Stay Golden: After political tensions a year ago, Gold Hill is pushing forward with public projects
A year ago, residents in the small town of Gold Hill tried to recall two-thirds of city council. The political dust-up was the result from a vote by council to allow a medical marijuana dispensary to open its doors downtown, and simultaneously rolling back a year-long moratorium on medical marijuana businesses. In spite of the pleasant, small-town feel in Gold Hill, apparently seismic political rifts rest underground, as the town has experienced nearly a dozen recall efforts since the 1980s.
Ultimately, in the latest recall effort, council members Margaret Dials, Lorraine Parks, Doug Reischman and Gus Wolf escaped recall with roughly 60 percent of voters supporting them to stay in office—and since last year’s recall effort, city politics seem to be back on track as the city council is pushing an impressive number of public projects.
We recently caught up with councilwoman Dials, a person that deeply cares for her community. She is a long time resident and retired school teacher in Gold Hill. She is currently sitting for her second term. For ten years before that, she served on the Planning Commission. She sat down with RVM for a chat about the joys and pitfalls of keeping a rural community functioning and healthy.
RVM: What first got you in to local politics?
MD: It was from being on the Planning Commission. So much of what happens in a city depends on how you decide what the laws and zoning will be. It’s not so much political as it was legal. I liked the clearness of what you need to do. It was all very friendly.
RVM: What are some of the challenges the City Council faces, being a rural community?
MD: The major problem we have in rural communities is that a little town of slightly over a thousand people have to provide all their city services with a small tax base; the water treatment plant, the sewage treatment plant, City Administration to write grants, keep the streets clean, and make sure that health and safety is good. Kind of boring stuff in a way but people expect to be able to go out and drive on maintained streets and have proper police protection. In a way it’s more expensive for a small community to keep these things running. What’s really hard for us right now is our infrastructure- which is our treatment plants, are due to be renovated or replaced because they only last about thirty years. All small cities are in the same boat. So you’ve got to come up with funding and dealing with agencies and it costs. Rates go up and people don’t like it. I totally get it but you have to pay your way.
RVM: In all of this time on the City Council, what is the project you’re most proud of?
MD: Developing the Sports Park. I’m on the Community Development and Organization Board also, and they work together. The city owns a big sports park right along the river. It’s beautiful. We have white water events that take place out there and that’s where our dog park will be, and we’ve got tennis courts and all kinds of neat stuff out there. One of my favorite things that I worked on was very unglamorous but really important and that was getting a public bathroom for the park. Everybody needs it. One of the things with a small town is you realize that really basic needs are important and you take them for granted in big cities. Being such a little town, it took us a long time to get a public bathroom. I think I worked for about seven years on grant writing and helping the Community Development Organization coordinate with the city. It was a real group effort and finally we have a public bathroom. It’s wonderful!
RVM: What is the project that’s coming down the pipe that you and the City Council are most excited about?
MD: We have a couple of projects that are park related. One is the dog park, the Bark Park, which I’m hoping comes together nicely this year, and the other is a little kid’s park at our library. There is a park down there right now but it’s really old and the play structures are kind of worn out, so we’re looking at putting in a small playground. So when kids go down to story time at the library they can go play outside. We thought there should be something downtown. Our downtown is kind of tired right now. It doesn’t have as many businesses as it usually does. I’m thinking if more people bring their kids to downtown, it will become more vibrant. The more you use it, the better it gets.
RVM: What is your favorite holiday movie?
MD: I would pick old classic movies. I don’t like the newer Christmas movies, they’re not as classy. I like White Christmas really well because there’s singing and dancing and all kinds of silly stuff, in addition to the Christmas theme and great Santa Suits. And I like It’s A Wonderful Life.
RVM: If you could eat only one thing for the rest of your life, what would it be?
MD: Oh my gosh. I eat absolutely everything…. Maybe oysters. I love oysters. Or maybe fresh crab. I’m originally from San Francisco, so I love sea food.