‘Santa Claus’ dies
Franz Cilensek, one of Chico’s most extraordinary residents, died early Tuesday morning (Oct. 17), apparently of a stroke. He was 72.

Widely known from his years of working at Tower Books downtown, Cilensek was a poet (Gary Snyder and the late Allen Ginsburg were among his friends), illustrator, calligrapher, streetwise “philosopher king” and friend to all. He was also, at every Downtown Christmas Preview, Santa Claus for hundreds of children who came to the Magna Carta card store, where he sat in the window taking wishes and writing names, in exquisite lettering, on a long scroll.

A former Marine (1953-55), he was a frequent writer of letters to the editor lambasting the Bush administration’s invasion and occupation of Iraq. Retired for several years, he’d recently completed his first children’s book, Little Otto, which he illustrated with typically delicate ink drawings.

A memorial service will be held Saturday (Oct. 21) at 1 p.m. at the One-Mile Recreation Area.

Don’t park it here
At its Tuesday (Oct. 17) meeting, the Chico City Council voted to close all of the city parks in the downtown area from midnight to 5 a.m. with the exception of the City Plaza, which will be closed 2-5 a.m. The decision followed an earlier recommendation from the Park Commission and Chief of Police Bruce Hagerty that this was the best way to solve the problem of people—“unsavory types,” Hagerty called them—camping at night or hanging out and drinking to doing drugs.

The commission and Hagerty, in turn, were acting on a request of a group called the Chico Mothers Club, whose members complained that when they took their kids to play in Children’s Park, they found such unpleasant items as needles, trash and feces. After investigating how other cities had handled such problems, closure was deemed the best remedy.

The original proposal called for all of the parks to close at midnight, something several of the council members thought was inappropriate for the City Plaza, given the amount of late-night activity downtown. Closing it at 2 was a compromise solution.

For more on the council meeting, see page 15.

Here comes da judge
Butte County’s newest Superior Court judge, Kristen Lucena (pictured), was sworn in Monday afternoon (Oct. 16). Doing the honors was retired Judge Ann Rutherford. Lucena was elected in June, after running unopposed but with the solid support of the legal community, for the position being vacated by the retiring William Patrick.

Lucena is a graduate of USC and the Santa Clara University Law School and was admitted to the bar in 1993. She began her legal career as a Butte County deputy district attorney. After serving as a prosecutor for 10 years, she became a partner in the Chico civil-law firm of Leverenz, Ferris & Lucena. Her initial assignment will be to preside over criminal matters at the main courthouse in Oroville.

Butte County has 10 judges and two court commissioners.