Looking Behind the Scenes

Are Auburn's next municipal elections really needed?

By: Jim Ruffalo
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Siphoning from the notebook while being amazed that we’re dancing in the streets over $3.95-a-gallon gasoline ... Also worth intrinsic consideration are the upcoming municipal elections for the City of Auburn. The question of the day is if there are as many city council candidates as there are open seats, will the city be forced to undertake an election? If the answer is in the negative, the city saves a good chunk of change, with estimates there running as high as $13,000. In 1998, just three candidates came forward to run for the that many available seats. The city — wisely, in my humble opinion — opted to appoint those three rather than incur the expense of a meaningless election. But even with that savings, councilman Mike Holmes would rather spend the dough. He figures it will be money well spent. “I’d very much like to see at least three candidates run for the council,” he told the Meddlers, then hastened to add he supports the two announced candidates — incumbent Keith Nesbitt, and newcomer Dr. Bill Kirby. Holmes feels it’s beneficial to the city as a whole to have some real political dialog during the campaign cycle. He has several times pointed to the information gleaned from debates, and the fact that the electorate gets to better know its future representatives if they are tempered by the heat of a real campaign. And, so far, there is also no competition for incumbent treasurer George Williams and city clerk Joe Labrie. But even with competition, Landslide Joe — as my good friend Joe Carroll always calls him — seems to survive. Remember last time around, Labrie easily cruised to a second term, even though not a single member of the city council endorsed him. By the way, the betting is that Holmes will get his wish. Because an incumbent (Bob Snyder) opted not to run again. The filing period for city council was extended by five days, meaning there’s still time for a current planning commissioner or, say, a Mark Smith, to toss a hat into the ring ... Kudos: Congratulations, belated but nevertheless heartfelt, go out to Garen Horst. Placer County’s senior deputy district attorney was honored last month when the state’s district attorneys’ association picked him as its Prosecutor of the Year for rural and medium-sized counties. The whereas-es in the award’s announcement rightfully pointed out that Horst was being singled out for his work in handling the Mario F. Garcia case. That dreadful person was convicted of killing Christie Wilson, who was last seen leaving Thunder Valley Casino with Garcia. Her body has yet to be discovered. Despite the lack of a victim’s body, Horst successfully wove his way through 89 witnesses and 800 marked exhibits, and reviewed more than 10,000 pages of documents, records and statements. Why he’s yet to be elevated to a judgeship is another mystery. By the way, Horst is the second member of D.A. Brad Fenocchio’s stellar staff to cop that award. Tom Beattie did likewise in 2004 ... Busy work: Local real estate whiz Rick Bluhm points out that the state legislature must figure county counsels don’t have enough to do. According to Bluhm, AB 2204 has already been passed by the Assembly, and is in a Senate committee now. It calls for county counsels to have to review each and every escrow to make sure that there are no restrictive clauses aimed at minorities of any kind. Bluhm says such a law would add close to $1,000 in costs to every escrow. “I guess the legislature doesn’t realize all such restrictive articles and clauses were invalidated by law years and years ago in California,” he said. And some of you thought the Legislature was useless ... Answer man: A few weeks ago, I had a throwaway intro rhetorically asking about the sizes of both the Nevada City Police Department and the Lake of the Pines Public Safety contingent. Little did I know that a couple of our gentle readers actually desired an answer. After thorough checking, it turns out that it’s practically a tie. According to a spokeswoman for Nevada City Chief of Police Louis Trovato, that force has the chief, a lieutenant (the venerable Loren Gage) and eight full-time patrol officers. And according to LOP General Manager Kathryn Henricksen, the walled city has a chief and nine full-time officers. Even if you graduated from a public high school within the past decade, it still adds up to 10 a side. Now from my way of thinking, that’s too few for Nevada City, and way too many for LOPland, especially when the latter also employs seven part-time officers... Third District Supervisor Jim Holmes is forever imparting words of wisdom upon the Meddlers, but for some reason or another, none of those has seemingly caught the collective attention of his audience as did a brief item he blurted out prior to his most recent weekly remarks. Thanks to supervisor Holmes, we now know that the former Saving Sam’s site in Auburn will become a Burger King. Jim Ruffalo’s column runs Sundays in the Journal. He can be reached at, or post a comment at