Do the Property Rights of Blue Lead’s Neighbors Matter?

Tom Brown, neighbor of Blue Lead Mine, sent a new letter to the members of the Nevada County Planning Commission two days ago in anticipation of their meeting this Thursday the 27th to further consider Blue Lead owner Robert White’s application for vested right to mine:

Mr. Brown’s letter included this comment about his own property rights:

“Commissioner Poulter once said ‘Property rights are something we need to hold dear to us.’ (The Union, Jan. 19, 2005) We couldn’t agree more. There exists an important extension of the Commissioner’s belief: along with our own property rights comes the responsibility to hold dear the rights of other property owners. This is something that Mr. White does not understand. Mr. White’s actions as my neighbor proclaim his belief that the only property rights that are dear are his rights. He trampled on our property rights when he trespassed on our land to alter my road for his convenience. He destroyed timber, affected drainage, affected runoff, killed plants, and disturbed historical evidence of previous inhabitants that we valued and that gave character to the land. He didn’t improve the road; he deepened a scar upon the land that we had hoped to retain in a primitive state.”

See Tom Brown’s complete letter here.

Do Owners of Blue Lead Mine Owe $34,675,000 in Fines?

In the following video excerpt from his comments to the Planning Commission on April 22, 2010 Mike Luksic (pronounced “luck sic”) of the Office of Mine Reclamation (OMR) states that the owners of Blue Lead Mine may owe $34,675,000 in fines and penalties for continuous violations for the last 19 years. He also suggests that — if Nevada County does not strictly enforce SMARA regulations — OMR could take over from the county its role as lead agency in all mining operations.

Clearly, much is at stake with the decision the Planning Commission will make at its next and presumably final meeting on this issue on Thursday of this week (May 27th). Many people will be watching this decision closely.

Granting a vested right to Blue Lead could well open a Pandora’s Box of such applications, since other Nevada County properties are currently being advertised with the suggestion that they may also be eligible for vested rights.

Underappreciated Local Heroes: Wolf Creek Community Alliance

Yesterday we grabbed our cameras first thing in the morning and followed around after some volunteers from Wolf Creek Community Alliance while they worked in Bennett Meadow (off Bennett Road near Lava Rock Road), near Wolf Creek. They spent several hours removing black mustard, an invasive (non-native) plant that moved in after star thistle was removed from the same area.

One of our favorite jokes comes from comments we’ve often read in places like the discussion threads in The Union, where environmentalists are often derided for “kicking back and living off of grant money.” This would be hilarious if it were not so pathetically ignorant.

Most of our colleagues in the WCCA live busy lives of work and family, more than full-time. Somehow they still manage to do this volunteer work — including monitoring for toxics at regular locations in the Wolf Creek watershed — in their “spare” time, for no acknowledgement except what they give each other.

We’re working on another form of acknowledgement, a video project describing the watershed, including their role in restoring and preserving it.  Some of the images below will probably end up in that documentary eventually.

Much of the Wolf Creek watershed is very beautiful, a fact largely unknown to the community. This will change.

Bennett Meadow

The WCCA Gang

Sunlit Leaves Over Path Toward Bear Den

More Sunlit Leaves Over the Path

More ...

Wolf Creek

Overheard in a Popular Grass Valley Restaurant

A large group — maybe a dozen people — sat down near us in a popular Grass Valley restaurant yesterday morning while we were eating breakfast.

One of the newly-seated members of that happy and high-spirited  group asked the waitperson, “Is there a Tea Party Special?”

The quick-thinking WP answered, “Oh, you mean the one where no matter what we serve you, you don’t like it?”

Trying to Save California

Stanford Press Release

Stanford’s David Kennedy and Silicon Valley investor Noel Perry are launching at a May 27 event in Los Angeles. The website will serve as a nonpartisan clearinghouse for state governance reform issues.

By Adam Gorlick

David Kennedy built his reputation as a historian at Stanford by looking backward and analyzing the past. His work and writing earned him a Pulitzer Prize and widespread acclaim as an expert on American history.

Noel Perry did just the opposite. As a venture capitalist, he always had his eye on the next best thing. He made his mark in Silicon Valley by investing in organic foods and educational software and toys.

Based on their early resumes alone, Kennedy and Perry would have made for an odd couple, assuming their paths would even cross. But their growing interest during the past few years in how California works – and how it doesn’t – has turned them into partners struggling with a question that has no easy answer: How do you keep this troubled state from failing?

