Six questions for six candidates
City council hopefuls weigh in with their thoughts on important issues
It is time again to reshuffle the Chico City Council. With three seats open, there is a good chance the political bent of the majority that controls the seven-member council could change. With that in mind, if you don’t vote on Tuesday, Nov. 5, don’t come crying to us when the results don’t please you.
1. Does Chico need a tree ordinance? If so, how should it be implemented without infringing on private-property rights?
2. Should residential development occur on the Humboldt Dump burn site? Why or why not?
3. Is Chico growing too fast, too slowly or about right? Explain.
4. Do you feel any obligation toward those who have contributed financially to your campaign?
5. What sort of companies and industries should be courted to move here to best aid Chico’s ongoing economic development?
6. Where would you live if you couldn’t live in Chico
The candidates & their answers:
1. Yes, Chico needs a tree ordinance. The lesson learned from [developer Andy] Meghdadi was that we had no clout or penalty in place, but I don’t think that throwing 50k on spilt milk is too bright. I do think we should make it too hard for him to ever build anything in Chico again. (Can we do that?) What became infinitely clear is that other cities of our size have tree ordinances. We need to get some. Yes, I am worried too about private-property rights and hope that the free permits to single-family homeowners is kept. It is a work in progress, but I think the Butte Environmental Council did a great job of first draft. Can’t wait for the finished product, I’m sure there will be some compromises.
2. No, the percentages of lead exposure are not a for-sure thing. The developer would have to disclose that the housing was built over a remediated burn dump, and no one with any money would live over the dump. So our low-income kids get exposed to all that, not if it was my day to vote on it. My ex-husband works in that field, for AC Industrial, and he said that it would be OK where it was if they capped it, and the slough. Why should Chico’s children be the first test case to live over a remediated dump? We should cap it and build it out as light industrial or commercial, as in car lots. Cars can live over haz-mat stuff, but not our kids. Like with asbestos, 15 years after the fact they decide it is more hazardous to remove the stuff than just encapsulating the stuff in place. Chico should not take those kinds of chances.
3. A little fast for my taste, but then again I am from a ranch near Concord. I watched Contra Costa County turn into one giant commute of contiguous housing developments, so I am a little jaded. We need to grow appropriately, with lots of planning and infrastructure in place. Hey, I have a new idea: Let’s follow the General Plan with updated growth areas! What a concept.
4. Yes, but it’s Mom, and I owe her my life, and she reminds me that she brought me on this planet, so she says she has the right to take me off of it also! After the Mom guilt thing, the answer is no. I am an advocate of real campaign reform, not the joke we have going on now. The developers are spending huge amounts in this election because they know what their money is buying. Obviously it’s not me!
5. We need to throw a “Nut Festival,” save the proceeds, look for matching funding and make the Diamond Match property into a convention center, so that we can become a viable convention and tourist destination. Refurbish the old historic buildings, build new [ones] and allow room for the arts. A community/convention center. Technical industries are heavily recruited; we need to think of specialty businesses and the film industry. Chico’s uniqueness doesn’t hold up well unless we get some tax incentives or cheap utilities going like Redding. Or custom-built commercial sites near freeway and transportation access.
6. Probably around the Greenville-Taylorsville area, near Lake Almanor. I love the people and the area, but there is no industry up there since the logging went bust. Not sure how I would make a living. If not there, some cowboy town in the mountains of Colorado.
1. Chico has not had a problem with people mistreating trees. On the contrary, we are known as the City of Trees. The main exception has been the person who illegally cut down the many oak trees that were not approved in his condition of approval. I don’t think the city should be involved in our back yards, and I don’t think that trees 12 inches and over belong to the city. It may be necessary to have some type of ordinance, but the one that was proposed is way too restrictive. Most owners try to save the trees as an enhancement to their home.
2. Definitely not! Memos from both the state and city staff say there will not be building on the dump site, and I agree.
