City Council ironies

Vote reveals nuances of liberal-conservative split

My report last week on the May 1 City Council meeting needs updating. As its headline, “Split becomes a chasm,” suggested, the council’s liberal and conservative factions split on several agenda items. But there was a certain irony about a couple of those votes that I didn’t have room to discuss.

One involved the City Council’s decision to participate in the Total Road Improvement Program, a mechanism that could enable the city to borrow the matching funds to nail down two grants valued at $5.6 million. The money would be used to fund two current road projects, including the downtown couplet.

Representatives of the Chico Chamber of Commerce and the Downtown Chico Business Association spoke in favor of the program. Councilman Mark Sorensen, a conservative who ordinarily supports business-friendly measures, voted no. (The other conservative council member, Bob Evans, recused himself.)

Sorensen was understandably concerned about taking on debt at a time when city finances were shaky. That notion made the liberal council members nervous as well. They decided it was worth the risk, however, and voted to take the first step toward borrowing the funds. (Mayor Ann Schwab also recused herself, and Councilwoman Mary Goloff was absent.)

If the city borrows the money, it will pay it back out of gas-tax revenues. Right now that’s no problem, but what if the state commandeers that money, as it did redevelopment funds? It’s a small risk, but it’s real.

Otherwise, this is a good deal. Payback on the loan over 30 years is $14 million, but the city will get $5.6 million from the grants and $6.2 million from the loan and save $2 million over 10 years in maintenance costs for the new roads, a total of $13.8 million—close to a wash.

The other irony (or should I say anomaly?) was that Sorensen and Evans split on whether to support giving the economic-development group Innovate North State free rent in City Hall, with the former concerned about loss of rent revenue and the latter wanting to back a promising business effort. Just goes to show … well, something.

This just in: Assemblyman Jim Nielsen is one of the featured speakers at the Brave Heart West Coast Men’s Rally this Saturday, May 12, in Weed. This is a Christian empowerment “man fest” whose sub-theme is “men of honor,” which makes me wonder how Nielsen fits in. He’s built his political life on the lie that he lives in Gerber, when he actually lives in Woodland, outside his district. What would Jesus say, Jim?

When the music ends: Last week the Chico Enterprise-Record reported that the Pleasant Valley High School marching band may be dissolved because of a lack of music students, now that the junior high schools are no longer teaching music, and that the Chico State Music Department had decided to stop teaching music education.

So this is what we’ve come to—no music in the schools. How can we call ourselves civilized if we don’t teach music? Just wondering.

Robert Speer is editor of the CN&R.