Big bang theory

Last Sunday’s tanker explosion was pretty amazing. When we first got the press release and saw the location—Midway and Speedway—our initial thought was that one of the many gas holding tanks in that area had blown, just like a few years ago when one man was killed and a second seriously injured. So when we heard it was a big-rig tanker carrying liquid propane that had gone up—and that no one was hurt—it was a bit of a relief. That is, until we were ferried closer to the scene by CDF press-information-officer-in-training Mike Carr. Judging by the devastation we witnessed near the blast—smoldering trees and telephone poles more than half a football field away, the burned-out hulks of vehicles parked nearby and the melted cab of the truck itself—it was clear that, had this explosion gone off on a weekday or closer to its destination off Meyers Street in Chico, it could have been catastrophic. Loads of volatile materials come through town on the streets and the railroad tracks on a daily basis. Now we have trains hitting speeds of 70 miles per hour. Apparently, it doesn’t take a whole lot to rupture these tanks. Then all it takes is some sort of ignition. I imagine plenty of sparks would be produced during a train derailment.

A month ago this paper reported on a claim against the city charging Officer Dave Genova with using excessive force in the arrest of José Aguilera. The incident was captured on videotape. There’s been no settlement between the city and the claimant, though we heard the city’s offer to buy the videotape was taken off the table after a still picture taken from the tape appeared in our paper. We also have learned that the claimant missed a hearing date and that the Police Department’s internal investigation is still underway—a preliminary report has been filed. This is how things work. A guy gets roughed up by the cops—maybe too much, maybe within the law. The city would rather the story not be made public. The claimant’s attorney is working in his client’s best interest. There is no profit in his making this information public. We learn about it by quite literally stumbling over it and, in doing so, possibly foul up Aguilera’s settlement. This is just a case of everybody performing their jobs but in doing so stepping on each other’s toes.

I got a call from Lee Hubert, widow of former Councilmember Ted Hubert, last week asking me to note the recent awarding of the Ted Hubert Memorial Scholarship Awards at the Chico Chamber of Commerce’s “Feast on Success” 65th Annual Dinner at the Bell Memorial Union. I liked Ted and am glad to honor Lee’s request. Lee announced the scholarship recipients and noted that when Ted read about the Boys and Girls Club in Reader’s digest some years ago, he “knew had found the answers to something that had troubled him for years—a place for Chico youth to go.” Lee went on to suggest that in the six years since her husband’s death, “things have happened in Chico that would have disappointed him, but the one thing that I know has exceeded his expectations is the way the community has continued to support the club and the way it has grown.” Indeed. The scholarships, by the way, were awarded to Tanya Perez and Ismael Shelton. There you go, Lee.

The following is an example of Republican mathematics: Third District Assemblyman Rick Keene has weighed in on the Democrats’ attempts to bring the motor vehicle license fee back to its 1998 level of 2 percent of a car’s value. Keene said this tax is regressive and will "unfairly burden low- and middle-income car owners." Keene’s press release explains it this way: A family that paid $300 to register its car last year would have to pay $900 this year. Wait a second. If my math is correct, $900 is 2 percent of $45,000. What low-income family owns a vehicle worth $45,000? That’s more than Keene’s state-subsidized GMC Yukon. Besides, cars worth $5,000 or less are exempt. I’ve never owned a car worth more than $5,000. I’m all for the increase.