Council sets ‘bibacious’ priorities

Soon after last November’s election that resulted in a more progressive shade to the Chico City Council majority, Councilmember Coleen Jarvis called for a listing of council priorities.

On Jan. 28, the council did just that, though its conservative members, now in the minority, voiced surprise that bordered on suspicion of conspiracy on the part of the council majority. As the matter was broached, Councilmember Dan Herbert said he was “confused,” Councilmember Larry Wahl noted he had received information on the matter only five days earlier, and Councilmember Steve Bertagna said he was “left out of the loop on this meeting.”

The collected list was rated, with each councilmember placing a colored sticker—green for yes, red for no and blue for “no-brainer” or obvious priority—next to the issue.

But before they got to that part, which played out like an episode of the The Price is Right, each councilmember got five minutes to explain his or her choices of priorities.

Wahl took about 30 seconds of his time, saying he did not wish to raise fees or taxes. His top priority is keeping the Chico branch of the Butte County Library open 65 hours per week. Wahl listed another 27 priorities, including locating a second airline to serve Chico, stepping up gang control and diminishing “non-sponsored bibacious happenings.”

Councilmember Dan Nguyen-Tan listed the proposed Eaton Road extension first on his list and included reviewing Enloe property on Bruce Road, revisiting the idea of a city recreation center and developing an Upper Bidwell Park master plan.

Jarvis said she wanted to look at the city’s growth areas for housing and Lindo Channel encroachments, review the city charter to explore the idea of a strong-mayor system, and consider providing greater compensation for future councilmembers. Herbert, who didn’t have a list, mentioned affordable housing, and Councilmember Scott Gruendl called for implementation of the 10-year-old General Plan, particularly in the area of minimum housing densities, which were relaxed under the conservative council. Gruendl also listed a tree-protection ordinance and working with the county to develop better public transit.

Mayor Maureen Kirk listed working with the county on land use issues, developing a Youth Advisory Committee and dispelling the public’s misconception that Comcast Cable Television Company has an exclusive contract with the city.

“If another company wants to come in, it can,” she said.

Bertagna used his five minutes to give the former conservative-controlled council credit for the city’s stable financial condition. People are mistaken, he said, if they think “this new liberal council will save the world.”

Bertagna also expressed concern that the public be allowed a chance to chime in with its priorities. He then looked down the dais at his more liberal colleagues and said, “I don’t have a clue as to where the four of you are going today.”

When the matter was opened for public discussion, only three people spoke. One, a former city employee, told the council that today’s city work crew doesn’t stack up well with the crew he was on. Another asked that Bidwell Ranch property, once slated for development and now owned by the city, be zoned as open space or annexed into Bidwell Park, and a third, dentist and trail builder Michael Jones, asked that the city’s greenway boundaries be posted.

The council’s final tally of 66 priorities saw only four receive red stickers. Those were discussion of a hiring freeze, adopting an ordinance against aggressive panhandling by April 1, discussing traditional neighborhood development and implementing “streaming video” of city meetings.

“No-brainers” included creating affordable housing and long-range fiscal stability, cleaning the rifle range and nitrates in the water, stopping late-night Halloween revels, stepping up gang control, expanding the sewer and improving city-county relations.

Those with green stickers (yes) included doing something with Bidwell Ranch, implementing the General Plan, developing a Bidwell Park master plan and speeding up the county-to-city annexation process.

“Diminishing non-sponsored bibacious happenings” received no stickers.

The matter will be back before council on Feb. 18.