Politicking, indeed

On a power play by the mayor; and a council candidate’s effort to experience life on the streets

The Jesus Center’s plan to abandon its Park Avenue location and move to city-owned land next to the Torres Community Shelter is the CN&R’s lead news item in the current issue. That effort hit a snag last week, as you’ll read in Ashiah Scharaga’s story, and Chico Mayor Sean Morgan and the nonprofit’s administrator both have invoked partisanship as the holdup.

To quote Morgan: “While disappointing, this plainly reveals that while some of us are trying to find solutions, others would rather use our transient population as political pawns and turn this into an issue during a campaign year.” That’s from his “From the Desk of the Mayor” letter he posted on Facebook April 5.

The same day, Jesus Center Executive Director Laura Cootsona sent a letter to the council. In the paragraph before noting that she and the nonprofit’s board had decided to, as she put it, “pursue alternative options for our relocation (including a rebuild of our current site on 1297 Park Ave.),” Cootsona made a point of saying that Jesus Center representatives have “been encouraged through this process that the Council was willing to put aside partisan concerns to address real human need.”

The implication, of course, is that Chico’s elected leaders didn’t hold up their end of the bargain.

My question: Exactly who’s getting political here? We don’t know exactly what took place during the negotiating process between the Jesus Center and the city because it happened during closed session.

Here’s what we do know: The city has confirmed that the council did not vote to sell the property. I’m not surprised, considering the questions I have about this less-than-transparent effort (see Editorial, page 4).

So why the politicking? To put pressure on the holdouts. What will it accomplish? Creating a deeper divide where there’s already a chasm. That’s a given. It’s definitely not the kind of leadership Chico deserves on this important issue.

Speaking of politics and homelessness, I met with someone who’s running for City Council in the fall. On Tuesday, Scott Huber chatted with me about his weekend experiment of “actually going houseless.” Huber suited up during the rainstorm last Friday (April 6) and spent two days and nights trying to experience what life on the streets is like.

He slept at the Torres Shelter one night and outside in the elements the next. Daytime involved a lot of walking to find things to meet basic needs—finding food (including at the Jesus Center) and public restrooms, for example. Staying dry was another big challenge.

Huber described several instances in which he witnessed acts of compassion by those on the streets toward others newly experiencing homelessness. There’s too much to detail in this small space, but I’m sure Huber will expound for those who are curious.

He went home with a renewed gratefulness for his family and the roof over his head. That much was clear from his watery eyes as he described the hardships of those he met while acknowledging that he came from a two-parent family and a life in which he had “every opportunity in the world.”