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Keep it good, make it better

Ellen Fietz Hall

You can make a difference. Really. The League of Women Voters and the Nevada County Community Assessment Project invite you to an Issues Forum so you can tell us – and we can tell people at the county and the city and our many agencies – what needs to be done to improve things detracting from our quality of life.

We know Nevada County is a wonderful place to live. People value the abundant natural beauty, our open space and small rural towns, the slow pace, and community and family. We know this from the statistically accurate surveys the Community Assessment Project conducted in 1999 and 2001.

From those same surveys and other data, we know there are issues that concern many residents. What needs to be done? That’s what planners and service providers need to hear from you.

There is a forum near your part of the county:

— Tuesday, Higgins Lions Community Center in Lake of the Pines

— Monday, April 15, Miners Foundry in Nevada City

— Tuesday, April 23, Truckee Town Hall in Truckee

We start at 7 p.m. and end before 9:30. Bring a friend. Enjoy refreshments and conversation. Invest in our community.

Another evening away from home to talk about the same old stuff and then nothing happens, you say? The forums are definitely a meeting at the end of the day, and the issues may sound familiar because they are difficult problems to address.

But the Community Assessment Project is about making changes. Its purpose is to measure and improve the quality of life in Nevada County. The United Way, county of Nevada, Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital, County Superintendent of Schools Office, Tahoe Forest Hospital, The Union, city of Grass Valley, town of Truckee and various community organizations are all part of the Community Assessment Project, and they are dedicated to investing in the well-being of our community. They need to hear our voices to guide program coordination and determine funding priorities.

If you don’t often come to a community meeting, you are especially invited. You’ll hear a brief overview of the Community Assessment Project process and results to date. Then you can choose a topic or two that interests you, share your views on what needs attention, how you would like it to be, and what can be done to make it better. We have an interesting, enjoyable process to allow all voices to be heard.

A data analysis team and the CAP Executive Committee have identified nine issues from the information in the 2001 Comprehensive Report (available at http://www.uwnc.org and the United Way office). These issues will, if current trends continue, erode our quality of life county-wide. They are:

— Air quality

— Educational/vocational training

— Family violence

— Health services availability

— Housing

— Social and recreational programs

— Substance abuse

— Transportation

— Wages and work opportunities

The air quality has declined; citizen complaints about air quality have increased.

The perceived adequacy of social and recreational programs has decreased, especially regarding services for the disabled, vocational training and seniors. There has been an increased demand for food bank services and lodging for the homeless.

More than half of residents surveyed think family violence is a problem in our community.

Total child-abuse referrals and reports of adult abuse have increased.

Most residents surveyed believe drug and alcohol abuse is a problem in our community, spanning the ages from students to seniors.

Many commute out of the county for health care services – often because local physicians do not take their insurance.

The lack of affordable and work force housing is a crucial issue affecting every sector of our community.

Survey participants identified traffic congestion and the number of cars on the road as a threat to our quality of life. Reckless driving and dangerous roads were named as public safety concerns.

Median family incomes remain just above self-sufficiency level for a family of four.

What actions can be taken to make a difference?

League of Women Voters is a longtime champion of informed and active citizen participation in government. Thanks to funding from the League of Women Voters of California Education Fund through a grant by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the League of Women Voters of Western Nevada County is co-sponsoring these Community Assessment Project Issues Forums. We as citizens are collectively informed about those things that could support better quality of life in our community. Government and service agencies will only be informed of our views if we share them. That’s what the forums are for.

The perspectives and suggestions you share at the forums will help identify the top priority issues and the areas of strong consensus. This will become the basis for the next steps of the CAP process of determining priorities, setting goals, taking action, and measuring and evaluating results – all for the purpose of improving the quality of life in Nevada County.

It is not a quick, easy task to build broad-based consensus, but more and more key players in Nevada County are realizing the necessity of defining collaborative actions that align services with needs and goals and will have a real effect on critical issues.

The Community Assessment Project highlights these critical issues and acts as a catalyst for positive change. These forums are another step in that process. So bring a friend, enjoy refreshments and conversation, and invest in our community. You can make a difference. Really.

Ellen Fietz Hall is community initiatives director at United Way of Nevada County and a member of the League of Women Voters. Contact her at United Way, 274-8111, or via e-mail at


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