Red flags

Lack of public input on Jesus Center move, expansion of services is suspect

I covered my first Chico City Council meeting back in 2001, as a journalism student, but starting in 2009, after being promoted to CN&R’s news editor, I began spending a lot of time at the council chambers. My duties included covering the regular meetings on the first and third Tuesdays of the month, as well as the annual day-long budget sessions and public workshops (aka charettes, aka study sessions). Then there were the gatherings of boards and commissions.

I loved reporting on the council meetings during that time, because I was fascinated by the personalities setting policy. I made it my mission to inform readers in a way that captured their political maneuverings and nuances lost on other local media.

But back at the office, I’d complain to my then-boss, Robert Speer, that the politicians lingered too long on certain issues, especially to justify their votes. “Boy, do they love hearing themselves talk,” I’d say to him.

Indeed, oftentimes the meetings would drag on until nearly midnight, pushing my patience, not to mention the council members’ sanity, to the edges. One person on the then-liberal-majority body was borderline insufferable.

While many of the current City Council members can be accused of the same ego-centric behavior, the panel has largely managed to keep its meetings shorter, which is a feat.

The downside is that not enough talk is happening, and that’s a disservice to the community.

Case in point: A few weeks ago, I wrote about the lack of transparency regarding the Jesus Center’s proposed move and expansion of services at a city-owned property near the Torres Community Shelter (see “Plan lacks transparency,” Editorial, Nov. 16). That plan was well in the works by the time it was revealed by Chico’s city manager and the head of the nonprofit homeless service provider, both of whom have obviously spent a lot of time on the effort.

The public heard about it only after the plan had been shaped. Think about that. We’ve had all sorts of charettes over the past decade or so (parking, development, Enloe’s expansion, to name a few) and a study session on downtown vagrancy just a few years ago. Yet an effort involving public resources aimed at addressing one of the most controversial and important community issues of the past decade has taken place behind closed doors with cooperation of the city’s top official. Moreover, it’s being spearheaded by a woman who, based on her LinkedIn CV, has little experience in the social services realm and has led the Jesus Center for only two years.

We’re talking multiple red flags here. None of this inspires confidence.

In other news: Here at the corner of Second and Flume streets, we at the CN&R are prepping for the holidays. Among other things, we’re doing our part to ensure the kids living at the Esplanade House don’t get left out this season. Despite the schism between the agency that runs the organization and its founders, we’ve once again partnered with the nonprofit.

Several tags bearing the name of a child still hang in our office, where they will remain until a reader—or, in some instances, a CN&R staff member—signs up to buy gifts for him or her. Each card gives suggestions on what to purchase, from practical gifts, such as shoes and clothing, to toys big and small. Please stop in if you’d like to participate. Thanks, in advance.