Bill Smethers: Nevada County’s accidental sheriff?

The site was Rincon Del Rio in the south county. Assembled was the law-and-order contingent of the local Republican establishment, gathered together for the evening to boost the candidacy of Lt. Bill Smethers for sheriff.

Since everybody present was going to vote for him, there was no need to do any selling. Rather, it was an occasion for Smethers to thank his supporters, ask them to put a sign on their property and encourage others to vote for him, and generally enjoy an evening of bonding and fellowship.

Lt. Bill Smethers

But Smethers was new to this campaign stuff, so he proceeded to launch into a presentation of his goals if elected sheriff. I’m told he forgot No. 5–maximize funding to keep deputies on the street–and had to refer to his notes.

This is another example of the less than sure-footed effort that has characterized his campaign since he announced his candidacy in September of 2017–the last of three candidates to enter the race.

Smethers conceded he was getting ready to retire until Sheriff Keith Royal and others talked him into running for the position Royal is giving up. “I have been pushed multiple times by them to run,” he said. “I decided to run.”

Does that sound like somebody who has a burning desire to do the job? Does that sound like somebody who will stay around to apply his expertise to local crime fighting if he loses?

Royal declined to endorse Smethers at that time even though his wife signed-on to run Smethers’ campaign. Huh?  Was Royal going to endorse any of the other two candidates at that time, given his wife’s commitment to Smethers?

Of course not. He eventually give Smethers his support, something that isn’t being played up in campaign advertising.

One more thing: Smethers’ candidacy was announce on a Friday, the worst news day of week if you want to get strong, positive coverage. As any P.R. professional will tell you, Friday is the day for releasing BAD news because people spend less time on Saturday following the news than any other day of the week.

Capt. Shannan Moon

But despite these missteps, Smethers is still a strong contender for the office. He finished second in a three-person primary race in June and faces sheriff’s Captain Shannan Moon in the November 6 general election.

Both have strong ties to the community. Smethers is getting his endorsements from law enforcement and other first responders, while elected officials are leaning toward Moon.

Smethers is viewed as the tougher law-and-order candidate, particularly when it comes to everybody’s favorite subject, marijuana. He was a key player in the dog-and-pony show Royal staged for the Board of Supervisors that led to the emergency ban on growing pot and placing the ill-fated Measure W on the ballot. Smethers even represented the pro-W side in a debate staged by the League of Women Voters.

Moon comes from a law enforcement background–her father was a deputy sheriff–and she has run all of the major operations in the sheriff’s office during her nearly 3o-year career. She was the office’s first female sergeant, lieutenant and captain, and now wants to become the county’s first female sheriff in 167 years.

While both candidates are touting their long careers and experience in the sheriff’s office, each carries some baggage. Drugs were allegedly smuggled into the jail that led to the death of a prisoner on Moon’s watch, and Smethers was running the narco unit when a poorly trained and supervised deputy was allowed to create significant headaches for local prosecutors.

No real polling is done around here so it’s hard to know who has the best shot at winning. Moon finished first in the primary so you have assume she has the lead. The third candidate in that race, retired Grass Valley police chief John Foster, hasn’t endorsed either candidates, so it’s hard to know who his supporters will vote for. Moon is considered to be more aligned with Foster’s approach to police work, for what that’s worth.

Whoever wins will be the new sheriff in town for the first time in 20 years.

Posted in Captain Shannan Moon, Lt. Bill Smethers, Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Bear River vs. Colfax: Two unbeatens going for the title

Bear River will face its toughest opponent of the season tonight when the Bruins travel to Colfax to take on the undefeated Falcons.

The winner will likely become champion of the Pioneer Valley League, and get the top seed in the Division V playoffs. In Bear River’s case, this would be the first league title since 2005.

The teams are evenly matched;  each has dominated with the ball while giving up few points. Bear River has played a slightly stronger schedule but Colfax gets 3 points for playing at home. My handicapping rates the Bruins a 5-point favorite in this game.

Meanwhile, Nevada Union is just trying to win a game–any game–to get the fourth victory it needs to make the playoffs. If they make it, the Miners won’t get beyond the first round, but hey, they haven’t been in the playoffs in a long time so getting there is worth something.

NU doesn’t figure to get the win this week when it hosts Lincoln. I see the Miners losing this game by 13 points.

          *          *          *

Bear River remained atop the Foothill 4 with its come from behind victory over Foothill. Colfax dropped down a notch to third place because it beat a very weak Lindhurst team by just 49 points!

