This morning, as I backed my truck out of the driveway to begin my journey to work, I was startled by the sudden sound of a woman’s voice. “I’m sorry,” she said. “I had to go down and feed the parking meter. I got a ticket two weeks ago and after I left the building the doors locked behind me.” The voice was coming from my radio, which I didn’t realize was on because of the dead air coming from the station’s temporarily abandoned sound booth. The KZFR disc-jockey, like a lot of us, is so pistol-whipped by the new aggressive parking meter enforcement that she was willing to leave the station office, run down four floors and exit the big pink building on Fourth and Broadway just to slip a coin into a parking meter. This was just at 7:53, normally before the heavy parking meter patrol begins lurking like a shark in the shallow waters off Florida, and just a few minutes before the end of her show.
Look for the Chico City Council to rescind its extended meter hours enforcement vote from earlier this year. The petition that qualified in July with more than 4,000 signatures of city voters calls for the council to either rescind the vote or put the matter on the ballot. It “could do nothing forever,” on the issue as Councilmember Steve Bertagna mentioned at the last council meeting. But if the extended hours are really an integral part of the funding process for a new parking garage, the most logical step for the council, assuming it really wants this hulking concrete monument to the combustion engine and our slavish reliance on oil, then it should rescind. That’s because once it takes that step, it must wait one year before trying it again. Putting the matter on the ballot will take close a year to do and voters will most likely vote the extended-hour proposal down. (Hey, more than 4,000 voters signed the petition and you can win a council seat with 7,000 votes. And at least 20 percent of the electorate tends to automatically vote against any fee increases.) So putting it on the ballot will delay the extended-hour proposal by at least two years. (Council can’t touch it for a year after the voters have spoken.) And by that time Chico State University’s state-funded parking structure will be so close to reality, the locals will say, “Why should we build one when it’s those students who take up all our parking?” At least that is how I see it playing out.
What about Bob? We recently went through some personnel changes here at the News & Review, as reported last week on the front page of the Enterprise-Record. (Two months ago that paper refused to recognize us—referring to us, when they absolutely had to, as “a local weekly.” Now we provide enough news fodder to warrant our own beat!) But to the E-R’s credit, they scooped us fair and square. Where do they get their tips? Anyway, here’s the story: This paper would not be anything like it is if weren’t for Robert Speer, who helped launch the thing off campus nearly 30 years ago. And I wouldn’t be typing this column if it weren’t for Speer—he hired me in 1995 and taught me a lot about good writing and editing. But there comes a time when changes must be made. And that is what happened here—a position was eliminated. There is much more to the story than was presented in the E-R’s single-source account, which is the type of story first-year journalism students are told not to write. (I don’t blame the E-R reporter here—he was under enormous pressure to get the story in and as I hear it, his editors forced it for some reason. What was the hurry? )
Anyway, if I know Speer, and I think I do as well as anyone could, the editor in him was most likely disappointed in the E-R’s story. “Gee,” I can hear him saying to the reporter, “want to add a little balance to the piece? You have single-source story about a guy who’s pissed off and feels he’s been wronged. And that single source is the guy himself. Come on! I’m not running this.”