Everybody’s business

This little piggy…
“Pork barrel spending” is a fun buzz-phrase and so easy to promote, what with all the piggy references the pundits can make.

But I bristled like a razorback when I saw that a bill that would help Chico State University had made the “Pig Book,” tabbed by a nonprofit group as an example of waste. At issue is $500,000 that, in 2005, would go to the university for “equipment” as part of the Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education.

Oh, the horror.

Citizens Against Government Waste is what’s left of a commission directed by then-President Ronald Reagan to “work like tireless bloodhounds to root out government inefficiency and waste of tax dollars.” In 1984, industrialist J. Peter Grace and syndicated columnist Jack Anderson picked up the cause.

CAGW claims to be nonpartisan, but it’s usually Republicans who are praised for voting against what it deems wasteful projects. Rep. Wally Herger, R-Chico, has a “lifetime” score of 80 percent, just squeaking into “taxpayer hero” status for his votes.

CAGW blasts farm subsidies and also has recently labeled as “pork barrel spending” causes such as research on wine-grape-killer Pierce’s Disease, peanut-allergy reduction and sustainable agriculture.

I called the group to see why CAGW has a beef with the Chico State money, and David Williams, the vice president for policy, said it’s probably not the allocation that chafes them, but that it wasn’t requested in the budget and instead added when the bill was already in conference. “That’s really disconcerting,” he said, because legislators can use the technique to slip stuff in away from the public eye. “That’s not what Congress is supposed to be doing.”

We’re ahead of the game
Chico is a hot place to retire, says Warren R. Bland, author of the new book Retire in Style (Next Decade, $22.95).

Bland, who holds a doctorate and teaches as CSU, Northridge, has rated 60 U.S. cities based on 12 criteria.

Chico got 39 out of a possible 60 points. The city got top marks for “quality of life” and ratings of “good” or “very good” in areas such as “cost of living,” “transportation” and “climate.” It snagged a rating of only “fair” in the area of “work/volunteer activities.”

Overall, Bland found Chico “a throwback to a more innocent age.”

The author perceives a “good supply” of housing, priced at or a little above the national average. I’d like to see the small houses he says he found for $150,000.

He also says we have two hospitals: Enloe Memorial Medical Center and Chico Memorial Hospital. Wrong name on the first and who knows what the second one is supposed to be. Enloe has had a monopoly since Chico Community Hospital closed years ago.

Oh, well. Thanks for the props anyway.

Kohl case files
Chico developer Dean Kassebaum, partnering with Zaat Development LLC, has gotten more specific about what he wants to include along with a Kohl’s department store out by the Chico Mall, on the west side of Springfield Drive near Logan’s Roadhouse.

According to city records, the plan is to get a Michael’s Arts & Crafts bigger than the one at the North Valley Plaza Mall.

But it won’t have the hoped-for Chili’s restaurant. That’s going in near Marie Callender’s.

Bob Summerville, an associate planner with the city, said the Kohl’s development is awaiting a contract with the firm that will do its environmental-impact report.