Jones on the issues

City manager believes downtown parking structureeventually will be needed

If you ask Greg Jones about any of the hot political issues now facing the city—the downtown parking structure, for example, or the use of redevelopment funds as venture-capital seed money—he is careful to take strictly neutral positions on them. He is, in Councilman Dan Herbert’s words, “very astute at being apolitical” and “the epitome of diplomacy.”

“There’s a distinction between my role and the council’s,” Jones says, but he is not afraid to discuss issues from that neutral standpoint. Here are his takes on some of them:

Growth: Chico is growing, so traffic, infrastructure and public-safety issues are always going to be important, Jones says. One thing he does not want to do, he says, is spend money on capital projects if funding for their ongoing operation and maintenance isn’t also available. His goal, he says, is to develop long-range financial plans that will meet the city’s needs well into the future. And he wants the city to be well prepared to deal with the inevitable increases in crime that accompany growth. Responding to growth, he says, requires a collaborative effort among government, business, neighborhoods and individuals.

Redevelopment: There are a number of local citizens who regularly attend meetings and write letters to the editor who are adamantly opposed to the use of redevelopment funds—state-tax revenues diverted to local coffers—for capital projects, but Jones has no intention of heeding them. “I don’t know where this community would be without redevelopment,” he says. “It has so many infrastructure needs, and without that tool, we couldn’t meet those needs. I look upon redevelopment as a gift from the state.”

He also believes it’s appropriate, and legal, to use some redevelopment money administratively to help foster local-business development. The important thing is for the city to take a role that doesn’t duplicate the private sector, he adds.

Downtown parking structure: The four-day, $164,000 charrette held last week on downtown parking was “a healthy thing,” Jones says. Facing opposition to its proposed structure, “the council decided to step back and take another look.” Ultimately, he says, he sees a structure “being needed, but it’s a matter of timing.” In the interim, he asks, are there other solutions that might be effective?

Public relations: The city has been taking knocks lately about the potholes on East Avenue. “Just give us time,” Jones says, laughing, when asked about it. In fact, the city announced recently it intended to spend $15 million on roadway repairs in coming months. Otherwise, though, Jones has a number of plans to improve communication with citizens, including reinstituting a community newsletter next month that will be mailed out to local residents. “It’s a way for us to get the word out in an objective fashion,” he explains, smiling.

In Concord, he adds, he designed “liaison teams” of city employees that were assigned particular geographical areas of the city and charged with serving as conduits between neighborhoods and City Hall. They would attend neighborhood meetings and the like, make themselves known to people and be available to communicate each area’s needs back to city government. It was good for the employees to be reconnected to the community, and of course it was good for community members. He says he may institute a similar system in Chico.