Monday, September 19, 2022

Salaries and Pensions for Nevada County Executive Staff are Outrageous

A dear friend of mine read about the Measure V litigation in The Union and asked me why Nevada County needs another $12,000,000 in the general fund?  As we know, Nevada County officials are sounding an alarm in an effort to scare voters into believing that the county does not have enough money for wildfire mitigation despite its over $330,000,000 budget.  They are telling you that they need you to pay another $12,000,000 a year because $330,000,000 is not enough to operate our small, quaint county.  As of 2020, the population of Nevada County was only 102,241.  Doing some quick math, Nevada County states that it needs about $3,300 per person to operate our little county.  For a family of four, they need to pay about $13,000 for county services.  For nearly all of us, $13,000 is a lot of money unless of course you actually work for Nevada County in its executive offices.

Let's take a look at the top six non-elected money earners at the County and their combined salary and benefits package from 2021.

The Chief Executive Officer, Allison Lehman, made $409,437.

Chief Information Officer, Stephen Monaghan, made $338,209.

Assistant CEO, Mali Lagoe, made $336,788.

County Counsel, Kit Elliott, made $314,794.

Community Development Agency Director, Trisha Tillotson, made $308,350.

Health and Human Services Agency Director, Ryan Gruver, made $306,109.

In total, these six unelected government officials made a combined $2,013,687 and individually made more than any elected official in the County.  How many people in Nevada County make over $300,000 per year?  I would bet that it is only a handful of the 102,241 people that live here.

I would posit to my dear friend that Nevada County does not need another $12,000,000 per year in the general fund to maintain county services and to pay county salaries and pensions.  It appears that Nevada County needs to better manage the $330,000,000 that they already have and maybe cut some bloated executive salaries and bloated executive pensions.  The hardworking people of Nevada County deserve a local government that serves their interests and not the self-interest of the executives of the very same government.

Wednesday, September 14, 2022

Nevada County's Measure V is a Scam with Revenue to be Used to Pay Pensions and Salaries

Proponents of Measure V, such as most of the Board of Supervisors, Terry McAteer, and Kit Elliott, county counsel for Nevada County, keep telling the public in the local media that Measure V is a sales tax increase in order to "prevent" wildfires, reduce brush countywide, improving evacuation routes, maintain defensible space, and "for general government use."  The only item above that is guaranteed to happen is that Nevada County will spend the revenue from Measure V "for general government use" including for pensions and staff salaries.  Don't believe me?  Let's look at rare moments of honesty from Nevada County in pleadings filed with the Nevada County Superior Court and the auditor's report.

In their Response to the Writ of Mandate on September 6, 2022, Nevada County argued to the Court that, despite touting in the local media that Measure V is a sales tax increase to be used to prevent wildfires (which is impossible), the county can literally spend the money on anything they desire.  "Here, Measure V is nothing like the tax in Monterey because there are no specific projects that are earmarked for the funds, and the County has discretion to use sales tax revenues to fund “general government services.”  See Response, 12:20-23.  "Measure V is similar to the tax considered in Mendocino because the future sales tax revenues are not earmarked, and can be used for any general county services..."  See Response, 13:4-6.  

Contrary to the misrepresentations to the media by Nevada County and by the proponents of Measure V, revenue from Measure V is not "earmarked" in any way.  The idea that Nevada County will only spend the revenue from Measure V on wildfire prevention is a farce.  It is one thing for the government to lie to the public and to the media, but it is entirely another thing to lie to the Court, hence, the rare moments of honesty from Nevada County.  Indeed, Nevada County will be spending the revenue generated from Measure V on (you guessed it) pensions and salaries for County staff.  Unlike the admissions in court pleadings, this undeniable truth can be found in the Nevada County auditor's fiscal impact statement of Measure V admitting that revenue generated from Measure V will be spent on pensions and staff salaries.

Don't be fooled by the rhetoric coming from Nevada County.  As Rahm Emanuel said in 2008, "never let a good crisis go to waste."  Nevada County seeks to, as found by the Nevada County Superior Court, "play upon the heart strings of the public” in an effort to pass the general fund tax measure.  In addition, the Court also found that the County is counting on higher-than-expected inflation in order to generate even more revenue from local taxpayers creating an even higher tax burden on our local residents.  So, Nevada County is "play upon the heart strings of the public” in order to take advantage of the crisis related to wildfires and also capitalizing on the national inflation crisis to generate more revenue for pensions and administrative salaries.

