Will Nevada City Pass On Elections Again?

FUNdraiser Dyer411I don’t live in Nevada City anymore, but thirty of my sixty-three years were spent in and around The Queen OF The Northern Mines. And before I started covering politics full time, I used to endorse candidates for city council. Elections used to be quite normal in the NC, back when they had such things.

These days it’s difficult to find enough candidates to fill a ballot. Last time, for the first time in living memory, the city passed on voting and just gave the job to the only two people interested in applying. Sad.

“Back in my day,” as we old timers like to say, “you had to show your stuff to win a seat at city hall.” Having five or more candidates was standard, and sometimes there were as many as seven. The issues were much the same then as now. Growth versus no-growth…Adherence to the Holy Historic Ordinance…Fixing potholes, although there were some who wanted to keep the streets impassible to ward off auto traffic. You could count on every candidate knocking on your door.

FUNdraiser Cottrell412And we had parties! People actually spent money to get elected. There were mailers and posters and buttons courtesy of the Button Works. And when it all came down to election night, the winners would usually squeak by with two or three votes.

So I find it strange that in a town of three thousand people with five thousand opinions that they can’t muster up a decent horse race. Considering the number of activists and lawyers in the tiny burg, you’d think they’d be chomping on the bit to have the opportunity to serve their community.

And it’s not like there aren’t any issues. After seeing all the name-calling and general vitriol over the wooden deck on Facebook, it’s clear that there is more than one viewpoint on which future direction the NC should take.

So I hope to see some more faces out there this time, and time’s a’wastin’. Only a few days left to dive in the pool. (And who knows, you might end up in a cartoon!)

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26 Responses to Will Nevada City Pass On Elections Again?

  1. Chris LeGate says:

    It would almost be worth it to move back to Nevada City to run for city council just to be transformed into a cartoon.

  2. Jeff Pelline says:

    “I don’t live in Nevada City anymore, ”

    Well, that’s obvious, because you have no problem ridiculing it (though at the same time soliciting donations for the Widows, who march in a Nevada City parade).

    You seem to be afraid of shining a light on your home over in Grass Valley, however. What are you afraid of?

    • rlcrabb says:

      I really should leave your comments in the trash, but you’re just such a joy, Jeff. Of course, you don’t seem to have any problem dissing either town, where the restaurants that buy ads in your wine and cheese mag reside and do business. I suggest you leave my wife and her friends out of it or you’ll find the crabb has claws, creep.
      As for Grass Valley, it’s only February. City council doesn’t even start for another six months. Take a valium or something.

      • Chris Peterson says:

        Don’t even give him the time of day, Bob.
        From, “I worked in the same building as Herb Caen” to, “I insulted RL Crabb”, he continues to qualify his life by who he bothers rather than who he is.
        The majority of your readers could care less what he has to say so, banish him from the site and let him screech his chalkboard in his own room. He’s only a community spokesman in that those like you make him so.
        You moderate the comments of friends like Todd, Greg, and me but allow this slug to slime your site at will? None of us would EVER use your wife’s social life as fodder for ridicule. Enough!

        • rlcrabb says:

          I only allowed his comment through so readers could see what a fine fellow he is. He’s not welcome here anymore. (Jeff, you can slime me on your own blog. Go for it, tough guy.)

          • Jeff Ackerman says:

            Hey, Crabb Man.
            Quit playing with pigs. Every once in awhile Pee-Line tries to drag me into his shit-hole of a world and I have to back away from my keyboard. He talks about Trolls and how he’s getting picked on? He’s kidding, right? He can’t complete a sentence without using my name. I really should send him some signed boxer shorts, or at least a card on Valentine’s Day. It appears that even his fans are getting tired of his daily rants, that seem to spill from his greasy fingers like projectile vomit. Maybe time for an exorcism? Anyway…good to see you still at it and…remember…pigs are filthy so stay out of the pen.

          • rlcrabb says:

            But how do you really feel, Jeff?