3. Chico is growing at about the same rate as the state of California. While this may be objectionable to some, I find it surprising that such a desirable city is only growing moderately. This is about right. I do feel it is important to protect the neighborhoods, plan for growth with adequate traffic flow and affordable housing. We need to find a way to develop our neighborhood parks that are sitting vacant because of lack of funding.
4. I feel an obligation to listen to them and their concerns, as I would any other person in the community. I don’t feel an obligation to approve any request or concern that is not satisfactory, and none of my contributors have asked that I show favoritism toward them. I do feel an obligation to see that citizens are treated with courtesy. My ultimate consideration is to do what is best for the city of Chico.
5. Clean companies. Preferably ones that can use our labor resources from Chico State University and Butte College, along with others. It would be nice if they have sales out of our area, which would bring new money into Chico for circulation. Companies such as sales and software companies would be highly desirable. Research development and business park concept is good. Koret and Lares are examples of good industries.
6. As I love the mountains and the university, that would be my first consideration. It was the consideration I used when I came here 37 years ago, when I narrowed it down to Chico and Reno. I would pick Bozeman, Mont., without the snow, if it were possible.
1. Yes, Chico needs a tree ordinance. Other communities, such as Davis, are aghast that a city like Chico does not have an ordinance to protect its trees. It is important that we establish standards that set expectations for our community’s trees. There cannot be a tree ordinance without involving private property. We already have regulations for trees that are not on private property. Most negative actions that have occurred or can occur would be on private property. A tree ordinance that affects private property would make uses permissive, not restrictive. In other words, under certain conditions one can do this or that, but if the action does not meet certain conditions, then it is unlawful or requires a permit.
Most people, under most conditions, will not have a problem with the regulations. In those instances where people openly violate the rules, there is a basis to seek damages on behalf of the community. This was the case with the State Contractors Board and its review of Andrew Meghdadi’s contractor’s license. … Since there were no local rules, there was nothing the board could do.
The ordinance also does other things that are very important. For example, it would require an arborist in the Planning Department, where all development is negotiated. The urban forester is in the Parks Department and interacts with new development minimally. This single action will have a great impact on the protection of trees and will help to make new development much more attractive, not only at the time of development, but for years to come.
2. There can never be any residential development on or near the dump. Every council candidate will say this, but make sure they fully understand what they mean. We will never build directly on the piles at the dump, even if the city pursues a cleanup project that consolidates the waste into 20 acres. But we will build where we have removed (or remediated) contaminated soil. The city’s application to the state to begin a restoration and several city memos clearly state that the property is needed for productive uses such as residential and commercial development. Fogarty [Investments] wants to build on its property, much of which contains contaminated soils, and has pressured the city to clean up the area or it will sue for loss of building potential for the property. The lands around, but not including the original dump, are zoned for residential and commercial uses. The city wants to remediate the site to a residential standard. There is a sewer main to the site.
The only way the property will not be developed as residential is to elect a progressive majority to the council, exercise the no-action option, clear up the slough and put a deed restriction on all involved properties to never allow residential uses. This approach leaves most of the dump intact, which removes the risk to citizen health related to any cleanup action. The documentation clearly demonstrates that cleanup of the site will raise the level of lead in the blood of persons living, working and attending school near the dump. This is a reality that I cannot allow to happen.
Cleaning up the dump to a residential standard is the most expensive option the city could select. The potential liability associated with eventual residential development is too great. There is no order by the state for the city to clean up the site. In fact, the state would not be concerned with much cleanup had the city not proposed eventual residential development. In other words, rezoning the property to nonresidential uses and having deed restrictions would lessen or eliminate the need to clean up the site.
3. Chico is growing too fast. Most citizens agree, and our quality of life is suffering as a result. We are on this hell-bent fiasco of finding vacant land so that we can make new houses cheaper, and in doing so we are sprawling, which is the worst type of growth there is. Our community deserves better than that. We need to find ways to break the lock that a few landowners have on remaining vacant land in an effort to stop this maximization of profits. Perhaps we will see some change on this front as builders are trying new development types (like Doe Mill) that will begin to shift the market. That ought to make those few developers who have done the same thing forever go into a tizzy, and then we just might get some real housing in our city!
