The Union roundtable: Mark Johnson |

The Union roundtable: Mark Johnson

Mark Johnson
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Can you tell us a little bit about your background?

I am a longtime resident – I grew up in Grass Valley, actually in Cedar Ridge and Grass Valley both. My family has owned and operated a small business in downtown Grass Valley since 1966, Foothill Flowers. We moved from Sacramento to Grass Valley in the mid-’60s when I was just a young boy, so I had the privilege of going to Union Hill School for eight years and then on to Nevada Union for four years and graduated in 1978.

I had an opportunity to see a lot of changes through that period. And then after high school I went off to college and thought I’d never want to come back to Grass Valley.

Where did you go to school?

I went to both Sac State and Humboldt State – and I ended up getting a degree in accounting, which I never thought I would do. Growing up in this area I thought biology or botany was where I wanted to go. I ended up at Humboldt State looking at those fields, but I took an economics course and something clicked inside me. So I took another economics course and an accounting course, and changed my path and ended up getting a degree in accounting.

I worked as an accountant and moved to the Seattle area after college and lived there for a couple of years – but I would typically return home once or twice a year, if not more often. And the more I was away and as I returned I realized what a great place this is. There was an opportunity to get involved with the family business, and so I moved back about 10 years ago and have been working in the family business with my mother, brother and our staff.

After being home a couple of years, I was watching what was happening in our community and I had a couple of people ask me, well, why don’t you get involved in politics? I’d watched a couple things as a young adult that had happened here with Pine Creek center and a couple of the other developments that were real lightning-rod issues, and I got a little bit involved with those.

I realized that I did want to get involved because the town is going to change, and from my travel experiences and my work experience I realized that change can be positive. I really think that’s the key, and so I decided to run for City Council.

What year was that?

That was 1994 I was elected. I was the top vote-getter. I think I was on the coattails of my family, my mother. Everybody seems to know my mother, Marie Johnson, the flower lady, which is an honor. But it showed my history and the fact that our family is grateful for what this community has given our family business, and at the same time we’ve reciprocated. That was a natural for me to go into politics and get involved.

What was the key issue in that election, can you recall, from 1994?

At that time there had been a couple plans that had been floated out for Loma Rica. The growth issue wasn’t as hot and heavy as it is today, but TMI was talking about 600-700 homes being built on Loma Rica Ranch. So the ideas of growth were definitely there.

People were getting more frustrated with the way traffic was moving around town, the way some of the new buildings were looking. So similar issues that we have today, but not quite as intense as we have today.

I wrote down why I wanted to be a councilperson, and it was pretty simple. This is a great place ” let’s protect it, but at the same time let’s allow us to move forward and provide some jobs and housing for our community. I was lucky; I came back and had a job in the family business. But I know classmates and my peers that would love to move back to Grass Valley but there wasn’t the job base for them to do it.

Over the last 10 or 12 years we’ve been lucky that the video industry has taken off in our community, and that there have been jobs. We’ve had dips in that, but for the most part we need to keep moving on that track, and we need to keep promoting those types of jobs in our community.

Getting back to running for City Council, I never really thought politics was my game, but I realized a short time after being at city hall that I had a particular style that said the doors to city hall need to be wide open to all people. It was a model that just came naturally to me, and it’s a model that worked real well with my four years on the council.

We accomplished a lot; we got a lot going for the town. We did the Main Street renovation; we’ve started plans for the new police station. At the same time, we were engaging people that have never really been involved in the city process. One of the more rewarding things for me to do is to have a meeting at a large table with people that don’t agree on a particular issue, and you spend a couple of hours hammering out what you can agree on.

We were able to rehabilitate and reinvent the building department at the city under my watch. We had builders that were frustrated with the process, and yet you had people that were saying be careful what you do, don’t give the builders a green light on everything. We came up with some compromises and we made some positive changes. There are still other changes that can be made, but that theme that the doors to city hall need to be wide open is key to me.

