Around the bend

A few weeks ago I pointed out in this here column that we have thousands of scofflaws running—or rather, driving—among us. Yes. Those folks living outside the bounds of decent civilization may include your neighbor, your hairdresser, the woman who brings your kid home from soccer practice, your preacher, your local environmentalist. I’m talking about those individuals who choose to drive full-size SUVs such as your GMC Yukon, Toyota Land Cruiser, Lincoln Navigator, Range Rover or Chevy Suburban or Tahoe. That’s because, according to the Chico Municipal Code, each of these popular vehicles weighs more than 6,000 pounds, and vehicles of such considerable mass are not allowed to travel on a vast majority of the streets in our city, only along truck routes.

Because of their weight, these unnecessary—unless you count making up for the deep insecurities of their owners—behemoths tear up the streets. So this week the City Council’s Internal Affairs Committee considered a solution to stopping this widespread crime. Unfortunately, the committee did not do the right thing, which would have been to instruct the police to ticket each violator with a $1,000 fine, adding much-needed capital to the city’s dwindling general fund. The committee was set to pass onto the full council a recommendation based on the advice of the public works director, that the maximum weight for vehicles allowed to traverse our streets—truck route or not—be increased to seven tons! That’s 14,000 pounds! I’m not kidding. And it would have done so had that bothersome bicycle enthusiast Ed McLaughlin not shown up. McLaughlin pulled the item from the consent agenda—those things thought non-controversial in nature—and asked that Councilman Steve Bertagna conflict himself out of the vote because he drives some 10,000-lb. truck and most likely violates the municipal code on a daily basis. The argument McLaughlin made was that this was a financial conflict in that Bertagna has a monetary interest in raising the weight limit—namely avoiding $1,000 fines each time he’s ticketed for driving on a city street. With Councilman Dan Herbert absent, that left only Mayor Maureen Kirk, not enough to vote to pass the suggested code change onto the full council with a recommendation. I hope this gets full council discussion. Call me petty, call me small-minded, call me a pain in the ass; but when I witness the flocks of huge SUVs parading through our town, I truly believe we’ve gone insane. And now we want to accommodate them at weights of up to 14,000 pounds? Call me paranoid, but I can’t help but think the fact that Florida has suffered two major hurricanes—a third, Ivan, is now brewing somewhere in the Caribbean just waiting to hit—and Japan has been lashed by four major storms in the last month must have something to do with global warming. Crazy, I tell you.

Last weekend I found myself sitting at the counter of a local restaurant with my son for a late-morning breakfast. We always choose the counter rather than wait for a booth. The counter seat gives you a chance to talk with strangers, something you can’t do at a booth, unless you count turning around and asking the kid behind you to stop rocking the shared booth seatback. On this day, I sat next to three young women, two of whom looked to be 10 or younger and the third, well, over 20. All three, by the way, were quite pretty. The third woman recognized me from that goofy photo at the top of this column. It’s always a bit unnerving to be recognized in such a way; I never know what to expect. It’s either, “Hey, you’re OK,” or “Hey, you’re a miserable pile of buzzard puke.” The young woman to my immediate right raised an eyebrow upon hearing this and said, with a healthy strain of skepticism, “You write for the newspaper?” I told her yes, I did. I didn’t tell her which newspaper, so I suspect she’s checking the Enterprise-Record and trying to decide if she sat next to David Little, Roger Aylworth, Brent Morrison or Laura Ursney for breakfast last weekend. By the way, just to prove it was me (in case you’re reading this), I know that you like to put syrup on any food that, in your mind, requires butter.