4. I would think that there is some level of obligation, but few of my contributions have been significant and none comes from big companies doing big business before the council. My contributions average about $42, and more than 60 percent come from persons who are retired. I strongly believe that the council needs conflict-of-interest rules and would work hard to institute these. I will recuse myself from a vote in which there is a potential conflict. I will set contribution limits on political-action committees that participate in City Council elections. I will set a limit on the amount of money that the candidate can give to his or her own campaign. The chances that I would have a conflict are extremely limited, since I do not conduct business in Chico.
I would think that there is some level of obligation, but few of my contributions have been significant and none comes from big companies doing big business before the council. My contributions average about $42, and more than 60 percent come from persons who are retired. I strongly believe that the council needs conflict-of-interest rules and would work hard to institute these. I will recuse myself from a vote in which there is a potential conflict. I will set contribution limits on political-action committees that participate in City Council elections. I will set a limit on the amount of money that the candidate can give to his or her own campaign. The chances that I would have a conflict are extremely limited, since I do not conduct business in Chico.
5. We compete with communities everywhere to get companies to locate here. In many instances we are outgunned, except usually in one area, that our community is beautiful and people want to live here. If we can keep our community beautiful and maintain a great quality of life, our economic-development program would be hard to beat. I believe strongly in retention and expansion of existing businesses. Help the local guys grow so that they can offer better wages.
I am also very supportive of entrepreneurial development, specifically in the downtown area. I would like to see restoration of above-street office space in the downtown to create “cool” places to work. These places would be used to attract entrepreneurial companies that would want to be located next to the university because of the knowledge base and the skilled labor. Having these businesses downtown and close to the campus are key to their success, less so with the airport or Hegan Lane. If we attract entrepreneurs, they in turn will attract others, and this will lead to local economic expansion.
6. I have always wanted to return to my former home at Tahoe City/ Alpine Meadows. I have always enjoyed living and working in the mountains. I sometimes miss the Bay Area (Oakland) where I grew up and could see myself living there if I really had to. My sister and I have toyed with the idea of living in Seattle, which I could do, as I very much like to live near bodies of water.
1. Chico is a beautiful City of Trees. The city has development requirements that insure a continued dramatic increase in its tree population (which has increased by 40 percent in the last 10 years, according to city staff). I strongly support the aspect of the proposal that offers protection for native trees in our community during the development process. A standard set of guidelines and enforcement for those who would otherwise clear-cut mature native trees is certainly in order.
I am very concerned with the current proposed ordinance, authored in part by council candidate Gruendl, that would levy a $5,000 fine on a homeowner for not obtaining a city permit when “significantly” pruning any tree, 12 inches or more in diameter, in their own private yard. I believe the proposed ordinance is an overreaction to our community’s need for guidelines.
2. I continue to oppose, along with city staff and all my fellow council members, any development activity on the remediated areas of the Humboldt Road Burn Dump site.
3. I have never met anyone who thinks that Chico is growing too slowly. None of us enjoy the negative aspects of growth. People like what Chico has to offer, and they will continue to move here whether we like it or not. We have been discussing growth issues for nearly three decades, so should everyone who arrived during that period leave town because we don’t want our community to grow? Who gets to say that they were the last ones allowed in and everybody else has to leave?
Chico, like the entire state, will continue to grow. The question is, how are we going to prepare for it? It’s all about proper planning. People speak about the General Plan as the solution for our growth-related issues. Yet, nearly every growth area identified in that bipartisan-developed plan has been met with resistance when it comes time to actually develop the recommended site.
All we will get from a no-growth attitude is a lack of affordable housing, poor infrastructure and sprawl into non-incorporated areas. That is not a prediction, it’s a reality.
4. People support candidates who share their ideological views. Supporting a candidate who you believe in is the foundation of our democracy. Who could ever imagine a citizen being denied their freedom of representation strictly because they made a contribution to a candidate’s campaign? With the city’s full-disclosure requirements and $1,000 maximum contribution limitation, there are no secrets. To answer your question directly, I am proud to say that I have both supported and voted against issues over the past four years that impacted those who have contributed to my last campaign.