As an elected official, you need to spend more time with people you disagree with than people you agree with, and it helps me understand what the other side is all about. It might be a major or minor disagreement, but what’s key is you really have to listen more carefully to people you potentially might disagree with on an issue.

In that four years, you were mayor?

Yes, I was lucky. I was elected vice mayor right out of the chute, and then two years later I was elected mayor of the town.

Why didn’t you run for re-election?

I had a personal change – I got married. I met a wonderful woman who I have now been married to for five years, so I had a lot of things going on. And my mother had some health issues, so I knew my plate was pretty full. It wasn’t that I was tired of politics, but I felt that it probably wouldn’t be a bad idea to take a break knowing that I would want to get involved again. I had a lot of personal and family commitments, so I decided not to run for re-election.

So between that time and now, have you been at all involved in any kind of government activity?

Several years after being on the council, I was appointed as a county planning commissioner, and I served there for a year. That was 2000-2001. But then I was dismissed as a planning commissioner when I pulled the papers to run against the incumbent that had appointed me, Bruce Conklin.

It was a little over a year, but it was an exciting year. It taught me a lot about the county planning process. I knew the city process pretty darn well, but it was eye-opening for me to be up at the Rood Center and work on some of the larger county issues.

One of the things I really like to hang my hat on, and I’m proud of, is the Longs’ center that is down at Combie and 49. I really took the lead on that project in terms of holding the bar high on how that project looks, and I had constituents from that district and the developer that really weren’t very happy with me. But we did three or four more meetings and we worked on it for another six months, and got a project that really reflects that part of town and the community, and people are pretty proud of the way that looks.

It could have been a little bit better, and we had the diehard environmentalists and protectionists saying it’s still not good enough, but that’s where I had to draw the line. You can’t please everybody, but we pleased probably 80 percent on that project, and I’m proud of that project.

So I learned about the county planning process, and I ran for supervisor for District 3 in 2002 and found myself in the middle. There were the very galvanized, polarized parties for Bruce Conklin and Drew Bedwell, and then there was Mark Johnson who was sort of in the middle.

I thought, OK, I’m going to be the consensus-builder. But the way that the county and city were going at that time, the two sides proved in the primary that they had the voter base and they had the wherewithal to win and, as you know, it was a very close election.

That’s kind of the position Linda Stevens finds herself in this time around.

It is, and I see a similar playout that occurred two years ago probably in this election. I got into the election game a little late. I pretty much ran a 120-day election process, whereas Drew Bedwell and Bruce Conklin had been in the game for about six months.

I probably could have done a better job campaigning. I don’t know. For Linda, the fact that it’s a short campaign probably helps her a little bit. But the two sides or bases have their supporters ready to go, and it’s going to be another close election. With the fact that winner takes all, we’re probably going to see someone win by less than 100 votes one way or another.

When you decided to run again for Grass Valley City Council, was it a snap decision or had you been thinking about this since you ran for county supervisor?

I had a great victory in 1994 – the top vote getter, and I was feeling pretty good. And then getting beat in the primary for supervisor put things in perspective for me. The feelings you have the next day, the next weeks and months, you go, “Oh, I don’t want to do that again.”

And I saw mostly the way if affected my family – my mother, my brother, my wife. It’s hard for them to take that. And they tend to take it more personally. Whereas I wasn’t a veteran politician, but I’d been around the block enough to know that OK, you got knocked down once, doesn’t mean you can’t get up and keep on going.

So it took me about a year or so – but then I’ve been watching what’s happening. I’ve watched constantly what’s been happening in Grass Valley, and I think maybe the City Council really fits my schedule and my desires pretty well. So I’ve been thinking about it for the last couple of years. In fact, at the 110th anniversary party for the city last year, I calmly remarked that I wanted to get back in politics, and that was about a year and a half ago.

