Chamber sets goals for 2020

Chico business leaders identify crime, housing, roads and pensions as key areas of focus; two eateries close; plus, good food

Every year, the Chico Chamber of Commerce puts out a report addressing major factors affecting our economy. While last year that report focused on the impacts of the Camp Fire, this year it’s more or less back to normal. Well, except for the fact that many of those post-fire impacts still are being felt.

The chamber’s 2020 report, released last week to coincide with the mayor’s State of the City address, identifies several areas that need improvement, namely public safety, lack of workforce housing, road conditions and unfunded pensions. Sounds like business as usual to me.

That includes misleading information regarding crime—the report’s conclusion reads, “The increase in violent crime must be addressed by city leaders and public safety personnel in cooperation with business leaders.” Note that Chico PD reports that overall crime went down 2 percent in 2019 over the previous year, with violent crime dropping 9 percent.

“Public perceptions are one indicator of safety that cannot be dismissed in the discussion and the remedies identified to improve overall community safety,” it continues. I dare say it’s reports like this one that add to a public perception of Chico being unsafe. I urge our business community to keep up with the Retail Watch program, which targets shoplifters, and I encourage the chamber to vet its materials more carefully. Everyone makes mistakes, but spreading inaccurate information such as this perpetuates the narrative that Chico is dangerous.

Farewells The year is barely underway and we already have a few casualties in the restaurant world. Last week, Newton “Sipho” Merritt posted a video online alerting his customers of the closure of Sipho’s Jamaica. The island-themed restaurant will be sorely missed, but I’m happy to report Merritt says he’ll continue to host his monthly parties, plus he’ll do catering. So, that curried goat and oxtail stew are still within reach.

Also saying goodbye is Ike’s Smokehouse, home of the best ribs in town (in my opinion, at least). The trailer used to park most days outside of Ray’s Liquor on Walnut Street, and owner Ike Anderson says he’s returning to his roots—CJ’s Last Chance Diner, on The Esplanade north of town, which he owns with his mother. So, there, too, is a silver lining.

Awards season There’s no question our neck of the woods is home to some fantastic produce, as well as prepared foodstuffs, and the annual Good Food Awards—which recognize exceptional craft-foodmakers—offer more proof. This year, Chico’s Lassen Traditional Cider took home an award for its Newtown Pippin cider and Pacific Culture was recognized for its cantaloupe habanero kombucha. Not too far from here, Salt and Savour out of Dunsmuir won for its apple ginger sauerkraut. I haven’t had the pleasure of trying the latter two, but I can attest to the crisp deliciousness of Ben Nielsen’s Newtown Pippin cider. Cheers!