The solution won’t come from lawmakers alone, they say. And it won’t come solely from special interest groups or political movers and shakers. The voters have a strong say. But before ordinary Californians can weigh in with good ideas on how to break a political logjam in Sacramento, deal with a $20 billion budget deficit and address the state’s ballot initiative process, they should have as much information as possible.

So Kennedy and Perry, along with academics at the University of California-Berkeley and Sacramento State, have created, a nonpartisan clearinghouse for state governance reform issues. The website is being launched May 27, two weeks before the California primary.

“The properly informed public will make the right decisions, but getting the public properly informed is the trick,” said Kennedy, co-director of Stanford’s Bill Lane Center for the American West, a partner in the website project.

California Choices outlines four paths for government reform. It explains what’s needed to revise the constitution, whether through the legislature, a series of ballot initiatives or a constitutional convention. It also explores ideas to fix the government by leaving the constitution alone.

The descriptions highlight the pros and cons for each option, and suggest ways citizens can take action and become involved with whichever route seems appealing.

“The state is in crisis,” said Perry, who has funded and headed the nonpartisan research group Next 10 since 2003. “But the flip side of that is that there’s an opportunity here. We have the chance to tap into the talent and intellectual capital that’s here and come up with ways of improving the state.”

The site and its organizers are not pushing any particular agenda for reform. The only thing they want is a healthier, more efficient government.

And that seems to be something voters are craving. According to recent Field Polls highlighted on the website, 79 percent of Californians think the state is on the wrong track and 95 percent believe the state’s economy has hit “bad times.”

“If California goes into a true financial tailspin, that would have economic, political and psychological implications that would ripple far beyond the boundaries of this state,” said Kennedy. “It would be a lesson in how modern societies built on the American model cannot govern themselves in a time of crisis.”

Kennedy’s book, Freedom From Fear: The American People in Depression and War, won the 2000 Pulitzer Prize for history. His focus on state government reform sprang from a conference the Bill Lane Center hosted about three years ago to discuss direct democracy and the state’s ballot initiative process.

That led to a closer examination of government efficiency during a time marked by a yawning budget gap, increased political wrangling in Sacramento and mounting frustration among voters who were asked to go to the polls and decide issues ranging from the legality of gay marriage to the amount of room farms should provide for egg-laying chickens.

Another conference followed this past October. Politicians, government reform groups and academics met in Sacramento to discuss what steps could be taken to streamline one of the world’s longest governing documents – the California Constitution.

That’s where Kennedy met Perry, who had founded Next 10 out of his growing concerns for the future of California.

A native of Rhode Island, Perry arrived in California in 1983 with more interest in finance than politics. He established Baccharis Capital Inc. as one of the first “socially responsible” venture capital funds, investing in education and health-oriented consumer products.

But 20 years later, he was turning more of his attention toward what was happening in Sacramento. Gov. Gray Davis was about to be recalled and replaced by Arnold Schwarzenegger, and the state’s financial woes were mounting.

“There was no vision for the state,” Perry said. “I felt that this was an area where I could make a contribution. I was concerned about the future of California, and I wanted to do something about it.”

He started Next 10 to focus on improving the economy, environment and overall quality of life in California. The organization developed the “California Budget Challenge,” an online tool that allows visitors to slice up the state’s spending pie as they see fit while trying to keep the budget balanced. The idea is to help people understand the tradeoffs in the state budgeting process.

“I have a simplistic belief that more is better,” Perry said. “The more people who get involved, the more we’ll get the right answers.”

When Perry showed up at the Lane Center’s Sacramento conference six months ago, he was thinking about creating a website to rally voters around the idea of government reform. And he wanted some academic muscle behind the idea.

He found a willing partner in Kennedy, who was also searching for ways to engage Californians in a discussion about where the state is headed.

California Choices is what they came up with.

“I love this state,” Kennedy said. “And those of us who care about it have a responsibility to take care of its future. That’s true individually as well as institutionally for Stanford. Stanford must be a good neighbor and contribute to elevating and informing the public dialogue about what’s going on in the state and what can be done to improve it.”