At the end of the process, you sort of wait to see who is going to file papers, and there was the deadline. And yes, I filed my papers on the last day. But I told them several weeks earlier and I knew I was going to do it.

Were you surprised that there was such a small field for those three seats? How many ran the time you won in 1994?

There were three people running for two seats. But we typically have had five or six people running for three seats – that has been more typical. I thought there probably would be five people. But given the demands and the potential to be targeted as a politician, it’s driving people out a little bit. It’s tough.

Has politics gotten nastier in the last ten years?

There’s a lot more at stake, so it’s gotten heated up. And the people that feel strongly about the issues aren’t bashful about letting the public know, either through letters to the editor or personally calling people and telling them what they think about things, which is good.

But you get people that are pretty impassioned about something, and they can convey their passion in a way that offends some people. You’ve got to have pretty thick skin. Some days I’m fine with it, but some days I just go, “why am I doing this?” But that doesn’t happen very often. There’s the time issue, you have to be able to give the time, and I’m lucky enough to be able to do that, so it’s a combination of both.

Knocking on a lot of doors, is that one of your campaign techniques?

I’ve got my signs going up, I’ve got my brochures. It’s a campaign that’s a little challenging – I wish in some ways there were more people in the race. It would inspire us all to be a little bit better campaigners. I plan to walk some neighborhoods, not all of them. I’ve done some phone banking in the past campaigns, and I’ll probably do some of that as the election date gets closer.

If nobody files as a write-in, it’s a little bit easier for you this time around.

It is.

Let’s talk about some issues. The one that seems to be in the forefront, and you’ve already alluded to it, is the growth topic ” particularly these special development areas, of which there are four. Can you give us your take about these developments?

The theme has to be balance, that’s the key. How do we balance what characteristics make Grass Valley a great place to live? We have our historical heritage, we have our small town atmosphere, and we’ve got our quaint streets. But how do we balance that with also allowing to provide for the future, and looking at what we need for housing and job creation, etc.

The SDAs provide an opportunity, but one of the biggest challenges for the city right now is that the SDAs look like a big empty box to the public right now. They’re not clear on what it is. And the city can improve on providing more information about even what some of the ideas are for the SDAs. I know they’ve done that, but when you have something that’s as gray as the SDAs are, you have to continually provide information.

I know from feeling pressure from both the applicants and the developers, as well as the public, that they have embarked on doing some planning for the SDAs. They’re doing a street master plan, they’re doing some fiscal analysis of what the SDAs will bring to the table for the city and the community, which is a key piece. Now we’re starting to lay the bricks of the foundation of how we’re going to create once again this balance that we need for our future.

But the process can be improved with the public. I’m proud that the city has started to televise their City Council meetings and Planning Commission meetings – that’s a move in the right direction. But there are meetings that occur even at a lower level ” like the Design Review Committee and the Traffic Safety Committee and Parks and Recreation Committee ” that could also potentially be not only televised. But in this day and age, and the fact that we’re in one of the video capitals of the world, that we should probably be streaming these meetings as well so people can sit at home and watch them on their computer, because not everyone has cable.

But getting back to these SDAs, the city needs to sit down and really look at the cumulative affects of all of them. The city actually has received an application for the South Hill project, also known as the Brunswick Mill [Bear River Mill], and the City Council on a 3-2 vote approved to move ahead on the EIR process for that project. And I have seen other plans for the other three areas. So there is information out there.

But the city can’t sit back and just let it come in as the developers want. The city needs to take the lead and start looking at these, laying these four plans out, saying can we really handle these? Because the answer’s gong to be that you can’t handle all four at the same time, there’s just no way you can juggle them.

And it’s going to be hard, because you are going to disappoint some people and some developers when you say we need to prioritize, we need to phase, we need to think about what’s going to happen not only in the next two or three years but the next 10, 15, 20 years. It’s going to give not only the developers but also the community and the citizenry an idea of what’s going to happen. Because once again the SDAs are an empty box and they’re not quite sure what it is.

