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Caltrans should adopt J59 into state highway system

You’ve heard of Alaska’s Bridge to Nowhere? Well, California has a highway to nowhere. 


It’s State Route 59, which begins amid the orchards and alfalfa fields west of Chowchilla, heads north to Merced, then jogs east to Snelling, where it abruptly and unceremoniously, after 34 miles, ends. 


State Senate election a sneaky one this year

     The holidays are over and suddenly it’s … election season.
    At least it is in Calaveras County, where voters will go to the polls tomorrow to help pick a new state senator. Republican Ted Gaines, a Roseville Republican, is squaring off against Democrat Ken Cooley, a Rancho Cordova city councilman and former mayor, for the District 1 seat.
    The post opened up with the death of incumbent Dave Cox in July.
    The First District ranges from the Oregon border through all or parts of 12 Northern California counties to its southern terminus at the Mono-Inyo county line. It includes more than 482,000 registered voters, but it is a safe bet that a good percentage of them have no idea that an election is on the menu Tuesday.
   

Mixed blessings for Mother Lode’s holiday season

    In an era of limits brought by our long-running recession, there is one thing that, at least to date, seems limitless.
 Rain and snow.
 They’ve been falling in near-record amounts on the Mother Lode and Sierra since before Thanksgiving, and threaten to break the back of a drought which had gripped California for the past three years.
 Although thousands of Arnold- and Twain Harte-area residents left without power by November’s storms may disagree, the epic precipitation is a good thing. The Sierra snowpack is already at nearly 60 percent of its seasonal average, and January, February and March still lie ahead.
 Come summer, however, all of us will appreciate the benefits of the year’s storms: Reservoir storage will be up, more water will be available for irrigation, the spectre of rationing will evaporate and forest fire danger will drop.
 So look back on the soggy Christmas of 2010 as a blessing. And wish for more rain and snow — with far fewer power outages — for the new year.
    A few more blessings, mixed and otherwise, for the holiday season:


Editors from our past share Christmas sentiments

    From one December to the next, it runs through our history like a luminous thread joining us in the best and worst of circumstances.
    Even in the grip of the Great Depression or amid  World War II, when scores of Tuolumne and Calaveras county youths risked their lives in Europe or the Pacific, Christmas brought a sense of cheer and connection to the Mother Lode.
    Through boom and bust and war and peace, the season has brought wonder to our children and, at least for a while, charity and goodwill to their parents.
    Although reducing the Christmas spirit to words is a daunting, perhaps impossible task, The Union Democrat’s editors and writers have again and again taken up the challenge. And collectively their efforts help define the special connection between this magical, revered holiday and the place we call home.
    So, on Christmas Eve, a look at a few of our own Christmases Past:
 

Homeowners dues bring foreclosures, controversy

    ‘Tis the season to be...
    Well, for a few folks in Crystal Falls, Pine Mountain Lake and likely a few more Mother Lode subdivisions, “jolly” would not be the word.
    Angry and outraged might fit better. So might indignant and disbelieving. “It’s ridiculous” is the way Nadell Everhart put it.
    Her problem? Because she’s $264 in arrears on her Crystal Falls Homeowners Association dues, Everhart is now facing foreclosure and a raft of collection and legal fees that have ballooned her once-modest debt to $1,300.
    Merry Christmas.
   

Powerful storm leaves us with a few thankful moments

    It was a Thanksgiving week to remember.
 Unfortunately, we will remember it for the wrong things — like snowfall, downed trees, freezing temperatures, blocked roads, cars in ditches, power outages, no water, no heat and, for many, not much of a holiday.
    A few of us, certainly, were frozen- or blacked-out of long-planned gatherings of family and friends and had to hastily make other plans.
   

Casting ballots early will speed counting process

    Here are a couple of questions that may have crossed voters’ minds during the two weeks between the election and Nov. 16, when Tuolumne County’s last ballots were counted and its tightest races were finally decided.
    • How come it takes our elections office one night to count more than 20,000 votes and nearly two weeks to tally another 3,800 ballots that were either dropped off at polling places on election day or raised some eligibility questions and were classified “provisional”?
    • Is there any way to speed the process, thus sparing candidates, the backers of bond measures and the interested public long days of suspense and anxiety?
  


Salute to firefighters, weather, luck

    With a key assist from cooler and wetter than average late spring and summer weather, Tuolumne and Calaveras county residents and firefighters did a good job keeping losses to a minimum during the 2010 fire season. 
    Now the challenge, through preparation and vigilance, is to keep the numbers low in the years to come.
    Cal Fire’s Tuolumne-Calaveras Ranger Unit reported that only 582 acres burned during the 2010 fire season, which stretched from late May until Nov. 1.
   

Bravos to our veterans, voters, schools and Giants

    It’s time for the post-election edition of Bravos & Barbs, The Union Democrat’s occasional compendium of the good, the bad and, sometimes, the ugly in the Mother Lode.
    As usual, far more of our residents deserve bravos than we have the time or space to list. You heroes and Samaritans know who you are, as do your friends, neighbors — which probably means a lot more than recognition in this space.
    Our barbs found a few targets among the unworthy, but others — they know who they are, and so do what friends they have left — escaped their notice. But their time will come.
   

Reasons for optimism in Washington, Sacramento

    What if they threw a revolution and nobody came?
 Well, voters threw one across the nation, and California didn’t come.
 While anti-incumbent, anti-Democratic fever raged to the east, Golden State voters returned sitting politicians to office by the score — and most were Democrats.
 

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