County ain’t broke, don’t fix it on Nov. 5 |

County ain’t broke, don’t fix it on Nov. 5

I got the news last week. After 21/2 years as a paid columnist for The Union, this is my last piece. This really isn’t “good-bye,” of course. I’ll keep mouthing off at regular intervals in the Other Voices section of the paper and hope to do some work with FCAT and KVMR in the future, if they’ll have me. I will miss this monthly slot on page 4, though. I’ve appreciated the discipline of having to write with a deadline, as well as the challenge of seeing how close I can shave that deadline without ending up in Monday’s paper instead of Saturday’s. I’ve enjoyed the practice of organizing my thoughts (an endeavor not unlike the herding of cats) into some sort of coherent order, and I’ve learned, with the help of my lovely wife and editorial assistant, to separate my message from much of the frothing that accompanies it in the earlier drafts. I have had the privilege of meeting with, and speaking to, many intelligent and thoughtful county residents who recognized me from my picture (which may in itself be cause for concern) and shared with me their compliments and critiques. And I’ve gotten a kick out of the letters to the editor that have appeared on these pages from my outspoken critics – I enjoy the attention, and I really don’t mind what they say about me, as long as they spell my name right. But beyond that, I also appreciate and salute the passion and commitment of all my neighbors, whatever side of our county’s many political fences they may be on. We certainly do have a passionate and opinionated county. If we ever turned our collective energies to a common goal, we’d be unstoppable.

I’ve been called a “liberal” – fightin’ words in Nevada County – because I have supported policies that make it more difficult to subdivide land in the rural regions of the county, which are rich in resources and difficult to provide services for. And I have been called a liberal because I have supported policies which encourage clustering of development to minimize impacts and direct development away from the tops of ridges, farmland, steep slopes and streams. I have supported policies which require developers to pay for the schools, roads, police and fire services that will be needed to serve new developments. But I don’t really think any of that makes me a liberal. Rather, I believe support of fiscally sound development and locally based planning initiatives is equally consistent with traditional conservative values. I believe that support for new development paying its own way, for the protection of our natural resources, for respect for our environment and preservation of our quality of life are values shared by political “conservatives” and “liberals” alike, and that those who define the debates over land use in Nevada County in terms of liberal versus conservative, or even “Democrat” versus “Republican,” do not understand the issues.

There is a lot at stake for all Nevada County residents in this election, regardless of their political stripes. In fact, the basic tenet of the General Plan – that most growth should be directed to the towns and village centers and away from the rural regions of the county – is at risk. Measure D is specifically designed to make it impossible for the county to reduce the densities of traffic- and sprawl-generating rural subdivisions. The supervisorial challengers – Ms. Sutherland and Mr. Bedwell – have made it abundantly clear that they want to see fewer restrictions on growth and development in rural regions. What will happen if they succeed? Say goodbye to the rural quality of Nevada County, and say hello to the traffic and sprawl of Anywhere, U.S.A.

There are other issues at stake in choosing candidates in the coming election besides land use, of course. Mr. Bedwell’s war-like rhetoric and off-kilter theories of global conspiracies involving local community groups, not to mention his refusal to debate his opponent, make him a candidate well worth voting against. Ms. Sutherland’s deliberate misrepresentations of her opponent’s position on Englebright Dam, and her disingenuous refusal to take a public stand on measure D, indicate to me a lack of the “right stuff” I would expect from a supervisor. Neither of them offers any specific criticisms of policies or voting records of their opponents, instead relying on vague rhetoric about “fewer regulations” and “listening to the people.”

But you know the real reason I am supporting Izzy Martin and Bruce Conklin? They are smart and effective leaders with a real grasp of the issues, and county government is working well under their leadership. The budget is balanced. Rood Center has become a more friendly and efficient place to do business. Our economy is thriving, and the reputation of Nevada County as an attractive and desirable place in which to live and work is growing. We are accommodating new growth AND protecting our quality of life. The good news about county government is that it ain’t broke, folks, so we don’t need to “fix” it. Vote for Izzy Martin and Bruce Conklin. Vote NO on Measure D.

And once again, thank you all for allowing me this monthly opportunity to get in my 2 cents worth. Although we may disagree, and at times we may disagree vehemently, our strong opinions and the freedom we enjoy to express them make this a great county – and a great country – in which to live. Bless you all.

Brian Bisnett, a landscape architect and environmental planner living at Higgins Corner, writes a monthly column.

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