Prison penpals

The community of Live Oak continues to round up supporters in its efforts to convince the governor to change his mind about closing the privately owned women’s prison there, the Leo Chesney Community Correctional Facility. Gov. Gray Davis believes that the state can save $5.1 million a year by shutting down the 16 prisons that California contracts with but does not run itself.

But shuttering the 13-year-old prison in sparsely populated Sutter County would take away a major source of jobs there. Forty-four people work at the prison, and the inmates do much of the yard work for the city of Live Oak, along with participating in community service activities.

So, at its Feb. 26 meeting, the Butte County Board of Supervisors weighed in, agreeing as part of the consent calendar to send a letter to Davis pointing out the benefits of the prison to the area and to the state. “It is difficult for us to believe that the State can really save money by closing this contract facility,” the letter stated.

Add that letter to those of the Delta Kappa Iota sorority, Sen. K. Maurice Johannessen, Assemblyman Dick Dickerson, Sutter County’s supervisors, and there’s a chance Davis will get the message.

Mansion madness

Gov. Davis’ mailbox will also include a letter from the Bidwell Mansion Association, which is hoping the mansion can get an exemption from the hiring freeze that has been placed on all state parks.

Shirley Kendall, the museum technician, said that in recent months the mansion has been closed on Mondays and Tuesdays because, even though qualified seasonal guides—who would work for nine months—have been interviewed, they can’t be hired until the freeze is lifted in June 2003. That means less access for tourists, of course, but also to area schoolchildren who have been learning about John Bidwell as part of their history curriculum. “We’re now having to turn down school groups,” Kendall said. There’s a two-page waiting list for classes to get a tour, as there is only one guide on staff, who does everything from develop the educational programs to publicizing events.

Here’s an event to note: Starting on March 27, the mansion will be host to numerous rare documents about John Bidwell on loan from the State Library.

Color your world

This is totally random, but I’m sitting here looking at two city of Chico Architectural Review Board agenda packets. Sure, it’s interesting to see that the developers of the North Valley Plaza mall have agreed to add some more trees to the parking lot as they move to turn the struggling center into an open-air mall. And I can’t wait to learn more about the retail complex—complete with restaurant, butcher shop and print shop—that Richard Jasco and Michael Hart have planned on .74 acres at the northeast corner of Humboldt Road and Forest Avenue near Highway 32.

But what about those cool colors, man? The lists of paints on these projects read like an interior designer’s dream. The proposed colors for the Jasco-and-Hart commercial building are "Creamer" and "Burlap." Out at North Valley Plaza, it’s a Southwestern rainbow of fun, from "Coffee and Cream" to "Falling leaf" to "Strong hunter" to "Rendezvous blue" to the region-appropriate "Nutmeat." The least politically correct color in the palette would have to be "Tomahawk." Now I’m thirsty for a coffee drink—or some new clothes.