The more you fill in that box with details, with plans, with phasing plans, it’s going to help the public understand what it is all about – they’re going to want to become involved, and they’re going to want to give input. Because as they’re being proposed right now, there probably needs to be some changes. But we need to do that community-wide, and not just in a special meeting with one developer at a time.

And adding houses, with that two-second traffic delay rule?

Well, the two-second rule applies, you’re right, and there are some existing intersections, and we know which ones they are, that are at failure right now. And so that two-second rule is in some ways probably prohibiting the type of housing to be built that we probably need.

So the city through their street master plan is looking at changing that two-second rule. But that opens up another can of worms potentially for what it might bring in the future. There has to be a way that we set our priorities for our town and our community, and if affordable housing is one, which it has been, then we need to figure out a way to do it.

It’s no different than running a newspaper or a flower shop or your household. You might be maxed out that month, but if something happens in one of those particular areas you’ve got to change your course and make it happen. So it’s important that the city knows what its goals are, but at the same time it has to get the information out to the public.

We’ve talked about traffic signals being paid for over and over again through developer mitigation fees, but the signals don’t materialize.

I have first-hand experience of unfortunately knowing about that. It’s a shame that the city has been a little bit loose about collecting its mitigation funds. It has the ability to put those funds in other areas, but there probably needs to be an audit done pretty quickly and figure out if we have collected for a traffic signal three or four times, then that traffic signal needs to be put in sooner rather than later.

But the mitigation fee process has evolved a lot in the last four or five years. The city was missing out on a lot of potential money by not having certain mitigation fees in place. The last three or four years, they’ve put them in place, but it’s going to be a real huge catch-up game. It has been and will continue to be for the next five to 10 years and maybe beyond.

Another candidate for the council, Dean Williams, has pledged he won’t vote for any more than one of these. Have you reached the same conclusion?

I don’t think there’s a way the city could approve all four, but you have to keep an open mind. There is a potential to do what I’m calling a phasing plan – and once again this is just an idea that needs to be discussed and looked at. But potentially there might be something happening at two SDAs simultaneously.

But we have to be careful about how that will affect the current city residents and intersections. So I’m not going to be as strict as Dean Williams is about one and only one. Through the General Plan process back in 1998-1999, the consultant laid out some pretty good options for the city, going to the northerly emphasis and the southerly emphasis.

The city made a mistake by saying we’re going to keep both options open, because you can’t do both, not in the next five or 10 years. You have to choose a direction, and you’re going to make some people unhappy about that, but it’s a decision that has to be made.

You touched on the need for affordable housing, or workforce housing. What could you do as a member of the Grass Valley City Council to try to alleviate that problem?

The affordable housing issue has been on the table for many years, and there have been numerous committees and subcommittees that are continually looking at it and talking about it. When I ran for supervisor several years ago, my feeling towards affordable housing is that we need to start looking at doing them three or four or five at a time. We don’t have to wait for the project that’s going to bring 80 or 90.

If you look at how many houses are built in Grass Valley in a typical year over the last 20 years – if we can get five, 10 or 15 of those affordable, that’s the way to do it. At the same time as larger projects want to come into the city or be built, should there be an affordable component to them? Absolutely. But the city needs to develop some really good incentives to create a desire for some of the builders and developers in our town to go out and build some of these affordable houses.

My feeling has always been, and I made it at a housing forum just last month, that the key is smaller homes. Smaller and more dense. There’s no reason why a couple or someone that wants their first home, that it can’t be 750 or 800 square feet – I think that works out real well.

When I moved back to town 10 years ago, I bought a little house that was about 750 square feet. We have those types of houses in Grass Valley, and that’s what typically was affordable housing. Now with the pressures of real estate, those little houses are no longer affordable, but that’s the model that we need to go on.

