Unopposed, Owens speaks about candidacy | SierraSun.com
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Unopposed, Owens speaks about candidacy

Ted Owens
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Editor’s Note: The following was originally printed as part of a series of question-and-answer sessions conducted by the editorial board of The Union newspaper in Grass Valley with candidates for Nevada County supervisor and Nevada City City Council.

Ted Owens, 42, of Truckee is running unopposed as District 5 supervisor, replacing Barbara Green, who is not seeking re-election. A contractor, he is a town councilman and former mayor of Truckee. He moved to Truckee in 1989, and is not married. He may be contacted at 550-0599, or at theodorso@juno.com.

The Union: Please give us a capsule of your background and how you came to run for county supervisor.

Ted Owens: I am a great fan of history – political history and American history – so I’ve always had a fascination with politics, even as a young child. But how I began was being a small businessman in Truckee, being a contractor. We had no unified voice. My first job out of college, for example, I was the government affairs manager for the Insurance Industry Association, the big I. So I learned about associations and how they work and what that means – the level of importance to the membership of the association. So I brought that with me, and I moved to the mountains. I couldn’t wear a necktie every day and work in the Bay Area.

I was born in Texas, but my folks got me out within two months, so there weren’t any long-lasting effects, although I do like to visit my relatives down there from time to time. They don’t speak to me when the ‘Niners win the Super Bowl.

But basically I grew up in California – we had some property up in Lake County in a little town called Middletown. I spent a great deal of my childhood there, and then we lived in Novato. But I did go to high school in the East Bay; my dad worked for Bechtel.

We spent a couple of years in Virginia where I went to middle school. And that was a very pivotal time for me as a kid. Because I had grown up in California – I knew about the missions and the Gold Rush and cowboys and the agricultural development of California. And as kid I found myself outside of Washington, D.C., with an appetite for history, and a whole new world of history opened up to me that goes back several hundred years, further than California history.

So I was an odd kid, and when I cut school I would get on the Metro bus and go to the Smithsonian Institute and then come home instead of getting into trouble. But it was pivotal in the sense that it gave me a great deal of awareness of American history, something I’ve carried with me ever since.

So we moved back to the East Bay where I went to high school, and after high school I went to Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. I tried to do the city thing after college, and then I ended up moving to the mountains full-time.

But getting back to the question of how I got involved in the politics of it all. Probably around ’96 or ’97, another contractor and myself began to speak about how we had no collective voice to at least speak on particular issues. Not to work an agenda, but to have a voice. An example being that whenever a special district, for example, might need to increase funding, building fees were always the easy trough from which to drink, because there was no organized opposition. You could virtually get it done, and it was a done deal.

We organized what’s called CATT – Contractors’ Association of Truckee-Tahoe – with a couple of very important elements to the mission statement. The first one was to increase and improve the professionalism within the district. No. 2 was to have a unified voice, and No. 3 was to give back to the community in which we lived through community projects.

The first year, when I was president of that organization, we did a restoration of the old McIver Dairy buildings. We re-routed them where they had holes, we got them repainted, kept vandals out. Every time I drive by them, I always look at them. Last year, I caught some people breaking into them. I was mayor at the time, but I did not announce that. I just asked them, “What are you doing breaking into this?”

Out of that, I was a member of the Rotary Club – still am – in Truckee. I was appointed to the Planning Commission in Truckee, and that was invaluable.

The Union: Were you part of the incorporation of the city?

Owens: I was not. That was in 1993, but I watched it with envy from the sidelines. I remember when one of the 26 candidates for council came in my office one day, and I was envious. I thought, “I want to do that someday.” I supported the effort, but was not particularly active at that time.

So I ended up on the Planning Commission and I found that to be a wonderful opportunity to learn about not just land use, but process. Because it is a very difficult job. There are laws that dictate that process. And sometimes there is a disconnect with the public, because it is so very overwhelming and difficult and confusing when you develop a concern on a particular issue to try to engage that process. And I tried to address that educational aspect of it.

