Knives and forks

Continuing survey
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The Chico City Council meeting Tuesday night (Aug. 1) got downright biblical.

The council and Butte County didn’t exactly beat their swords into plowshares. But all parties involved in the Mechoopda Indian casino project debate—particularly the city—did their best impressions of Solomon by wielding knives of compromise.

When the sides last met, July 11, Supervisor Mary Anne Houx vociferously opposed the notion that Chico would open negotiations with the tribe to provide public-safety services. “You people are being used and manipulated,” she declared to the council, drawing rebukes for her “scolding” tone.

Against that backdrop, deliberations resumed Tuesday. Councilman (and supervisor candidate) Steve Bertagna remained miffed at conduct that “went beyond disrespectful.” But, by and large, civility prevailed—no sword-waving.

Chief Administrative Officer Paul McIntosh represented the county this time, and he ruffled no feathers while presenting essentially the same argument: Negotiations with the tribe are “premature” until the federal approval process is complete, and the simple act of negotiating would sway that process in favor of the project at a site the county opposes—and, it turns out, the city finds troubling.

The Mechoopda, meanwhile, simply want the opportunity to talk about police, fire and emergency services for a casino they see as inevitable at the intersection of highways 99 and 149. The city stands to gain revenue and favorable contracts through an MOU (memo of understanding) with “Chico’s tribe.”

Amid mostly déjà vu debate, something new arose. Like a biblical king, albeit splitting hairs rather than a baby, Mayor Scott Gruendl proposed a “bifurcated” process whereby the city would discuss particulars with the tribe, then decide whether to actually negotiate. Councilman Dan Herbert said Gruendl read his mind; Larry Wahl—who moved to let the city manager hold discussions—agreed with that interpretation.

Andy Holcombe joined them, resulting in a 4-3 affirmative vote. Feeding off an offer by Tribal Chairman Steve Santos, the motion also included a provision to recoup legal costs from the Mechoopda for any negotiations that ensue.

McIntosh praised the council for a “wise compromise” and asked that the city consult with county counsel. Agreed.

Whether it makes sense for Chico to send police and fire vehicles past city limits remains to be seen. The tribe’s attorney framed the Mechoopda’s desire as one for “supplemental services” from the city, meaning the county would retain responsibility without reward. That certainly won’t help city-county relations.

But for now the governmental entities are cooperating—thanks to some fine Ginsu cutting.

OK, so what about the forks? Don’t worry, I’m done with cutlery metaphors. This covers CN&R’s new Chow ratings.

Starting this issue, our culinary critics will encapsulate their opinions on a scale of one to five “forks” (displayed online as “stars"). We want you to read their words, obviously, but we hope this punctuates reviews the way “popcorn” does in Reel World.

There is another reason for the forks: an increased commitment to dining. On weeks when Henri Bourride focuses on cooking, we will spotlight restaurants for readers seeking recommendations. We don’t want to shortchange the honorable Henri, so we will run quick picks with les petites fourchettes.

Bon appétit!