Camp Fire projects require transparency

Local representatives must give public necessary info and ample time to weigh in

In a few weeks, Butte County will be staring down the first anniversary of the Camp Fire. For many of those affected—either directly or indirectly—it’s been a hell of a year.

Challenges abound. People are still struggling to heal emotionally—in some cases physically—and the region’s infrastructure repairs and recovery in the boundaries of the burn scar are a constant reminder of the events of Nov. 8.

For many, life post-Camp Fire has been irrevocably altered. Understandably, people are on edge as the one-year mark approaches, and they may have a tendency to act on emotion rather than logic.

We saw such scenarios play out on Tuesday (Oct. 22) in two public forums—at meetings of the Paradise Town Council and the Butte County Board of Supervisors. As Andre Byik reports this week, the council moved forward on a plan for a permanent memorial on town-owned land despite little feedback from the public during a special meeting held on Tuesday morning. Indeed, as noted in the story, an anniversary event was scheduled at the project site prior to the panel voting to move forward with the plan.

Only two of the council’s members sought to slow down the process.

Meanwhile, as Ashiah Scharaga reports, in Oroville, Supervisor Doug Teeter and several folks in the gallery of the supervisors chambers chided Supervisor Debra Lucero for her pushback on approving funding to pay for a study of a plan to pipe water from the Ridge to Chico.

Among her concerns: the fact that California Water Co. had not released to the public the results of previous studies by the firm that the county had hired (without going out to bid, Lucero noted) to complete the one on the proposed new water conveyance system. Cal Water denied withholding such info. However, one of the CN&R’s sources confirmed that the water company had rejected its efforts to obtain such documentation.

Another issue raised by Lucero: how Chico appeared to be left out of the conversation.

These are well-reasoned queries, but you wouldn’t know it from the corresponding knee-jerk reactions. What this underscores is that our region remains fractured.

Here’s the thing: We should no longer be operating in emergency-response mode. The decisions public officials make today have lasting consequences. As always, doing what is best for our communities requires full transparency and thorough vetting.