On inclusion

Check us out one day early:
For the week of Thanksgiving, you’ll find a new CN&R on the rack Wednesday (Nov. 22). We’ll return on Thursday the next week (Nov. 30).

“I have always thought that the best way to find out what is right and what is not right, what should be done and what should not be done, is not to give a sermon, but to talk and discuss, and out of discussion sometimes a little bit of truth comes out.”
—Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first prime minister

I am a firm believer in collaboration. To quote another world leader, Woodrow Wilson, “I not only use all of the brains I have, but all I can borrow.” Too many misguided actions come from planning in isolation, without consulting the people most affected by the decision.

So I find myself particularly heartened by Chico city government this week, just days after shaking my head in all-too-familiar frustration.

Last weekend, new Planning Director Steve Peterson and several of his staff members participated in a workshop and walkabout with the Chico Avenues Neighborhood Association (detailed in Newslines on page 10). City officials talked with residents and toured their blocks, getting firsthand information for the formation of a neighborhood plan.

This is not the first time that City Hall has sought input from citizens—the General Plan, for instance, was a collaborative venture. The reason the CANA planning confab is notable is because it shows Chico administrators mean what they say in preaching policies of inclusion.

Too often, Chicoans find themselves on the trailing edge of development. Take Tuscan Village—the first time many neighbors got to voice their concerns was when the City Council was about to vote on the project. With CANA and a fledgling group in the Barber neighborhood, the city is taking a collaborative approach early in the process, before blueprints and site maps start flowing.

This concept may seem obvious rather than groundbreaking. But the election-night council meeting shows cooperative planning is not universal.

The Nov. 7 City Council agenda included a modified ordinance regarding “vehicles for hire”—i.e. taxis. Administrative Services Director Cindy Pierce explained that the main changes would cover who wholly administers the licensing of drivers (the Police Department) and who hears appeals (the city manager, rather than the council).

Seems basic enough … but problems arose over some of the fine print, particularly a requirement that drivers reapply for licenses when they leave an employer. Councilmembers and staff discussed the fairness of such a provision, yet that didn’t turn out to be the crux of the issue. Cabbies aren’t employees—they are independent contractors, drivers and cab owners explained. That is a significant distinction.

Because of this and other concerns, the council voted unanimously to send the matter back to the Internal Affairs Committee.

“Great discoveries and improvements invariably involve the cooperation of many minds.” I hope city officials keep Alexander Graham Bell’s words in mind should they again feel tempted to make changes without consulting the man (and woman) on the street.