Keen economics

When he was still on the Chico City Council last year, Assemblyman Rick Keene did not endorse Proposition 46, which was passed by the state’s voters. The proposition called for the sale of $2.1 billion in general-obligation bonds to fund 21 housing programs, including $1.1 billion for multifamily housing, $405 million for homeowner programs, $200 million for farm worker housing and $385 million for things like building homeless shelters. The proposition was designed to help about 25,000 multifamily and 10,000 farm worker households and assist about 6,000 homebuyers with down payments and provide space for 30,000 homeless shelter beds.

But now that he is in Sacramento looking for ways to balance the budget, Keene has said local governments can use Prop. 46 money to backfill what they lose in redevelopment funding, a portion of which was also used for low-income housing. On March 14, the Sacramento Bee reported, “Assemblyman Rick Keene, R-Chico, was the lone voice in favor of using housing bond funds to compensate redevelopment agencies if they’re forced to surrender affordable housing dollars to balance the state budget. He emphasized that the state will be making many painful cuts this year, including those to health and social services, and that the housing bond money would still be used for affordable housing if it replaced money diverted from redevelopment agencies.”

That news story did not escape the notice of Chico City Councilmember Dan Nguyen-Tan, who along with Councilmembers Maureen Kirk and Coleen Jarvis strongly supported Prop. 46. “I, along with Kirk and Jarvis, supported Prop. 46 because we believed in enhancing local government’s sources of revenue to support much-needed affordable housing projects, not to simply backfill current affordable-housing funds because politicos like Keene want to balance the budget on the backs of local government,” Nguyen-Tan said in an e-mail. “It’s even more disingenuous coming from someone who did not even support Prop. 46.” Nguyen-Tan said he wondered what had become of Keene’s campaign mantra of “supporting affordable housing and local control.” Using voter-approved funds to replace redevelopment housing funds “is an affront to local government control, to the sincerity of statewide bond measures, and a slap in the face of voters who supported Prop. 46,” Nguyen-Tan said. Always one to allow for the benefit of doubt, Nguyen-Tan added, “Perhaps Keene was misquoted or his position misinterpreted, but he’s got some explaining to do.”

Saturday noon driving up Main Street, when suddenly I’m confronted by pro-war folks on my left, standing in front of the FOX 30 building, waving American flags and kick-Saddam’s-butt signs. I beep my horn in support and give them a power-fist salute. But almost immediately to my right are the peace advocates standing on the northeast corner of Third and Main streets, and I flash them a peace sign. “Right on,” I mouth to the good folks whose peaceful positions have been represented for the past 40 years—they even have a sidewalk bench dedicated to them there. So just when I think I’m done with sign-wavers, I come across a guy on the corner of Vallombrosa and Mangrove touting a “Wherehouse going out of business” sign. “Save 20 to 50 percent!” And I wave my support to this guy’s cause. He just gives me a look of utter confusion as I wheel into the Safeway parking lot.

Has the Enterprise-Record had any non-war stories on its front page since March 20? If so, I haven’t seen them. And that March 20 edition, coming out as it did the day after we started bombing Baghdad, was the mother of all war issues, the shock-and-awe version. They had that baby cranked up and ready to fly in anticipation of the first day of war. They even sold some full-page ads, including one for hearing aids, one to the Peace and Justice folks (against the war) that was labeled “Paid Political Advertisement” (PPA) and one to a bunch of local businesses that supported our troops. That one had a big photo of Rep. Wally Herger in the middle. This one was not labeled a PPA, so it was either not paid for or non-political. I’m not saying there is anything wrong with profiteering off war—isn’t that at least part of the reason we conduct them?