          • Jeff Ackerman says:

            Actually, Bob. I feel pretty good. I’ve been gone almost two years and Pee-Line is still not over it. I think you will find he uses my name at least once in every blog (like Honey Boo Boo’s show, his blog has a certain weird attraction on those occasions when there is no grass to watch, or grocery inserts to read). Sometimes I just like reading about myself, just to make sure I’m still trending. Today he referred to me as a “coward” because, according to him, I wouldn’t meet with y0u into discuss the frequency of your cartoons and he served as your champion during his stint there? I’m pretty sure we published your submissions before he arrived and long after he departed? Even award-winning journalists have a tough time with facts over time.
            We are enjoying Oregon very much. Lots of space to roam, kids are all doing well and feeling pretty good, all things considered. My wife’s cancer is back, so our focus has been there. We do miss the good people and friends in Nevada County and I’ve always considered you among them. I hope you are enjoying life and that this finds you and yours well.

          • rlcrabb says:

            Sorry to hear about the Mrs. I hope she gets well soon. I try to ignore my former editor’s little taunts and lies, but he does it so often it’s hard not to respond. What would he do without strawmen like you and me to boost his ego?

          • Greg Goodknight says:

            Jeff, I’m sorry to hear the escape from Cancerland was not permanent… the one time we sat down to chat over a home brew at RS’s abode I could tell the spectre of it weighed heavily; we talked some of my experience losing my first wife to cancer. Best of luck to all the Ackermans in weathering the storm and getting back to calm seas.

    • Terry says:

      Oink, Oink.

  3. Thanks Bob for those delightful reminiscences and graphics. Please keep them coming for us newcomers, and those a bit fuzzy on the county’s historical goings on.

  4. steve cottrell says:


    Looking at that campaign poster brings back a tsunami of memories –– most of them good memories, but not all. And since the statute of limitations long ago expired on state Brown Act violations, I’d like to leave some factual Nevada City political history on this blog before I croak. Hope you will indulge me.

    First of all, for anyone choosing to respond to this posting by questioning how I could write something so libelous, I would remind them that to be libelous it must be untrue –– it must be a false statement. But nothing in this posting is untrue or false.

    I ran for city council four times and won four times (1992, ’96, ’00 and ’04). Having researched all city elections since 1851, I can tell you that aside from long, long ago when terms were for just two years, I am one of only 3-4 people who put their name on the ballot four times for city council and won four times.

    A week or so before the 2000 election, Paul Emery had me on his KVMR show as a guest to talk about the campaign. During that interview, he asked if I would have been a candidate for a third term if my colleagues had extended the courtesy of letting me serve as mayor during one of my first eight years on the council? I told Paul (and his audience) the truth: Hell, no, I wouldn’t have been a candidate again. Eight years was just about right.

    So why did I hang in there for four elections, 16 years, drawing a futility comparison between myself and Susan Lucci (who had 18 Emmy nominations before she finally won the award)? Why did it take 15 years for me to finally hold the gavel?

    What appeared to some as self-serving stubbornness on my part, began in June 1993 on the day we were going to pick a new mayor. Laurie Oberholtzer was the incumbent mayor. While at work that day, Paul Matson called me and explained that Glenda Zanone, the immediate past-mayor, was going to become mayor again that night and Laurie was going to be named vice mayor. Matson suggested that I be a “team player” and support Glenda and Laurie. When I asked about an opportunity to at least be vice mayor, he said he didn’t call to argue; just to let me know what was going to happen. We had an unpleasant exchange, but he hung up before I could call him a bastard.

    A few minutes later, Glenda walked into the National Hotel bar, where I was then employed as a bartender. She went to the far end of the bar and motioned for me. She had her council packet with her and said she wanted to go over a couple items she and I had put on the agenda from our work as the finance committee. But obviously I knew what her real purpose was for the pre-meeting visit to my place of employment.

    After pretending to actually talk seriously about a couple of finance committee items, she said, “By the way, I hope I have your support tonight for mayor.” Having prepared myself for that inevitable question, I replied. “Sure, if you’ll support me for vice mayor.” She looked surprised and said, “I can’t do that; I already promised Laurie that I would support her for vice mayor.”

    At that point, I told her to get the hell out of the bar and she left muttering something about how, “You can’t talk to me that way.” My final thrust and parry was, “Yes I can –– now get the hell out of here.”

    Later that day I heard from the fifth councilmember. She told me Paul and Glenda had worked the same tag-team routine with her, and that there was no way to stop the oligarchs from executing their plan. I was furious, but I knew she was right. That night, I voted accordingly.

