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George Boardman: Banking on the kindness of others

Talk about broadband communications in Nevada County prompts me to update an observation generally attributed to Mark Twain: Everybody talks about poor communications, but the Board of Supervisors doesn’t do anything about it.

Technically, that’s not true, and may even be a cheap shot. The supervisors have addressed the issue in their own way over the last 20 years. They just lack vision, boldness and a sense of urgency when they grapple with the issue.

After taking several years to conclude the big telecom providers weren’t interested in serving remote areas, the supervisors put their faith behind Spiral Internet and its grandiose $30 million plan to solve our internet problems.



Supervisors were fond of parading John Paul, CEO of Spiral, around to various local groups to show how serious the county was about solving our broadband issues. Now the county’s hopes reside with Race Communications, which might accomplish something if it can figure out how to dig without tearing up fiber optic cables.

Criticism that the supervisors have been too slow to do too little to give Nevada County the modern communications it needs to boost our economy and improve the general quality of life makes the supervisors defensive.




As Supervisor Heidi Hall wrote recently in The Union: “In 2020 broadband was incorporated into the county’s priority objectives to advance economic development. In January, we formally adopted broadband as a stand-alone 2021 priority objective.”

I’ll bet you can feel the rush of adrenaline emanating from the Rood Center.

The supervisors are funding piecemeal last-mile infrastructure projects while championing implementation of something called the Nevada County Broadband Strategy Plan. (I’ll bet you didn’t think we had one.)

Implementation of that plan will depend on the kindness of others, specifically the state’s recent allocation of $6 billion to fund last-mile projects and a statewide open-access, middle-mile network.

The guidelines on how this will work and who gets what haven’t been finalized yet, and as we know, the devil is always in the details. If the concept of equity currently favored by state capitol social warriors guides the process, California’s second-whitest county won’t have a card to play at the table.

We shouldn’t expect much help either from the $65 billion in the bipartisan Senate infrastructure bill that will be used to build out broadband in underserved areas of the country.

A White House analysis shows California will be the biggest winner if the House ever approves the $1 trillion measure, with $44.56 billion going to the state. But most of that — an estimated $34.8 billion — is for transit, and most of the rest is earmarked for other infrastructure needs.

There’s no assurance the bill will pass. The measure is being held hostage by House progressives until the Senate passes the House Democrats’ $3.5 trillion entitlement expansion. There’s a fair chance the liberal and progressive Democrats in Congress will create a circular firing squad that kills off both pieces of legislation.

That, of course, would leave Nevada County where it is now when it comes to solving our communications problem. But we haven’t done much in two decades. Why should we expect real movement now?

DO AS I SAY

The Nevada County Sheriff’s Association recently decided to stand in solidarity with the anti-vaxx quacks in our community and voice their objection to mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations for county employees.

The deputies detect increasing official sentiment for mandatory vaccinations and wanted to put their stake in the ground before things went any further. I don’t think they have much to worry about from the Board of Supervisors — or Grass Valley or Nevada City for that matter. If there’s one thing our elected officials fear, it’s a pandemic of controversy.

But the deputies raise some interesting issues, particularly since citizens who deal with them often have no choice in the matter. Suppose I encounter a deputy in the course of his work and get COVID-19 from an unvaccinated deputy. Can I sue the county for negligence?

What about residents of the county jail, who don’t expect a life-threatening illness during their incarceration? Then there’s the bailiffs you have to deal with when you appear in court or are called for jury duty. I’ve had the jury experience in our cramped, poorly ventilated courthouse, and I can think of several arguments that might get me out of jury duty.

But let’s not put all of the attention on the deputies. There are costs to be borne by taxpayers if a significant number of county employees aren’t vaccinated.

New research indicates that unvaccinated people are twice as likely as those who have been vaccinated to end up in the hospital with the Delta variant of COVID-19. This is an expensive proposition. Delta Air Lines estimates that every employee in the hospital with COVID-19 costs the company $50,000. You can bet it’s even more expensive for California’s civil service employees.

You’re not home free if you get COVID-19 and live to talk about it. Many survivors end up with long-term physical and cognitive issues. One new study indicates survivors are likely to leave the hospital with at least one serious side effect.

What does that cost Nevada County when an employee ends up on long-term disability? Delta thinks the burden is big enough that it has decided to deny sick leave to any employee who is unvaccinated and gets COVID-19. Unvaccinated employees will also be assessed an additional $200 a month for their health insurance.

None of that can be done by the county without bargaining with the deputies association and unions that represent other county employees — assuming there is a will to press for such concessions. Just be careful when you have to deal with one of our civil servants.

In the meantime, expect more pleas from the county Health Department about why we need to get vaccinated.

George Boardman lives in Nevada City. His column is published biweekly on Tuesdays by The Union. Write him at boredgeorgeman@gmail.com.

Observations from the center stripe: ‘Big Lie’ edition

THE CALIFORNIA recall version of Trump’s “Big Lie” is circulating in the conservative social media swamp. Every conservative discouraged from voting because they think it won’t count will make it easier for Gavin Newsom to stay in office…SENIORS WHO complain about the extra walking they’ll have to do if cars are banned from Mill Street usually need the exercise…WHO GETS to write up the table scofflaws on Mill Street? Is this why you became a cop?…WHY WOULD I give credence to mask and vaccine opponents who get their medical advice from the talking heads at Fox News?…WHY DO Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Rep. Madison Cawthorn remind of Peter Sellers’ portrayal of Dr. Strangelove?… NICK SABAN, football coach at Alabama, recently conceded that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s job is “probably” more important than his position. Only in Alabama is such a declaration necessary…SPARE ME the Republican crocodile tears for the fate of our Afghan allies. Where were they when the Trump administration slow-walked the special visas they need to come here, and whose supporters now resist their resettlement here?


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