George Boardman: Nevada City’s mayor a clear and present danger to businesses |

George Boardman: Nevada City’s mayor a clear and present danger to businesses

George Boardman

Observations from the center strip: Victory edition

SCORE ONE for the little guys: The mailbox outside the contract Post Office on Combie Road has been restored after many complaints. Unless you live in LOP, the next nearest mailbox is miles away … HIGH SCHOOL football in the fall? Professional and college teams can’t get the coronarvirus under control, and they haven’t even returned to the up-close-and-personal part of the game … THE POOR turnout at the Tulsa rally leads me to believe at least some of Donald Trump’s supporters take the coronavirus pandemic more seriously than he does … J. C. PENNEY is closing more than 130 stores, but not the one in Grass Valley. It should be profitable when Kmart is the major competition … BUTTE COUNTY District Attorney Mike Ramsey deserves kudos for taking on PG&E. Very few small county DAs have the guts to fight big corporations … THE TERM “virtue signaling” is a guilt-free way for conservatives to dismiss people who show empathy for others …

At a time when COVID-19 cases are surging in California and places like Nevada City are trying to reassure the public it is safe to patronize local merchants, you would expect public officials to encourage responsible behavior by the public.

Then there are the likes of soon-to-be ex-Mayor Reinette Senum, who used her Facebook page to denounce Gov. Gavin Newsom’s order to the public to wear masks in public settings.

“As you go about your day today, KNOW there is NO LAW that Orders you to Wear a Mask,” she posted. “Our Governor does NOT have that universal power to make such orders. While I know the HEADLINES over the last couple days (sic) have stated something entirely different, that is because journalism is dead.” She also posted a statement on YouTube.

The posts appeared at a time California has experienced a resurgence in COVID-19 cases, and Nevada County — which saw no new coronavirus cases from April 23 to June 1 — has experienced a jump from 41 to 108 this month through Monday morning.

Since we lack a vaccine or treatment for the disease, we have to rely on simple activities like social distancing, wearing a mask, and washing our hands frequently to limit the spread of the coronavirus, according to Dr. Scott Gottlieb, former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration. Especially masks.

“It’s something we can do collectively to try to reduce the spread,” he said recently. “It’s really all we have and it’s not a very robust tool at that. But it is a tool that we have and it’s a tool that has been demonstrated to have an impact if everyone does it or if most people do it.”

Health Affairs, a peer-reviewed health care journal, concluded that masks prevented as many as 230,000 to 450,000 COVID-19 deaths by May 22 in 15 states that adopted mask mandates early in the pandemic.

Senum had a point when she complained to The Union about ever-changing advice, guidelines and rules issued by authorities, but this is a novel disease we haven’t had to deal with in the past. Dr. Anthony Fauchi, who has spent more than 50 years in the field of infectious diseases, said he has never seen anything like the coronavirus.

Senum also said she wasn’t challenging the use of masks but rather Newson’s authority to issue such an order. Then she said across-the-board mask mandates come with their own inherent risks. “The truth of the matter, it is a nuanced, complicated debate about masks,” she said.

No, it’s not complicated. The only debate about the efficacy of masks is in the feverish underworld of conspiracy theories and junk science that seem to resonate with the mayor. As it turns out, many of the loudest objectors to wearing a mask are also in the forefront of the anti-vaccination movement.

Before her headline-making post of June 20, Senum posted an article quoting an official of the World Health Organization saying asymptomatic transmission of COVID-19 “is very rare.” “We do NOT have to be in such fear around COVID,” she commented. The WHO almost immediately walked back that claim. Do you think Senum noted the change in position?

Then there’s this post from the blog of one J.B. Handley, who identifies himself as an entrepreneur: “Locking down society was a bone-headed policy decision so devastating to society that historians may judge it as the all time worse decision ever made. The lockdown will cause more deaths and destruction than COVID-19 ever did.”

Among other things, Handley’s blog announced the discovery of the cause of autism, and questions the value and safety of vaccines, something near and dear the Senum’s heart. Longtime readers of Senum’s Facebook page know she believes chemtrails are real, is suspicious of cell phone technology, and is an anti-vaxxer and staunch opponent of the pharmaceutical industry.

Like many people who use the internet to confirm their suspicions, Senum is not real choosy about where her “facts” come from. She has raised the possibility that “crisis” actors were used in the Orlando nightclub massacre, and promoted a blog claim that “approximately 15 percent of Bernie’s votes (were) flipped to Clinton” in California’s 2016 presidential primary.

Oh, yes, did you know that Atlantis is in the Bermuda Triangle? It’s all — or was — on her Facebook page, something I haven’t viewed since she kicked me off a couple of years ago.

Senum’s challenge of Newsom’s order to wear masks and her skepticism about the asymptomatic transmission of the disease indirectly supports the movement to reopen the economy regardless of the health consequences. The movement, which has included harassment and threats against public health officials, draws much of its support from the anti-vaccine crusaders. One of them is currently suing over Newsom’s mask order.

But all of this is peripheral to what should really concern residents of Nevada City: The viability of its tourist-dependent businesses. Communities are bending over backwards to reassure the public that it’s safe to patronize their merchants, much of that coming in the form of comments from public officials.

Rural communities went to great lengths during the lockdown to discourage visitors — you could get hit with a hefty fine if you dared to visit the south shore of Lake Tahoe. Now people in places like the Bay Area are wondering how safe it is to come up here.

My daughter recently made a day trip to San Francisco and reports that people there are much more serious about social distancing and wearing masks than we are. They will be looking for clues about how safe it will be the visit here. Comments like Senum’s, which made the state’s two largest newspapers and the Google News feed, don’t help.

I wrote during the recent dust up over Senum’s advocacy of 5G technology regulation that voters should decide if they want more of what she has to offer, and they decided to return her to office in March. But I wouldn’t blame local merchants if they started a recall movement the day she is sworn into office for her new term.

Reinette Senum is a clear and present danger to local commerce.

CORRECTION: Max Schanzenbach is a professor at Northwestern University, not Northwest University as I wrote in the online version of my June 16 column.

George Boardman lives at Lake of the Pines. His column is published Mondays by The Union. Write to him at

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