Ambassadors, not more cops

Chico Chamber pushes for police, housing, roads; cookie shop opens downtown; Payless ShoeSource set to close.

The past six months have been challenging for a number of reasons. But if things like providing enough housing for Chico’s market or improving infrastructure like roads were hard before the Camp Fire, they’re certainly exacerbated now.

Those are not mind-blowing conclusions, but they are significant nonetheless, and they are among the findings the Chico Chamber of Commerce released last week in its special Camp Fire economic report. “At the current pace of development, the outlook for providing permanent housing for our workforce within the foreseeable future is bleak,” the report reads.

Specifically, the chamber concluded that Chico needs 10-15 more police officers to keep our city safe; an additional $150,000 immediately channeled into road repair and maintenance; and incentives to spur housing development.

“Without immediate action to address these challenges, the Chamber anticipates a loss of businesses and associated jobs, loss of headquarter status for businesses that started here and subsequently expanded out of the area, an increasing loss of talent either retained or recruited and a significant reduction of public services,” the report reads.

Mayor Randall Stone shared similar concerns during his State of the City address last Friday (Feb. 15). I like his take on housing: He wants to require 10 percent of new housing developments be set aside for low-income residents.

I also much prefer his approach to public safety over the constant clamor of “we need more police.” Stone’s opinion is that the Downtown Ambassadors program has shown proven results. I see it regularly in cleaner streets and simply feeling safer when those bright yellow shirts are around.

“Instead of spending $160,000 per year—that’s the average per annum cost of a police officer—we could spend a fraction of that cost on multiple Ambassadors, social workers, and case managers to address Quality of Life issues with better outcomes!” he wrote in his speech. Agreed!

Dessert time I was walking downtown earlier this week with a co-worker and we noticed some activity inside Insomnia Cookies. Turns out they opened over the weekend—on Main Street, near Third—and we popped in to check it out.

The young woman behind the counter was super enthusiastic and sold me on a Cookiewich, two cookies of your choice sandwiched around a scoop of ice cream. It did not disappoint. The fact that they serve their cookies warm made all the difference. They’re open late, with delivery till 3 a.m. daily.

Another one bites the dust … Payless ShoeSource is the latest casualty in the Amazon retail war. The discount store with two locations in Chico (by Safeway on Mangrove Avenue and inside the Chico Mall) and one in Oroville (by FoodMaxx on Oro Dam Boulevard) will be closing all of its shops in the coming months. March 1 is the last day for returns or exchanges; March 11 is tentatively set as the last day for using gift cards—so get thee to Payless!