Bits and pieces

On the city’s GHG goals, Nielsen’s residency problem, and the two faces of PG&E

I’ve been thinking lately about something Mark Stemen said at last week’s Sept. 22 Chico City Council hearing on Walmart’s proposal to expand its Forest Avenue store. Stemen is the Chico State geography prof who oversaw the city’s greenhouse-gas-emissions survey last year.

Quoting an unnamed pundit, Stemen advised the council that, “If you don’t change direction, you end up where you’re going.” He reminded council members that a year earlier they had voted to reduce emissions in Chico from their 2005 levels by 25 percent by the year 2020. “When are you going to change direction?” he asked.

“You’re getting nowhere,” he told the council. “You’re increasing the amount of greenhouse gases with every project you approve.”

Stemen put the council on the spot. Perhaps that’s why, at its meeting this week (Tuesday, Sept. 29) to decide on the Walmart expansion, the council socked it to the retail giant. It told Walmart it needed to go solar on its store and put $1 million in a fund to replace poor people’s wood heaters if it wanted permission to expand. (See my Newslines report.)

Perhaps those GHG goals are more than feel-good symbols after all.

Even right-wingers think Nielsen is in trouble: You may have read that the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office is investigating whether state Sen. Roderick Wright, an Inglewood Democrat, actually lives in the district he represents. The suspicion is that he doesn’t, raising the possibility of voter fraud and perjury.

Over at, a fiercely conservative nationwide Web site, a blogger who goes by the moniker of Sgt. York picked up on the Wright story and worried about the fate of our own Republican Assemblyman Jim Nielsen.

Nielsen has never lived in the doublewide trailer in Gerber he’s claimed as his official residence, but rather in comfy digs in a gated subdivision in Woodland, outside District 2.

Why, Sgt. York asks, hasn’t one of the nine DAs in Nielsen’s district looked into this? “Anyway you cut it—Jim Nielsen is a sitting duck, as this story will not go away.”

Good PG&E, bad PG&E: If you’ve shopped at Target lately, you may have seen a fellow out front trying to rope in petition signatures. Something about “local energy choice” and the “Taxpayers Right to Vote Act,” according to his placards.

Truth is, PG&E is the not-so-secret mover behind this effort. The private utility giant wants to keep publicly owned utility districts from spreading into its territory by requiring a two-thirds vote for expansion. It’s a fundamentally anti-democratic initiative.

That’s the bad PG&E. The good PG&E is the utility that has been a consistent supporter and implementer of AB 32, the state’s global-warming initiative. Last week, in a dramatic move, it yanked its membership from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce because of that group’s opposition to climate-change legislation and regulation.

Apparently the chamber’s recent call for a special trial to challenge climate-change science, à la the Scopes monkey trial, was too much for CEO Peter Darbee to take. Good for him. Now if he’d just 86 that bogus initiative…