Justice and Jell-O molds
Looking for a new way to promote greater racial harmony? You can start by making a casserole.

This weekend, the Butte County Human Relations Network will hold a multicultural potluck dinner that group members hope will spark a dialogue about race relations and cultural flashpoints in the county.

Group member and event co-organizer Ali Sarsour said the network is trying to send a positive message that racism and discrimination are problems that can be dealt with if people are willing work together.

“Rather than be anti-something, we want to be pro-something,” he said. “The network is not only for minorities, but is also open to everybody. After all, it is everybody’s problem.”

The network is a relatively new coalition of church groups and community organizations that have come together to pool resources and try to forge a unified front against hate crimes and racial violence. The group’s philosophy is exemplified by the friendship of two of its leaders, Sarsour, a Muslim, and Yitzhak Nates, a local rabbi.

Sarsour said differences of religion and culture should be celebrated and explored, not used to alienate others.

“He is a Jew and I am a Muslim. So what?” he said. “Some of us feel religion can pull people together rather than divide them.”

The network’s potluck takes place Saturday, April 6, 5 p.m. at Trinity Methodist Church at Fifth and Flume streets in Chico. For more information, call 342-6146 or 893-1768.

Lindo Channel encroachers get reprieve
George and Cathi Grams say removing the fencing and irrigation behind their Sir Williams Court home to end their encroachment onto city property presents a financial hardship. So much so, they should be exempted them from the city’s attempt to purge those suspected encroachers living along Lindo Channel. And four out of seven Chico City Councilmembers agree. George Grams brought his appeal to the council after the Bidwell Park and Playground Commission denied it. In a letter to the council, he said that moving the fence and irrigation system back to his property line would cost $1,000. He upped that estimate to $2,500 when he came before the council. The problem, he said, is that if he moves the stuff now, he will have to move it back at the same cost when legislation is passed in Sacramento allowing the city to sell park land as a solution to the encroachment problem (See Newslines).

Actually, the legislation as envisioned by the council, does not give private property owners the option to buy park land if passed, but rather gives the city that option as a last resort to fixing the encroachment issue. Still, the council voted to give the Grams two more years of squatting rights on public land after George Grams argued the property in question was not accessible to the public and Councilmember Steve Bertagna asked “What’s the point?” to requiring Grams to move back to the legal property line. “No harm no foul,” Bertagna declared.

City retailers must sequester tobacco from the kids
Over the objections of Councilmember Larry Wahl, who warned of a "slippery path," the Chico City Council agreed to put together a city ordinance that would limit children’s access to tobacco in Chico’s retail stores. A survey indicated that 80 percent of Chico’s retailers would welcome such an ordinance because currently if they choose to place tobacco products under lock and key or behind the counter, tobacco companies punish them. Those companies would rather their products be out on display. Critics say those displays encourage teens to both smoke and, in some cases, shoplift the cigarettes. Wahl, and Councilmember Rick Keene, expressed dismay in having the government tell a private businesses how to merchandise products. But only Wahl voted against the motion to move forward with the ordinance.