Park trail opponents may get their appeal
The plan to construct a new trail through Bidwell Park south of Big Chico Creek stumbled this week, when Chico City Councilman Dan Nguyen-Tan sided with three councilmembers who want the trail and voted to deny trail opponents’ efforts to stop its progress. Confused? You should have been at the meeting.

The proposed Annie Bidwell Trail, promoted for the past few years through the tireless—some say obsessed—efforts of dentist Michael Jones, has been conceptually passed by the council and the Parks Commission. Last December the Parks Commission ruled to allow multiple use (including bicycles and horses) on part of the trail rather than simply pedestrian use. Opponents of the trail say that approval (and in fact the construction of the entire trail) was based on faulty information, and therefore the trail should be appealed.

Councilmember Dan Herbert called trail opponents “obstructionists” and repeatedly praised Jones’ efforts. Nguyen-Tan objected to Herbert’s choice of words and said he supported hearing the appeal based on democratic principles. Councilmember Coleen Jarvis, who most likely would have voted to hear the appeal, was absent, meaning the council was split 3­3. Since a tie would have killed the appeal, Nguyen-Tan sided with the majority and voted not to grant it.

As a member of the majority, Nguyen-Tan reserved the right to re-agendize the matter, which he did, to the Jan. 28 meeting that Jarvis is expected to attend. That will give the trail opponents the four votes they need to get the appeal approved. Any questions?

Cops, city off the hook for Priano’s death
The family of a 15-year-old girl killed at the climax of a police car chase through a residential Chico neighborhood was dealt a legal setback this week when a Superior Court judge excused the city of Chico and the Chico Police Department from the family’s wrongful-death suit.

Mark and Candy Priano filed suit after their daughter Kristie was fatally injured in a collision with a stolen Rav-4, which was being chased by several police cruisers when it broadsided the Prianos’ minivan last January. The Rav-4 turned out to belong to the mother of its unlicensed teenaged driver.

The driver, who admitted guilt in the incident and was placed in a group home, is still named in the suit, as is her mother. But the city and police cannot be held liable, Judge Roger Gilbert said, because their adoption of a written pursuit policy shields them from liability.

Gilbert gave the Prianos 20 days to amend their complaint, though he expressed doubt that it would help their cause. Mark Priano, the victim’s father, said he was disappointed in the ruling and that the family was reviewing their legal options.

In the meantime, he said, the family is lobbying state lawmakers to pass legislation aimed at preventing accidents such as the one that killed their daughter and to expand the public’s legal options should such an accident occur as the result of a police chase.

A pox on thee
In response to a new federal mandate to counter the remote but horrific possibility that terrorists could use smallpox to kill Americans, the Butte County Department of Public Health is asking for volunteers in the health care profession to be vaccinated against the virus. Regina Ellena, a spokeswoman from the department’s Health Education Division, said the county is currently looking to vaccinate about 25 people to form a “core team” of heath professionals that could quickly vaccinate others in case of an emergency. The first to be vaccinated would be other health care professionals and emergency workers.

“Our main objective is to handle the vaccinations safely,” Ellena said. “Right now we’re sending out a survey to all Public Health employees to see if they would like to take part.”

The Centers for Disease Control Web site states that "there is no reason to believe that smallpox presents an imminent threat" and warns against the general public’s receiving the vaccinations due to "significant side effects and risks associated with the vaccine."