Our View: One last look back on 2019
It’s only natural to look back this time of year.
This year, we look back to dark nights without power because PG&E cut electricity for fear of wildfire. We look to four special elections, a season of dropped homeowner’s insurance and a community banding together over fire prevention.
We look to women ascending to the highest positions of power, a first for our county.
In no specific order, these are the stories The Union Editorial Board has selected as its top five for 2019:
The Public Safety Power Shutoffs implemented in September and October by PG&E drew increasing ire as they repeatedly cloaked western Nevada County in darkness, affecting tens of thousands of people. Nevada County residents questioned the need for the shutoffs when little to no wind was felt locally. They also started pushing toward the possibility of peeling off a portion of PG&E’s power grid and having a local agency — like the Nevada Irrigation District — take control from the utility, a suggestion that has since taken a back seat.
Nevada County businesses took a financial hit because of the shutoffs, leading local officials to write a letter to Gov. Gavin Newsom. The “Let’s Go Out Tonight” initiative, which urges people to shop local, also sprung from the shutoffs.
Linked to the power shutoffs yet separate and distinct is the ever present fear of fire in Nevada County.
The county’s Office of Emergency Services held a series of presentations this year called “Ready, Set Go!” The standing-room only sessions provided a chance for attendees to learn about Code Red Emergency alerts and Red Flag warning days, as well as provide a forum for questions.
The Sheriff’s Office and Office of Emergency Services rolled out a new siren, specifically to alert residents when they must evacuate.
Firewise Communities, neighborhoods that meet certain requirements to reduce fire risk, were on the rise this year. Two Firewise Communities existed a decade ago in Nevada County. There were 14 by 2014 and 29 by June this year. The county had almost 40 by year’s end.
The loss of homeowners insurance led state Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara in August to come to Grass Valley for a town hall meeting. People learned that complaints about non-renewals increased 600% since 2010 in spots with increased fire risk.
Thankfully, Nevada County escaped major fire this season, though we came close to catastrophe with the Dorsey Fire.
This year was the first time women have held top spots across local government and the Sheriff’s Office.
In November 2018 Nevada County voters chose Shannan Moon as their new sheriff. Moon became the county’s first female sheriff after reaching a runoff with former sheriff’s Executive Lt. Bill Smethers, and then garnering the most votes in the general election. She assumed office in January.
In August Moon named sheriff’s Capt. Alicia Burget as her undersheriff.
Moon and Burget joined Nevada County CEO Alison Lehman and Assistant CEO Mali Dyck at the highest level of office.
Lehman became county executive officer in September 2018, and selected Dyck as her assistant CEO in November that year.
Additionally, women hold the mayor’s title in Grass Valley and Nevada City, and women serve as executive director for both city’s chambers of commerce.
Nevada County voters went to the polls four times this year as they selected new representatives for the state Assembly and Senate.
Former District 1 state Sen. Ted Gaines left an open seat when he won a spot on the state Board of Equalization. State Assemblymen Brian Dahle and Kevin Kiley took the top two spots in the March primary and advanced to a June runoff, which Dahle won.
That win then left Dahle’s District 1 state Assembly seat open, necessitating another election.
In August Megan Dahle, Brian Dahle’s wife, and Elizabeth Betancourt won enough votes to reach a November runoff. Megan Dahle won in November. However, because Megan Dahle won a special election to fill the remaining time on her husband’s seat, she must run again in March to keep the position. Betancourt has said she’ll run again.
Nevada City saw its share of troubles this year.
A June push to quadruple parking rates, to $1 from 25 cents per hour, drew fierce opposition, leading the council to suspend the move, form a committee and reexamine the issue. In November it opted to raise the rates to 50 cents.
The council also struggled with a telecom ordinance that would, among other things, regulate 5G technology. Mayor Reinette Senum said the public didn’t have enough time to provide input before the ordinance’s September passage.
In November Councilwoman Erin Minett introduced a motion to censure Senum or remove her mayor’s title. Minett said Senum had made statements about the PG&E power shutoffs, and about fire safety efforts, that didn’t reflect the council’s will.
The motion led to a December meeting and ultimately to the council taking no action against Senum.
The weekly Our View editorial represents the consensus opinion of The Union Editorial Board, a group of editors and writers from The Union, as well as informed community members. Contact the board at EditBoard@TheUnion.com.
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