Nevada City resident Olivia Pritchett brought her son Ziggy, 4, to her polling place when she voted – one of many parents who used Tuesday as an opportunity to demonstrate civic duty. Ziggy wore a short with an American eagle emblem and waved a small American flag.
"We're just so fortunate to live in a country where people can do this," Pritchett said after voting in a process she said went smoothly and easily. "What's sad to me is that people can't just agree to disagree. (Political discourse in the nation) is just so full of vitriol, sometimes. I know people have beliefs, but it's sad people can't recognize that some beliefs are different.
"The main goal is to have a better place for our children," Pritchett added.
Terry Aleo hurried to her polling station in Cedar Ridge just before closing time – excited about voting, but not satisfied with her choices, she said.
"There are some problems with Obama that I don't agree with," said Aleo, who added she usually votes Democratic. "I would vote for a middle-ground candidate, but I feel there's no chance for the middle."
Despite political polarization, "I feel there's hope," she added. "You have no grounds to complain if you don't go out and do something."
Grass Valley-area resident Ted Gilbert expressed concern about the nation's future if polarization continues.
"Instead of arguing about our differences, let's find out what we have in common," said Gilbert, who described himself as a conservative. "It starts at the local level. Washington is out of control."
Social issues should take a back seat to economic problems, he added.
The voting habit
Voters in many precincts turned out in large numbers Tuesday, including at a polling station at the Nevada County Superintendent of Schools Office in Nevada City.
"It establishes a pattern, we hope," volunteer precinct inspector Sandy Gold said.
Many voters went early to the polls. "People were afraid there were going to be long lines," said a poll worker at the Ophir Hill Fire Station in Cedar Ridge.
Issues in Grass Valley
Jim Firth lost his bid for a seat on the Grass Valley City Council, but he had these comments on issues that he heard from residents during his campaign:
"A lot of folks in Grass Valley are upset about their water and sewer rates," Firth said during a Democratic gathering at Margarita's restaurant in the Glenbrook Basin. He referred to the city's hiring of Arizona-based Global Water to handle water billing. "People think it was hypocritical for the city to talk about local jobs and hire a water department from out of state."
More attention needs to be given to areas outside of the historic downtown, Firth added.
People he talked to "want their neighborhood concerns to be acted upon. Downtown gets a lot of attention, and they feel like their neighborhoods aren't being given a fair share."
Glenbrook Basin generates about 70 percent of the city's sales tax revenue, while downtown generates about 10 percent to 15 percent, Firth said.
Grass Valley's Measure N
With two members of Grass Valley City Council deeply opposed to new or higher taxes, the placing of Measure N on the ballot took an enormous amount of work, including "serious discussions behind closed doors," said Mayor Janet Arbuckle, who celebrated her re-election and the sales tax measure's passage with friends and supporters at Kane's Restaurant downtown.
She praised her council colleagues for their ability to work through their concerns about the measure and put it on the ballot because it was "the best thing for the city," Arbuckle added.
"It's not about a person's agenda," Arbuckle said. "It's about doing the right thing for Grass Valley, and I'm really happy to be part of that."
The measure includes a citizen oversight committee, yearly audits, expiration after 10 years, and the possibility of sunsetting if an economic rebound brings in higher revenue.
Vice Mayor Dan Miller – one of the council members who had the most difficulty supporting the measure to raise sales taxes by a half-cent on the dollar – is likely to become mayor next year, Arbuckle added.
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