So I ran for council and lost my first time. I ran against two incumbents.

The Union: What year was that?

Owens: That was 2000. And shortly thereafter, actually, I was appointed to the council when council member Bob Drake resigned. And then I ran for election in 2002 and served as mayor, and I’m still there. So collectively, between that and the Planning Commission, I’ve had almost five years of service to the town.

The Union: And do you feel that running for supervisor is another step, a broader field to play on. Or was there another motivation?

Owens: Not really, because I hadn’t considered it. I had considered it several years ago, because some folks approached me. But I knew I wanted to serve the town of Truckee specifically, and I also knew I wanted to learn the job better. I wanted the experience, and I think that’s very important, so I didn’t feel in 2000 that I was ready to run for supervisor.

The Union: How would you characterize the relationship between the town of Truckee and the county?

Owens: The town really incorporated for a simple reason, and that was roads. That was the catalyst that really made incorporation successful in 1993. Our roads were not in good shape; they were in a terrible state of disrepair. Snow removal was something that wasn’t known as a service, it was an occurrence. It’s very difficult for a county to effectively deal with a location like Truckee, being geographically very far away with a completely different environment.

The Union: So previously, using the main street as an example, you had to rely on the county crew to get that road cleared?

Owens: That’s correct. The great irony is that I remember Truckee before. A lot of our residents are new now. In 1990, we had about 80 to 100 residents. It takes a little bit of guesswork, but we were at 14,700 in 2000, and the reality is we’re probably approaching 17,000 if not over that at this point in time.

The majority of those residents do not remember those days. Because the town has been very successful, and basically on a 15-year road repair and rebuild plan that we will have completed in 11. So for a lot of our residents, this is just the way it’s always been. And the reality is no, it is not. You had to have a harder edge to live in Truckee, because you had to be able to get around even without assistance very often.

The Union: Was law enforcement an issue as well?

Owens: Not at that time. Truckee was small enough that the law enforcement appeared to be adequate. The [county sheriff] substation worked fine. With 17,000 residents, however, it becomes a much more difficult beast to get your arm around. So the right move was to establish our own police department, and it’s worked very well.

The relationship with the county sheriff’s department is very good, and we’ll work collaboratively on that. But it was very difficult because a lot of the officers came from down here [west county]. That’s a very difficult job – drive up to Truckee for the day, and it’s going to be snowing, and that’s a long commute, and that’s hard time.

But incorporation had more to do with the feeling that we weren’t getting our fair share. We weren’t being taken care of like we felt we should have been. Right, wrong or indifferent, that was the psyche.

So incorporation occurred, and we’ve had the luxury for the past 10 years to have a very myopic view – because we have a town council, we have a town, and we have control over our own destiny. But I don’t think it is a reality. The reality is we are in Nevada County. There are issues that will expand beyond the town boundaries.

The Union: What are some of those issues where, as a resident of Truckee, you are influenced by the county?

Owens: Where we will see it in the future is in development pressure. Truckee is under a great amount of development pressure right now. Our General Plan in 1996 included a development potential reduction of about 50 percent of the old county plan. When that red-hot economy occurred, can you imagine what might have happened if that had not been done? It could have been incredible. We put developers through the wringer up in Truckee, a very demanding process in terms of quality and community benefit.

The Union: That would not include the Martis Valley project, would it?

Owens: No. Martis Valley is in Placer County, actually. I have some concerns about that, as well as the unincorporated areas in Nevada County. I was very vocal about that during the process; that was my year as mayor. I was the one that stood before the board and said, “Do not rely on my town to solve your housing needs, your employee housing impacts and to solve all your traffic mitigations.”

The interesting thing with the Martis Valley Community Plan is traffic mitigations. To support that level of development, there are 13 mitigations, movements, traffic improvements, and eight of those 13 are in my town. And that doesn’t just mean we’re going to throw up traffic lights because that solves your problem. My community has a right to aesthetic and quality solutions to those problems if the impacts are derived in Placer County.