Based upon the Court’s ruling and the County’s admission during the litigation and the auditor's report, it is clear that Measure V is a scam upon the taxpayers.  Don't be fooled by the rhetoric, because none of it is true.  Vote NO on Measure V.

Sunday, June 26, 2022

Lyman Gilmore - A Local Legend

All of us “locals” know Lyman Gilmore as the middle school off of Rough and Ready Highway on the way out of downtown Grass Valley.  I do not know how or when you actually become a local, but it happens at some point.  Obviously if you were born in our quaint oasis in the Sierra Nevada mountains and you still live here, you are a local.  Others of us have been here and have raised families and called Nevada County our home for over 20 years.  You can’t really just put a number of years on when you magically become a local.  One needs to understand and feel this wonderful county, its people, and its deeply rich history.  I have lived all over the world, and but for being goverened by the State of California, it is my traveled opinion that Nevada County is the best place on the planet…and the locals told me as much when we moved here in 1998, but I digress.

So anyways, who was Lyman Gilmore?  I think that almost all of the “locals” in town know who Gilmore is, but our newer residents may not yet be properly acquainted with this local legend.  

Lyman Gilmore was an aviator from Nevada County, California, at the turn of the 20th century, who claimed that he invented and flew his own powered airplane 18 months before the Wright Brothers accomplished such feat.  While the Wright Brothers flew their “heavier than air” plane on December 17, 1903, near Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, Gilmore claimed to have done the same thing in little old Grass Valley, California, on May 15, 1902.  So why are the Wright Brothers credited with the first powered flight despite Gilmore having recorded the flights in his flight log?  It is said that Gilmore, living in very rural California, did not have the wherewithal to look for publicity and that Gilmore did not have any film of the flight.  Such explanations leave out a key detail though – Gilmore did not make his claim until 1927.


Ultimately, history claims that it was the Wright Brothers and not Gilmore who made the first powered flight.  That said, Gilmore was still a pioneer in aviation.  He contributed to the mono-wing design which was revolutionary at the time.  On May 15, 1907, Gilmore opened the first commercial airport (Gilmore Airport) in the world in Grass Valley, California.  Gilmore even invented mining tools which locals used to create efficiency in the gold mines.  Despite some his contemporary locals thinking that Gilmore was “booming mad,” Gilmore is actually a true legend in the field of aviation.  One author even lamented when a couple of Gilmore’s planes were destroyed by fire, as the author believed that they should have been in the Smithsonian Institute instead of inside Gilmore’s old barn.


So, now you also know why the Lyman Gilmore Middle School athletic teams are called the “Aviators.”  Like I said, to be a local you have to know some of the rich local history, and once you know the story about Lyman Gilmore, the locals might start to consider you a local too.


Click here to read further about Lyman Gilmore.

Monday, June 13, 2022

Lilly Pruett Nevada County Heroes Softball Tournament - Part II

The good Lord held off the rain yesterday.  He gave us a little sprinkle which settled the infield dirt, and we got in all 12 games.  Every single time we host this softball tournament, I love to sit back and watch our local community bond and celebrate our first responders and our country together.  This weekend our local VFW Post 2655 out of Nevada City brought their color guard out for the flag presentation.  The color guard came out between the first two rounds of games so that we could be assured that all of the teams would be present.  In this day and age where it seems that there a lot of people that do not respect our flag and frankly do not like all of the USA, it made me smile to see everyone in attendance standing and respecting our flag and our local veterans and our national anthem.  At the conclusion of the national anthem was the loudest cheer of the day which also gave me great joy.  Thank you to our local VFW and to Jason Tedder for getting this one done.  I cannot tell you how many people came up to me in order to tell me that the flag presentation was their favorite part of the day.

The tournament pitted teams from Nevada County Sheriffs, Grass Valley Police Department, Ophir Hill Fire, and Cal Fire versus a couple local teams, namely BSD and Jackson Engineering.  Frankly the weather could not have been better - mid-70s with a little breeze.  Instead of a big party, this year the tournament was a relaxing day of Sunday softball.  NCSO was the winner of the teams of first responders, and BSD (a local co-ed travel team) won again for like the fourth time!  We want to thank our local first responders for coming out and bringing some good softball out there.  We also want to thank BSD and Jackson Engineering for rounding out the teams and supporting our first responders.

