George Boardman: Candidates can’t dodge position on mine reopening

She probably didn’t know it when she recently declared her candidacy for the 3rd Supervisorial District, but Lisa Swarthout is the leading contender to get the job now that Supervisor Dan Miller has announced he will not seek a third term.

Miller told The Union columnist Lorraine Jewett that after 32 years of public service, it’s time for him to spend more time with his wife. “If I seek another term, I might have to seek a new wife,” he joked.

There is a distinct possibility the Board of Supervisors will have a female majority by the time the smoke clears in November if Supervisor Sue Hoek decides to seek re-election. Swarthout said she expects more people to enter the race — now more likely with Miller’s exit — but nobody will have better name recognition in the district.

Swarthout claimed in her announcement that after nine years on the Grass Valley Planning Commission and 16 years on the City Council, she missed all of those tedious meetings.

“After seven months I realized I really miss my time as a public servant and feel that moving onto the Board of Supervisors is just a natural progression in my service to the community,” she said in a press release in July.

She also wrote that she declared her candidacy early because she wanted plenty of time to hear the concerns of voters, but then told The Union that marijuana and the reopening of the Idaho-Maryland Mine are major issues for the district.

Impressed by the tax revenue Nevada City was collecting, she led the effort to get Grass Valley into the pot business during her last stint as mayor. Previously, no elected city official would even discuss the subject.

Swarthout hinted at some concern about how the industry is evolving in the county.

“Now is the time to look at the issues and process to see what is working and what is not,” she said. “As elected officials we are expected to listen to the concerns of the people and figure out how to fix it so that it is working for all concerned.”

Just six days later, Miller complained publicly about the pot scofflaws running roughshod over the county’s zoning ordinance, planting pot wherever it suits them and not bothering to get legit.

He said he’s been getting a lot of complaints from residents and is concerned about the environmental damage illegal grows are causing.

“It’s got to the point where maybe a moratorium on new growth permits is in order so we can get a handle on this,” Miller said.

There are already an estimated 3,500 illegal grows in the county, so limiting new permits will be a Band-Aid at best. While some growers will never want to be legit, the high cost of entry, heavy taxation and mind-numbing operating requirements have caused many growers who would rather be legal to throw up their hands and say to hell with it.

Drones will be dispatched to find the biggest violators and the sheriff’s Special Investigations Unit and other agencies are going after some of the most egregious despoilers of the environment. A conviction isn’t exactly an express ticket to the Big House, but it’s a start. It is also a problem that may have grown beyond the capacity of the county to control.

As we learned last November, Swarthout had issues with the supervisors over communications between the city and the folks in the Rood Center, and it would have been a refreshing change in local politics if Swarthout and Miller debated the issue in public. Then again, this is Nevada County, where people tend not to even name their opponents.

While pot is annoying to many residents and it never hurts to improve communications, the main issue that’s likely to confront candidates in the district is the reopening of the Idaho-Maryland Mine. This could become the last major vote Miller has to cast before he leaves office.

Swarthout pointed out in an interview with The Union that she had to deal with Emgold Mining, another Canadian paper mining company that wanted to restart the Idaho-Maryland Mine back in the ‘00s. The city got tired of Emgold struggling to line up financing and dealing with items like the environmental impact report, and canceled the project application after four years.

Swarthout didn’t offer an opinion on the Rise Gold effort.

Like everybody else, Miller has said he will withhold a decision until all of the reports are in, but told The San Francisco Chronicle he’s willing to consider the proposal.

He pointed out to The Chronicle that since the demise of the timber industry, the county has pinned its hopes on tourism, then technology, then marijuana.

“We’ve been looking for that pot of gold that was going to reinvigorate our economy,” he said. “We’re still looking for something to help us out. We’re certainly going to take a hard look at this project.”

It’s difficult to gauge local support for reopening of the mine. Many regular readers of The Union will say there is no way that’s going to happen, but the opponents are always the ones who yell the loudest.

Rise Gold’s showing support for the reopening is suspect because they paid for it, but there is a chance the survey is right. Opponents have ridiculed Rise’s decision to survey just 100 people in each of the supervisorial districts, but they only have to get three supes to vote yes. Now that Grass Valley has punted the issue to the county, four of the five people who will vote on the reopening have no direct stake in the decision.

Whatever the real sentiment may be, Swarthout and anybody else who enters the race in District 3 won’t be able to dodge the subject before next June’s primary.

George Boardman lives in Nevada City. His column is published biweekly on Tuesdays by The Union. Write him at [email protected]

Observations from the center stripe: Flip-flop edition

LOCAL REPUBLICANS said a poll shows 90% of them want Assemblyman Kevin Kiley to replace Gavin Newsom as governor. Would that be the same Kevin Kiley they voted against when he opposed Brian Dahle for the vacated first state Senate seat?…THAT STATE Senate seat was vacated by Ted Gaines, who is also running for governor…ANOTHER SIGN that the end is near: I couldn’t buy my granddaughter pink popcorn at the county fair. They don’t make the stuff anymore…ENJOY THE gyrations while those who ran our 20-year misadventure in Afghanistan attempt to avoid responsibility…DECISIONS, DECISIONS: I can’t decide if I want to start the fall season with an apple crisp macchiato or a pumpkin spice latte at Starbucks…HAS ANYBODY ever actually killed two birds with one stone?

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