City drops the ball

Lack of transparency at the heart of holdup of Jesus Center’s proposed move to city property

Public discussion has long been a key to progress in the city of Chico, and it’s clear to this newspaper that the city dropped the ball when it comes to its collaboration with the Jesus Center on that organization’s proposed move and expansion on city-owned property.

The sticking point for the City Council appears to be that the nonprofit is intent on purchasing that property, rather than entering into a lease agreement (see “Staying or going?” page 8). That doesn’t surprise us, considering we’ve seen no discussion at the dais about a potential sale of the land on Martin Luther King Jr. Parkway.

Indeed, back in November, at the meeting in which the plan was discussed at greatest length, a lease agreement was specifically denoted in a unanimous vote for the city to move forward in collaboration with the nonprofit. The only indication that a sale of public property was on the table were a few references in a memorandum of understanding between the city and the nonprofit that again mentioned the development of a lease agreement but also included this: “and/or alternative legal arrangement for use of the property.” Moreover, that MOU was approved months later as part of the consent agenda, meaning no in-depth discussion preceded its approval.

That’s a big deal. Keep in mind that this is taxpayer-owned land. The citizens of Chico should have had an opportunity to weigh in on the prospect of selling it—most definitely not an insignificant detail.

That brings us back to this newspaper’s major gripe about this entire effort: that it lacks transparency. As we said last November, a much more thorough vetting of this potential project is needed. It should include not only the stakeholders (the Torres Community Shelter, the Chico Housing Action Team, etc.), but also input from the public on the full scope of the project.

That’s the only way to fix the city’s failure on this effort.