A man with plans

Rolland Berger was always looking for ways to make the community better

Rolland “Rolly” Berger had plans. He was forever trying to figure out ways to make the community better, and he was a trained planner (and a retired professor of planning and development at Chico State), so plans came naturally.

I liked him a lot, so I was saddened to learn he’d died, hit by a car on the night of Feb. 18 as he was walking across the intersection at Mangrove and Palmetto avenues. It was an accident; nobody was at fault. Berger was 86 years old.

Back in 1996, Berger got involved in an effort to get the old Diamond Match property turned back into an industrial park. Louisiana-Pacific, its owner at the time, had plans to put in a high-density residential development. Berger’s group argued that the site, next to a railroad siding and with city infrastructure nearby, would generate “$80 million of new real estate tax base.”

As it turned out L-P sold the land, and the property remains undeveloped to this day.

The year before, Berger had been involved with a group trying to do something with 50 acres in the East Biggs area that an elderly German immigrant, Julius Protz, had willed to American Indians—all of them, in fact. Berger had been friends with Protz, driving him to Chico once a week to shop and see a doctor and otherwise looking out for him.

The late Richard Ek wrote a delightful story about Protz and his gift (“50 Acres and No Mule,” March 30, 1995) in which Berger figures prominently, not only as Protz’s friend, but also as the only non-Indian on the board of directors for the land trust. Unfortunately, nothing ever came of the project, and last I heard the land had been sold.

Lest it sound as if Berger was tilting at windmills, there’s a lovely obituary of him in the Tuesday (March 9) issue of the Chico Enterprise-Record that describes some of his many accomplishments. It also announces that a memorial will be held at the Chico Women’s Club on Friday, March 19, at 5:30 p.m.

After my column about Jan Doney appeared last week, I got an e-mail back from Jann Reed, the school board president, that included a March 5 memo the board sent to all CUSD employees. It expresses condolences and acknowledges Doney’s many contributions but reiterates the board’s decision to accept the recommendations of the performing-arts center’s naming committee.

“When the [Doney] family has had some time to adjust to its loss, the Board will speak with them about how best to honor Jan’s memory in the District,” the memo reads.

In the meantime, at least one teacher has e-mailed me questioning Reed’s earlier decision to send out an e-mail memo over Facilities Manager Mike Weissenborn’s name. “Is it school board policy to write and send e-mails using someone else’s name?” he writes. “How do we now trust anything that comes from the district office?”

If you want to see a lively debate, go to the town hall meeting on the state budget crisis today (Thursday, March 11) at 3 p.m. in Chico City Council chambers. Lenny Goldberg, of the California Tax Reform Association, is a featured speaker, and he isn’t at all afraid to say the T-word.