Mansion needs LaMalfa’s help

Together, he and Dan Logue can bring BMA, State Parks back together

For 56 years the Bidwell Mansion Association has been working to support Chico’s most iconic historic building. Not only did the BMA raise the funds needed to preserve and restore the building’s interior, including the original kitchen, and build its Visitors Center, the group also reconstructed the carriage shed, restored Annie’s piano, funded historical research on the Bidwells’ lives, and worked for eight years to establish the Bidwell Mansion State Historic Park, among many other contributions.

Most recently, when it became apparent early last year that the mansion was on the state’s closure list, members of the BMA worked tirelessly to raise funds and lobby public officials to keep it open, leading the fight long before formation of the Bidwell Mansion Community Project coalition in November.

All along the BMA was working to resolve an inadvertent technical problem regarding its tax status with the IRS. Its partner agency, California State Parks, was fully aware of the glitch and continued working with the BMA for many months. Then, suddenly, just before Thanksgiving, local State Parks officials, citing the tax problem, notified the BMA that they were severing their 48-year association and seizing BMA’s accumulated funds, more than $140,000. They also demanded such items as the BMA’s computer and dinnerware, and sent two armed rangers to the home of BMA treasurer Dianne Wrona to seize a binder of BMA minutes.

This treatment of the BMA was stunningly heavy-handed, to say the least, especially after five decades of cooperation between the two agencies. In addition, our analysis of the tax problem is that it was so minor that the only conclusion to be drawn is that State Parks officials were using it as an excuse to get rid of the BMA, for reasons only they understand.

Fortunately, Assemblyman Dan Logue was able to obtain a 30-day extension of the contract dissolution in order to negotiate a reconciliation. This is essential because State Parks’ plan to establish a nonprofit to replace the BMA simply won’t work. Given its tainted origins, the new nonprofit wouldn’t garner the community support needed to raise funds.

State Sen. Doug LaMalfa played a pivotal role in keeping the mansion open by convening the community meeting last November that gave rise to the Bidwell Mansion Community Project. Since then, however, he’s largely absented himself from the discussion. He should become re-engaged. Working together, he and Logue could quickly resolve this matter in a way that works for everyone.