    I don’t recall Paul ever again contacting me in advance of a reorganization meeting and, needless to say, my fate as a potential future mayor was sealed by my refusal to go along to get along –– with that council majority or future majorities. Only when Shiela Stein and Barbara Coffman unseated Conley Weaver and Kerry Arnett in 2006, did I finally have the votes necessary to be named mayor.

    After experiencing firsthand how things are done in Nevada City politics, I resolved to myself that I would keep running for city council until I could be assured that my obituary began with the following seven words: “Steve Cottrell, former mayor of Nevada City….” Some might call such a goal selfish, and they are entitled to their opinion, but I lived the experience and my conscience is clear.

    I also know how the local power brokers smeared the reputation of a good woman when she refused to acquiesce to their requirement that if they were going to support her for council, she had to promise not to support me for mayor. She refused their demand and was thrown to the wolves.

    As far as I’m concerned, I was the best damn “team player” that ever served on the council, but my teammates were the citizens and business owners of Nevada City –– not the small cabal that still controls much of what happens there. They smeared me with whisper campaigns, but somehow I managed to keep winning –– although in 1996 it was by a margin of only two votes. Whew!

    I share your concern about the lack of candidates in Nevada City, but I think most potential council candidates (at least those with some savvy about how things work in town) realize that for the most part candidates are still hand-picked by a very small –– but influential –– oligarchy. There are exceptions, sure, but not many –– and not enough.

    My ideal city council would include people like Ruth Poulter, Jesse Connor, Terry Pittsford, Richie Costello, Stephen Greenberg, Steve Dodge and Billy Smart. Just think of the great things that could happen for Nevada City with folks like that at the council table? And I’m being serious, not facetious.

    Thanks again for posting that old campaign poster. By the way, did I ever pay you for it?

    • Chris Peterson says:

      If all that is true, (and I have no reason to believe it’s not), then how did our good friend Pat Dyer, ever achieve the office?

      (And your inclusion of Mr. Pittsford, Mr. Smart, and Mr. Costello took me aback. I would never wish that on Terry, and Billy and Rich may be gook folk, but councilmen…?)

      • Terry Pittsford says:

        Yes, Chris. Councilmen. Why don’t YOU run for office? Oh, right, you don’t even live here any more do you?

        • Chris Peterson says:

          Yeah, why would anyone who grew up in the town you now call home care what happens there? According to you, even those who live in the city limits have no say unless they’re willing to run for office.
          I guess that ties in with your deciding who is a patriot and who’s not. Quite a departure from the radical I used to have drinks with.

      • steve cottrell says:


        When Pat served as mayor, the council composition was a real mixed bag and the cabal had not yet firmly established itself as a council majority, nor as power brokers for those who followed them in the office. He was chosen mayor because he deserved it and not because he made any promises to any cliques.

        Speaking of Pat, you may or may not know that during the four years we served together, (1994-98), he nominated me for mayor each year. Truth is, Pat could have been mayor again anytime he wanted, but he always passed on the opportunity in order to nominate me. And for that, he will always have my deepest respect and admiration.

        In 1997 or ’98, when I was again passed over, Pat publicly announced at the meeting that he was resigning from the council because he couldn’t respect some of the people he was serving with. After he announced his resignation, he stayed at the council table that night and abstained on every item on the agenda.

        After the meeting, we went down to the hotel and had a couple (oh, hell, maybe more than a couple) of beers and talked about what he had done. As much as I appreciated his support, I reminded Pat that if he turned in a resignation letter the next day, that would only result in the council majority appointing someone else of their stripe. And that would solve nothing. I’m happy to say that Pat did not submit a letter of resignation, and we actually managed to get a few things accomplished before his term ended.

        When I read about some folks claiming they have this “new idea” to turn some parking stalls into rest spots with a bench a shade tree, I have to laugh. Hell, that was Pat’s idea several years ago. If the current or future city council ever initiates such a project, the first converted parking stall should be named in Pat’s honor.

        On your other comment, I have to agree with you: Although the folks I named would make fantastic members of the city council, I guess it’s unfair to wish such an unpleasantry upon them?

        • steve cottrell says:

          After looking at Pat Dyer’s poster again, I realize that he and I served together on the council from 1998-2002 –– not ’94-’98 as I wrote in my reply to Chris.

          The meeting where he said he was going to resign took place at Seaman’s Lodge, before city hall was remodeled and expanded, and I guess that’s why I thought it had happened earlier. But that mental lapse aside, I stand by everything else I have said today.

