Looking back

Some of my favorite cover stories from 2014

This week, as we close the books on 2014, I’m going back through the archives. It was another exciting year, especially at City Hall, as you’ll see in this week’s annual year-in-review issue. We published many outstanding stories throughout the paper over the past 52 weeks. I cannot mention all of them here, because I don’t have enough space. But below are some of my favorite cover stories:

• “Out of sight, out of mind” (Jan. 23)—an essay by Patrick Newman, one of my favorite contributors of smartly written letters to the editor and the occasional guest commentary (see one opposite this page). The catalyst for Newman’s cover feature—and his civil disobedience over many months—was the so-called “compromise” the city came to with a church group that for several years had been feeding the needy at City Plaza.

• In February, Dave Waddell, a mentor from my college reporting days, delved into city finances—payroll in particular. His eye-opening cover story (see “Strong-arming the budget,” Feb. 27) based on 2012 data from the State Controller’s Office revealed how Chico’s public-safety personnel alone ate up more than 80 percent of the city’s entire operating budget. Among the other revelations: The pay and benefits for city employees made Chico the 25th highest compensating municipality in the state.

• Early last summer, CN&R staff writer Ken Smith penned a poignant tribute to his brother Craig, who died suddenly a few months earlier (see “Life after death,” June 19). In doing so, he poured his heart onto the page, sharing his struggle with grief.

• Mid-summer, frequent contributor Alastair Bland outlined the dangers facing the North State—including the Feather River, and thus Lake Oroville and the state’s water supply—due to the transport of millions of gallons of explosive Bakken crude oil by local railway (see “On track for disaster,” July 10).

• In September, we published Debra Lucero’s chilling account of the life of Lonnie Scott Keith, the Chico physician assistant who kidnapped and drugged local college-age women and eventually pleaded guilty to one count of rape (see “Collateral damage,” Sept. 18). The details of the case—including zip ties, gloves, syringes and a Taser found in a secret compartment of his car—are something right out of an episode of NBC’s Law & Order: SVU.

• Former CN&R Editor Robert Speer gave us an insightful look at Chapmantown and the Mulberry district (see “Welcome to the neighborhood,” Oct. 2) and what would and wouldn’t change for those neighborhoods and their residents should those urban county islands join the city. It included a sidebar dispelling some of the misperceptions about annexation, such as the false notion that citizens would have to give up their chickens.

In conclusion, it’s been a great year for newspapering in Chico—at least it has been for the CN&R. I’m grateful to be able to work with excellent writers and reporters, including the authors of the stellar works I mentioned above and with this paper’s dedicated and talented staff. And thank you, dear readers, for supporting local, independent journalism.