Other notable stories in 2010
From backyard chickens to smoke in the air, it was an eventful year
A lot of memorable things happened in Chico and Butte County in 2010 in addition to those mentioned in our Top 10 story list. Here are the stories the CN&R editors believe stand out as especially notable.
Arts commission confusion
The opacity surrounding the installation and cost of the public-art treatments included in the recently completed Manzanita Avenue Corridor Reconstruction Project put Mary Gardner, the city of Chico’s art projects coordinator, at the center of a whirl of confusion concerning the city’s seven-member Arts Commission, which saw its members dropping out at an alarming rate in 2010.
The exits of Paul Friedlander, T. J. Glenn and commission Chairwoman Carin Hilgeman added to the already existing perception that commissioners’ roles in the public-art process are unclear, and that communication between the commission and Gardner has been poor.
Orland battles bottling plant
Water issues were in the news again this past year, with the proposed Crystal Geyser water-bottling plant in jobs-starved Orland being of particular note. Two citizen-action groups—Save Our Water Resources (SOWR) and Friends of Orland (FOO)—filed suit against Calistoga-based Crystal Geyser, asking that the project be put on hold until the completion of an environmental-impact report as required by the California Environmental Quality Act.
SOWR and FOO are concerned about the plant’s potential effect on groundwater supply and the movement of a nearby, PCE-contaminated dry-cleaner plume, among other things. The trial is set for May 27, 2011, in Sacramento Superior Court.
Chapmantown gets sewer hookup
There was good news for Chapmantown in 2010. Residents of the largely unincorporated Chapman-Mulberry neighborhood were told in April that long-awaited sewer hookup is coming. According to Butte County Program Development Manager Jennifer Macarthy, the city will begin installing sewer mains and laterals in spring 2011—a little later than originally planned—thereby fulfilling the directive of the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board’s prohibition order banning the use of septic tanks due to the resultant nitrate contamination in shallow groundwater.
Child-abuse death rocks county
In early February, Butte County was shaken by the death of Lydia, a 7-year-old Liberian girl, allegedly at the hands of her adoptive parents, Paradise couple Kevin and Elizabeth Schatz. It was the first death linked to child abuse in the county since 1982.
The Schatzes were arrested Feb. 9, three days after Elizabeth called 911 to report Lydia had stopped breathing. Police found bruises on two of the Schatzes’ other children and evidence that indicated they had been hit with a piece of PVC tube, a plumbing supply referenced in some fundamentalist Christian teachings as ideal for “training” children.
The Schatzes were mostly private people, had no history with Children’s Services and no criminal record.
The couple were charged with first-degree murder, felony torture and misdemeanor cruelty to a child. Their trial is scheduled for the end of February 2011.
CUSD cuts after-school club
The Boys & Girls Club of Chico took a major hit this year when the Chico Unified School District in May decided to sever a six-year relationship with the club starting in fall 2010. That relationship brought not only hundreds of children from school to the after-school programs at the club, but also represented the majority of the club’s funding—about $335,000 annually.
What was more, parents started complaining in August that they didn’t know what they were going to do with their children after school, since communication with the district had been minimal. What really hurt was a change in bus routes that cut out the club altogether, forcing parents who still send their kids there after school to find alternate transportation—Cabs 4 Kids ultimately stepped in with a workable contract.
Student president attacked
Joseph Igbineweka walked home from a party in the early morning hours of April 18, and his world was turned upside down. After hearing racial slurs thrown at him from a pair of men walking behind him, he was jumped and was able to throw one punch before being stabbed five times, including once in the neck.
Igbineweka’s story was shocking to a lot of Chicoans, especially students. Not only was it difficult for many to believe that such racism was still alive in our little town, but everyone knew Igbineweka—he was president of the Associated Students.
The native of Nigeria was transported to Enloe Medical Center and treated for his wounds. Students responded by holding a rally against racism at Chico State.
One arrest was made following the attack, but charges were quickly dropped. Last week the Chico Police Department confirmed a tip the CN&R received that police had gotten a break in the case when a DNA hit had matched up with someone in the Department of Justice database. No arrest has been made, however.
Disc golf pact forged—finally
In April, the City Council approved an agreement with a private nonprofit, known as the Outsiders, to manage the controversial disc-golf course off Highway 32 in Upper Bidwell Park. The agreement ended an emotional controversy that had lasted for years and come before the council repeatedly.
People have been playing disc golf on the site since the mid-1990s, but more recently groups like Friends of Bidwell Park became worried about its impact on the park. The final agreement calls for just one long course on the site and for maintenance to be provided by the Outsiders.
By year’s end the new course was mostly in place and city officials were saying it was turning out well.
Progressives keep council hold
If there was any lingering doubt that a majority of Chico voters lean liberal when it comes to the City Council, it was removed Nov. 2, when they voted to keep a strong liberal majority on the City Council for the third election in a row.
