Sending the wrong message

High-speed rail, Delta tunnels, lost parks money could hurt tax measure

This week it’s the $14 billion “peripheral tunnels” under the Delta. Last week it was the $68 billion high-speed railroad. In just two weeks, Gov. Jerry Brown and the Legislature have committed the state to at least $82 billion in infrastructure bonds.

Whether the projects are worth the money is of course debatable. Both have their backers and their opponents. What isn’t debatable is that such extravagant spending couldn’t come at a worse time for the governor’s effort to obtain voter approval in November of his temporary tax measure.

Nor does it help that last week we learned that State Parks had some $54 million squirreled away that apparently nobody knew about. That’s far more than would have been needed to keep open the 70 parks slated for closure.

This is dismaying for those of us who see the tax measure as critically important to the state’s solvency and the maintenance of a minimal level of services, especially education. Many voters have a dismally low opinion of state government as it is. They don’t trust legislators or the governor with taxpayer money. How in the world, they ask, could someone lose $54 million?

The irony is that, as prelude to the vote on the tax measure, Brown has been unrelenting in cutting spending to lower the deficit, as if to prove to voters that the state can be trusted with their money. These latest developments threaten to negate that effort, and that’s a shame.

Crime takes time: The Chico Police Department’s press releases have a new wrinkle these days. In addition to the usual rundowns of criminal activity, they now often include information on just how much police time was spent on each case.

A July 13 release about a scary home invasion on Roseleaf Court, for example, included this information: “This incident necessitated the response of all on duty Officers, including the Chief of Police, for a total of thirteen CPD officers and twenty one man hours (follow up investigation hours not included).”

On July 20, 11 officers and a police dog were used to arrest a man who’d fled police following a traffic violation and ended up having illegal weapons and burgled items in his car. The initial investigation, we learn, required approximately 12 man hours, and subsequent investigation took eight additional hours.

It’s tempting to see this new info as CPD propaganda, but I like getting it. It offers a valuable perspective on the complex work our police officers perform.

Exit stage left: Say what you will about Quentin Colgan, who died Monday night at the tender age of 54, he was one of the most colorful figures on the local scene. An actor who was always “on,” he made Chico the main stage on which he played out his satires and lambasted those he considered fools. If he sometimes worked himself into Falstaffian bombast, it was always in the service of a healthy distrust of authority and love for ordinary Americans. Besides, it was part of his shtick. He was serious, but if you looked closely, you could see him winking.

Robert Speer is editor of the CN&R.