Tree truce: Plan calms Cohasset
There’s now a plan to restore the Cohasset Elementary School playground, and, while the $26,000 landscaping project doesn’t make up for the loss of 260 trees, it seems to have the support of the Cohasset community.

The Chico Unified School District Board of Trustees voted Sept. 18 to approve the plan, which had been developed by CUSD Facilities Planner Mike Weissenborn. The district has been trying for a year to undo the damage—both environmental and emotional—that surfaced after a logger got the informal OK from district staff members to take out diseased and dangerous trees, sharing the timber proceeds with the school for a new playground. The once-forested campus took on the appearance of a clear cut, and the small community was outraged.

On Sept. 11, a letter signed by members of the Cohasset Residents Committee and the Cohasset School Parents Club urged trustees to vote in favor of Weissenborn’s proposal. The money includes $18,000 for landscaping needs and $8,000 to add to the $19,000 in timber money for an upgraded playground. The debacle had already cost the district $31,318 as outlined in a list of expenses requested by the board. Money went toward straw, the removal of said straw after protests, wood chips, rental equipment, tree evaluation and hauling.

Oroville offers HOPE to homeless
Together with the Greater Oroville Homeless Coalition, the Chico Homeless Coalition, the Paradise Ridge Family Resource Center and other religious groups and community members, the city of Oroville is making a grassroots effort to develop a community plan called HOPE (Helping Other People Expand) to address the needs of its homeless.

“I took this job because I like low pay, long hours and working with [troubled] people because that’s where I feel at home,” joked Mac McComas, founder of the Oroville Rescue Mission and one of the people behind HOPE.

McComas was attending a Sept. 21 kick-off celebration for the new plan at the South Oroville Community Center.

On Sept. 24 the Butte County Board of Supervisors recognized homeless activist Howard Gregg for his efforts to make HOPE a reality.

“It doesn’t take much to become homeless,” Gregg told the supervisors. “We had four people in Chico become homeless [over the weekend] due to a fire.”

He said long-term shelter is needed in Oroville and noted that with the expected completion next spring of a shelter in Chico, that city is running “a little bit ahead of us.”

Because of the communal effort to help, Butte County has been awarded a three-year grant by the Department of Behavioral Health. This grant will be implemented in many needed services for the homeless, such as allowance of longer stays at shelters and emergency winter shelters throughout Butte County.

Hate crimes soar in state
According to the latest annual hate crime report released by California Attorney General Bill Lockyer on Sept. 18, the number of hate crimes in the state increased last year by 304, from 1,957 in 2000 to 2,261 in 2001 in California.

Furthermore, “hate crimes based on religion declined or remained nearly steady in all categories except anti-Islamic hate crimes, which soared. Hate crimes motivated by race or ethnicity also declined for every group except American Indian or Alaskan native and the category accounting for Middle Easterners.”

Had it not been for this flare in crimes against Arabs and those who appear to be Arab, the overall total of hate crimes would have dropped 5 percent.

The number of anti-Muslim hate crime victims also increased dramatically from five in 2000 to 87 last year.

Only about one-quarter of the reported cases were not of a violent nature, which includes intimidation, assault and other violent crimes.

The first full year that hate crimes were reported in California was in 1995. Since then, the number of hate crime events has increased 28.9 percent, from 1,754 to 2,261.