Supervisor-elect plans to take Truckee issues to county level
After the relative ease of an unopposed race for Nevada County supervisor, Ted Owens is sizing up the challenges of representing the giant geographic area of District 5. While his time on the Truckee Town Council has prepared him well for just about anything, there are some things that just can’t be avoided.
“It’s always like being the new kid in a new school,” said Owens, knowing his transition to supervisor will take a little time to get used to. “It’s always that awed feeling of starting over.”
As supervisor, Owens, 42, will represent a region that stretches from Washington and Graniteville in the west to Floriston in the east.
“I think the biggest challenge will be to become as familiar with western county issues as eastern county issues,” he said.
Owens will finish out the year on the Truckee Town Council, and will begin his term as supervisor in January, 2005. He hopes to forge strong relationships with Nevada and Placer County officials and maintain his strong connection to Truckee decision-makers in order to work on regional solutions to problems that extend beyond town and county boundaries. Some of those issues include development pressures, affordable housing availability, and water and air quality.
“I want to bring Nevada County issues to Truckee in small bites,” Owens said. “I really hope to bridge that gap.”
On development, Owens sees both sides of the issue, two viewpoints that he has tried to balance as an elected official.
“People have a right to do something with their property besides paying property tax,” Owens said. “At the same time, the community has a right of self-determination as far as what they want their community to look like.”
Placer County’s Martis Valley Community Plan is a good example of development in one county that has effects in another county and another town. Owens has vocally opposed the plan’s reliance on Truckee’s infrastructure. Issues like these require the regional cooperation that he plans to bring to District 5, he said.
“Placer County perhaps relies too heavily on Truckee to support that development in terms of affordable housing … traffic congestion and, to a large degree, supporting services,” he said. “Truckee, I believe, will stand up to projects as they come down the pike.
“As supervisor I intend to lend that weight to the town of Truckee,” said Owens. Another issue that Owens will focus heavily on is air quality. Truckee has instituted bans on polluting woodstoves, but the next step toward clean air in the eastern county is to alter Caltrans road sanding practices, said Owens. Sanding accounts for 80 percent of the air problem in Truckee, he said.
“Caltrans views sanding the roads as a safety issue. I view it as a health issue,” said Owens. “It may be a safety issue for our visitors, but it is a health issue for our residents.” Owens said that he will investigate sanding methods, alternative materials and other changes that could improve air quality.
“I just don’t think that we are doing it right,” he said. “I think that there is a better way.” Truckee has had significant success with affordable housing during Owens’ tenure on the council, and he intends to promote the same aggressive affordable housing requirements of developers that Truckee has had success with. But the state must also reassess policies that have increased workers compensation and liability fees, raising new home prices beyond affordability, Owens said.
Owens knows that the county budget, despite the passage of Proposition 57 and 58, may be one of the biggest challenges.
“The state fiscal crisis is not going to go away, even with these propositions,” he said. Anyone who has witnessed Owens wry wit in action after, before or during council meetings, knows that he will miss the camaraderie of the council. But Owens plans to keep strong bonds with the Truckee council – a relationship that he hopes to use as the cornerstone of his success as supervisor.
“Serving on the town council has been so educational for me. It will be tough to top,” Owens said. “I’m hopeful to take what I have learned here and take that with me to Nevada City.”
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