Council unanimously adopts action plan for economic development
To see the action plan:
It’s not often that Tea Party activist Stephanie Taber agrees with something the Chico City Council does, so her support for its new Economic Development Action Plan was a surprise. It was also in some ways a backhanded compliment, however.
“I was really happy to see this,” Taber, who regularly attends council meetings, told the panel Tuesday (Oct. 1). She then proceeded to recite a laundry list of previous economic-development strategies, assessment surveys, downtown plans and similar reports, none of which, she suggested, had accomplished anything.
“So maybe, hopefully, this time it will stick and we’ll actually do something,” she concluded.
What distinguishes this plan from others is that it sets practical goals and timelines for city staff to pursue in its effort to support business growth and prosperity. Developed by the Economic Development Committee and based on the Economic Development Element of the new general plan, it identifies four key initiatives—business climate, infrastructure, workforce and place making (developing Chico as a destination city)—and creates an action plan for each one.
Politically, it could put an end to charges—heard often in this election year—that the council is ignoring the needs of the business community. In fact, as Senior Planner Shawn Tillman pointed out, the action plan was developed over the past year with the participation of business leaders in the community and economic-development partners such as the Chamber of Commerce, 3CORE and the Alliance for Workforce Development. Audrey Taylor, of Chabin Concepts, also played a key role in the plan’s development, Tillman said.
One council member who has been critical of the council for its supposed failure to address economic issues, Bob Evans, also approved of the plan, which he said clearly benefited from the participation of the business community. “This is just a starting point, but we’re on the right track,” he said.
The action plan, which the council approved unanimously, was accompanied by an update covering city implementation efforts during the July-September quarter. Such quarterly reports are a required feature of the plan.
Other council news: The council gave a final OK to its updated noise ordinance, but not before Councilman Andy Holcombe tried to get a rewrite of a part of it he found troubling. He wanted the provision that two distinct noise complaints could allow the police to issue a citation without first giving a warning to state specifically that the complaints must come from separate locations. But when Police Chief Kirk Trostle told the panel his instructions to his officers were just that, the council approved the ordinance, which will be reviewed in six months.
On another front, Councilman Mark Sorensen sought to change the way members of seven-member city commissions are selected. Currently they are voted on by the full council, which gives power to the council’s progressive majority. Sorensen wanted those on seven-member commissions each to be selected by individual council members.
Sorensen noted that other cities and Butte County do it this way, and he got support from Scott Gruendl and Evans, but the four remaining council members thought his proposal was “a solution in search of a problem,” noting that the progressive majority had once appointed the conservative Sorensen to the Planning Commission. They voted to stick with the current system.
Finally, a proposal to establish a program whereby businesses could qualify for recognition as being sustainable generated some heat when Evans suggested that it could be viewed as a stalking horse for mandatory sustainability upgrades.
The program is voluntary, and the businesses would monitor themselves and apply for recognition, but someone would have to verify that the criteria had been met.
Holcombe and others, especially Mayor Ann Schwab, kept insisting that the program was meant only to allow businesses to decide for themselves how much they wanted to do to be recognized.
In the end council members agreed unanimously that more business owners should be consulted, the application process should be simplified, and that the possibility of partnering with a business group like the Chamber of Commerce to verify the applications should be explored before the program is approved.