Jeff Ackerman: Investing in community helps us all |

Jeff Ackerman: Investing in community helps us all

I’ve read a lot of comments on our Web site regarding our local business community and why many choose to shop “off the hill.”

Here are a few reasons not to:

– Music In The Mountains

– Hospice of The Foothills

– The Nevada Theater

– The Foothill Theatre Company

– Our local schools

– Our local parks

– Little League

– Soccer

– The hospital’s cancer center

– Fire and Police protection

– AnimalSave

– The Red Cross

– Center for The Arts

– Libraries

– Public Transportation

– United Way

– Relay For Life

– KVMR, public radio

– High school sports

Per capita we probably have more nonprofits than any community in the country. At last count, there were more than 300 of them. And each and every one of them relies on local businesses for financial or “in kind” support (not a day passes when I’m not asked for a donation). Additional money comes from the city and county general funds, much of it derived from sales tax dollars. That’s right. Every time you shop in town, you are helping to retain the quality of life most of us moved here to enjoy. Take business away from the equation and we become what they refer to as a “bedroom community,” where citizens come to sleep and nothing much more.

The box stores in Roseville, Auburn and Sacramento give NOTHING back to this community (not to nonprofits or sales taxes). Every dollar you spend “off the hill” stays there.

Unfortunately, and unbelievably, there are those among us who don’t really care. That’s because they probably don’t have a “stake” in our community. At least they don’t think so.

But if they really take the time to connect the dots, they’ll probably discover that we all have a stake, in one way or another.

As we enter this Christmas season (it seems to come sooner and sooner each year), please remember that. Our community is filled with mostly “mom and pop” businesses that have high overhead costs (especially rents) that must be passed along to consumers. But if that sofa, or refrigerator, or dress, or car, or bag of groceries costs more than you could get it for “off the hill,” please factor in the gasoline and time and the difference between shopping with a stranger and a neighbor. And think about the kind of community you want to live in.

Speaking of business … I took my wife to a birthday dinner Saturday night at a new restaurant in Grass Valley called Kane’s. It’s located on Main Street, on the other side of City Hall. The owner/chef is a fellow named John Kane, who is the “lifetime partner” of Maria Ramos, who owns Maria’s Mexican restaurant in Grass Valley. They did a remarkable job transforming that building … fireplace … bar … terrific atmosphere filled with staff that really seemed to be having fun. And the food was excellent (I had steak and my wife had the pasta).

During dinner I had a chance to chat with Maria and her daughter, Gina. It really is a family operation, complete with a wonderful success story. Maria landed a job years ago helping the Raley’s supermarket chain build its Mexican food business before branching out on her own, first in catering and eventually in the restaurant business. She realized the American Dream, in other words, and is now sharing that dream with her loved ones.

I remember Jerry Cirino, another successful restaurateur, speaking to the Grass Valley City Council one evening on the importance of affordable housing. He was concerned that our young people were moving away and reminded the council how important it is to ensure that the “next generation” has the same opportunity we’ve had to enjoy this slice of paradise. Jerry’s son Tucker is also following in his father’s footsteps, so it’s great to see these family businesses doing well.

Finally … I’m glad District Attorney Mike Ferguson (Mike is a good guy, by the way) provided the legal brief, wherein he explained that “corpus” and other Latin legal phrases kept his office from aggressively prosecuting a father who admitted to police that he sodomized his own son anywhere from three to 12 times.

The father was originally charged with four sex-related felonies that were reduced to one in a plea bargain. That felony is referred to as “child endangerment,” which sounds as if the father simply failed to put his son in a secure child seat or perhaps allowed him to kiss the neighbor’s pit bull.

There could, however, be another legal Latin term – Habeas Pervertius, perhaps – that makes all things equal.

Ferguson also took exception to the felony conviction rate that I reported in my last column as being somewhere in the neighborhood of 37 percent. My bad. According to the California Judicial Council, there were 788 felony case filings during the 2004-05 court calendar year in Nevada County. Of those, there were 487 “dispositions,” and 303 (62 percent) of those ended in conviction.

What’s not reflected in those statistics is the number of felonies that were originally filed versus the number of felony convictions. Take the case of the father who admitted sodomizing his son, for example (which was the point in the first place). He was originally charged with four felonies, but in a plea agreement three of them were dismissed. When the next court “report card” comes out, however, that will appear as one case, one disposition and one conviction, or a 100 percent conviction rate (that’s how you get re-elected). Never mind that three of the felony charges were dropped and the one felony conviction left had nothing really to do with having sex multiple times with your own son.

Ferguson estimated that 90 percent of the felony cases are plea bargained, which means those 788 original felony cases could have actually included a couple of thousand felonies that, in all likelihood, were, or will be, parts of a plea bargain. Only four of the 487 felony “dispositions” went to trial.

Unfortunately, victims – especially child victims – don’t get to bargain. They get whatever the scum-ball … I mean poor, misguided human being (I forgot that I was in Ca-Lee-For-Knee-Ah, where our new state attorney general is now Jerry “Moonbeam” Brown, who recently served as mayor of a city where you are most likely to be murdered) … gives them.


Jeff Ackerman is the publisher of The Union. His column appears on Tuesdays. Contact him at 477-4299,, or 464 Sutton Way, Grass Valley 95945.

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