Letters for October 17, 2002

Disturbing state of Nevada County

Re “Izzy under Assault” by Jeff Kearns (SN&R Cover, October 3):

Thank you so much for your revealing feature. It was an accurate, well-researched and thorough assessment of the disturbing state of politics here in Nevada County. We are having a pronounced power struggle presently, with a small old-boys network very ticked off at the current progressive majority on our board of supervisors.

This conservative coalition of ranchers, developers and building engineers, along with the biggest private landowner, Sierra Pacific, have had their way in Nevada County for decades. Now their era is over, and their crude political style reflects their not-so-quiet desperation. Although not particularly bright when it comes to finding experienced, intelligent, articulate candidates, they have brought hardball, nasty, rude, gutter-style politics to our community, at a cost to our collective civility. Considering the number of counties in Northern California where Sierra Pacific is backing puppet candidates, one can’t help but think our situation here is being replicated elsewhere.

I am especially grateful to your reporter Jeff Kearns for doing the important investigative work on the political chicanery pursued by Izzy Martin and Bruce Conklin’s opponents. In Nevada County, we suffer from a local paper that lacks the political will and capacity to dig into the corruption and law breaking behind this dirty campaign. The Nevada City Union actually seems to be in bed with the old-boy network.

Finally, in response to the concluding question in the October 3 editor’s note, which asked if it’s worth it, if the territory is worth having considering all the political fecal matter tossed about, it absolutely is! We are fortunate to have strong-willed local leaders of integrity backed by broad community support and solidarity, united to maintain a (relatively) pristine environment, stewardship of county services and resources, and a healthy economy.

The only thing uniting Sierra Pacific, the land developers and the ranchers looking to cash out with more shopping centers and runaway housing is an outdated view of reality, gross profits and money. When it comes to local politics in Nevada County—and, one hopes, across the nation—that is so last-century.

David Kupfer
San Juan Ridge, Nevada County

Izzy or isn’t she?

Re “Izzy under Assault” by Jeff Kearns (SN&R Cover, October 3):

As a constituent of Izzy Martin, I am outraged by your one-sided view of Saint Izzy.

Yes, she is smart and politically well-connected, but the groundswell of opposition to her is because of her arrogance in ignoring the wishes of over half of her constituents. She came in like a savior, wanting to “save” the county from itself.

In my neighborhood, lot sizes are 30 acres minimum, with quite a few of the long-established families owning 1,000 acres or more. None of them have put in subdivisions, and most just grow hay, run cattle and horses and enjoy their space. One ranch has been in the same family for over 150 years, and others date back to the 1800s or early 1900s.

Some of them have done such a beautiful job of managing their acreage that open-space advocates and rural preservationists want to get in on the act. These ranchers and landowners don’t want more regulation and certainly don’t want “help” from the likes of Izzy and friends. They just want to be left alone to do what they’ve been doing for a century or more. Thus, the rise of property-rights advocates. What’s extreme about that?

As for Izzy’s claim of being fiscally conservative, voting for a county CEO with a massive ability to be gone from his job that receives almost $200,000 in pay and bennies, plus spending several hundred thousand on the widely opposed NH2020 plus around $700,000 on a new management information system that many consider ill-advised is hardly sound economics. Izzy is not a centrist, and she has arrogantly ignored most of her constituents for too long.

Yes, Izzy, it is about you. Excuse me while I walk into my organic garden and pick some tomatoes.

Heather Donesky
via e-mail

Who’d believe it?

Re “Climate Changed by Cash and War” (SN&R Capital bites, October 3):

My goodness, your Capital bites reporter doesn’t really think the governor, in his veto of Senate Bill 783, was engaging in political chicanery to enhance his re-election coffers, does he?

Surely Gray Davis, with his high ethical standards, unimpeachable integrity and concern for the public welfare, would not commit such an act of immoral turpitude. I just find it hard to believe. Oh yes, I also believe in the tooth fairy.

James G. Updegraff III

Davis explained his veto

Re “Climate Changed by Cash and War” (SN&R Capital bites, October 3):

It’s too bad Bites wasted his column inches trying to figure out why Governor Davis vetoed Senate Bill 783. All he had to do was read the governor’s veto message.

Governor Davis supported the key provisions of the legislation, including establishing a whistleblower hotline at the attorney general’s office, further protecting whistleblowers against retaliation and requiring employers to post notices of whistleblower rights. He also supported provisions in the bill that pin liability on corporations. What he didn’t support was a misguided provision added to the bill that places liability on individuals who don’t commit the wrongful acts themselves.

As Bites pointed out in a previous article, the governor strongly supports the highest corporate responsibility and accountability standards for our corporate executives. This year, Governor Davis signed several bills that strengthen such corporate responsibility standards. These include new laws that require audit documents to be retained for seven years, strengthen California’s laws governing accounting practices, prohibit any employee of an accounting firm from working for a client within 12 months of providing audit services and increase disclosure of corporate information.

In addition, Governor Davis directed the Task Force on Corporate Governance—established in August and chaired by the secretaries of the Business, Transportation and Housing Agency and the State and Consumer Services Agency—to work with the author of SB 783 to draft legislation that fixes the flaw in the bill that he vetoed this year.

Steven Maviglio
press secretary, office of Governor Gray Davis

Bites responds:

That “misguided provision,” levying fines for knowledge of financial fraud, was a part of the bill since its inception. That aspect was even discussed with Maviglio before he said the governor was inclined to support the bill.

Relapse shouldn’t be a death sentence

Re “Is This a Lethal Weapon?” by Stephen James (SN&R Cover, September 12):

Have you ever been behind the wheel while intoxicated? Should you go to jail and wake in the morning regretting what you did and face the consequences in court?

Or should you die?

Alcoholism and drug addiction are both substance addiction disorders. The most common conception of a drug addict is that of a desperate, emaciated junkie. But many addicts who once fit that bill are now recovering useful lifestyles. We each have different types and degrees of addiction, but we all want help in recovery. Getting help in recovery does not establish that the impairment was severe.

I don’t think I should have the right to shoot you because you have a beer in your hand or a cigarette in your mouth. Similarly, the term “drug addict” does not provide a conclusive basis for determining whether someone should live or die.

Our son Steven Wallen’s life most definitely has been misrepresented. He was not a burden to society or a drug-addicted heathen. He did not walk around with his head in some meth cloud. Steven was a loving person who had a life—family, friends and a job. His occasional relapse—and we put emphasis on occasional—is by no means grounds to determine that he got what he asked for.

Steve and Gail Wallen
San Pablo