Letters for April 25, 2013

Better things to do

Re “A bungled resolution” (Editorial, April 11):

You accuse the City Council of bungling a resolution by repeating its position as supporting the entire Constitution rather than limiting the resolution to the Second Amendment, as proposed by Toby Shindelbeck. In my opinion, you bungled in printing that editorial, and the council deserves kudos for its diplomatic handling of the matter.

As you point out, Shindelbeck’s purpose was political: that is, to put the liberal members of the council on the spot. They wisely, legally and properly avoided that “spot” by virtue of a procedural problem with Toby’s resolution. That action avoided a prolonged airing of the portion of that resolution which declared that no further regulation of guns was necessary.

To any right-thinking person, there is not a scintilla of evidence to support that position. The number of gun-related deaths and mass killings in this country cries out for additional stringent regulation, which is not barred by the Second Amendment. To have a prolonged discussion of it, with no chance of passage, even without the political motivation, just to put “liberals” on the spot, would be a horrendous waste of the council’s time. The council certainly has better things to do.

Victor M. Corbett

Take advantage of events

Re “Races without spectators” (Editorial, April 18):

You asked how downtown business owners feel about the Steve Harrison Memorial Downtown Criterium, its poor attendance and street closures.

As a downtown business owner I was not really a fan until I decided to turn the street closures to my advantage. Last year I put on the Downtown Mile foot race, which drew 150 participants. This year it capped out at 300 runners, and as a result my business experienced an excellent day of sales.

Sure, I’m disappointed that the community doesn’t get more behind events like this, but it’s also incumbent on local businesses to maximize their opportunities. You can refuse to open and demand that events shouldn’t be allowed to happen, or you can play the situation to your advantage.

I’m all for the occasional day of traffic-free streets downtown because it lets us get creative as business owners, while showcasing some of the neat things that happen in Chico.

Alan Rice
Owner, Fleet Feet

One tough question

Re “Political sex advice” (From This Corner, by Robert Speer, April 18):

In regard to Bruce Herschensohn and myself in 1992, the event at Chico City Council chambers was a Herschensohn campaign event, not a Barbara Boxer event.

After Herschensohn railed against a woman’s right to choose, I asked him how he could attack Boxer for “lacking religious values” when he himself went to clubs with all-nude women.

It was a simple question, but he left immediately without saying another word.

Bob Mulholland

Is the council losing control?

Re “Money man: Chico’s new finance director takes his seat” (Newslines, by Tom Gascoyne, April 18):

Since Brian Nakamura’s appointment as Chico’s city manager, it seems that control of the city is slipping away from our elected City Council. We have two instances of long time, beloved employees leaving their posts without explanation, the loss of Jennifer Hennessy as finance director, major restructuring of departments, city employees nervous about losing their jobs, and Councilwoman Ann Schwab expressing disapproval at how the shakeup has been handled.

I understand that changes are needed for the city to be managed more efficiently, but the way this is coming down feels like an aggressive attack rather than a thoughtful approach to reorganization.

Now the hiring of another person from outside the area at another inflated salary, someone with a questionable history involving hostile relations with employees, adds another layer of concern. It seems that we have an increasingly toxic environment in the city offices.

I’m disappointed that Ann Schwab’s objections were not discussed at the last council meeting, and urge the remaining council members to take these warning flags seriously.

It is the City Council’s responsibility to oversee the dynamics of this major transition. I’m sure there are ways to reorganize without losing the spirit of warmth and respect that has characterized the city of Chico. I hope it’s not too late.

Emily Alma

Editor’s note: Ms. Alma sent her letter to the members of the City Council, two of whom chose to respond to it as follows:

A unanimous council very deliberately appointed Mr. Nakamura as city manager, and a council supermajority continues to support Mr. Nakamura’s new direction for the city.

In contrast to the subversive whisper campaign emanating from City Hall against Mr. Nakamura and Ms. Alma’s unfounded accusations about “control” or a lack of a “thoughtful approach to reorganization” in City Hall, the opposite is true. The path to positive changes has been laid out for nine months, well communicated and methodically executed.

Reorganization has not resulted in layoffs, and department heads know they may be reclassified but remain employed. Salaries correlate to new responsibilities under a leaner administration.

Ms. Alma is mistaken that city management is slipping from the council. Council is exercising its authority by restoring the “public service” focus to the organization and installing the expertise necessary to lead the city out of financial crisis.

The city has been spending more than it receives for many years, and that trend had to stop.

The city employees we speak with support the change in direction, and recognize that challenges remain ahead.

As we work through the process, far higher levels of transparency and communication are being demanded and achieved.

Vice Mayor Scott Gruendl

Councilman Mark Sorensen

A violation of policy

Re “Unscripted moments” (Newlines, by Robert Speer, April 18):

Tuesday night [April 16] the City Council voted to overturn a Bidwell Park and Playground Commission decision denying a permit application submitted by Jerred Fisher, owner of MMX Inc., to hold an obstacle-course race in Lower Bidwell Park. The commission ruled that the event wasn’t in the public interest.

