Subcommittee whacks tree ordinance
Does local government have the right to tell property owners what to do with their trees? That’s the question posed by a proposed tree ordinance designed to limit the cutting and pruning of certain trees within city limits and recommended by city staff, and on Feb. 11 the City Council’s Internal Affairs Committee debated the issue in preparation for a discussion by the full council.

The ordinance, put forth by the citizens’ group TreeAction, would protect “landmark trees” and “trees of significance,” requiring that tree cutters get permits from the city before cranking up the chainsaw. Protected trees would be defined by age, diameter and other characteristics.

The proposal drew strong opposition from two committee members, Dan Herbert and Steve Bertagna, as well as a number of audience members. The councilmembers said such an ordinance would violate private-property rights and bloat an already corpulent local government.

Chico resident Bill Priel said he worries about limbs falling from three large cedars on his property. “I don’t want to be told by any government agency that if I’m lying in bed at night and I hear creaking and cracking, I can’t get out there and take them out and protect my home,” he said.

But Chicoan Juanita Sumner was visibly shaking as she defended the ordinance, describing a neighbor recklessly clearing away trees on her property line. “I don’t want a guy with a chainsaw and a rope cutting trees in my children’s play area,” she said.

Bertagna backed a Herbert motion to send the matter to the full council without a recommendation. Councilmember Coleen Jarvis voted for recommendation. The matter will come before the council on March 18.

Chico Juggalos run amok at fairgrounds
Beware of dreadlocked white boys wearing clown faces! After a Friday, Feb. 7, concert by rap/metal group Insane Clown Posse at the Silver Dollar Fairgrounds took too long getting started—the scheduled opening act, AK, allegedly took more than two hours to begin the show—hundreds of young Chico fans began to push forward on the stage, which slowly began to bow in. This prompted the performers to cancel the show.

A near riot ensued. Although there were only minor injuries, hundreds of the reported 1,000 fans in attendance were left stranded at the event and stormed around the fairgrounds, intimidating television camera crews and demanding refunds. A sizeable number of Butte County sheriff’s deputies, Chico police and California Highway Patrol officers were called in to restore order.

Refunds were given and the concert was rescheduled for Monday, Feb. 10, when it went off without a hitch, although the number of fans attending was considerably lower. Calls to J-Max Productions producer Justin Maximov were unreturned as of press time.

Tossed Waldorf case gets day in court
A legal win has been logged by a group that once convinced the Chico school board to reject a charter school based on the Waldorf method of teaching. The organization People for Legal and Nonsectarian Schools (PLANS), which in 1998 sued the Sacramento City Unified School District and Twin Ridges Elementary School District, has succeeded in the getting the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to agree that the case should go to court—a reversal of a 2001 court decision.

“The schools kept insisting that we didn’t have the right to sue,” PLANS President Debra Snell said from Grass Valley.

Blue Oak’s supporters went on to secure a charter through the Butte County Office of Education, and the school is in operation today, which galls PLANS.

“While the Chico board was very bright, [Waldorf supporters] appealed and the county bought it,” Snell said. “They ignored us. We felt like the county board forced a Waldorf school on a community that doesn’t want it.”

It was fears of a lawsuit that in early 2001 swayed the majority of the Chico Unified School District Board of Trustees to vote down the school, even against the recommendation of district staff. Trustees also believed PLANS’ argument that the Waldorf method’s roots in the teachings of Rudolf Steiner amounts to teaching religion.