Farmers’ market prank, drought continues, and a welcome back
Tuesday morning around the CN&R office is always hectic, but this past Tuesday was especially so. Our email inboxes were overflowing with messages from readers worried about the Saturday farmers’ market being booted from its longtime home at the city-owned parking lot at Second and Wall streets.
Nobody in the office could figure out why we’d received the flood of messages. There had been no word from the City Council on any changes out of last week’s closed-session meeting. The subject was not on the council’s agenda this week. We were scratching our heads trying to figure out what exactly triggered such a response, like this one from a woman named Pam: “Would someone please find out what the heck is going on??? This is getting ridiculous!”
Then we heard the rumor: The council had held an emergency closed session and voted 4-3 to cancel the market’s franchise agreement, effective the end of April. This isn’t the first rumor we’ve heard about the market since the city and Chico Certified Farmers’ Market officials came to an impasse on negotiating a new franchise agreement. One of the more recent ones is that the city is planning to sell that lot to a developer who wants to build townhouses at the site.
But back to that supposed emergency meeting. News Editor Tom Gascoyne and I were skeptical. We’d have heard about it. In fact, state law mandates that we’d have at least an hour’s notice. We were forwarded an email from a reputable source announcing the “eviction.” But it wasn’t adding up.
You’ll need to read Gascoyne’s report (see “Fooling with the market,” page 9) to get the full picture of what happened. But long story short, it was an April Fools’ Day prank by market insiders. The response from those who bought it, however, was telling. A lot of people love the farmers’ market. The question over the next couple of months is whether enough people love the market. CCFM representatives are currently gathering signatures to qualify a ballot initiative that asks Chico voters if they want the market to remain at Second and Wall streets. At this point, it’s unclear whether such a measure is legal. Even if it’s not, a vote of the people would once and for all give city leaders the clarity to know what their constituents want. I’ll look forward to some closure—at long last—on this issue.
In other news, our timing couldn’t have been better on this week’s cover story about conserving water. Yes, that was sarcasm. It was dry as a bone when we planned the package. But don’t think for a moment that this recent storm means the drought is over. We’re far from it. As of Tuesday, the snowpack was not quite a third of normal.
One last thing: I’m very happy to announce that Meredith J. Graham has returned to the CN&R’s editorial department as associate editor. Meredith is a fantastic copy editor and reporter and an all-around pleasure to work with. Welcome her back: firstname.lastname@example.org.