This week’s rankings:

  1. Bear River          8-0          140.1
  2. Placer                  8-0          134.4
  3. Colfax                  8-0          132.3
  4. Nevada Union   3-5             94.6

This week’s pick:

Bear River over Colfax by 5 points

Lincoln over Nevada Union by 13 points

Placer over Ponderosa by 27 points

We went 4-0 last week, bringing the season record to 9-2 (82 percent). Sweeping the board two weeks in a row is asking a lot, but why not?


Posted in Bear River football, Colfax football, Nevada Union football, Placer football, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Jeffie gets a letter from Kamala? Big whoop


By Greg Knightbridge, Special Correspondent

Regular readers of Jeff Pelline’s Sierra Foothills Report know a more accurate title would be “Jeff Pelline: The Saga Continues,” because the basic premise of the blog is the wonderful life he leads when he isn’t plugging advertisers in his “magazine.”

His latest effort to convince the foothills bumpkins that he’s a superior human being is the posting of a letter from Senator Kamala Harris in response to his comments on the Kavanaugh appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court.

It’s difficult to know what Jeffie was complaining about because Harris’ reply touches on several aspects of the Kavanaugh controversy and was probably sent to thousands of people who expressed similar outrage. You will also note the letter is unsigned–apparently her staff couldn’t be bothered to affix a phony signature with an Autopen. Or maybe they didn’t think he was worth the trouble.

P.S.: Did you know that Jeffie also met Dianne Feinstein back in his reporting days? I’m sure Feinstein remembers the encounter well.

Posted in Jeff Pelline, Senator Dianne Feinstein, Senator Kamala Harris, Uncategorized | 6 Comments

QUICK HITS: Women cheering for Trump

–A woman cheering for Trump makes as much sense as a Jew cheering for Hitler.

–After dominating the political coverage, Trump told AP it won’t be his fault if the Republicans do poorly in the mid-term elections. What a stand-up guy.

–Uber has managed to destroy the livelihood of taxi drivers with contract drivers who barely earn the minimum wage. That’s what I call spreading the misery.

–Have you ever noticed how many people who work in the medical field are overweight and smoke?

–Now Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell is blaming the Republican-engineered deficit on Social Security and Medicare spending. Guess what’s going on the chopping block if the Republicans retain control of both houses of Congress.


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Bear River figures to have its second close game tonight

Bear River’s football team did last week what good teams do when they face a weak opponent, jumping on Lindhurst early and then cruising to an easy 49-0 victory.

Things figure to get a little tougher tonight as the Bruins face Foothill (5-2) in their last home game of the regular season (but not their last home game of the season). BR is projected to win a close contest, but Foothill changed coaches a week ago (no explanation given) so it’s hard to judge the focus of the players. It could turn into a blowout.

Meanwhile, it’s easy to write-off Nevada Union’s chances of beating Ponderosa (5-2) this week because it is clear the Miners are not a good team. They gave their fans false hope after beating three cream puffs in non-league play, then things got serious–league play started.

NU left its old league because it was tired of being the doormat, losing 31 straight league games from 2012 to 2017. Things aren’t any better in the Foothill Valley League, where they are 0-2. Ponderosa’s 2 losses also came in league game.

          *          *         *

Bear River stayed atop the Foothill 4 with its easy win over Lindhurst as our top three teams remain undefeated. Things don’t figure to change much this week.

Here are the rankings:

  1. Bear River          7-0          137.9
  2. Colfax                  7-0          136.5
  3. Placer                  7-0          134.1
  4. Nevada Union   3-4            92.1

This week’s picks:

Ponderosa over Nevada Union by 25 points

Bear River over Foothill by 3.5 points

Placer over Oakmont by 18 points

Colfax over Lindhurst by 41 points

We went 3-1 on last week’s picks, bringing the season record to 5-2 (71 percent). It’s time for  4-0 week!

Posted in Bear River football, Colfax football, Nevada Union football, Placer football, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

There’s a simple solution to Miners’ kicking problem: Don’t kick

When the other team scores on the first play from scrimmage and then ads two more touchdowns in the first quarter, there’s a good chance you’re going to lose the game.

That was certainly the experience of Nevada Union last week, when the Miners gave up three quick scores and eventually lost 29-20 to Oakmont High School.

What could go wrong?

But the one thing that really frustrated coach Brad Sparks was the team’s kicking–or rather, its inability to do it. The Miners missed the only extra point they attempted, and bad punts continually put them in bad field position.

