Putting on the Patriot Act; does it fit Chico?
Does the USA Patriot Act, the federal law enacted by the Bush administration to secure our safety at, critics say, a cost to our personal freedoms, affect Chico’s government? Greg Burton, secretary of the Chico Bill of Rights Defense Committee, asked that question at a Chico City Council meeting a few weeks back. City officials’ initial responses were either that they did not know enough about the law to tell, or that they were pretty sure it didn’t.

On April 15, during an all-day Chico City Council meeting, the matter will be opened for a 30-minute discussion. Burton will get three minutes to explain how the act may affect local agencies. At the April 1 meeting, he asked council if he could have more than three minutes but was denied by Mayor Maureen Kirk. In a report addressed to Kirk, Burton outlines how the act may affect us locally.

“Local law enforcement agencies are entering into Joint Terrorism Task Force agreements, along with other local and national law enforcement agencies,” Burton writes. Chico citizens, Burton argues, have the right to discuss how these agreements are carried out.

Local law enforcement is being deputized by the Immigration and Naturalization Service to help carry out new immigration laws. Again, Burton says, the locals should have a say in how our police are used as such deputies. Also, he wants to know if and how surveillance data are being gathered on local activists.

Other questions include involvement of the university police, how foreign students are affected, how libraries are responding to calls for information on who is checking what materials out, and how local Internet provider services are affected.

“Considering the enormous civil-rights, civil-liberties, safety and economic implications of this legislation, I feel that it is essential that we do all we can to evaluate its total impact on our community,” Burton writes.

Hot dog vendor lives to sell another day
The mustard’s off the hot dog. Chico State University has pulled back from its request that the city abandon its right-of-way holdings on a spot of a sidewalk otherwise controlled by the campus. The hot dog vendor, John Geiger, who occupies that spot, says the university wants to chase him off campus. Even the Chico city staff, in its report to the City Council, says the university wants to “control vendors on this portion of the sidewalk.” The university says it wants the spot because it has plans to add a new entrance way to the university sometime down the road.

So this week, under public criticism and cries of “monopoly,” the university pulled the matter from the council agenda and effectively took the heat off the hot dog guy for now. But just in case, Geiger came to the meeting prepared, with about 20 supporters and 2,500 signatures on a petition of support.

Inmate succumbs at the Butte County Jail
Kevin Hall was 37 years old when his life ended in the Butte County Jail on Sunday, March 30.

He’d been booked into the jail on several misdemeanor warrants, including failing to appear in court, violating probation, DUI, marijuana possession and resisting arrest. His first court appearance had been scheduled for April 8.

But he started feeling dizzy and was having trouble breathing that Sunday night around 10 p.m. He called for medical aid, and a staff nurse examined him and decided to call paramedics at 10:20, reports jail Captain Gary Keeler.

When they arrived 11 minutes later, Hall was responsive and able to tell them what was wrong, but shortly afterwards his heart abruptly stopped beating. Paramedics worked on Hall for at least a half hour, Keeler said, but their attempts at resuscitating him failed. Hall was taken to Oroville Hospital and was pronounced dead on the scene at 11:22.

Keeler said it’s assumed Hall died from natural causes but the precise reasons will not be known for certain until autopsy and toxicology reports are released, most likely next week.