But you need to give the builders and developers incentive to do it, and they need to be able to do not just one or two at a time, but they probably need to do a half-dozen or a dozen at a time. So I would really like to target some open land, especially in the existing city limits, and see what we can do about building some of these smaller houses.

And also do it in a way that reflects our history. If you drive around town, there are these little pockets where you see four or five or six little houses – that’s the model we need. Do we need 120 affordable homes built? I don’t think that’s the way to do it. We should do it six or seven or eight or nine at a time.

Our Reader Circle members have offered questions for the candidates. A reader says we live in a powder keg as far as fire is concerned. The Nevada County Fire Plan was just submitted. Of all the recommendations, what are some that you think can be implemented right away?

I haven’t read the plan, but I can talk a little bit about fire safe. The city’s in a good position. We have fire hydrants every three or four hundred yards in the city, and there’s not a lot of rural areas in the city yet. As the city expands, we have to be steadfast on figuring out how we can suppress the potential danger of fire.

We’re seeing it most recently with the Morgan Ranch expansion. If you drive down Slate Creek Road, there is a huge potential for fire, coming up the Deer Creek Canyon. So we have to have accessibility for emergency vehicles and we have to think about the density in some of these areas that don’t have those roads.

We have to be cautious about that, so there’s a variety of things that need to be done. But the city is at a big advantage over the rural Nevada County area when it comes to fire just because we have fire hydrants, we have plenty of fire stations close by, so if a fire was to break out it’s going to be suppressed very quickly.

What do you say to those who say the council should ban the sale of fireworks?

We haven’t had a problem that warrants banning fireworks. Celebrating for the Fourth of July has a rich history in our towns. Once again, it’s common sense, but then there’s always a couple clowns or idiots that spoil it for everybody. But it’s worked pretty well. We’ve had a couple of scares once in awhile, but common sense should prevail when it comes to fireworks.

The entire county has problems with drugs, particularly methamphetamine. It seems to be the scourge of rural counties all over the country. What could the council do to try to deal with it?

We need to support those people that are on the front line, and that’s our police department. I was key – I hired [Police Chief] John Foster before I left the council back in 1998. And through cooperation with the county and Nevada City ” they have their task forces that are looking at this issue – but the key is that if Chief Foster comes to the council and has some ideas that will help eradicate and help cure the problem, then I think the council needs to support them.

Getting back to talking about what priorities are – you might occasionally have to sort of shift your priorities. You might have to shift money from a park issue to a certain issue if there’s a grant available to get another officer on the street to help fight the methamphetamine issue. Because you have to do it foot by foot and hand by hand. You have to have people out there doing it. It’s not going to go away on its own. You have to stay on top of it.

One reader wants to know, if there’s one thing you would want to accomplish in the next four years on the council, what would it be?

I would want to expand public involvement with the city. There’s a couple of things that I want to do. We talked a little bit about having more meetings either on FCAT or streamed over the Internet, and I’d like to see more meetings available to the public.

The city has the option to in essence hold a stockholders’ meeting for city residents. Here’s a city that’s a $10 million-plus a year business – they need to reach out and figure out what the public wants to hear from us. The council is making a mistake if it says, “Well, people aren’t coming to our meetings, we’re not hearing from them, they’re OK with it.” I don’t think that’s the case.

As you know, people are very busy with their lives, and so I would like to see a really stellar public relations program put in place by the city. We can do it even through mail-out ballots, we can do something via the Internet, but we need to hear from our city residents about how they feel about our town. And it’s something that has to be updated annually.

Getting back to the point, the city is this $10 million-plus a year business. And if The Union or other businesses were that huge, you’re going to have someone out there in public relations finding out how your customers feel about it. That’s the model that we need to bring to the city.

Are you concerned about the future of the county in general in attracting business and becoming economically viable?

