City spending

This week the City Council held an all-day meeting in which it discussed, among other things, the town’s financial condition. All things considered, it’s pretty OK. In hospital terms, its condition is “fair.” The city’s got about $3.5 million in emergency reserves and is able to provide the Police Department an annual hike of $500,000 to hire four or five new sworn officers to cover anticipated annexed neighborhoods and the overtime pay that comes with patrolling the student neighborhoods. The council also came up with another half-million dollars, over the grumblings of Councilman Larry Wahl, to study the improvements needed for Highway 32 between Yosemite Avenue and Highway 99. Wahl asked why the state doesn’t pay to improve its own highway. The state, Wahl was told, is not about to foot the bill for improvements needed because of future residential developments approved by the Chico City Council and slated to be built along that stretch of road. (Think of the proposed Humboldt Dump neighborhoods. Is that what they will become known as, do you reckon?) Councilmember Dan Herbert pointed out that Assemblyman Rick Keene, R-Chico, was doing all he could to get the state to pay for the highway work. Herbert’s observation was greeted with a non-verbal “Yeah, right” by the rest of the council, which then voted to increase developer fees to pay for the study. The improvement itself will cost about $10 million. The council also agreed to kick down $29,000 to keep the Chico Open Board Art (COBA) program chugging along but warned the organizers that over the next few years it would wean the program from the public breast. The council also agreed to lend a million dollars to Wayne Cook so he could finish rebuilding the Diamond Hotel. He’s already received million-dollar loan from the city, but this project will end up costing about $6 million by the time it is done.

In other council action: Remember a few years ago when local developer Andrew Meghdadi was practically lynched by the council (particularly the conservatives, who used him as proof they don’t coddle developers) because he’d cut down more than a hundred valley oak trees in preparation for his housing development in southeast Chico? At the time, the council tried to punish Meghdadi financially, so he went and hired some big-city attorney and sued the city. The court subsequently said to the city, in effect, “You can’t punish him; you have no tree ordinance on the books.” Though the litigation has not been resolved, the city and the developer did come to a compromise plan that allowed for a redesign of the development and a replanting of the oaks at a 3-to-1 ratio for those cut down.

But there is a sticking point. Some neighbors, including Marlene “Py” Pyshora and her husband Leo “Bud” Pyshora, don’t like lot No. 184, which would place a house high on a ridge and allow its occupants to look down into the Pyshoras’ back yard. This week they came before the council to appeal a Planning Commission decision to approve the compromise plan, including the troublesome lot 184. The council moved to eliminate the lot—as well as the lights for the proposed bike trail—but Bill Abbott, an attorney for Meghdadi, said he did not have the authority from his client to give the council his blessing to do that. The council moved forward with a motion to move the lot to another part of the subdivision. Councilman Dan Nguyen-Tan, serving in his last meeting, tried to get some indication from Abbott as to whether the city and his client might end up back in court. Abbott simply answered that his client had a “business decision” to make. City Attorney David Frank, however, warned “the entire matter could implode and go back to pursuing the original litigation.”

Here’s a scary thought: What if, in the January elections slated for Iraq, religious fanatics take control of the country, like they’ve done in America? One other thing: I’ve paid my parking ticket and made my peace with SUVs. And to the woman who left the phone message telling me to “suck it up,” that I was just jealous because I don’t have an SUV—don’t worry, lady. I’m making up for it. Now when I need to put gas into my vehicle, I try to find the most expensive available and then pump a few extra gallons out onto the pavement so I can at least get a taste of what it must be like to drive an SUV. Feels pretty good, too.