I sat in our living room Tuesday night with the Christmas tree glowing, a medley of Velveeta, Kraft American singles, and Premium Saltine crackers thrown on our Melmac Christmas dish, a glass of 2 Buck Chuck chardonnay in hand, a Thomas Kinkade print above the fireplace.
It was time for the Nevada City Council meeting on NCTV.
Actually, none of that happened–if there was a Kinkade print in our house, it would most likely be in the fireplace instead of over it. There are much better things to do on a cold winter’s night than watch 6 hours of dysfunctional city government so I could post a comment at 12:48 a.m. Wednesday saying nothing happened. Still, there were lessons to be learned by reading the coverage of the meeting.
The biggest item on the agenda–and the one that drew a full house–was the conduct of Mayor Reinette Senum. She faced the possibility of censure and/or removal of her honorary title for a variety of alleged sins.
The item was placed on the agenda by Councilmember Erin Minett, who accused Senum of presenting her own views as those of the city or council, bucking the council majority on the issue of 5G technology, and generally creating discord and discomfort at city hall.
After several hours of discussion and comments by members of the community (most of them in support of Senum), the council chose to do nothing. But the meeting did reveal several underlying issues that nobody has been willing to discuss publicly, and they tend to paint the mayor and her supporters as bullies.
“We’re frustrated, that’s why it came to this,” said Councilmember Duane Strawser. “Our staff keeps getting thrown under the bus both here at meetings as well as in the office…That’s not comfortable anymore and that’s not fair to anybody.”
Former mayor Evans Phelps said the city staff has been impacted by the “chaos” surrounding council meetings. “This isn’t rumor, the staff is upset, it adds stress to the staff,” she said. “Grass Valley doesn’t do this nonsense. There is such a contrast here.”
Speaking of Grass Valley, Strawser claimed that Senum’s conduct has led to a worsening of relations with PG&E, the county, and the neighboring town. “The city of Grass Valley won’t work with us anymore…because of comments about our mayor, saying as mayor, the new Dorsey project should not happen,” he said. “There’s reasons why we have individuals from the county and other cities that surround us that prefer not to work with Reinette on committees.”
Some of this is overdone. Plenty of people, including residents of Grass Valley, object to the Dorsey Maketplace project, and Senum is hardly alone when she calls for the breakup of PG&E. Given her less than collegial style, I can see why people may not want to work with her.
But it appears Senum has created tension and discomfort–a nice way of saying bullying–among city staff, and she should have been censured for that. The majority of the council didn’t have the guts to go even that far.
Senum apologized for “any angst” she may have caused, but other comments she made suggests she has no intention of backing down or changing her tactics. The town’s voters can decide next year if they want 4 more years of that.