E-R editors: Get your facts straight

Recent editorials are shamefully misleading

You might think, after reading recent Chico Enterprise-Record editorials, that the liberals on the City Council are playing fast and loose with taxpayer dollars.

The reality is that the E-R editors, in their continuing eagerness to vilify the council majority, are playing fast and loose with the facts. Let’s set the record straight.

The E-R has given two examples of recent council recklessness: the purchase of 1.8 acres at the corner of Park Avenue and 11th Street for redevelopment purposes, and a project that would build 38 apartments for low-income residents at the site of the former Pear Grove Mobile Park between Eighth and Ninth streets near the freeway.

The five parcels that make up the Park Avenue property comprise the blighted corner at the southern entrance to downtown that formerly housed Taylor’s Drive-In. It’s been an eyesore for decades, and is exactly the kind of property the California Redevelopment Act was written for. The city’s plan is for both commercial uses and a 60-unit affordable-housing complex.

The E-R can’t seem to get over the fact that the council has agreed to spend $1.8 million on the property. “Land in Chico going for a million an acre? Is this downtown San Francisco?” a recent editorial harrumphs. “We hope the councilors ask what the appraised value of the land is, then make sure that the taxpayers don’t overpay.”

But the editors were aware the land wasn’t costing $1.8 million. Indeed, in the preceding paragraph they note that the figure includes “demolishing old buildings and relocating current tenants.” The land actually will cost $1,450,000, as they well knew.

And they knew, too, that the parcels had been independently appraised, that council members were aware of the appraisals, and that the city’s practice always has been to pay the appraised value when buying property.

The editorial suggests that the council members were getting suckered: “It looks like the landowners are getting one heck of a deal—they get to unload blighted, contaminated land for a good price without ever putting the land on the market.”

But the parcels had been sitting there for decades. The city saw an opportunity to beautify a longtime eyesore and create affordable housing at the same time. Seems like a good use of redevelopment dollars to me.

About the Pear Grove project: To hear the E-R tell it, the liberals are giving away money to a political ally: “[G]iving $510,000 to a project spearheaded by a loyal local Democratic activist, Randall Stone—on top of the $3 million the city has already given to the project—looks like cavalier spending is the norm for the council.”

But nobody’s giving anybody anything. The city is lending Stone’s company the money so he can build subsidized housing for people who desperately need it.

It’s OK for the E-R editors to disagree with that, and with the purchase of the Park Avenue property, but it’s not OK for them to mislead readers by twisting the facts.

Robert Speer is editor of the CN&R.