Letters for August 11, 2005

Correction: Artifax sales clerk Brandi Bouldin, featured in last week’s cover story ["What are you worth?” Aug. 4, 2005], will earn $15 an hour at her new job in Napa. She does not carry health insurance, her employee discount is greater than reported and her car is paid off. The CN&R apologizes for any confusion this may have caused.

Keep the separation
In your “Noise” column [Aug. 4], a photograph of the very evil Rev. Jim Jones jump-started thoughts about the “separation of church and state.” There is a loud anti-liberal, anti-left, pro-religion, cry coming from many organized religious/political groups today. It is in the hope of dissolving the line between church and state. Government for all the people and witch-burning have always been good arguments to keep the two apart.

The very evil Rev. Jim Jones, however, is a good example for separation in our time. Jones had many friends in government and often showed up at political events to talk about religion in government. That was before he received thousands of dollars and killed the people in his church, members of the press and a member of Congress, all in the name of his religion.


Charles Finlay

Extraordinary servant
With the announced retirement of Butte County Supervisor Mary Anne Houx, it is appropriate to begin honoring the commitment and contributions of this outstanding public servant. During the past 30 years, no individual has served so ably and in so many different positions the best interests of this community.

Having taught high school for several years, it was natural that Mary Anne’s first campaign was directed at becoming a member of the CUSD Board of Trustees. She won that 1977 election and served the teachers, staff, parents and most importantly the students of the CUSD for 14 years. During that time her colleagues within the state of California were so enamored of her leadership skills and vision for public education that she was elected president of the California School Boards Association in 1988.

The local electorate chose Mary Anne to serve on the Chico City Council in 1990, but within one year the governor selected Mary Anne to fill an unexpired term on the Butte County Board of Supervisors. Mary Anne has served as a supervisor continuously since 1991.

One testament to the tenacity, integrity and intellect of Mary Anne Houx is the fact that she has never lost an election to serve the needs of the residents of the school district, the city of Chico or the county of Butte.

Supervisor Houx is to be congratulated on the quality and quantity of service to our community. She is a public servant extraordinaire.

Jim Morgan

Prison mess
There’s a lot of talk these days about prison reform. The supporters point to what one judge characterized as the “depraved conditions” that exist in California prisons. The medical services have already been placed in receivership because so many inmates were going untreated or mistreated. Many died while waiting for a doctor who never came because the guards “forgot” to call one. Sanitary conditions are deplorable and hepatitis is epidemic. The guards routinely punish those with a mental illness because many are viewed as problem inmates and it is much easier to put them in isolation units ("the hole") rather than trying to get them proper treatment, if treatment is even available.

Many prisons are overrun by “gangs.” Black gangs, Hispanic gangs, white supremacists and others and even the guards are in fear for their lives. This is an ideal environment for corruption to flourish. And so it does. Big time.

In short, it’s a despicable mess and will only get worse if nothing is done about it. There are now more than 5,000 lawsuits filed in California alone regarding prison abuses and more on the way. Where there’s smoke, there’s fire, but in this case the whole prison system is ablaze.

Larry Phipps

Parking assessment
The downtown parking structure seems to be a done deal. Council has allocated more than $300,000 for studies and plans a charrette—probably another $300,000. They’ve told more than 4,200 petitioners to “talk to the hand.”

Council knows there will be a need for this structure soon. When Tom DiGiovanni converts two downtown business properties to high-density residential, he will be creating that need. Both of those properties include heavily used parking lots. He wants concessions to off-street parking to squeeze in as many “live-units” as possible, so the new residents will be competing for parking on the street.

Who should pay to provide more parking?

Chico Municipal Code describes a “downtown parking and business improvement area.” Downtown businesses pay a tax that is specifically allocated for “the acquisition, construction or maintenance of parking facilities.”

But residential units are exempt, so neither DiGiovanni nor his tenants will be paying assessments. Right now there’s only about a million dollars in that fund, mostly from meters.

The hike in meter fees and hours won’t pay for the structure—meters only brought in about $700,000 last year. Even doubled, that is not enough to build anything.

Instead, Scott Gruendl and Andy Holcombe propose we pay for it on our property taxes. They will use funds accrued from the meter hike to “float” a bond.

The Finance Committee is scheduled to discuss this issue Aug. 24. Be there, or get ready to bend over and take it.

Juanita Sumner

Speer’s legacy
As a member of the Butte College Fine Arts faculty and former director of the Coyote Arts Gallery, I must applaud Bob Speer for his contribution to the success of the arts in Butte County. He has always recognized the value of exhibition and art media coverage. Bob Speer’s reporting of many excellent local cultural experiences informed the public and encouraged participation. He assisted exhibition spaces and artists to thrive by informing the potential audience through publicity.

I am dismayed that an individual who has contributed so much to our community over the past 30 years has been let go with so little consideration. I arrived in Chico from New York City in 1976 when the railroad still went through the middle of downtown. The CN&R was in its infancy and Bob Speer was one of the key inventors. How can our community have “evolved” to the point where the original pioneer of a media publication is “fired” less than three years before retirement? Interesting also that this action has occurred during the heat of summer when many community members are on vacation or suffering from heat stroke. Bob Speer, you have left a valuable legacy. Thank you!

Idie Adams
Butte College Art Dept.