I am concerned. We have a couple of great business parks that have taken their time to develop, and they’ve had their highs and lows, i.e. Whispering Pines and now Litton Hill. The city needs to stay ahead of that particular issue. We need to think about where the next Whispering Pines or Litton Hill is going to be, because if doctors and chiropractors and other professionals don’t have a place to expand, if small high tech firms don’t have a place to put their businesses, we’re really going to feel the heat from that for many years.

So we have to stay ahead of that issue. That’s an opportunity. Getting back to the question about the SDAs, do we just do one at a time? Say, for example, if Loma Rica was to come in first, but if there’s a business park opportunity at South Hill or North Star, I think the city really needs to look at that, because we have to be able to stay ahead of the game in terms of providing a place for our existing businesses to expand as well as other ones to come to our community.

We’re not ever going to have those large employers typically in Grass Valley. They’re going to be shops and businesses that employ eight or 10 people at a time, maybe 20 if we’re lucky, so that’s the backbone of our local economy. And we need to keep making land available for those types of businesses to expand.

There are those who say that one of the wisest ways to deal with growth is to provide places to live near where people work. Would you agree with that?

Yes, and it’s nice in this information age when we can see models that are working in other communities and models that are not. But it’s becoming much more practical for a variety of reasons that it’s nice to be able to live, work and shop in a small area.

We have the models of 150 years ago in downtown Grass Valley and Nevada City. It’s silly that we sort of have moved away from that when that’s really the model we want. We want to be able to work, live and shop within a close proximity to each other. So this concept that’s talked about, mixed use and smart growth, have a lot of merits that we really need to pay attention to.

A reader asks: “What do you think of creating a county telecommunications district like is progressing in Truckee to provide similar broadband service for western Nevada County?”

That makes sense. Once again, it’s not an issue I’m completely up to speed on – high-speed – to say the least, but there’s an opportunity. We have to make it easy for people to work out of their homes and businesses, and those are the kinds of ideas we need to look at and keep fostering.

One of the readers says: “What of the average too-busy voter, how will you reach out to them, how will you represent them?”

It picks up on the theme of what you asked me my top priorities are, and that is reaching out to the public. It might be nice that residents that are too busy to come to City Council meetings have an opportunity to fill out an annual or semi-annual questionnaire on how are we doing, and what do you think the city should be doing.

It gets back to that public relations issue that I think the city can really make some great improvements on. And so there are ways to engage them – we talked about more meetings either on FCAT or being streamed – but I think you have to get something that sits on their kitchen table if they can’t come to city hall, besides having the doors to city hall open all the time.

We get a lot of phone calls from people that can’t get through the Grass Valley city bureaucracy. We don’t get any from Nevada City, and we get some from the county.

You know the concept ” and once again, I don’t know if there will be a position potentially for public relations or ombudsman for the city – but we have the seven or eight departments within the city, and it’s a little confusing sometimes for people to even know which department to go to. Then you get a voice mail and you have to leave a message, and it has to be more efficient.

There’s no reason why in our town that we can’t be more efficient about that. The city has to look at what the potential costs of that are, but I think it gets back to having that first interaction as being a positive one, and then you’re given the information as to where you should go.

The city has in place a great design for its departments, but I think we can probably improve upon dealing with citizenry issues and complaints and problems because it is confusing. And that was one of the reasons I ran for City Council back in 1994, because I had some problems with trying to figure out how things were working. So we need to do a better job, not only the five council people, but it gets back to my main theme that we need to really reach out and educate the public on how the city works for them.

What haven’t we touched on that you think is an important issue?

I talked about some of the key things, and that’s talking about how we sort of balance our past and build for our future and keep our town a great place to live. And we talked about the process of reaching out to the public.

I have a couple other things that are near and dear to me and a lot of people, and that’s traffic. I’d really take traffic on and grab the bull by the horns. There’s sometimes too much discussion given to the issue and not enough action.