5. I have enjoyed being associated with those helping to bring good-paying jobs and career-oriented companies to our community. Each year, our university graduates thousands of talented individuals, many who would love the opportunity to stay in Chico, as I did. We owe it to these students, who add so much to our community, to provide them with good-paying jobs in their fields of study upon graduation. We need more high-paying, environmentally friendly industries locating in our region. We must encourage industry partnerships with the university and Butte College whenever possible with a willingness to provide both land and personnel recruitment and training assistance.
6. After growing up in San Francisco, I have spent my entire adult life in Chico. Thirty years ago, I fell in love with this community and did everything I could to establish myself here. While I could have lived just about anywhere, I chose Chico and have never looked back. I have no second choice!
1. Chico needs a tree ordinance to protect the heritage trees and blue oak woodlands. Our initial tree ordinance should affect everything but existing single-family residential. The tree ordinance should address parcels that will be subdivided, plus commercial and other large parcels Monitoring of compliance with the tree ordinance should be crystal clear and easy to administer, so that no landowners could plead ignorance of the ordinance. If citizens demand a more far-reaching ordinance, it should become an issue on the ballot for the next election. Other communities raise funds from nonprofits to actually purchase easements for heritage trees from property owners so that those trees will be preserved in perpetuity.
2. Residential development should never be and is not being considered for the actual Humboldt Dump burn site. Residential development should also not be considered for any remediated (cleaned up) sites. The basic question to be answered is whether it is absolutely necessary to do the cleanup. If the cleanup will jeopardize the health of our citizens, it should not be done. A final decision should be made after many public hearings in which all the facts are presented.
3. Chico is growing about 1.7 percent per year. While that is not beyond the General Plan buildout predictions, it seems too fast. The impact on the traffic and the high schools is obvious. Infrastructure improvements are done after the fees are collected. In fact, many projects are not done for many years. If would be ideal to front-load the infrastructure, but it is presently not financially feasible. In years past, there have been bond measures to pay for traffic mitigation measures. Neighborhood parks and recreation are not keeping up with the population. There is a drastic shortage of gym space for our children. Other communities have passed bond measures for neighborhood park improvements. All options should be considered.
5. The city should court companies that diversify our economy and offer a livable wage with health benefits. I would like to see high-tech companies, light manufacturing, financial institution home offices, insurance company home offices, RV assembly for our vacant Fleetwood Plant, and various companies that would complement others at the airport.
6. Whidbey Island, Wash., from July to October and Coronado, Calif., from November to June.
1. Protecting and growing trees is important to me. It is also my opinion the city has been a good steward with this responsibility. As your councilman, before I spent any energy on a new ordinance or even furthering the existing tree policy, our new school would have to be built. Chico’s kids deserve our attention first.
2. Since the “Chico” Humboldt Dump site is scheduled to be cleaned up immediately (or at least it should have been), the property will realistically be available for development in 15-20 years from cleanup completion. I’m not opposed to development then. In the meantime, a better question to ask is why are we spending city money widening roads when such a cancer exists in our own yard?
3. The General Plan needs to be revised. This is the first year we have ever been close to building near the 1 percent allowed or 1,000-plus additional homes in the city limits. My proposal is simply no new developments until the school is finished; in-fill would be the only allowed growth. The school must be built first.
4. Absolutely! Any candidates who would say they are not influenced by contributors are simply not truthful. That is why I’m the only candidate for this City Council position who will not take a penny from anyone. Furthermore, I have declined all special-interest “pizza gatherings” and “get to know you” opportunities. My candidacy is not for sale! My contributors’ list would only include my wife and nine kids.
5. In my opinion Chico’s best economic assets are the college and airport. I would highly encourage both the aviation industry and the education circles to interest themselves in our wonderful city.
6. If I couldn’t live in Chico, I would live across the street in Butte County! There is no better place in this world than right here.
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