    • Terry Pittsford says:

      Steve, I am flattered that you would include my name in your list of those you consider acceptable to serve on the council. Thank you. I do indeed love Nevada City, my adopted home, but after serving as VP of the Chamber and getting a clue about the thankless task of being a public servant, I have avoided those politics. The reason is that it seems more a matter of egos rather than responsibility. You mentioned the Brown Act. I recall quite well driving through the Bonanza parking lot and observing FOUR of the current council members sitting in an old Volkswagen having a pre-meeting. The group consisted of some of those, in fact MOST of those mentioned in your message. The political atmosphere locally, regionally, and nationally has revealed itself to be a culture unto itself with most of the finagling going on behind closed doors and, figuratively at least, in the back seat of the aforementioned vehicle. Perhaps it’s always been that way but I strongly suspect that it is most definitely not what the founding fathers had in mind. Real patriots don’t hide behind the flag, they carry it proudly and responsibly, with the goal of making things better for everyone, not just themselves. Thank you again for your kind words.

    • Greg Goodknight says:

      A decade ago my son, on his relentless trek towards Eagle Scoutdom, needed to attend a government meeting or two in order to get yet another merit badge. Scouring The Union for a likely candidate, a mid week Nevada City moot was convenient. Planning Commission, I think. We were treated to Commissioner Olberholzer lecturing Jesse Connor about how a chosen paint color being on the approved paint color list didn’t mean the Commission would approve that color actually being used on the building Jesse owned, because she didn’t like the idea of that color on that building.

      Thanks, Laurie, the lesson was priceless. I’d not met Jesse at the time and didn’t recognize him as the same fellow when I started telling the story to some locals at a gathering Jessee was hosting, and was happy to hear he managed to get his project painted eventually. It just took suffering through a few more Planning Commission meetings.

    • Steve …Thank you so much for relating your interesting experiences. We get the feeling that this bullying goes on, but you nailed it. Bless your heart for doing what you felt was right.

  5. Don’t despair, Bob, Orly Taits is apparently running for attorney general! There are always new opportunities for political cartoonists.

    Apparently there’s a group in San Francisco called the League of Pissed-Off Voters. If it’s legit (and you never known when it comes from SF), they should open a chapter up here.

  6. Barry Pruett says:

    Bob: My first interaction in Nevada City politics was in the late 90’s when David McKay knocked on our door. He was a great guy. He indulged my questions for about 15 minutes. He promised to keep Nevada City small and quaint. I did not ask, nor did I care, about his partisan affiliations, as he said what I wanted to hear about Nevada City. Kim and I voted for him. Bob and Steve: Thanks for the history lesson.

  7. Don Baumgart says:

    The ongoing insult that was handed Steve Cottrell by denying him the title of Mayor of Nevada City is a shame that rests on the shoulders of many former council members. It took a city hall scandal to unseat some of them and sweep Sheila Stein and Barbara Coffman into office. Their first piece of business was to name Steve mayor. I was in Friar Tuck’s that night and when the crowd from the council meeting flowed through the doors Steve’s head towered above them all. And rightly so.

  8. rlcrabb says:

    As usual, Mr. P is only giving his readers part of the story, the part that makes him appear to be the victim. He continually brings up the story of how he saved me at The Union, and how I don’t appreciate his kindness. Well folks, if you sift through the past comments on his blog (and I do not have the patience to list and tag every link) you’ll find several occasions where I both acknowledge and thank him for the “heads up” when my daily was canceled. I asked him to do so beforehand, because I doubted that the arrangement would last after the economy collapsed. It’s in there somewhere in our past conversations.
    Next there’s the question of his truthfulness. He’s not the only one that receives private emails. Ever since this feud began, I have heard from numerous people who have had problems with JP’s versions of events. Some are from people he worked with, some are from people he reported on. Can I prove it? No. It’s up to those individuals to come forward, because I won’t “out” anyone. And I wouldn’t blame those folks for not coming forward. Just look what happens when you contradict Mr. P.
    As far as any apology goes, I’m only sorry I allowed his first snide comment through moderation. In my article about Nevada City, his name was never mentioned once. But it’s obvious that when it does come up that the conversation goes downhill fast. Let’s end it here.

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