‘Oh wow’ vs. ‘No duh’

I got to sit down for breakfast with Kelly Staley this week. Chico Unified’s interim superintendent met me at Morning Thunder; after spinach-’n’-eggs and sourdough french toast, respectively, we talked at length about developments in the school district.

You can check out Newslines for specifics—don’t want to spoil that story for you—but, obviously, the Measure A decision was a hot topic. The “new high school” bond, approved in ’98, instead will go toward improving the existing high schools.

Staley said she’s received nary a complaint since the school board’s 4-1 vote last Wednesday (Dec. 5). The CN&R got one, a letter.

Public meetings made a difference. Overwhelmingly, Staley said, people expressed support … provided CUSD used the high-school-bond money only on high schools. District officials had envisioned K-12 improvements, but they took the advice to heart—and now feel confident enough not to put the matter on an ’08 ballot.

If they’re right, they’ll have saved between $80,000 and $200,000 in election costs, making the process a good use of staff time and resources.

Over lunch—alone this time—I thought back to the last City Council meeting, at which the “Resolution supporting the City’s Strategy for Strengthening the Economic Base for Chico” received universal huzzahs (and 7-0 approval). Martha Wescoat-Andes, the city’s economic-development manager, canvassed various Chicoans over the course of a year in crafting this strategy..

Not to knock Wescoat-Andes, who’s a bright and dedicated staffer, but I don’t see what the city got for all it invested.

Here are some of the resolution’s “Whereas” statements (also referred to as “Guiding Principles”):

• Links quality of life to a strong economy

• Recognizes concerns with present economy

• Acknowledges the all-ages demographic important to Chico’s character is dependent on a strong economy for young and middle-aged working people

• Recognizes that investment drives the economy and leads to jobs and revenue for the community

• Acknowledges planning for the future—“now and into the future”

Other conclusions include the need for talented workers, the appeal of tourism business and the attractiveness of entrepreneurial startups.

Sliding down in my chair at the back of City Council chambers, a phrase kept running through my mind. Sanitized version: “No duh, Descartes!” Actual phrasing: “No shit, Sherlock!”

Are these really revelations? Where wouldn’t these things apply? Couldn’t the city have asked Wescoat-Andes to adapt other places’ economic-development statements, rather than reinvent the abacus?

I asked Councilwoman Mary Flynn about this. She chairs the Economic Development Committee, and before she became a Chico High math teacher she worked in the business world.

Flynn said this process—and Wescoat-Andes—“galvanized support across the community,” a beneficial side effect.

If so, then perhaps this represents resources well-expended, akin to CUSD and the meetings. Still, I just can’t help thinking budget-conscious Chico might have gotten a better return from a different investment.