he thinks he knows what’s best for this county?
There was zero appreciation for how hard it is to support a family of five on a local wage. This is unfortunately a level of arrogance I am seeing more and more often with the people who oppose the Idaho-Maryland Mine.
What this county needs more than anything are good-paying jobs, pure and simple. Anyone who denies the reality of that hasn’t been paying attention to what’s happening in our local economy.
Nevada County has among the worst average salaries of any county in the state. On top of that, housing costs are through the roof, driven sky high by transplants from Silicon Valley and elsewhere. If you were born here, there’s little chance you will get to stay here.
The average age of a person in Nevada County is 51. In Placer it’s 42 and in Sacramento it’s 36. Young people in Nevada County are forced to leave in droves because there’s no long-term job opportunity. We have fewer families here, and there’s more and more talk of school closures because there aren’t enough kids.
This county has massive economic problems that won’t be solved by wealthy retirees from Sunnyvale snatching up acre lots and living on their 401Ks. It’s only going to be solved by high-paying jobs locally — and the Idaho-Maryland Mine is the only project out there right now that’s promising to deliver anything close to the 300-plus in-house jobs and another 300 or so around town.
For months mine opponents have been fear mongering and gaslighting the public about this mine, but the time is coming soon when they will need to put up or shut up.
What will opponents do when the Environmental Impact Report comes back clean and says the mine will be safe? Will they accept the facts, or will they accuse the county of lying in the report?
An even better question: If the mine is denied, what is their plan to create new jobs here? I’d like to hear a coherent answer to that question.
Passing up re-opening the mine wouldn’t just be foolish, it would be economically devastating to local working families.
Many of the mine opponents are content to allow longtime locals to serve their meals and bag their groceries, but when it comes to getting ahead instead of just getting by, they don’t have your back.
But they will tell you what’s good for you.
Christian Stewart lives in Grass Valley.
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An older friend I made when I began here in 2016 called the other day to talk about the paper. I hadn’t heard from her in awhile and, well, I’ve been here just long enough…