Jeff Pelline: Mixing principled and practical politics |

Jeff Pelline: Mixing principled and practical politics

We like to do things the old-fashioned way around here, and I normally celebrate that.

Take Valentine’s Day. My son brought home valentines and candies from school mates, and for that matter, so did my wife from her work. As for me, I picked up a bottle of champagne and a card at SPD on the way home from the office about 7 p.m., and the clerk joked, “Last-minute Valentine’s Day shopping, eh?” Well, yes, though I brought flowers home earlier.

All in all, it was a fun night. We drank a glass of champagne and ate braised Asian short-ribs and Jasmine rice leftovers from a dinner the night before with, well, the Valentine family of Nevada City (whose son helped fix my son’s T-Rex toy. Thanks.)

When it comes to politics around here, we also can be a little old-fashioned – but I’m not so sure that’s always as good a thing. We tend to argue either black or white when the world is gray.

On Friday, we wrote about the five-year-long fight over building a BelAir Market in south county.

The supermarket project concerned area resident Bob Joehnck, who said it could start a run on Highway 49 development that would make the area look like North Auburn.

Joehnck, who has worked closely with the Wolf Creek Community Alliance and Citizens Concerned About Traffic (and is a fellow Cal Berkeley alum), also is running for the supervisor seat being left vacant by Sue Horne. Expect the growth/no-growth discussion to take center stage this election year – despite a near recession.

The planned project “is of great concern to the community,” added commission chairwoman Laura Duncan (who had been running for the vacant supervisor seat, too, until she dropped out as Joehnck jumped in). The opponents are Alan Kilborn, whom Horne endorsed, and Ed Scofield.

Two fast-food outlets is not my cup of tea (I work in “Burger Basin”), but what’s wrong with a supermarket at Higgins Corner?

Otherwise, more residents wind up driving their gas-guzzling SUVs across the Bear River to Auburn to shop for groceries (creating a carbon footprint even bigger than the D.A.’s staff would have from an intra-Nevada City commute), as well as forfeiting sales tax receipts to a neighboring county. Rural public transportation still isn’t that convenient for many people. We can mitigate the traffic problems, if that’s the real concern.

I like the Holiday Market and Gristmill Bakery in Lake of the Pines and stopped there the other day while returning from speaking to high school students at Forest Lake Christian school. But some people want more choices.

It’s OK to want to control growth (that’s why we’re here), but you have to be realistic about people’s needs in this day and age.

I remember when my parents moved to Bodega Bay in the 1980s. They were at retirement age and spry. They liked living by the ocean, so they didn’t mind driving half an hour to Sebastopol to the grocery store. Besides, they knew plans were in the works to build a small Safeway store in the neighborhood.

Trouble is, the Safeway store never got built because of opposition and the company’s strategy (remember fallout from LBOs in the ’80s?). My folks kept getting older and found it harder to drive to the grocery store. They hired somebody to help them out, but it became expensive.

In the end, they wound up selling the house and renting up the street from our Bay Area home, one block from a grocery store.

Many other retirees met a similar fate. Bodega Bay is largely a burg of second homeowners. A bigger supermarket would have benefited the permanent residents as they got older.

Around here, we’re one of the oldest counties in the state – in fact, in the nation. People around Higgins Corner will get older and find it harder to get to the grocery store. What will their children do? Most likely move them, if they want to be near them. The kids probably won’t come here, because most of them can’t find decent jobs.

Work together

This isn’t a good scenario for our local economy. How about if we push for a supermarket in a scaled-back project? Compromise.

The building of the Raley’s in Grass Valley was met with fierce anti-growth opposition. When it was built, I hear, people who opposed the project would shop in the wee hours of the night or morning – keeping a low profile out of pride, but they still found the new store convenient. Raley’s is a good corporate citizen.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, in Nevada City, we had a dust-up this week between Mayor Sally Harris and former Mayor Steve Cottrell about city reimbursement of expenses that included – of all items – $145 for five dinners at Citronee, $150 for business cards and $206 for plaques honoring citizens.

Cottrell questioned a city-paid dinner for council members following last week’s economic summit (calling it a “social” dinner and not a “necessary expense”), while Harris questioned Cottrell’s receipts for his business cards and the plaques. City Manager Mark Miller sided squarely with Harris (both also fellow Cal alums). Miller accepted a county job starting next month.

It was good to air the issues before the voting public, but the disagreement represents a long-standing rift in City Hall that has become personal. Let’s write more explicit policies and consider paying the council members a modest sum out of respect for their efforts, just as most cities do. This could help diffuse arguing who pays for dinners at Citronee (another local favorite, along with Gristmill), as well as plaques and business cards.

Let’s also put past differences behind us and become more practical, not just principled, in our political thinking. The future of our county, including its seniors and youth (if we can keep them), depends on it.


Jeff Pelline is the editor of The Union. His column appears on Saturdays. Contact him at 477-4235,, or 464 Sutton Way, Grass Valley 95945.

On the Web:

Asian short ribs: 20071024/NEWS/110240191

Gristmill Bakery in LOP:

Citronee in Nevada City:

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