In addition to all of the players who come out every year, there are "regulars" who always help behind the scenes.  Thank you to Mike Mallarae for helping me get the fields ready for a tournament.  Thank you to Steve Loomis of WNCSSA who donated enough softballs to the tournament that we will not have to buy balls for six or seven years.  Thank you to Gateway Park for providing us with a perfect venue for our local community.  Thank you to Marty Lombardi (whom my daughters simply adore) and Buckley Armacher for coming out in the morning on behalf of NCLEFC to help us with registrations.  Thank you to all of our friends whom we saw you guys.  Most importantly, thank you to my daughters, Lilly (and Bryan) and Maggie (and Darian), for working together and keeping something beautiful going for this community and for our local first responders.  And thank you to my wife, Audrey, for putting up with our family softball habit!  Nevada County?!  Yep.  You did it again and rocked the house!  Thank you.

Friday, June 10, 2022

Lilly Pruett Nevada County Heroes Softball Tournament

 In 2016, our daughter revitalized the law enforcement and fire annual softball tournament for her senior project at Nevada Union.  From 2016 through 2019, and even while Lilly was at Cal Poly getting her degree in civil engineering, she raised money through sponsorships and donated the net proceeds to the Nevada County Law Enforcement and Fire Protection Council every year.  After a couple of years of the tournament and before Lilly moved back to Grass Valley after graduating from college, the NCLEFC named the softball tournament after her and engraved her name on the trophy.  We are grateful and appreciative.

In 2020 and 2021, the COVID pandemic put a damper on the games, but on Sunday, June 12, 2022, at Gateway Park in Penn Valley, we are back at it!  The teams include two community teams and teams from Nevada County Sheriff, Grass Valley Police Department, Ophir Hill Fire, and Cal Fire.  The games begin at 9am, and a color guard will do a flag presentation at 10am after which our players will proudly sing our national anthem.  We cannot wait to see our community come together for this potentially rainy event.  We will make it work.

Our family, as well as our entire community, is proud to support our local law enforcement and fire protectors and to honor them this weekend as they should be.

We will try to broadcast some of the games on Facebook live.  Please come out and join us on Sunday at Gateway Park!

Sunday, May 29, 2022

Teaching Christianity and Virtue in Schools Can Solve Issues Which Cause School Shootings

 In reference to the horrible shooting of children in their classroom in Texas, I had an in-depth discussion with a liberal colleague regarding how to solve the issue of school shootings ranging from gun control to mental health.  As we dove deeper into the conversation, my colleague told me that he believes and posits that the American culture has created a socialized populace which in many instances dehumanizes people and treats them as only being useful for work, and he concludes that these horrific events will continue and that we are all doomed in the long term.  Though I do not think that he meant it the way I took it, I heard his assertion as a rejection of our modern culture – a culture that as a whole lacks virtue and looks outward to blame others instead of looking inward and in the mirror to ask themselves the question of whether they are good, virtuous Christians or at a minimum good people with virtue.

Teaching our children virtue used to be satisfied by teaching the tenets of Protestant Christianity in our public schools.  These ideas of teaching religion and virtue in public schools is not new; in fact, these ideas are hundreds of years old.  Stephen Colwell, in his book The Position of Christianity in the United States, in its Relations with our Political Institutions, and Specially with Reference to Religious Instruction in the Public Schools published in 1854, Colwell explains that “Christianity is no mere negation in this country; it commands, or should command, the moral and political power of the Christians who dwell in it, exercise in accordance with the spirit of our institutions and with the view to the highest interest of men, temporal and eternal.”  Colwell was a Philadelphia industrialist an active in the Presbyterian Church who believed that these evangelical teachings Colwell told his readers that “their activities could help Christianity fulfill its rightful role as what he called ‘the appointed protector of humanity.’”  As posited by Edmund Burke, true liberty is the unity a freedom and virtue.  In part, Christianity as envisioned by Colwell is the self-restrained freedom about which Burke wrote.  We must teach our children to expect freedom restrained by personal responsibility, religion, and virtue.

Circling back to the problem of school shootings, a different friend today asserted as follows: “Cain killed Abel with a rock.  The Lord did not get rid of all the rocks.  He blamed Cain and not the rock.  We have a sin problem and not a gun problem.”  We have a problem of the soul and the culture, and I think that we can fix our problem with sin, and we must, or we are doomed.  We must reject modern culture which is in my opinion the root cause of school shootings.  We must embrace and teach religion and virtue to students again.  If the child comes from an atheist family, every kid might be required to take at least one class on Aristotle's Ethics.  Education in religion and virtue can and will solve these issues on the whole of society.