Which leads me to regional collaboration. I’ve solved a few things – I tackled an air quality issue up there by working with Rex Bloomfield, the Fifth District supervisor in Placer County.

The irony is, because of the county line, we have an air basin known as the Truckee air basin. And, of course, you’re trying to meet state and federal air quality standards. It looks like this. [Draws on whiteboard.] This is up Highway 89 to Lake Tahoe. This would be Northstar – this is Martis Valley, this is Truckee. [Draws a line down the middle.] This is Placer County and this is Nevada County. That’s the Truckee air basin.

We had a different air-quality standards ordnance in Placer County than we had in Truckee. It’s a good thing that the air comes right up to the boundary and stops. [Laughs.]

The Union: An example would be the wood-stove problem?

Owens: Exactly. What Rex and I agreed to do was where Truckee standards and our adopted air quality management plan in 1999 is stronger than yours, you’ll meet those standards. And where yours are stronger than ours, we’ll meet those. And we’ll increase our rebate program to make it more affordable for people to change out their wood stoves.

I was na-ve; I thought it would take six months to do this. How hard can this be? It took two years. But it got done because I reached out to another elected official, in another jurisdiction, and said, “Hey, we have something here that could benefit both of us.”

The Union: How much were those wood stoves contributing to air quality problems?

Owens: Going off memory, probably about 15 percent. Caltrans, which runs right through all of that, and their road-sanding practices are about 80 percent of our problem. Coming down the Donner Summit, very often it looks like Pigpen from the Peanuts strip must be living in Truckee, because it’s a big dust cloud. They put the sand down when they need it, but that sand gets ground into a very fine, unrestrained road dust that ends up in the air.

But I felt that in terms of strategy on how to deal with this problem, which I view as a health issue, we’ve got to do what we can do in our own house before we start kicking somebody in the shin about what they’re doing, i.e. Caltrans. So we’ve addressed everything we can to try to control and maintain air quality standards in Truckee. The only thing left to tackle – which I would like to tackle at the county level – is assisting the town of Truckee and any other town where Caltrans cuts through the community, and working very hard to create perhaps some different or new or healthy road-sanding practices and cleanup.

It’s a water quality issue, too. Because there’s feet of sand on the sides of the road. When I was a kid coming up here with my folks, we drove a 1966 Pontiac station wagon, two-wheel-drive with snow tires, and we did just fine. Now we have a lot of folks driving SUVs from the Bay Area. Of course, those SUVs with four-wheel-drive they stop much better, don’t they? And you can go faster. So the problem is more about education.

The other aspect of it is that we have an incredible amount of truck traffic through Truckee. In the past 10 years, long-haulers and semis have increased tremendously, and they require some treatment, too. So I don’t know what the answer is, but I certainly intend to pursue it. I think regional collaboration, and regional relationships with other elected officials, is very important.

And that leads into why I’m running. I have a very unique opportunity to serve District 5. First off, I’ll talk about Truckee, because Truckee is 83 percent of the fifth district in terms of voter population. Because I’ve had the experience both as a planning commissioner and as a town council member, and I have a very good relationship with that government there, that I’m going to be very instrumental in bringing Truckee back into the fold of Nevada County.

There’s guilt on both sides. We’re so far away. Just for laughs, I start a lot of my speeches down here with, “How many of you know where Truckee is?” But I can do the same thing up there. Because we’ve been very myopic, only looking at our issues and not broadening our scope of awareness. We need to do that.

We’ve settled a lot of our differences for the past 10 years with lawyers, and that’s pretty expensive. Both parties are guilty of that because we didn’t have the relationship and kind of seceded from the union if you will – a lot of bitterness. But that’s gone away.

The Union: How do you think your tenure as supervisor differ from the current District 5 supervisor, Barbara Green?

