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George Boardman: Is historic downtown Grass Valley ready for another Disneyland ride?

George Boardman

Observations from the center stripe: East Bay edition

WITH THE Warriors and now the Raiders exiting Oakland, it should be a lot easier for the A’s to get a new stadium deal … REP. DEVIN Nunes, head of the House Intelligence Committee, has apparently spent too much time in the Central Valley sun … IF YOU’RE OK with outfits like Verizon and AT&T selling your online search history, you can thank Rep. Doug LaMalfa for supporting the House resolution … GOV. JERRY Brown doesn’t sound at all enthusiastic about a 12 cent increase in the gasoline tax to repair our dilapidated highway system …

Public art is an amenity most cities and towns embrace, a chance to experience beauty, whimsy or even serenity in an outdoor setting. But first you have to get past the controversy.

Sacramento learned that a couple of years ago when it decided to spend $8 million on a piece by sculptor Jeff Koons to grace the entrance of the Sacramento Kings’ new home, Golden 1 Center.

Local artists were upset the commission was going to an outsider, even if he is a world-renowned creator of public art, and others contended there were better ways to spend the money. Some members of the city council were on the fence before the council approved the project in front of a capacity audience.

The city placated local artists by finding an additional $2 million to commission local works, and Koons’ creation, a mirror-polished stainless steel structure with a transparent color coating called “Coloring Book,” complements the new $530 million area that resembles a crushed beer can. Still, Mayor Kevin Johnson got a pie thrown in his face for supporting the effort.

That’s not likely to happen in Grass Valley, but Haven Caravelli has learned that public art in the historic part of Grass Valley needs to conform to a narrow set of rules. Caravelli wanted to fill a 20-foot by 80-foot wall at Mill and Main streets with what she initially called a “psychedelic” mural.

Caravelli described the work as “collaborative art” to be executed by artists Mars 1, whose work is described as “abstract and quasi-extraterrestrial,” and Oliver Vernon, whose work is considered “chaotic.”

That concept may fly in the Brunswick Basin but not downtown, where any art that doesn’t include a miner, the South Yuba River and trees is in for heavy sledding. Caravelli dropped the original idea and went to the planning commission with a new concept from artist Justin Lovato, a mural with the words “Grass Valley” over scenes of flowers, a flowing river, and pine trees.

This seemed to ease the fears of the commissioners, who voted to send the proposal to the city council for consideration April 11. “The whole uncertainty was subdued when they brought the (mock up),” Tom Last, the city’s community development director, told The Union.

But that doesn’t mean this is a done deal. “There will still be some debate about what it should look like. Whether it should reflect more of a mining history or not,” Last said. Or as Council member Jason Fouyer pointed out last year: “…everything here in Grass Valley is starting to look like a log ride at Disneyland.”

Fair trade pot?

Fair trade, the idea that we should care about how the goods and commodities we consume are produced, particularly when they come from developing countries, has gained enough traction to get the attention of manufacturers and retailers.

You don’t have to look hard to find coffee and other commodities featuring the fair trade symbol, indicating that workers are treated well, growers and producers get a fair price for their product, and that sustainable farming is being encouraged. Purveyors of organic food, who consider themselves virtuous anyway, are particularly big on the idea.

The commercial marijuana business may be the next candidate for fair trade, if you listen to Hezekiah Allen, head of the California Growers Association. The Associated Press recently quoted Allen saying California has a mature marijuana marketplace in which consumers expect high quality pot, and have more than price and quality in mind when shopping.

“California consumers are interested in how their product is grown, how workers were treated,” he said.

If fair trade practices are followed by California’s rapidly developing commercial pot industry, it could have a positive impact on our community and the trimmigrants who visit every harvest season.

While generally mellow and law abiding, trimmigrants have been known to sleep in their cars or under bridges, and to patronize free meal programs for the homeless, presumably to stretch the money they make harvesting the local pot crop. If they are paid a fair wage under a fair trade program, a lot of these problems disappear. It’s a win-win for everybody.

Be careful

Scientific advances have made it relatively cheap to get an accurate reading of your DNA and ancestry, but people aren’t always pleased with what they learn.

Our daughter took the plunge, and was mildly disappointed to learn she is basically what we’ve been telling her: Irish on her mother’s side, and German and English on my side. (It was a Christmas gift from us, so she wasn’t actually out any money.)

Then there’s the fellow I know who is (shall we say) less than sympathetic to problems facing black Americans. He was shocked to learn he is 8 percent black. (His family roots are in the pre-Civil War South, and as the descendents of Thomas Jefferson can tell you, one thing can lead to another.)

Darrell is going through Elisabeth Kubler-Ross’ five stages of grief (I think he’s leaving depression and going to acceptance) and it will be interesting to see if his attitude toward blacks has changed. But there is a lesson to be learned here: Sometimes it’s best to leave well enough alone.

CORRECTION: In last week’s column about Rep. Doug LaMalfa’s town hall meeting, I wrote that chairs were tied together so people couldn’t throw them. In fact, the fire marshal ordered the setup to avoid blocking emergency exits. I apologize for the error. I stand by everything else in the column.

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


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