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Grass Valley politics tend to be on the boring side…well, most of the time. It’s always been cliquish, and very few have been able to break through the hometown hegemony. That is, until Dean Williams joined the council and appointed Terry Lamphier as his planning commissioner. Terry was not very popular at city hall, mostly for taking up too much staff time, it was claimed. City council rules allow a majority of councilpersons to remove a commissioner, even if the person who nominated him objects.
That’s what happened to Terry’s stint on the commission, as shown in this cartoon from 2005. There is only one person still remaining on the city council from that time, and her name is Lisa Swarthout. She appears on the right hand side of the second panel. Judging from her recent statement suggesting that Mr. Lamphier resign before he is even seated (due to charges which have yet to be filed), she apparently hasn’t changed her opinion.
Some old grudges die hard…
As I was finishing my contribution to the democratic process on Tuesday, I ran into Elizabeth (Izzy) Martin, who was likewise engaged. Izzy and I go back a ways in Nevada County politics. The year was 1998. Izzy was running an unprecedented write-in campaign for county supervisor after being dismissed as a planning commissioner by supe Rene Antonson. I had just quit my gig with The Union as a daily cartoonist and moved to a weekly spot on the editorial page with “It Takes A Village Idiot.”
Izzy won the election, beating Antonson, and became the fourth member of the “Gang of Four” with Peter Van Zant, Sam Dardick and Bruce Conklin. (and later, Barbara Green.) The stage was set for some of the most tumultuous years of politics in Nevada County history. Although all four of the supervisors were on the Republican hit list, Izzy probably suffered the worst of the hate campaign. Her kids were bullied at school, and she was harassed endlessly by anonymous callers and letter writers.
She took a leading role in obtaining the Wild and Scenic designation for the Yuba River, despite opposition from our Republican Assemblyman, Senator, and Congressman. She championed the doomed Natural Heritage 2020 land use initiative, which brought out every survivalist right wing nut job in the county. One of her more prominent critics was Calvin Clark, who tried to mount a recall campaign against her in 2001 and ran an unsuccessful bid to replace her the following year. He inspired the cartoon above, which horrified some people, but not Izzy. The original now graces her wall; a battle scar from a veteran of the land wars. Needless to say, she was not reelected.
These days Izzy is heading up the Sierra Fund, working to clean up the toxic legacy of our mining past. Her public profile is not as big, but she’s still fighting the good fight. We don’t always agree on every issue, but I respect her as an honest advocate for what she believes.
While we were talking she brought up a theme that has repeatedly popped up in my cartoons over the years; that the real battle is not so much Republican versus Democrat, but rural versus urban. When you look at the big map of the United States, it becomes painfully obvious. West coast politics is dominated by a thin blue strip at the edge of the Pacific, and everything east is purple-red and red. This divide has manifested itself into the State of Jefferson movement, even though the proponents acknowledge the concept is dead in the water. It’s a chance to vent and make some noise.
Nevada County tends to follow the national trend. When Democrats are popular, they do well here. (Izzy was elected during the Clinton impeachment debacle. Local Republicans were beaten across the board.) Four years later, California Democrats were still in shock from the recall of Gray Davis and election of the Governator. Izzy was another casualty of the times.
And so it goes. 2014 will be remembered as a red victory in Nevada County, but it will be forever tainted by the nastiness that pervaded the warring factions. Rightly or wrongly, the Sheriff Keith Royal’s reputation has been forever tarnished. Busting one of the prime movers of Measure “S” during the heat of the campaign was obviously politically motivated, and it doesn’t help that most of the charges have been dropped now that the election is decided.
The marijuana issue is a stark example of the urban/rural split. The “S” supporters were surprised by the size of their defeat, but I saw it coming months ago. Despite all the ugliness between the county and the advocates, the reality is that the vast majority of rural residents do not use marijuana and resent having to live next door to it, especially when the attitude of some growers is “Fuck you…it’s my right, dude!”
And all of us have been affected by the spat of anonymous letters that mysteriously appeared the week before Halloween. The attempt to subvert the city council election is an escalation of dirty tricks even worse than the dark days of NH2020. It appears that Terry Lamphier will be elected, thanks to a high number of absentee votes that had been cast before the “scandal.” Terry deserves his day in court, if it even comes to that.
So I was surprised to hear Councilperson Lisa Swarthout on the radio. Lisa seems to think that Terry should resign, for the good of the City. Huh? Maybe for the good of your majority, but not for the voters who made their choice on Tuesday. Lighten up.
Now it’s up to the winners in this contest to step up and try to heal these wounds before things get any worse, and I think we know they can always get worse. If you won’t do it for the good of the community, then do it to get back at me. You all could make me work a lot harder to find material for my cartoons.