Owens: We’re just two different people, and we have had some different interests. that’s true of all human beings. I’m very interested in bringing Truckee back into the fold and becoming a part of Nevada County, and I also have a vision for Nevada County. Barbara Green’s interests cause her to pay attention to certain issues and to pursue those endeavors, and that’s perfectly fair. I tend to look a little bit more globally, and how can we all be effective together to accomplish common goals and common goods. So I think that would be the main difference – just who we are as people.

The Union: Why are you the only person in District 5 willing to step up and run for this office? Have you intimidated everybody else?

Owens: It’s been good for my health, I can tell you. But I would say that, objectively, it’s always good to have candidates run against each other. Does it undermine democracy [to be unopposed]? No, I don’t think so. It happens occasionally. It’s healthier to have a good selection of candidates for people to choose from. In our last council race, we had nine candidates. It was a circus, but . . .

The Union: But does this reflect on what you just said about the history between the east and west ends of the county; that there are few people that interested in representing Truckee’s interests on the board?

Owens: You may be on to something there. Because we’d better become concerned with county issues, because there’s a great deal of unincorporated land that surrounds the town of Truckee. And just because we are tough on developers and tighten the screws on them and what have you – very demanding – that can often spill over into the unincorporated areas. Look at Davis. They were very tough on all those big-box developments, and Costcos But as soon as you cross the city limits, there they all are. It is not seamless, and it’s a mess. I do not wish that for the eastern county.

The Union: Are there other developments that may look for annexation to Truckee?

Owens: I’d be predicting the future, but I would say it’s in the future. Sooner or later, we will see that type of development pressure that would lead to annexations. We certainly are planning for it in our General Plan update process right now.

The Union: You would look at that probably as a positive or negative – because at least it allow the town to have more control over those projects.

Owens: Precisely. That lends itself to the positive side for me. You have to recognize that these things will happen, and you’ve got to be in a position to exercise some level of control. The public deserves to have some say. If we’re not engaged in Nevada County as a governmental agency and body, then you could lose that game before it even begins.

So it’s very important, it’s timely – we’ve had 10 years of being myopic and living in our own backyard. But it’s now time to start thinking a little bit more globally. And we’re seeing that. The issue that I drew up there for you with Placer County on air quality is a great example. The Martis Valley Community Plan, which is in Placer County, is a great example. The only way you’re going to affect your region is by participating in that region. And I learned a lot by going through this exercise with Placer County.

The Union: You have been dealing up there with a lot of issues that are on the table here right now, such as affordable housing.

Owens: We have been tackling the affordable housing issue in the town of Truckee. We’ve done a good job, and in fact we met our state-mandated targets in the first round. The new targets, however, are going to be more challenging.

I am pleased with our dialogue and some of my efforts as mayor in speaking to Placer County in the Martis Valley Community Plan process. Their draft housing element that they’re working on in a separate process is very challenging, even to Truckee – in a good way. They appear to be raising the bar on the requirements of developers with respect to affordable housing and employee-impact housing. That’s good to see. We need to do our best to perhaps step up and match that.

Sometimes when you have development pressure, it opens opportunity to solve problems. For example, last night we approved the largest development project in the history of the town of Truckee, Gray’s Crossing. One of the community benefits of that project is affordable housing. And we obtained more than we ever dreamed from that developer.

That project has deed-restricted units for sale, restricted to locals. They’ve set up buyer financing programs. There are rental units, there is employee housing, there are town-home-style projects, much of it restricted. In the affordable category, we achieved 225 units – on one project – being subsidized by the higher end single-family lots that they’re going to sell.

So we’ve been able to accomplish some of our goals through those means. The other means are block grants, tax incentives, and that would require partnering with the private sector – developers that build those types of structures. For benefit, obviously. And so we’ve gotten those on the ground, all workforce-restricted in terms of income, things of that nature.

When I moved to Truckee, affordable housing was a shack on Donner Lake for $500 a month and I hope you’re not too susceptible to cold – because that was the name of the game. There’s a lot more opportunity than there used to be, but we still have an acute problem.