Council also ignored the Parks Division’s request to deny the appeal and instead instructed the division to work with the applicant to make his event successful.

In the 12 years I served on the Park Commission, there was a standing policy that private, for-profit use of public facilities was not in the public’s interest. Mr. Fisher expects to have 300 to 500 participants paying $50-$60 to participate, grossing $15,000 to $30,000! Fisher will pay $386.50 in park-use fees!

Councilman Sean Morgan bragged that the applicant did not ask for one cent of public support and it will bring in TOT taxes (less than $500). I guess he feels that free use of the park and the time the Park Division will spend to ensure the event is successful, the monitoring by park rangers, park maintenance, and city lifeguards at taxpayer expense, is not a handout so Fisher can make $30,000!

Tom Barrett

Validating stories

Re: “The profit in tragedy” (Guest comment, by Jaime O’Neill, April 18):

Each point O’Neill brings up is an incidental byproduct of a noble effort. The Pulitzer is not about the cash reward; rather, it’s about acknowledging journalism when it aids in the public good, regardless of the gruesomeness of the story. The award validates stories that help sway public opinion toward beneficial action and/or when the process of journalism transcends corruption or incredible circumstances. Why not be happy when your efforts help bring the problems of society to light?

The “maudlin” responses of newscasters cannot be avoided—why aren’t more people accused of the same thing when wishing condolences after a person’s death? What other stories should they cover when this event is at the forefront of the general public’s mind?

Broadcasting is supported by advertising, and these people are paid to bring both good and bad news. You can’t shoot the messenger for trying to put on the appropriate face for the message.

Oliver Hernandez

Good jobs—for some

I attended the April 18 CARD board meeting. General Manager Steve Visconti said the results from the recent bond survey should be available at the May 16 meeting.

Regarding the survey, board Chairman Ed Seagle wondered, “Do we really want to push an aquatic center? Sounds like too much…”

The conversation turned to the “side-fund payoff” recently made to CalPERS to cover employee pensions—$400,000. This payment, they said, had saved them a 7 percent interest penalty on their pension premiums. But it completely drained their capital-projects fund and put them over budget.

Meanwhile, a staffer requested a supplemental budget allocation for more “coverage” for neighborhood parks. Apparently parks are being vandalized during broad daylight, and they need more supervision. They’ve closed the skateboard park repeatedly.

These workers are part-time and receive no benefits for cleaning up the parks and repairing damage from vandals. Subject to rules from CalPERS, they are allowed to work only a certain number of hours.

The board did not approve this request.

CARD employs 32 people full time. They receive full benefits and a pension for supervising the part-timers who do the actual work. They pay less than 10 percent of their premiums, and want us to pay the rest.

Juanita Sumner
Chico Taxpayers Association

A compliment accepted

Re “Unscripted moments” (Newslines, by Robert Speer, April 18):

I found very complimentary your reference to me as a “genteel but fierce” member of the Tea Party. That is the nicest compliment I’ve received in many, many years, since a very nice young man referred to me as a “poor man’s Marlene Dietrich.”

I will do my utmost in the future to continue to earn mention of my remarks/utterings/comments regarding the happenings at Chico City Council meetings.

Stephanie L. Taber

Democracy or oligarchy?

During the period from 1966 to 2011, inflation-adjusted income of the top 10 percent rose by $116.000, while that of the 90 percent grew by just $59. This begs the question: Are we living in a democracy of the people, or under the control of an elitist, self-serving oligarchy?

Joe Bahlke
Red Bluff

Celebrating the Women’s Club

I was thrilled to hear the newly restored 1911 Steinway concert grand piano played by Jo Chavez at the first of five monthly Friday night “fun-raisers” at the Chico Women’s Club. Then, when I joined a large group of women to dance to the Latin rhythms of her band, I was ecstatic. The club is celebrating 100 years this year, and I will be 77, but it felt like the club and I were young again.

Restoring the piano was a perfect way to practice the sustainability we teach, and a great gift to the next generation of community-minded women who join the club. Thank you to the current Board of Directors for your faith in the future and all your creative fund-raising efforts. I will be there for every one of them.

Renee Renaud

Take care of your health

Women’s life expectancy is falling. On average, women live longer than men by five years. But according to studies conducted by the University of Wisconsin, the premature death rate of females is rising, and the reasons suggested are high rates of smoking and obesity.

As someone who has moved to Chico relatively recently, I have been impressed by how health-conscious the general population is compared to many other regions in the country. There is easy access to natural, organic, and health foods in places likes S&S Natural Produce, Chico Natural Foods and the farmers’ markets. There is not an over-abundance of fast-food chains, and most restaurants are small and locally owned.

Nevertheless, we should be more conscious of our health and try to improve our chances of living the extended lives that many years of medical advances have afforded us. Mayor Michael Bloomberg has tried to pass laws banning large-sized sodas in New York City. Although I am not advising that we do the same in Chico, we should think about cutting back our intake of soda and liquor and making it more difficult for young people to start smoking.

Sarah Pan