Bill would allow city to sell parkland
State Sen. Rico Oller has written a bill at the request of the Chico City Council that would allow that body in effect to sell land within Lindo Channel. The bill is the result of the council’s being cajoled into action by resident park watchdog Michael Jones.

A few years ago Jones started noting that a large number of property owners living along the channel over the years have claimed public property by extending landscaping or building structures on public land.

Although, in most of the more than 30 cases documented, the property owners have agreed to withdraw from the land, a few have not, citing economic hardship in doing so. So, as a solution, the City Council, on a split vote, decided to ask a state representative to write a law allowing the council to sell them the encroached-upon parkland, which otherwise can’t be sold.

Lindo Channel, also known as Sandy Gulch, is used for flood control. To ensure quick passage of the bill, Oller has deemed it an “urgency statute necessary for the immediate preservation of public peace, health, or safety…” Opponents of the bill charge that it is fraudulent (in that there is no flood-control urgency), is a way for the council majority to appease property owners, is a violation of the original Bidwell deed and opens the channel up to gravel dredging.

The bill will be read in the State Senate Local Government Committee on April 3. Chico City Attorney Dave Frank will travel to Sacramento to represent the city on that day.

Home care workers to form union
Thousands of Butte County’s beleaguered home care workers may finally get a chance to unionize, which could bring their wages above the poverty level and provide them with a much-needed health care plan, a workers’ group announced Tuesday.

More than 2,000 people in the county work in the home care field, providing disabled and elderly people with meals, transportation, medical help and companionship. Though the hours are long and taxing, the workers seldom make more than minimum wage and often are unable to afford health insurance. Their quest to unionize was made possible first by a 1999 state law that required counties to find an “employer of record” for the workers, and second by a January decision of the Board of Supervisors to create a county agency to serve as that employer.

The new agency, In Home Supportive Services, should be eligible for millions in state and federal funds to provide worker training, referral services and emergency support for those needing care.

Having delivered the necessary documents to the county Tuesday, the group is certain that, once the request is certified, homecare workers will vote to align themselves with the United Domestic Workers union, an AFL-CIO affiliate that was founded over 30 years ago by celebrated labor leader Cesar Chavez.

Paradise mall developer sues PID
Sacramento developer Fred Katz took his yearlong fight against the Paradise Irrigation District into court last week, filing a lawsuit that would force the district into providing water for his proposed Skyway shopping center. The suit, filed on behalf of Katz’ company, FHK, by Chico lawyer Jeff Carter, seeks only enough water to supply fire hydrants with fire-fighting water. The rest of the project’s water would supposedly come from a well Katz has already dug on the property.

Katz originally wanted the PID to annex the building site entirely, but the district board refused, saying the project would take too much water away from current users. Katz then revised his request, asking only for a pipeline, which he would pay for and build, to be hooked up to the district supply for the sole purpose of fighting fires. The district voted 3-2 against the revised request, which the majority apparently believed was a back-door tactic that Katz was using to set up a case for total annexation sometime in the future.

PID Director Frank Caunt denied Katz’ allegation that the board was following an anti-growth agenda.

"It’s a simple storage-to-use ratio," he said. "[In the past,] any vote that came before our board that involved any question of growth, I voted yes."