This is a statewide problem, not necessarily a Truckee or Nevada County problem. For some reason, people don’t like to talk about the real fact of the matter, which is that a lot of people are moving to California every year and we can’t keep up with the housing demand. Not even by half.

Part of that has to do with a Legislature that, in my view, makes it virtually impossible to put affordable housing on the ground. We continually have roadblocks – workers’ compensation, general liability. Increasing the warranty for a home builder to 10 years seemed like a good consumerism effort, but it just threw the insurance industry into a tailspin. Now insurance is so hugely expensive that affordable housing is a dream.

We’re a litigious society. In the 1970s, I believe something like 30 percent of the housing that was built in California was in the form of condominiums or town homes. Now it’s less than 2 percent. It’s less than 2 percent because if you build a 100-unit deal, there’s 100 potential lawsuits. You build a single-family house, there’s a potential for one.

So we have some very serious problems that the Legislature doesn’t want to address. What they do to address affordable housing really is simply unfunded mandates, and say to Nevada County, “You need to meet these targets and these goals. Meanwhile, we’re going to put some more roadblocks up for the industry, make it more impossible to put this type of things on the ground.”

So we have dealt with that as best we can. We’ve been in the fortunate position to have people that wish to develop in our community, and we are able to put that particular screw to them.

The Union: How do you assuage the fears of people in your district that you’re a contractor and . . .

Owens: . . . and that’s OK? You know, that’s a personal opinion that people have. I don’t believe contractors are bad people. I am not a developer. First off, you have to understand there’s a difference between a developer and a builder. I build homes for people, that’s what I do. I don’t build resorts and I don’t build golf courses and strip malls. I don’t build any of that. Most builders don’t.

And in terms of community service, it has been very expensive for me to serve my community, because I can’t take advantage of the development pressure in the community. I can’t strike the kinds of relationships where I might be able to build for them. I’ve taken myself out of that picture to serve my community. And how is that bad? That’s an incredible sacrifice.

The Union: Truckee is one of the fastest-growing towns in the states over the 10 years or so. East West Partners, developers of Gray’s Crossing, have done a lot of development in the commercialized resort towns of Colorado. Is Truckee destined to be like a Colorado resort town?

Owens: Let me address the first part of your question, about East West Partners. If you are a town or a county and you’ve got to deal with a developer, they are at the top of the pile. They do what they say they will do. That’s my experience. They employ green building practices – recycling materials. They were just awarded an award by the state of California for their efforts in terms of recycling – 10 awards given out for 2,100 applicants, I believe.

They have been straightforward in the community, they have reached out in the community, they have moved into the community, they have employees that will always live in the community, and they are going to stay with those projects. That’s different. There are a lot of developers out there that will come in, develop something, sell off the dirt and they’re gone. They leave the homeowners’ association or whomever stuck with or saddled with what happens next. Those don’t turn out so well.

One of my former colleagues on the council, Maia Schneider, actually went back to Colorado, spent a lot of time talking to elected officials, talking to residents, talking to people in the chambers of commerce, because East West already had done their thing there. And Maia’s experience was that there was not a negative word said about East West. They are the real deal, they will do what they say they will do. And in our case, the community benefit element of the project that we approved last evening totals over $30 million.

The Union: How many homes or units?

Owens: There will be close to 700 – 225 of those will be in the affordable category. About 400 and some which will be single-family.

But to answer the question, I wrote an editorial piece called the “Aspenization of Truckee” five or six years ago because it was my concern. I don’t know if I thought I would be prophetic with it – . I thought that was 15 years down the road, and it happened much faster than that.

Yes, I’m concerned about becoming like Colorado. East West responds to the market knowledge that they have. The kinds of folks that tend to visit the fifth district – the Truckee-Tahoe area – are a lot different than they used to be. When I was a kid, my dad was an outdoor enthusiast. Still is. We hunted, we fished, backpacked and we skied. And that’s what you did.