Related information:

California Choices

David Kennedy

Bill Lane Center for the American West

Next 10

Jon Christensen, Bill Lane Center for the American West: (650) 759-6534,

David Kennedy, Bill Lane Center for the American West: (650) 721-3186,

Noel Perry, Next 10: (415) 957-0202,

What a Place to Build a Nest!

A guy doing some work for us here this afternoon noticed a bird fly up out of the shrubbery near him when he was using the hose at the side of our house. He bent down and looked more closely and saw these eggs (see pictures below).

What sort of bird laid these? And why lay them right in a busy path where they could get trampled on?

We’ve now put a cage around the nest.

Amgen Stage 1 Peloton Races Past Our House

The Amgen Tour of California Stage 1 peloton races past our house about 25 minutes after leaving Nevada City.

“Glenn Beck Has Nazi Tourette’s”


Lewis Black sees Glenn Beck clearly. It’s not too much to say that Beck is such a clown that only a comedian can truly understand him.

Lewis Black’s riff on Beck (below) is funny, but it also highlights Beck’s weird psychopathology, which seems uncategorizable, so why shouldn’t another comedian name it?

Black names it “Nazi Tourette’s.”

By the way, whenever I hear Beck I always suspect that his grip on weak minds is due to his mellifluous daddy-sounding voice. Seriously! It’s a very good voice. Which makes his ability to mesmerize the susceptible all the more creepy.

My own theory about Beck is that he subconsciously understands that his grip on people is due to completely irrational resonances in his performance, and at some level that makes him feel a weird kinship with the Nazis, who also mastered the art of insidious propaganda. ((It may well be that Beck is completely conscious of what he is doing. A Forbe’s article of 4/26/2010 quoted Beck as saying “I could give a flying crap about the political process.”))

He subconsciously knows that he himself would have been a great Nazi propagandist!

So, Herr Beck’s incessant obsessive attacks on Nazis, his ability to find them everywhere, is — psychologically — an attempt to exorcize the Nazi Devil in himself. Much like the anti-gay campaigns of hypocritical charlatans who are later caught vacationing in Europe with Rent Boys.

Two Poems by Marian Slattery

I Have Begun Reading the Obituaries

Yesterday I read of Ellen Ferguson,
survived by only grandchildren. Lucky Ellen,
plenty of life, not many left to grieve.

Just enough busy husbands and wives
to box up her letters,
the few pieces of porcelain she saved.

Chips and beer on her scarred dining table as they sorted
Some laughter remembering birthday parties
when she danced a jig from the highlands of her childhood,

A sorrowed pause
over a crayon scribbled Valentine to ‘Granny’
from a five year old who drowned the following summer in the lake.

A good Sunday afternoon, glad to be together.
They promise to see each other more often.

This is what I wish for my ending. Just a few whom I’ve loved
to clean out my desk, remember Easters in the garden,
find the pictures of me in my soccer uniform.

Someone to look through the binders
for my poems about persimmons.


The Red Farmhouse in Winter

What was it that was the chill
of something warm and cold,
a thrill of neurons
newly netted,
a foggy red house
on grey-blue tinged
foggy white snow,
an air of winter somewhere
as though through a window.
Where did he stand
sketch book in hand
the old man
in wool knitted cap and shawl
to capture the scene?
Surely there is more
than the process with paint on canvas.
Surely there is more
than objects on a landscape.
Surely there is metaphor,
So that Monet’s experience of the light
becomes our own.

Marian Slattery is a San Francisco Bay Area poet.

A Visit to Tsi-Akim Maidu Village Pata Panaka

We arrived about a half hour early yesterday at the Burton Homestead for our appointment with Tsi-Akim Cultural Director Grayson Coney. Grayson was still leading the tour of the Pata Panaka Maidu Active Cultural Center for about a dozen or so attendees of the California Preservation Conference.

We stood off to the side of the tour and chatted with Jason Ryberg, nephew of tribal chairman Don Ryberg. Jason is a very personable and intelligent young man, and a parent of teenagers, one of many points of common experience we discovered in our conversation with him.

Like a lot of men in our county, Jason has decades of experience in the construction trade but is concerned about the dwindling opportunities to use his considerable skills.

Finally, Grayson approached with his group and demonstrated the use of a wooden spear he had fashioned, tossing it in a high arc over our heads.

After the tour ended and the attendees went back to Nevada City, we met with Grayson in front of the bark house pictured below.

See more pictures of Maidu bark houses here.

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