Sewer politics

A couple of weeks ago the Chico City Council voted to increase the city sewer fees by about $4 per month, with the increase coming in two increments, the first in October, and then another next July. The council, absent Councilmember Larry Wahl, voted 4-2 on the increase, with Councilmembers Coleen Jarvis and Scott Gruendl voting to make the increase all at once. But the council did what it had to do, because without the increase the cost of operating the sewer on current fee levels would fall short by $2 million a year, which would have to be made up by gouging the general fund. No politician likes to vote for a tax increase, but sometimes it’s the only option. The cost to run the sewer plant goes up as more homes hook in and service costs increase.

So this week the matter comes back before the council for final adoption. No big deal; in fact it’s on the consent agenda, which contains those items deemed non-controversial in nature. If someone has a question or concern, he or she can pull that item for later discussion. And that is exactly what Dan Herbert did this week. Herbert had voted “yes” earlier, but apparently wanted to discuss the matter more. When it came time to discuss the matter toward the end of the meeting, Wahl gave a speech against taxes but offered no solution. Wahl said it was “important to look out for taxpayer dollars.” Then he started talking about park fee increases, which have absolutely nothing to do with operating the sewer. “Where does it end?” he asked. “We have to make a stand.” He said more study was needed, even though public works included a 37-page report explaining the need for the increase. Councilmembers Herbert and Steve Bertagna decided to change their earlier votes and join Wahl in voting against the increase. Now when these guys are up for re-election they can utter the Republican mantra and say, “I didn’t vote to increase sewer fees. I’m against increasing taxes.” No word on how they would finance the sewer operations. The other four members bit the bullet and voted for the increase.

House cleaning. As we head into the new school year, it is time for us to tie up some loose ends, explain some things and in general get people off our backs—just kidding. First we’d like to point out that the headline of last week’s Chow story “Selling the Cellars,” did not mean Dennis and Brenda McLaughlin were selling their Creekside Cellers wine store. It was a play on words. Also, Jimmy Borsdorf, featured in the Music story called “Cowboy gypsies,” was sad to see his Web site address was not included in the story. That address is: Mayor Maureen Kirk called to object to a description of her in the Goin’ Chico issue that was inserted in last week’s paper. That description said the mayor, who often acts as the swing vote on controversial issues, has been accused by some of voting in favor of the last advocate of a matter to talk to her before a council meeting. Who said so? she asked. I can’t reveal my sources but suggested that opinion comes from both the conservatives and the liberals. She just doesn’t want to get flooded with phone calls right before meetings.

We’re not done. In last week’s Inside view column, “Memories,” I said JC Penneys used to be located in the now-empty store front at Third and Main streets. My good friend (and yellow dog Republican) Peg Williamson called me on that one. The location I mentioned used to contain Oser’s Department Store. Peg should know. She worked in the store’s fabric department in the summers while she was still in high school. Penneys was first located on the corner of Second and Main where Peet’s Coffee currently sits, and after that moved down to somewhere close to where The Underground now stands. Finally, we mistakenly killed off the Scrappy Dog hot dog vendor in our Goin’ Chico issue. Jacob Boehm, the current owner of Scrappy Dog, brought this to our attention and, sharp business person that he is, also told us the cart can be found between 10 p.m. and 11 p.m. on Main Street in front of Mr. Lucky’s. That is all.