Now stop to consider that in the mid-’80s, mountain bikes were a new concept. Snowboards hadn’t even come out yet. You start thinking about all the different activities that are now available that didn’t exist 15 or 18 years ago. There’s a lot more for people to do, and it brings a completely different breed of cat up to the mountains now than traditionally.

The Union: We’ve spent a lot of time talking about Truckee, but we want to have time to hear about your vision for the county as a whole.

Owens: And I’m glad you brought that up. Truckee just happens to be 83 percent of the district. One of the greatest experiences I’ve had in the past six or eight months is meeting the folks down in Washington. Before I came here today, I had coffee with Norm and Evelyn up on the Ridge because they called me. And I’ve really enjoyed meeting the folks down here. And I fully intend to continue to do that.

I was very dismayed when the potluck was canceled in Washington, because I make a pretty mean spaghetti sauce, and feel I can compete. But I will go out of my way to spend time on this side of the hill – and I don’t mean just breezing through town. In Washington, I’d like to show up and stay the night in the hotel, have fun and talk about the issues. The issues are similar but the issues are different. Similar in terms of what the topic might be; a little bit different because it’s focused here. But very similar to some of the things we have dealt with in Truckee.

The Union: One of the issues on this side would be the Yuba River, including possible federal Wild and Scenic protection.

Owens: We have a wonderful organization up in our neck of the woods called the Truckee River Watershed Council that I support strongly. And the reason I support it is because it’s a group of local people that have organized to work out issues having to do with our watershed. I always believe that local control is far superior to control from elsewhere, Washington, D.C. Let’s face it – you don’t run into those folks at the Safeway. I believe that supervisors and city council members are accessible people. And I think it’s much more important to maintain that level of control at the local level.

The Union: Any thoughts on forest practices in the Tahoe National Forest?

Owens: The San Bernardino fires are a good example of what we’re saddled with in California. This is something I discussed this morning with some folks up off Highway 20 because they’re very concerned about the fire danger in the area in which they live. In California, I’ve read that our forests grow at a rate of about 8 billion board feet per year, and our logging is limited to 164 million board feet per year. So if you had a lawn, and that were crabgrass, you’re losing that battle.

This is a concern that I have. Because our fire suppression methodology for the past 100 years has created that which we have today. Yet logging practices of the past were certainly no great shakes. We’ve learned a lot as we’ve moved through the past 100 years. Most people don’t realize that that whole Truckee-Tahoe area is all second and third growth. The entire Tahoe Basin was completely denuded by 1893. Not a tree standing. Bad, that’s bad.

But if we’re going to manage our forests properly, we need from a governmental perspective to look to the logging industry as a partner in how to accomplish that goal. They’re not evil. What is evil is a catastrophic fire that occurs, because that will take 100 or 125 years for nature to be able to put that back together. They will burn so hot they do damage to the soil. It’s incredible what can happen.

We’re going to see more of that, and we need to learn how to manage our forests and look to the timber industry as a partner – do it effectively, do it with care. One of the things that concerns me about California in general in terms of environmentalism is that we feel very good about wearing an environmental badge for the efforts we employ in our own backyard, but we like to put our head in the sand because we haven’t curbed our consumerism – because we’re still obtaining the same resources, just from somebody else.

Look at where we’re getting a lot of our aggregate right now for making sand, to make concrete, to build the footings for the Bay Bridge – Baja California and British Columbia. Because we’ve closed down so many traditional ag mines in California.

There’s a balance that has to occur. You can’t say you’re for the environment and put your head in the sand because you’re still taking from somebody else’s backyard – that’s wrong. You’ve got to be able to balance it.

Californians are among the highest consumers of durable goods in the nation, in the world – I think it takes 25 acres of land to sustain an average human being in California. There are many parts of the world that live off an acre, acre and a half. That means producing clothes, steel, shelter, food, everything else.

