George Boardman: Now’s the time for Nevada City mayor’s critics on the City Council to put up or shut up
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I think it is safe to say that Nevada City Mayor Reinette Senum is the most polarizing official in our little corner of paradise, which is one reason she may lose her title and be censured at a Tuesday meeting of the City Council.
Council member Erin Minett, apparently with the backing of the other three council members, asked that the item be placed on the agenda. Minett called for the “removal” of Senum, which actually boils down to removing her honorary title of mayor.
“I have concerns and I have received public comments about Reinette’s not clarifying that the opinion she expressed regarding multiple city matters are her own and that she was not speaking on behalf of the city or the City Council,” Minett said.
Minett also complained that Senum has organized opposition to the city’s wireless facility ordinance regarding 5G technology, an issue that has generated considerable passion from her supporters in the tin foil hat community. Minett said extra security has been present during meetings on the issue and added: “I’ve waited until the crowd died down before leaving.”
Council member Duane Stawser claimed that Senum is the source of behind-the-scenes tension involving the mayor, citizens and staff over the 5G ordinance. City Manager Catrina Olson reported the city has spent more than $41,000 on lawyers’ fees in drafting and discussing the ordinance, not including staff time. “We are dangerously close to being at 70% of our legal budget. All of this is having an impact on our budget.”
In an area where local officials try to avoid making waves, Senum is a tsunami of firm opinions, sometimes expressed in less than delicate language. She is opinionated and expresses them forcefully, rarely interested in seeking a compromise.
Senum is also a fan of fanciful conspiracies, particularly when it comes to wireless technology. At a meeting of the Board of Supervisors earlier this year, she claimed wireless technology is damaging trees. Really.
But she does have her adherents in an area where there is enthusiastic dismissal of the science behind vaccinations, and where you can find all manner of practitioners of “alternative” medicine with cures for what ails you. The fact the federal government has preempted authority in the area of 5G technology doesn’t seem to count with Senum and her supporters.
I have criticized her numerous times in this column for the Dallas police shooting controversy, her embrace of bogus science, and her belief in various conspiracy theories. Having said that, I think the council’s off-base to sanction or censure Senum because she doesn’t play nice and rocks the boat when she doesn’t get her way. Politics is a contact sport, and we could use more of it in an area where elected officials prefer to come to a consensus before an issue is presented to the public.
When Senum pontificates on some issue of the day, I — and I suspect, most other people — assume she’s expressing her own opinion unless she says it’s the position of the city or the council. Grasping this doesn’t require a lot of sophistication, but apparently it’s beyond the reach of some residents of Nevada City. I suspect their objections are grounded in opposition to what she’s saying.
She’s also being faulted for organizing opposition to the 5G regulation. While I think she’s wrong here, she has no obligation to accept the outcome and has every right to try to change the city’s position.
If the city is spending too much money and staff time on this issue, well, a majority of the council has consented to doing so. The other council members aren’t required to acquiesce to what Senum wants just so they can avoid public unpleasantness.
Perhaps Strawser will be more specific at Tuesday’s meeting, and also expand on a recent statement he made to The Union: “We’ve gone through this over and over through the years with Reinette. It’s been brewing for too many years. To me we just need to deal with it head-on and not brush it under the rug.”
It is time for the other council members to put up or shut up when it comes to the specifics of Senum’s alleged misconduct. Senum hasn’t said much, other than to state she’s done nothing wrong and express sympathy for her critics. I suspect she’ll have a lot more to say Tuesday.
But in the final analysis, it’s up to the voters of Nevada City — not the City Council — to decide if Senum’s conduct is worthy of punishment, a judgment they can make at the polls next year.
George Boardman lives at Lake of the Pines. His column is published Mondays by The Union. Write to him at email@example.com.
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