I would take a pretty practical approach to it. I would have traffic improvements that are small, medium and large – large being the Dorsey Drive interchange, small meaning let’s put some paint stripes here that can help people turn a certain direction. And I would figure out what those 10 or 15 small ones are and medium ones are, and say why aren’t we doing these now? And at the same time not lose focus on the large improvements.

We need to keep Dorsey Drive at the top of the list. There have been discussions about it shifting and moving, but Dorsey has been alive and well since I was in high school, and there’s no reason why it can’t be built in the next five years. But if it keeps getting pushed off as a priority, it’s going to continue to get delayed.

So when it comes to traffic, we need to look at it small, medium and large. And those small ones should happen tomorrow. Medium ones should happen within the next six months to a year. And large ones we need to keep on the plan.

And another thing – we’re going to have new buildings, we’re going to have more houses built in our town. And one thing that makes a big difference is the design of them, and how they respect our town and reflect our town.

In no way do I want Grass Valley to ever be a Disneyland – I’ve never said that – but I think that we can create that respect our community, and it picks up a little bit on the theme of the Longs development down on Combie Road. It wasn’t a pleasant process for some of the people at times, but I think the end product was well received by most people, including the developer.

But the city needs to do a better job of developing better guidelines so builders and homebuilders and developers come to a counter and they know what we want. There needs to be visual preference – and we need to say this is what we like, and this is what we don’t like.

What’s your take on the recent controversy over the Spring Hill paint job?

A little color is good for the community, and it didn’t offend me.

We’ve seen some very creative designs in some of our business parks and some of our industrial parks. There’s some great buildings being built. And everything doesn’t have to look like downtown Grass Valley, but I think we know what we don’t want. We don’t want it to look like Roseville and Rocklin and Auburn.

There ways to do that. One of the things I’d like to see the city do through its planning process is when a building is built that’s well received, let’s talk about it and let’s make notes about why it’s well received. And if a building is not well received, let’s talk about why it’s not, so we have information we can give future builders and developers saying this is what you don’t want to do and this is what you should do.

One of the big lessons from the past is the Pine Creek center. What did you learn from that episode?

The council at that time said don’t worry, it’s going to be OK, we’re going to get a shopping center. And it didn’t allow the public to have its say at the table. It ultimately became a scar for the town, and it’s taken many years for it to build up and the trees to regrow. It was one of the processes that really sort of hurt the town and built distrust with the citizenry.

A lot of people were upset by not only how long it took to do the Richardson realignment, but also the expense of it.

It’s unfortunate that it took as long as it did. My gut feeling watching the project ” because I live and work right there and I went by it daily if not several times a day ” is that I didn’t see it as a priority for the contractor. There were days when nothing was happening – weeks.

It gets back to the city needs to have its priorities, and if Richardson Street realignment was a high priority, if I was on the council I’d be sitting at that contractor’s desk and saying why aren’t we getting more action up here? I’m not saying the council didn’t do that, but that’s the kind of action you have to take. When you have a project in place and it’s being delayed for reasons that aren’t appropriate, then you need to put a fire under it and keep it moving.

It gets back to the concept that the city needs to be run like it’s a business. It would be unfortunate if a building, a retail establishment, was remodeling so that it could have more customers come in and it took nine months instead of three months, it would kill that business. There’s no way that that would happen.

These citizens are our customers, and that road is a key part to their life, and it took longer than it should. But once again it gets back to, let’s write down the 10 reasons why it took longer than it should so that the next time we do a project of that scale, we can pull it out and say this is what went wrong with it at that time and let’s not let this repeat itself.

A reader thinks we need a multi-generational community center. What do you think?

I would have to agree with that. I’ve seen the interaction between all the different generations, and it’s an idea that’s been on the table for many years in this community. I hope that that’s another opportunity that might come out of one of these SDAs is that we might have enough land available in the park in that we could create a multi-generational center.

There’s no reason why the seniors need to be in the senior center and the teens need to be in the teen center, because I think we all know that when people interact it’s great for the community.

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