Tom Knudsen, who is a writer for the Bee, has done some wonderful stories in the past year, and I agree with him. If we’re going to make some efforts that make a difference in terms of environmentalism, we have to address our consumption, and not defer it to somebody else’s backyard. Kind of an interesting notion.

The Union: You were talking about your vision for the county, and we got sidetracked.

Owens: Let’s go there, because one of the things that will help Nevada County tremendously – and I may be na-ve in this – is regional solutions to common problems. As a county, we have three wonderful elements in Grass Valley, Nevada City and the town of Truckee. We’ve got two wonderful historic Gold Rush towns with well-preserved downtowns. We’ve got Truckee, which is a railroad town, a lot of history there.

We have some wonderful people that serve on those councils, regardless of where they come from. I respect everybody because they have the guts to serve – I don’t care where they come from, what their views are. And we have the Board of Supervisors of Nevada County. I would like to see, and would like to work toward, a much closer relationship with all of those bodies.

One of the things that I’ve been doing a little research on – I haven’t got it put together yet in my mind, but I’m fascinated with the concept – is a Tri-Cities Commission that works with the Board of Supervisors on common good for Nevada County, at the direction of and at the pleasure of the board. We have our breakfast meetings and we keep in touch, and that’s good and well and dandy. But I believe we can organize other elected officials representing these three towns and work on how can we solve some of our county-wide problems instead of trying maintain this independence, where we’re going off in four different directions.

I’d like to have some support for that, and I’d like to see that become a reality. We can do a lot for our county, bring a lot of good to our county – economically, business-wise – if we have a collective goal and effort, and not saddle the Chamber of Commerce folks with trying to pick that ball and go with it.

The Union: Still, your district is different in many ways from the others in the county, such as a Hispanic population of about 17 percent.

Owens: And it is growing. But where it’s going to grow, that’s a question we’ve been struggling with on the affordable housing issue. We have had limited success in engaging the Hispanic community in what’s going on in Truckee. We do publish our newsletters in Spanish and in English; we have had some of the folks attend our General Plan update meetings or workshops occasionally. But we haven’t broken the barrier down; we haven’t been able to be successful at that, and that’s a difficult thing. It may be more to do with where they come from, and how they grew up, and what their perception of government is.

The Union: Is there somebody on the police department as a liaison, who speaks Spanish?

Owens: Yes. And we just hired a new officer last evening who is bilingual as well. Our assistant town manager is bilingual.

But we have some folks that are from the Hispanic community that are very active in the community. And I think that’s a wonderful thing. I’ll learn more about it. My Rotary project that I’ve been working on for two years is down in Mexico. I’m going to take about 15 or 20 Rotary folks down in May, and we’re doing the rehab on a school for handicapped kids. They don’t have ramps; they don’t have all the things you would expect to see.

The Union: We’ve had a big methamphetamine problem in west county. Do you have crime issues in Truckee?

Owens: I would have answered differently before the Truckee P.D. went into effect. We do have some of those issues. We’ve had some successes with the police department in that regard. Truckee, being a way stop between Reno and Sacramento, with I-80 as a drug-trafficking artery, is a concern. We have some gang issues. They’re kind of in the wanna-be category, but that is a concern and not popular in our area. We see a little bit more tagging than we used to have.

The Union: We’re getting near the end of our session. Do you have any issues we haven’t covered that you feel are important for readers to know about?

Owens: I do. I was very pleased that that there has been the sense from all of the candidates that working together was going to be the solution for Nevada County. I wholeheartedly agree with that. Collaborative thinking, consensus-building, is a much superior model for success than drawing a line in the sand.

I pride myself on always trying to be fair, listening to all sides and trying to find the solution. I remember we had an issue once, with the contractors’ association. They were very upset with me because we got about 95 percent of what they wanted, and they thought I failed miserably. That’s not realistic in life.

So the key for Nevada County is a board that will work together, establish a professional code of conduct, always be respectful of each other – hard on the issues, soft on the people – and not making it personal. There has been a lot of that down here, and I don’t have any desire to engage in that, and I’m not going to.


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