George Boardman: Funding of Amgen race one example of how we miss the big picture |

George Boardman: Funding of Amgen race one example of how we miss the big picture

George Boardman
John Hart/ | The Union

Observations from the center stripe: The basics edition

IF MEMBERS of the Nevada County Tea Party are going to promote the Constitution to school kids, they should at least learn how to spell the word … THAT WAS fast: Signs opposing the Higgins Fire Protection District tax increase surfaced the day after ballots arrived in the mail … SOME PEOPLE want to change the name of Fort Bragg because it was named for an Army officer who became a Confederate general during the Civil War. While they’re at it, they should do something about the two high schools named Robert E. Lee … NOW THAT the annual list of UC salaries is out, people will start complaining about the money coaches are paid. Remember this: Alumni and boosters pay every dollar beyond a professor’s salary … IF ONE-day fantasy sports games for cash on the Internet are legal, why is it illegal to bet on games? …

The recent contretemps over who should bear the burden of promoting the Amgen Tour of California cycling race through Nevada City illustrates what happens when there is no central leadership or vision for promoting our economy.

By all accounts, the race has been a positive for Nevada City in particular and western Nevada County in general. A lot of visitors sleep here, eat here, and spend money that wouldn’t come our way otherwise.

Then there’s the positive national and international exposure we couldn’t afford to buy.

Most of these benefits accrue from the work of Nevada City Councilman Duane Strawser, who helped attract the race here initially and has since raised funds from local businesses to cover local costs of hosting a stage of the race.

When some sponsors had to be dropped at the last minute this year, Strawser absorbed a $15,000 debt to help cover the costs.

So should the city help make Strawser whole? “Every other city that helps put on part of the Amgen tour, the government … help out a little bit,” said Nevada City Council member Evans Phelps. “Can the city do something?”

“Many of the cities in this tour pay thousands of dollars to be the host of this event,” said Nevada City Chamber member Dave Iorns. “Do we really expect (the Strawser) family to give up $15,000 of their income for the benefit of Nevada City?”

The answer was yes. On a 2-2 vote (Strawser abstained), the city council decided not to give him any help retiring the debt. A fundraiser has since been started to reimburse Strawser.

This sort of heavy lifting is typically done by the local chamber of commerce, tourism promotion agency, or economic development group that decided long ago that tourism is a vital part of the economy, and needs to be supported in an organized, planned manner.

But that would require a vision and desire to pool resources and work together that’s not to be found within the boundaries of Nevada County.

Instead, it’s every man for himself, and if you can, get somebody else to pay for it.

“We have to make the point that from now on, the cities and the county have to step up and find a way to fund the big events that are unique, that structurally support the foundation of our budgets and bring money in,” Strawser said. “There should be a fund set aside for major county-wide events.”

That’s what you call wishful thinking.

Food labeling jujitsu

Much to the consternation of the food police, Rep. Doug LaMalfa is backing an old liberal gambit to checkmate people who want genetically modified foods to be labeled. Apparently, he doesn’t want to say much about it.

LaMalfa is a co-sponsor of the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2015, which gives the Food and Drug Administration the sole authority to regulate the labeling of GMO foods.

That means that states like California are barred from issuing their own food-labeling requirements for GMO foods.

But in an example of the legislative jujitsu you only find in Washington, the bill prohibits the FDA from requiring the labeling of GMO foods solely because they’re bio-engineered.

The organic food crowd is up in arms, arguing that states should have the right to decide if GMO foods should be labeled. The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Kan, counters that we need uniform labeling laws across the nation.

These positions are the exact opposite of what liberals and conservatives usually push for on issues of public health and safety.

Liberals are concerned that state legislatures will cave to parochial interests, while conservatives don’t want federal bureaucrats writing rules and regulations that can make life more difficult for them.

The bill passed the House on July 23 and is now awaiting committee hearings in the Senate, but LaMalfa hasn’t said much about his involvement.

The vote isn’t mentioned in the press releases on his website (but does note his vote to defund sanctuary cities the same day) and HR 1599 isn’t included in the long list of legislation he has co-sponsored.

But I’m confident his friends in the food industry know that LaMalfa’s done them a favor.

Too much smoke

The social media coverage of the rapidly developing Lowell Fire July 25 reminded me of the parable about the six blind men and the elephant.

In one version of the story, each man was told to grab a different part of the animal and describe what he had.

The man who had a leg said he was holding a pillar; the man with the tail, a rope; the man with the trunk, a tree branch; and so on.

None of the men had enough information to describe the big picture, and what little they knew could be very misleading. That pretty much sums up the Facebook coverage of the fire I saw.

Most of the posts were heavy on emotion and personal observations, and light on useful information. Some of it was conjecture or speculation that could be misleading and downright harmful.

The larger online communities that might be able to paint a more complete picture, like Nevada County Peeps, could only be accessed by their members. Talk about pay walls!

I first noticed this phenomenon a couple of years ago when a fire in the Dry Creek area of Auburn was thought for a brief time to threaten Lake of the Pines.

The posts I saw on LOP’s Intranet contained too little information that was useful, were often misleading, and proved in the end to be wide of the mark.

Social media has its uses, but reporting fast-breaking stories isn’t one of them.

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

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