All systems go
Plans for direct flights from Chico to Los Angeles have been cleared for takeoff, reports Dave Burkland, assistant city manager. A $472,500 grant from the U.S. Department of Treasury, first reported here last week, has been officially approved, he said.

The grant will subsidize participating airlines, most likely Horizon and SkyWest. “Our job right now is to meet with the airlines and discuss what the opportunities will be with the funding and to find out if we can come to terms with either airline,” Burkland said.

Those terms may also include direct flights from Chico to Seattle, as Horizon’s parent company, Alaska Airlines, has its headquarters in the city. Portland, Ore., is also being considered as a possible connection.

Currently Chico has flights only to San Francisco. The additional flights are expected to begin in the spring of 2007.

Free at last
You’d think that college newspapers would enjoy the same freedom from censorship other papers have, but that hasn’t been the case—until now. On Monday (Aug. 28), Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a bill, AB 2581, authored by Assemblyman Leland Yee (D-San Francisco), that extends First Amendment protections to college papers.

The bill was in response to a 2005 federal Appeals Court case that extended to college newspapers an earlier ruling allowing censorship of high school papers. The ruling applied only to papers in a certain part of the Midwest, but California legislators were concerned it might one day be applied to California.

The bill, which takes effect Jan. 1, 2007, codifies what has been standard operating procedure at Chico State University, where President Paul Zingg earlier made a pledge not to interfere with the campus paper, The Orion.

Be careful this weekend
Law enforcement officials continue to stress that they will be out in force over the Labor Day weekend, enforcing DUI, speed and safety belt laws and trying to minimize the level of destructive partying in Chico and on the Sacramento River.

Parking along Highway 32 in the vicinity of the river will be sharply limited, and access from the highway to River Road will be closed off. Some parking will be allowed along River Road, but vehicles must be completely off the pavement or they might be towed.

Chico police report they have been busy since students began returning to town earlier this month, especially on weekends. In one incident, when they responded to a large party at Sixth and Ivy streets, an officer was hit by a bottle.

Mosquito alert
West Nile virus remains a threat, the Butte County Health Department reports. In fact, eight new infections have been identified recently, bringing the total for the county to 14, including one elderly woman who died. The new cases were from the Gridley, Oroville and Durham areas. Earlier cases came mostly from Chico.

None of the new cases was life-threatening, though five people reported having fever.

The Health Department urges people to avoid mosquitoes, especially at dawn and dusk, when they tend to come out; to wear repellent and long-sleeved shirts and repair any torn window screens; to eliminate possible breeding areas around their residences; and to report any ill or dead birds by calling (877) WNV-BIRD.