Protecting children — A decrease of almost 200 reported cases in child abuse year over year is something to be proud of for all of Tuolumne County citizens. Child Welfare Services deserves much of the credit but as with most pressing community problems no one acts alone. The program manager for the agency was careful to say partnerships with Infant Child Enrichment Services, the District Attorney’s Office and law enforcement are vital in fighting for children whose lives are not happy, not healthy. It all begins in the home, of course, but early intervention helps children and their parents or caregivers to change. We must remember, however, that while the decrease in referrals is a good sign, in 2016, some 700 families remained in crisis.
Saturday fun — Just as downtown Sonora seems to be in the throes of revitalization so too is Second Saturday finding its stride. A group of arts patrons started the event almost seven years ago when a few businesses stayed open late to bring some vibrancy to downtown. The Sonora Chamber of Commerce took it over three years ago. Now more than a dozen businesses take part, hundreds of people attend and the chamber has added quarterly events after the main art walk ends at 8 p.m. In addition, a monthly indie-film series every second Thursday is being held at the Sonora Opera Hall. This weekend marks a new achievement. Two businesses are staging grand openings and another a grand reopening in a renovated space. A tap room and holistic center will open and a salon reopened. A healthy downtown equals a healthy city.
Fairgrounds — There are strong signs that the cloud that's hung over the Mother Lode Fairgrounds is lifting. A part-time manager has been hired, new committees formed to solve problems and last weekend a group of volunteers turned out to clean up the place. Volunteers will be the essential element for any resurgence of this ailing facility. The money is just not there to hire all the staff needed to run a first class operation. It will be interesting to see whether the new CEO – who does not live in the area – will be able to engender the enthusiasm the fairgrounds so desperately needs.
Tennis, anyone — Sonora High School has been the recipient of so much criticism of late, it almost seems like piling on to bring up yet another subject. The school's financial problems are at the root of the ill will many feel. Adding to the layoffs and other cuts made by the school board is criticism about the way the Measure J funds have been spent. Now comes a new wrinkle. No money is available to build tennis courts to replace those removed to build the pool or as school officials prefer to call it, the aquatic center. The tennis team uses Columbia College, which while it's an extremely nice facility, is not exactly convenient for parents and players. Or students who want to support the team. And as a letter writer pointed out, many Sonora residents used to use the courts as well. Is there a community leader or company willing to take the lead to get new courts built?
Development — The reaction is swift whenever any development proposal is made these days. Dollar General in Columbia, apartments in East Sonora, shopping center in Columbia, now a food court on Highway 49 just outside Sonora. Each one, the opponents say, would change the very fabric of life in the community. It would add to their headaches and troubles. There would be too much light and no benefit to them. Protest is at the essence of American civilization, to be sure, but at what point do we realize that many of the problems facing Tuolumne County stem from lack of development? Of course, developers must pay their fair share and comply with all laws. The food court proposed by Andy Singh and Navneet Bhatia, who own the ARCO ampm, next door is an example of too much protest and not enough thought. The property where the food court would go is occupied by a building that used to be a car dealership. It can only be described as an eyesore. It was built in 1956 and has been vacant for a long time. It's 4,270 square feet. The couple want to build a 3,750-square-foot building for three food-service businesses. “I’m trying to open something that would generate revenue for the town,” Singh told Alex MacLean this week. The Sonora Planning Commission meeting on Monday should let him do it.