Squatters’ rights: Six years after a local activist couple, now divorced, pointed out 37 private-property encroachments onto the public lands of Lindo Channel, the Chico City Council is one step closer to having the legislative tools necessary to deal with the few remaining problem encroachments. These are cases where public access is not abridged and removing the encroachments presents a financial hardship. Last year the council asked state Sen. Rico Oller to pen legislation (SB 1605) allowing the council the flexibility to address these particular cases, but public outcry that Oller’s bill was too generic—it could lead, critics said, to the wholesale auction of park land—killed the effort.

Now comes Assemblyman Rick Keene, (pictured above) a former councilmember who had experience with the encroachment issue, and his bill AB 1634, which is headed to the Senate after passing unanimously in the Assembly. The bill was actually hammered out by Councilmembers Coleen Jarvis and Dan Herbert and then tidied up by City Attorney David Frank. As our assemblyman, Keene gets to put his name on it as author, though he may have had to hold his nose to do so. Once, as a councilmember, Keene labeled efforts to abate the encroachments as a “dog and pony show.

Slurry night: A couple of 23-year-old yahoos may face hate crime charges for allegedly chasing down and beating two Hispanic men and a woman in collegetown earlier this month.

Details of the altercation are sketchy, but according to police, Kyle Bryan Lema and Shannon Lee Thompson became involved in a verbal altercation with the three victims just after 2 a.m. the morning of June 4.

The fight started in the vicinity of Fifth and Ivy streets, when the two groups came upon each other and began to argue, then fight. Racial slurs were allegedly used by the two suspects, who apparently chased the other group into the Jackpot convenience market on W. Sixth Street, where they beat one with a tree limb, kicking and punching him while he was on the floor. Pepper spray was also allegedly used in the assault, which was captured on the store’s security camera

Seriously Unwelcome Vehicles: State Sen. John Burton, D-Dan Francisco, is proposing legislation to eliminate SUVs from among the 73,000 state-leased vehicles used by our public servants and workers. Included in that purge would be our own Assemblyman Rick Keene’s 2003 GMC Yukon. The state gives legislators $350 a month toward the leasing of a vehicle, which means Keene has to kick in the extra $100 or so it costs to lease the big rig he’s chosen for tooling around his district. A Yukon, by the way, costs between $32,292 and $36,905, depending on the extras, carries up to nine passengers and, according to, "achieves 14 mph in the city and 18 mph on the highway." At current gas prices, Keene runs up about $300 a month on his state-issued credit card running back and forth between Chico and the state capital. Supporters of the legislation, including state Treasurer Phil Angelides, say Burton’s bill would save money—$14 million over the next five years—and ease pressure on the environment. Burton, by the way, leases a Buick Regal.