“I’m over the top frustrated with the kicking game…,” he said after the game. “I’m getting to the point where I will never kick the ball again the rest of the year, except kickoffs.

“Shoot, I might not even kick the ball on kickoff. We might just stand there and throw the ball across the field, I don’t know.”

Actually, Sparks is onto something. Just ask Kevin Kelley, coach of highly successful Pulaski Academy in Little Rock, Ark. Pulaski, currently 5-1 this season, never punts and always kicks off onside. Always.

Kelley, who has won two state championships in the almost 10 years he’s coached the team, is a stats nerd who developed his great insight after reading an analysis of 2,000 games played over a 3-year period by a Harvard professor.

Two things became really clear to Kelley: Field position, valued by every coach you’ve ever heard from, is overrated, and keeping possession of the ball is extremely important.

One way to increase your time of possession is to go for it on fourth down instead of punting. Kelley explains the proposition this way when its fourth down and you have the ball on your own 5-yard line:

If you go for the first down and don’t make it, the other team will score a touchdown 92 percent of the time. If you punt, the other team gets the ball around the 40-yard line and scores a TD 77 percent of the time.

That’s not a big difference in terms of scoring odds, and the odds get even better when you figure in the conversion rate. Kelley said his team converts on fourth down 50 percent of the time. That makes it worthwhile to forego the punt and go for it.

Similar thinking goes into the onside kick. On an average high school kickoff, the receiving team gets the ball on its 33. If Pulaski tries an onside kick and fails, the receiving team gets the ball on its 47–not a huge difference in field position.

But Pulaski recovers the onside kick 20 percent of the time (and the other team knows they’re going to do it!) and that makes a huge difference in turnovers. As every football fans knows, the team that wins the turnover battle wins the game 80 percent of the time.

This is just another example of how analytics is changing sports: Baseball teams now employ shifts that shouldn’t work but do, basketball teams know that shooting a lot of 3-point shots can cover up a lot of weaknesses, and football teams know that passing is a lot more effective than running the ball.

So Sparks should follow Pulaski’s lead and quit kicking the football. He’ll be less frustrated and the Miners might actually win a few league games.

Posted in Nevada Union football, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Ignoring the 800-pound gorilla over there in the corner

Alison Lehman has been on the job as county CEO for a little over a month now, and she is already getting plenty of advice on how to do the job.

CEO Alison Lehman Leading from behind

A chunk of it came recently from Terry McAteer, former county superintendent of schools and now a member of The Union’s editorial board. Writing in the paper, he urged Lehman to become a bold leader.

The county “has just been ‘bobbing along'” since the recession, in need of a “grand vision from (Lehman) which outlines where we as a community are headed. We are currently in a leadership void,” he wrote.

McAteer’s advice to Lehman: “We want you to lead! We want you to be bold!”

If she takes McAteer’s advice, Lehman will probably be unemployed.

We have been “bobbing along” for the last decade because the 800-pound gorilla in the corner–that would be the county Board of Supervisors–doesn’t seem to feel a sense of urgency when it comes to solving the county’s core problems.

Lehman’s predecessor, Rick Haffey, got the job after his predecessor got caught in the NH2020 controversy and couldn’t survive a shift of the board from a 4-1 liberal majority to a 3-2 conservative majority.

Haffey learned from that experience, and managed to last 15 years in the job by, as he put it, “flying under the radar,” expressing his opinions in private and letting the supervisors take the lead.

In an exit interview with The Union, Haffey recalled how he spoke with at least one member of the board every day. “On occasion, I’d talk to all five multiple times,” he said. “They come in and express their opinions on a wide variety of subjects.”

You can bet they just weren’t bouncing ideas off Haffey. Many of those calls involved complaints from constituents or pet peeves of the supes that required action from various county departments.

And we know of at least a couple of instances when the supes took direct action. Ed Scofield short circuited the process when the county planning department was dealing with the proposal to build a Dollar General store in Alta Sierra, and Dan Miller got the ball moving on a proposal that had been laying around a year to grant special concessions to River Valley Community Bank.

Then there were the times Haffey fell on his sword, writing letters to The Union when the supes were feeling the heat from critics. And who can forget the art display controversy at the Rood Center, when well-known art critic Supervisor Sue Horne said some–shall we say–family unfriendly items were on display. Haffey took the blame for that.

Lehman worked for Haffey for several years and knows all this. She also knows that if she wants to keep her job, it’s best to let her bosses take the lead and do what she’s told.

Posted in County CEO Alison Lehman, Nevada County Board of Supervisors, Uncategorized | 1 Comment