Welcome back, campus community. Quite a summer we had here. You might have noticed all the scorched earth in the area; the wildfires got extinguished, yet their scars have lingered on the land and in our psyches. Hundreds of people lost their homes; hundreds more suffered losses in their livelihoods.
Since June, myriad forces have come into play—some good, some bad. Here’s the state of affairs in this town called home.
• Gas has creeped to less than $4 a gallon, but just a few weeks ago prices were in the $4.50 range.
• The job market is tough—if you hate where you work, look before you jump.
• The Chico City Council is in its biennial state of flux. The progressive mayor and vice mayor, plus the one bulwark conservative, are up for re-election in November, and the more conciliatory conservative is stepping aside.
The left side currently has a 5-2 majority. At least three of the five challengers are right-wingers (including Chico State student Joe Valente), and there’s a move afoot to push the pendulum back the other direction.
Stakes are high: The next council will decide the city’s general plan—how much new construction, and where.
• The Fire Department is basking in the glow of a heroic summer. Seen any “bless you” or “thank you” signs for police officers who did their part during the emergencies? That’s partly par for the course (the uncle who fixed your car gets more love than the parent who grounded you) … partly not.
This is contract time for the Chico police union, negotiations conducted with the city’s deficit as a backdrop. Meanwhile, violent crimes have been popping up on the news and complaint letters have come to City Hall and the local papers.
Is the public safe? In hard times, people do become more cutthroat, be they law-abiders or law-breakers, and anecdotes aren’t due cause to condemn the department. If, however, connecting dots brings out a pattern, scrutiny of HQ is in order.
• Enloe Medical Center and its service workers remain in roller-coaster negotiations. The union called a strike, then called it off, and its PR campaign has been anything but subtle.
• Looming over everyone above—those who gets compensation from the state, and those who rely on ’em—is the uncertaintly of the California budget. Tough times are all the tougher in legislative limbo.
This remains a fantastic place to live. Compared to many other cities, Chico is in decent shape. But, clearly, this is not the place it was in June.
CN&R news: It’s fitting that Bryce Benson wrote the centerpiece of this Back to School issue, as it brings his CN&R experience to full-circle closure. Bryce, an intern since summer ’06, made his debut with a cover story on homelessness. He’s leaving us for his final semester to be an online columnist for The Orion.
Laura Hauser also is wrapping up her Chico State degree this fall, which she’ll spend here resuming her internship. Summer intern Katie Booth is staying with us, Stephanie Maynard is returning from her summer hiatus, and Robin Epley (author of the May 29 Guest Comment) is joining the team.