Two liberal incumbents, Mary Flynn and Scott Gruendl, were returned to office, where they will join three other liberals to varying degrees, Jim Walker, Andy Holcombe and Mayor Ann Schwab. Interestingly, a business-oriented conservative, Mark Sorensen, was the top vote-getter in the race, perhaps because he was the only candidate to get the endorsement of both local newspapers.
As the year ended, debate was heating up on who would replace outgoing Councilman Larry Wahl, with many people supporting the fourth-place finisher, retired business manager and conservative Bob Evans.
Local athletes make headlines
Chico’s favorite (and only) bobsledder Emily Azevedo dominated local news in early 2010 when she made the U.S. Olympic bobsled team, and came in fifth—with sledmate Bree Schaaf—out of 21 sleds in February’s Winter Games.
And while Green Bay Packers quarterback and ex-Chicoan Aaron Rodgers’ name continues to pop up all over the place, it was his brother Jordan who made local news this year. The former Butte College quarterback transferred to Division I Vanderbilt University in spring 2010.
And Paradise High School graduate Jeff Maehl was named top receiver for the undefeated University of Oregon Ducks, who are set to play the Auburn University Tigers in the Bowl Championship Series title game on Jan. 10.
Chicken scratch fever
Chicoans Brad and Shannon Schreiber could never have imagined that their hens, Bert and Ernie, would set off one of the year’s most interesting debates. But that’s exactly what happened after the CN&R’s Newslines article “Fowl play” appeared back in June.
The city was going to fine the couple for keeping the birds without having secured a use permit to keep fowl in a residential part of the city (a neighbor had turned them in). Turns out that permit costs a lot of money: more than $1,500 for homeowners or about $2,800 for renters.
City Councilman Tom Nickell was sympathetic to the Schreibers and others (including Councilman Jim Walker) who raise hens, and he took up the cause with the city. After months of debate, the panel agreed to temporarily ignore the law requiring the permit. The long-term plan is to fix the law next year during an overhaul of the city’s municipal code.
Burn ban keeps sizzling
When the Butte County Air Quality Management District shot down a measure that would have lessened the dangerous wintertime wood smoke in Chico back in September of 2009, the Chico City Council vowed to take up the issue.
Last month, more than a year after the BCAQMD balked, the panel finally agreed to do so. The council came to that decision after being reminded—chided, actually—by residents concerned that their representatives had dropped the ball.
Seventy-five percent of the city’s wintertime particulate matter is estimated to come from wood heaters. The ban would restrict residential wood burning on days in which fine-particulate-matter levels exceed federal standards. It would apply only to old fireplaces and wood-burning devices not certified by the EPA.
The issue will come before the council prior to next winter.
The improvement of lunches served in local school cafeterias was a hot topic throughout the year, beginning in January when Tanya Harter, the Chico Unified School District’s interim director of food services, spoke of the district’s new pizza ovens, which would be able to make more healthful, homemade-style pizzas than the usual cafeteria fare. By year’s end, the new pizzas were being served in the upper grades, but CUSD elementary school students were still eating the same frozen, processed pizzas as before.
Several local charter and private schools, though, upped their lunch game come fall by employing Bridgette Brick-Wells’ Healthy Lunch & Lifestyle Project to make fresh, healthful lunches for their students.
Big changes coming downtown
After about a dozen workshops over the past couple of years to get input from the public, primarily downtown businesspeople, the city moved forward in February on a plan to dramatically change part of the traffic circulation in the area.
The City Council heard some concerns about the First and Second Street Couplet Project, but the majority ultimately voted to OK it.
The plan will transform First Street into a one-way westbound route from East Second to Salem streets and make Second Street one-way eastbound from Broadway to Flume streets. It includes other features such as a round-a-bout at the juncture of Second, First and Flume streets, and also sensor lights that will reduce pollution-causing idling traffic. These are some of the features that will help the city secure grant funding city staff expects to cover the bulk of cost.
County approves new general plan
On Oct. 26, after 4 1/2 years of work and dozens of meetings attended by hundreds of people, the Butte County Board of Supervisors adopted the county’s first-ever comprehensive general plan. The 410-page document with an even larger environmental-impact report is a complex and sophisticated study that analyzes the county from every important angle—housing, recreation, circulation, land use, economy, water, agriculture and so on—and develops a vision of how it will grow sustainably over the next 20 years.
Not everybody is entirely happy with the plan. In late November, the Butte Environmental Council sued the county, alleging that it did not provide sufficient evidence regarding the plan’s adverse impacts on the county’s groundwater supplies.
Meanwhile, the city of Chico has completed a draft of its new general plan and EIR and anticipates final adoption in April 2011.