KVMR currently hush-hush on new building plans

If KVMR has something to say, they don’t want to say it just now.

I spoke with KVMR (local community radio station in Nevada City) Board of Directors President Joey Jordan yesterday about an agenda item on the Nevada City Council budget regarding KVMR’s campaign to raise money for a new building.

The gist is that KVMR has outgrown its current building, according to the agenda item and the documents accompanying it. But that’s about as far as the public will learn about this campaign now.

The item was placed on the agenda “inadvertently,” Jordan said.

“We’re just not ready to talk about it,” she said.

I hear ya. I’ll be following along and waiting for KVMR to talk. It’s particularly interesting because, as has been indicated inadvertently, they’ll be going to the council about this for some possible public funds. Or maybe not.

I’ve got questions to ask.

Moms on the Mountains event coming up

Selena Moore, left, and Hannah Talbott play soprano instruments Friday in Mary Zezulak's 1st grade and Sherry Chargin's 2nd grade classes at Gold Run School in Nevada City. Photo for The Union by John Hart.
Selena Moore, left, and Hannah Talbott play soprano instruments Friday in Mary Zezulak's 1st grade and Sherry Chargin's 2nd grade classes at Gold Run School in Nevada City. Photo for The Union by John Hart.
After 15 years of events and fundraising, Moms on the Mountains will take a hike again next week in support of arts in Nevada City schools.

“You can blame it all on Wendy Riley,” said Judith Hill-Weld, secretary for the Nevada City School District Board of Trustees. “That’s where it begins. When you have somebody inspired, creative and dedicated, it takes on a life of its own.”

Riley started Moms on the Mountains in 1995 as a school project and a fundraiser for her child’s school district.

Now, it’s an official arm of the Nevada City Schools Foundation, a nonprofit made up of volunteers who work closely with the district for the benefit of local schools. It has raised more than $320,000 since its establishment.

Money from Moms on the Mountain has bought portable video projectors, a sixth-grade poetry program, musical instruments adapted to the skill level of youngsters, computers and supplies.

Editor’s note: Read the full story in The Union. Check out Moms on the Mountains for more information on the event.

Improvements afoot at Nevada City schools

Michael Malakian, a teacher at Deer Creek Elementary, mans the crosswalk at Zion Street Wednesday afternoon. The Nevada City School District will be putting three flashing crosswalks on the Zion Street as part of its “Safe Routes to School” improvements. Photo by John Hart
Michael Malakian, a teacher at Deer Creek Elementary, mans the crosswalk at Zion Street Wednesday afternoon. The Nevada City School District will be putting three flashing crosswalks on the Zion Street as part of its “Safe Routes to School” improvements. Photo by John Hart
Modernization at Deer Creek school is underway, with phase one finishing up before the school year started.

A new stage was added to the school’s multipurpose room just before classes started, said Deer Creek Principal Susie Barry.

“It serves as our arts center and cafeteria,” Barry said.

The Nevada City School District will also begin installation of its “Safe Routes to School” improvements in October, according to a note sent home to students from Superintendent Roxanne Gilpatric. Three new flashing crosswalks will be installed on Zion Street, stripped crosswalks and a sidewalk on Doane. That project is being funded by a grant between the school district and the city.

Editor’s note: Read the full article in The Union.

‘Negative publicity’ inspires park patrons to take on cleanup duties

The patrons of George Calanan Park in Nevada City are taking ownership of their hangout, keeping their word and cleaning up the park for everyone’s benefit.

“We told them to just bring us the tools and we’ll clean it up,” said Tom “Smiley” Bailes, a park regular.

On Wednesday morning, Bailes and six other friends took three hours to rake the leaves, trim the brushes and cut the weeds after a city employee provided the tools. The city has made an arrangement with the group to clean up the park twice a week, Bailes said.

Editor’s note: Read the full article in The Union.

More ‘Treats’ for downtown Nevada City

Bob and Peggy Wright are applying for a new sign for its new business, “Treats” at tonight’s Nevada City Planning Commission meeting.

The new business will serve ice cream sorbet, cookies and other edibles at 110 York St., expanding on another business there.

Editor’s note: Read the full article in The Union.

Happy to peek at the competition

I was happy to see the Nevada City Advocate’s Web site finally make it up. It took a whole month after the launch of the newspaper.

Pat Butler, former editor of The Union and former news director at KNCO, is the editor and publisher. According to him, the Advocate will be going bi-weekly with their next issue Aug. 7 (?). As you may very well know, this revs up the competition in little old Western Nevada County.

These are all good things. Competition will only breed better journalism in the area, which is my chief concern. But there’s also been hoopla about whether or not The Union should write about the Advocate because it is a new business in the area. I thought about this. And then I thought about it some more. I came to a very simple conclusion: Who really cares?

While I think the media haters of the world get a rise out of the notion that there is some conceived news war taking place in their back yard, the notion that people actually care where they get their news from is false. People just want their unbiased, unfiltered, accurate news. That’s their No. 1. If The Union can’t fill that need, they’ll go somewhere else, possibly the Advocate. And if the Advocate can’t fill that need, I’m sure folks will turn somewhere else again. In the end, it’ll just lead to some healthy journalism. The people will win here. Isn’t that most important?

I think the the critique of this news competition will be best left to the blogosphere, where readers can judge among themselves who is getting the job done. Because writing about it, at least for the paper, would just take up valuable space for something far more important to readers of both the Advocate and The Union: news.

