Nuts and bolts

Friday, July 1, and I’m looking out my office window at Municipal Parking lot No. 1, which may or may not become the site of a massive multi-story parking garage in the near future. Today is the day the parking-meter increase—from 25 cents to 50 cents an hour—is set to go into effect, or so I thought. I checked a meter by slipping a quarter into the slot to see how much time it would buy. Still one hour. (The parking spot by this meter, by the way, was empty. I am quite aware that the seemingly charitable act of putting money into the meter of a space holding a stranger’s car is frowned upon.) But now, from where I’m sitting, I can see a white GMC-equivalent to the Chevy Suburban illegally parked, not in a parking stall, but under the shade of a tree near the Flume Street entrance, nowhere near a meter. The SUV has two magnetic ribbons stuck to its rear. One says, “Support the troops,” the other, “Support Strippers.” The big truck stays parked like this from morning to early afternoon. No ticket, no sign of the meter man. Is this any way to start a new, more-ambitious era of parking-meter enforcement? How do we expect to raise enough money to build that new structure if we are neither enforcing the increases nor issuing parking tickets to the scofflaws?

A few days later I see one of the city employees who empty and fix the meters. If anyone knows the parking situation in downtown Chico, it’s Charlie Howard, parking meter collector and repairer. But has anyone asked Howard about the need for a new structure? Did Omni Means, the company that did the study and report that gave a lukewarm nod toward the need for increased parking, ask Howard? Of course not. Why ask the guy who deals with downtown parking nearly every day? That’s the way things work here—we never ask for the opinions of the people at the nuts-and-bolts level, the people who really understand what’s going on. Howard put it this way: “I want a new truck. My old truck is fine. I don’t need a new truck, but I want a new truck. That’s how the city looks at this. It doesn’t need a new parking structure, but it wants a new parking structure.” He also predicts mass confusion once the new rates go into effect, which hinge on when the new signs explaining the increases arrive and are bolted to the parking meter poles. That should be any day now. The extended-hour enforcement is on hold pending the outcome of the referendum to overturn that decision.

Who says America is not a Christian nation and, as a result, more than likely God’s favorite? Want proof? Listen to this: At the Chico Outlaws baseball game last Monday, the random winners of the “best seat(s) in the house” contest were none other than Rep. Wally Herger, R-Chico, and Assemblyman Rick Keene, R-Chico. This special anointment of our state and national reps—they got to sit on comfortable couches right behind home plate—happened on the Fourth of July, America’s favorite holiday. Perfect. Divine intervention or what?

Want to buy politically correct gasoline? Wheel it into Citgo. That refining firm is owned by a subsidy of an oil company that is owned by the government of Venezuela, the only democracy among the top oil-producing nations. What’s more, according to the Common Dreams Web site, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez directs oil profits to provide health care, literacy programs and food for the country’s poor. Imagine that. The Bush administration, according to Common Dreams, supported a failed military coup that sought to overthrow Chavez in 2002. Organizers are calling the Citgo patronage a “buycott.” There are two Citgos in Chico—308 Walnut St. and at the intersection of Forest Avenue and Highway 32.

The leaning tower of Chico. Looking north from Main Street at the new Senator Theater tower, something appears amiss. And it might be. But according to Tony Baptiste, the city’s community development director, the tower is perfectly safe and meets all specifications. “The tower is placed exactly on the foundation, right where it needs to be,” Baptiste said. “And it was constructed exactly as designed. It does give the visual impression of being off-set.” Baptiste suggested that the problem may stem from the original foundation upon which the tower sits.