Nevada City’s own force of nature, Reinette Senum, has launched a kickstarter campaign to fund her documentary, They Call Me Fruitcake. It is the amazing story of Reinette’s quest to cross the Yukon all by her lonesome. The journey alone would make for a good story, but just when you think her adventure is over it takes a totally unexpected turn.
In his latest “scoop”, Scoopy has accused me of colluding with “the powers that be” in Grass Valley. Thanks for the heads up, Bubba. I’m always on the lookout for a scandal, and being that I’m involved in it, it should be easy to uncover.
Problem is, I can’t seem to find any big story in my hometown. What would it be? Is it yesterday’s lettuce over the campaign signs above the Chamber of Commerce? Is it that Keoni Allen doesn’t like Jim Firth? Was it the secret agreement that allowed Dollar General to be slipped into the Brunswick basin without the elitist liberals approval?
Here’s a photo of me when I signed up to protest the proposed closing of Empire Mine State Park, which was a pretty big story in Grass Valley. As I recall I did at least two cartoons on that one. Of course, it didn’t involve bashing any locals, so in Scoopy’s eyes it probably doesn’t count.
Then there’s this photo of the St. Piran’s day scandal, when one irate citizen pointed out that it was a crime to feed pasties to dogs (after the pastie throwing contest) when there are homeless people starving. That one was diffused when it was revealed that the pastie filling was actually dogfood.
I’ve always been critical of Nevada City’s attitude toward its downstream neighbor. The Queen of the Northern Mines is famous for shuttling all the unsightly conveniences to “gaudy gulch” or the hated Raley’s shopping center. Never mind that they freely spend their money there when they can’t buy an aspirin in Nevada City.
The truth is, Grass Valley politics tend to be boring. They aren’t whining about street lights. They actually have elections for city council instead of having elites pick out puppets. So far, they have managed to keep their fiscal head above water, although that could become a problem in the years ahead. I’ve had city council members ask me when they will appear in my comics. I keep telling them; do something stupid. I never cut John Spencer any slack. Terry Lamphier never caused much controversy, at least until this week. Dan Miller will get his chance in January.
When it comes to ignoring a good scandal, Scoopy is a champ. This year saw, not one, not two, but three Democratic state senators involved in criminal activity. Not a peep from the guy who spent most of the last few election cycles whipping on Republican lawmakers and Tea Party officials for blatant acts of stupidity and criminality. Scoopy’s a shill for the Dems, make no mistake about it. Oh yeah, he’s voted for a Republican once or twice, but only when the deck was stacked and the outcome was never in doubt. The real story is Scoopy’s sick obsession with The Union. He’s never forgiven the rubes for canning his ass and now he’s transferred his hatred of former publisher Jeff Ackerman to new publisher Jim Hemig. As he likes to say, “the politics are so nasty because the stakes are so small.”
And during the last two election cycles, Scoopy was content to have Nevada City’s “good ol’ boys” hand pick the city council without an election. And he has the gonads to criticize my coverage? I will admit that I favor Nevada City, even though I don’t live there anymore. Judging from this photo from city hall, they have been paying attention. I don’t see any pictures of Scoopy, but if they need one for their dart board, I will happily supply it.
I haven’t made many posts relating to the 2014 midterm elections. It’s not that I haven’t been following the various campaigns. Basically, it’s just that I find the choices too depressing, and after all, this is supposed to be a “humorous” site.
Most of my frustration stems from California’s “top two” election law. As regular readers of my screeds know, I’m not a fan of either Democrats or Republicans. Both have a few admirable traits and positions I can agree with, but both are responsible for the decline in our standard of living, be it flawed trade agreements that have sent so many jobs overseas or weak regulation of Wall Street and the banking industry.
So California voters (majority Democrats) voted for this new system, which weeds out minor parties and leaves us with only a Republican and a Democrat in the general election, or in some cases two candidates from the same party. There is no write-in provision.
This works very well for the ruling hegemony, but it sucks for the rest of us. It’s not that I have any illusions of electing an independent, libertarian or greenie in the current climate, but it bars me from making any kind of protest statement other than leaving the box blank. That option makes me want to vomit. (If I did that on the ballot, would it count as a vote of no confidence?)
At least I still have choices at the local level, although the recent “October surprise” concerning Terry Lamphier (candidate for city council) and kiddie porn has thrown that race into chaos. Whoever the anonymous letter-writer is that brought this to light is obviously not a fan of Terry’s. There is no way to resolve these accusations before Tuesday.
And that pisses me off. I hadn’t made up my mind to vote for Terry, but I am strongly tempted to do so now. If the charges prove to be true, he won’t ever be seated anyway, and if he’s innocent he deserves to be elected just because of the injustice of these slimy tactics. Consider it my protest vote.