Anyways, Butler is supposedly only going to update the Web site on Tuesdays, going against the Web first culture of the modern newspaper. I don’t know if that will change with the announcement of going bi-weekly. The only newspaper that comes to mind with a comparable non-Web friendly policy is the Mountain Messenger — which coincidentally doesn’t have a Web site. It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out.

The most important blog on TheUnion.com right now

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Without a doubt, our new Firewatch blog is the most important thing being produced right now on TheUnion.com, because there are tons of fires going on. Especially considering the 500-acre blaze in Auburn/Lincoln. And to be specific, the Firewatch blog is pumping our Fire page full of local content, to go along with all of the fire maps and satellite shots of California built by emergency service responders.

Below is the latest from the Firewatch blog. Don’t hesitate to subscribe.
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A brief switch from sports, covering Nevada City

Besides the seasons changing, I’m getting a little change of pace at my newspaper as I cover Nevada City, Calif., during the summer because a colleague is out on medical leave.

So instead of investing most of my time in Little League and digging up sports features, I’ll be digging into the Nevada City budget and working on the metro side of the paper four days a week and continuing to handle sports duties one day a week.

All while still wearing my online community manager hat.

It’s not too big of a change for me except the hours. I’m scrambling to adjust to the 9-to-5 grind after doing the 3-to-midnight. (That’s still messing with my body clock.) I had a great opportunity to help cover the city of Oakland a few years back when I was with the Tribune, doing mostly crime and general assignment work. So I’m a bit prepared for this kind of duty. (It was between multiple bouts of sports writing for various newspapers.)

This time around, the stakes are a little higher. (When I was in Oakland, I was helping cover the mayoral election in which Ron Dellums was seated.) With the ongoing state budget issues, municipals like Nevada City — and even Grass Valley — have to worry about the particulars of where its money is going and how the books are balanced. Nevada City passed its budget Wednesday night to little fanfare after increasing its water rate 8 percent. I wrote about that for today’s paper.

Looking ahead, the city will have to account for Gov. Arnold Schwarzennegger’s plan to take $120,000 in local funds in his proposed budget. It’ll be an ongoing issue which probably won’t be resolved during my tenure covering the city as the state legislature has not passed a budget on time (June 30 deadline) in many years.

Otherwise, it should be fun to work in the A section for a bit. I’m looking forward to making more connections in the city and this will give me a great opportunity to do that.

Bridging the gap in Nevada County

This morning, I sat down with local bloggers George Rebane and Russ Steele, as well as The Union’s editor and publisher Jeff Ackerman and Tom Harbert, The Union’s online projects manager, in a meeting to discuss a possible collaboration of efforts.

It was a fruitful meeting.

Steele and Rebane run separate blogs covering a range of issues, including local and regional politics as well as global warming. They were interesting in seeing how they can contribute to The Union. Ackerman, our editor and publisher who is a big time deal maker, broached the idea of the two writing monthly columns. You can expect to see both of them in The Union in the near future. They both jumped on the opportunity, seeing as we all did how their local content would be a win-win-win situation for The Union, their blogs and the community.

But I think what was even more fruitful is the aspect of the conversation in which we dialogued how best to become the information hub in Nevada County. That’s something The Union has been working on, tweaking and still looking to get right.

As has always been the case, The Union’s focus is on our local community. It’s our bread and butter. Trying to compete with the Googles, Yahoos, ESPNs and New York Times of the world is not in our best interest. (Not only are we behind, but we’re less capitalized.) So we have to dig deeper into our local community, to reach every niche and to become more relevant than ever in our readers’ lives.

It’s the focus and the goal.

I’ve written before on my Aggregate blog for The Union, how there are many new local Web sites that may interest our readers. I hope people are enjoying the information.

It’s good to see both Steele and Rebane reaching out to us and I look forward to working with them. I’m also looking forward to seeing other bloggers reach out to us in the area. I know I keep tabs on quite a few in Nevada County, and there’s some great content in the area. If anyone is interested in contributing something, shoot me an e-mail.

Local voices grow with a loss at the newspaper

Jeff Pelline, former editor of The Union
Jeff Pelline, former editor of The Union
If you didn’t know, there was a change of leadership at my newspaper. Jeff Ackerman is now editor and publisher of The Union.

Jeff Pelline, who had been editor for the last two years, is now blogging independently.

Pelline’s new blog adds to the already flush number of bloggers in the area that cover local politics and much more. But what’s more interesting, at least what I think is more interesting to people, is that Jeff P explains his departure very candidly in his first entry.

Here’s some of what he wrote, speaking of Jeff A:

Jeff said he now is going to be the Editor (managing the news coverage) and the Publisher (managing the business) of The Union for economic reasons. Being a stickler for “conflicts of interest” (you know, the “watchdog” stuff we’ve written about at the paper), I expressed some skepticism that he could wear both hats. But Jeff vowed it could be done.

Jeff had been filling in as the interim advertising director for months (a more natural fit for a Publisher in my mind), but he has hired someone to fill that post who he thinks can make it a success.

It’s a very tough market and a tough job, even for a Publisher. (Jeff came up the ranks on the news side, not the business side). Jeff said he couldn’t afford both positions (Editor and the incoming Ad Director) at this time. It was painful to hear that, but I accepted it. We had a very professional conversation. We chatted, shook hands and left on good terms.

News of Pelline’s departure traveled quickly in the blogosphere — but nowhere elsewhere. First, George Rebane (incorrectly) reported that he resigned. Then, Russ Steele followed. And Anna Haynes followed with a short post to note that Jeff A was the new editor.

In response, as you can note from the comments on each of those posts, Pelline made sure to have his new blog be known. It’s a good way to get his new endeavor out there. I’m sure it won’t be his final destination.