Election brings up many issues | TheUnion.com

Election brings up many issues

Have you ever noticed that neither Grass Valley nor Nevada City has a zocalo? Now this is rather strange, as both towns were formed when California was Spanish territory, and Spanish cities have zocalos. This was a central spot where everyone went when there was civic danger, rejoicing or mourning – and it’s sadly missed here.

Another example is the village square, which was common back East, where most of the ’49ers came from. So why didn’t pioneers design village squares in the Gold Country?

Well, when those miners were digging up the hills and flushing the streams, they were here for the fast buck, and the last thing they wanted to spend time on was designing a livable village, hence no zocalo or village square – and we’re the poorer for it.

Around 1960, the California Division of Highways was on a roll, building freeways all over the state. The place that really needed a freeway (and still does) was Auburn along Highway 49 north to the city limits. However, Nevada City was a dying town and some of the city fathers, in a deeply misguided attempt to save it, decided that a freeway would encourage tourists to stop and shop. (Just how often have you swung off a high-speed freeway to investigate some unknown small town along the road?)

The Division of Highways was very happy to cut Nevada City in half, destroying a historic hotel and old homes on the altar of the goddess Progress. While the merchants ultimately helped save Nevada City by promoting a historical district, at that time they helped cut their own economic throats by bifurcating their town. Unfortunately, historical spots, like endangered species, once gone are gone forever.

Had there been active civic groups dedicated to planning and safeguarding their new towns and historical heritages, both Nevada City and Grass Valley would be culturally richer and more beautiful than they are now. All of which brings us up to our upcoming elections this March 5, where battles rage between the planners and the despoilers.

While you can’t build a house without a plan, run a business without a plan, go on a vacation without a plan, or even live your life without some idea of where you want to go, a number of citizens preach that civic planning is bad, bad, bad; are their voices ever strident. Now I’ve learned one very important lesson in this life – whenever a self-appointed guardian stridently yells: “Follow me; I’ll save you,” you’d better watch your back and your wallet.

Izzy Martin and Bruce Conklin have both calmly and conscientiously worked toward asking all of us to look at where Nevada County is heading over the next 20 years. Their agenda has been neither pro- nor anti-growth. It’s been “let’s look at problems, alternatives and dreams, and try to come up with some sort of planning that will benefit all of us into the foreseeable future,” which is actually what NH 2020 is all about.

NH 2020 is not a plan of action. It is a study, a request for information, out of which some beneficial planning might be done. And this truly worries those who have an agenda that just might not be in the best interests of anyone but themselves. I’ll take supervisors such as Izzy and Bruce any time over the screamers.

Another very important consideration: Supervisors’ actions affect all county residents in many, many ways which have nothing to do with NH 2020. Beware the “one-issue” candidate. For this reason, even though you may not vote in their districts, I’m suggesting sending Izzy and Bruce financial support.

Now on to another important race. For many years, Bruce Bolinger ran the office of County Clerk-Recorder smoothly, efficiently and courteously. When he resigned, two women competed for his office. The winner quickly got rid of the woman who had the audacity to challenge her. Since then, hours of service and access to records have been restricted, and the turnover of employees has been devastating. When an office constantly loses efficient people, look to problems at the head. Which is why I’m pushing for Kevin Waggoner.

And last. I don’t know what his adjoining column will say this week, but if Bill Brooke is promoting some cause or candidate, please, please, do not walk, do not run, but flee in the opposite direction.

Otto Haueisen, an investments broker in Nevada City, writes a monthly column.

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