Sounding off on Measure A
No on A
Recently the Enterprise-Record wrote that Measure A needed to be considered from a larger perspective since the introduction of the Diamond Match proposal. I absolutely concur. Yet I do not draw the same conclusion recommending the measure be passed.
From the beginning I have felt that this proposal is shortsighted and premature. I participated in the 41-member General Plan Task Force, in which the access roads for Diamond Match were much discussed. The challenge is to be able to expediently deliver the traffic that will be headed to Diamond Match or from there to Highway 99 and Park Avenue. More than this, we must look to alternative modes for Chico to retain its present, mostly comfortable, traffic level.
What we really need is a thorough analysis of our present traffic within the context of our projected areas of growth and the vision and courage to research where we can begin implementing public transit and other alternatives to the ubiquitous automobile. What is also needed is what is now called “smart growth,” where highly aesthetic and desirable urban housing begins to create a way of life where people can easily walk, bike or ride small electric (quiet) or hybrid buses quickly and conveniently. Diamond Match and the whole Park Avenue corridor are ideal for this kind of development.
Rather than carelessly using $2.9 million (most likely more) for the Otterson Drive extension proposal, let the public speak out on June 5 and vote no on Measure A. Let us then thoroughly plan with a vision for future generations and not just the immediate gain for the few.
The Chamber of Commerce folks may convince a few people that a $3 million landscaped driveway will attract good businesses to the Hegan Lane business park; I, like many others, remain unconvinced.
Any first-year business student knows that before a business relocates its owners look at many factors far more important than a pretty entrance. They want to know: Are there quality schools, parks, neighborhoods, good overall quality of life, a qualified labor pool, information technology infrastructure, adequate roads citywide, and city leaders with enough common sense to correctly prioritize all of the above? So far Chico is lacking priority management, responsible leadership, good roads and information infrastructure.
The Chico Chamber of Commerce and our (so-called) conservative councilmembers claim this project will deliver businesses and “high-paying jobs.” They must be joking. Who locates next to petroleum tanks that explode and pollute the ground? If we want to attract businesses to that area, perhaps we should force the businesses responsible for the toxics to clean up their pollution. That might make the area a little more attractive.
Vote no on Measure A.
What is the rush to spend almost $3 million of public funds to build the Otterson Drive project, when both city and county studies show that there is no current need?
It is very common for public agencies to buy rights-of-way so that land can be acquired for possible future need. This idea was presented at the League of Women Voters’ forum.
It makes sense to buy the land now for a possible future Otterson Drive extension. If the new proposal for a baseball stadium turns out to be more than a fantasy, then build the road.
If it is determined there is no real need for the project, and in fact it is little more than a landscaped driveway to a private business park, I think the right-of-way should be reverted to its original General Plan designation as future greenway.
I urge you to vote no on Measure A, so that public funds will not be spent on this project at this time. There are too many unanswered questions, and we have more urgent spending priorities.
I recently received a slick four-color mailer from the Yes on Measure A campaign that was a source of some amusement and concern for me. Amusement because of its dubious quality and concern because of the underlying hypocrisy and loose interpretation of the facts.
The ugly flier featured a couple of undated, uncaptioned photos. One featured a bicycle leaning against a tree, the other a heap of rubbish, both ostensibly shot in the vicinity of the area in question. Is that an abandoned bicycle leaning against some tree in San Diego? Was the rubbish heap as much of an eyesore before the property owner injudiciously bulldozed the creek bank in an effort to “clean up” a homeless encampment?
One thing is for sure, if the situation were different the same people who advocate spending $3 million in public money on a scenic entrance to a private business park would be screaming bloody murder about tax money this and tax money that. Those dollars should be spent for the good of the general public, not to help a small group of already wealthy people get rich quicker. Vote no on hypocrisy, vote no on cronyism, vote no on Measure A.
The $2.9 million Otterson Drive project really does seem to be Chico’s mystery project.
Somehow the project to build a road to serve a privately owned business park was pulled from the 20-year “wish list,” flew over the five-year list of projects waiting to funded, and then plopped directly into the one-year city budget.
The City Council recently spent 30 minutes evaluating the merits of spending $30,000 for a citywide art program. Yet they seem to have not had equal interest in discussing the merits of spending about 100 times that much on Otterson Drive.
What about all the other city projects that really do need to be done? The ones that would directly affect the lives of so many of us in Chico? How did this project jump ahead of those? Is it payback time for campaign funding?
Yes on A
As sometime participants in the policy dialogue, we favor pragmatic solutions rather than ideological alignment. Accordingly, the persistent polemic surrounding Measure A seems to be an artifact of past disputes.
Unquestionably, the development industry has chipped away at the General Plan since its adoption. This has eroded trust and disrupted the working relationships that produced the General Plan. Nevertheless, it would be a mistake to conclude that every project that might benefit a developer is necessarily inimical to the public good. It remains possible that a program can benefit the community and the private sector simultaneously.
The choice facing Chico voters on June 5 is not between building a road and bridge or preserving undeveloped natural habitat for posterity. This is wishful thinking. No one believes that the current ownership will not develop the parcel to county standards. Indeed, such contingency plans are already underway. The real choice is between a publicly owned, minimally improved creekside greenway that would be entirely consistent with the General Plan and a privately owned, maximally developed warehouse complex outside city jurisdiction that would be entirely consistent with the expedient develop- ment practices of the past, countless examples of which surround us.
No one can guarantee that this project will bring jobs to Chico. However, if the extension is not constructed, it is certain that new jobs in the business park will not materialize. Absent improvements in circulation, the remaining inventory must be developed by operations requiring few workers. Whether the space is developed for freight forwarding or network switching, the site will certainly be fully developed. However, these opportunities bring very few good jobs.
Measure A provides needed community resources (roadway and greenway) and enables better new jobs in Chico, while its failure is almost certain to destroy the natural features of the site forever, furnishing neither a greenway, connected roadway, employment nor even city sales taxes.
Many opposing Measure A are motivated by a vision of Chico that we share. But ideology alone is no substitute for critical thinking. We do not question the convictions of those opposing Measure A, but we are reminded of the wisdom of not letting The Perfect become the enemy of The Good. Measure A offers all parties a significant percentage of what they wish, as contrasted to the 100 percent of nothing they will obtain if it fails.
Predictably, rather than running a campaign directly aimed at solving Chico’s traffic problems, promoting good jobs and encouraging quality industrial development, the NEFRs [Neighbors for Environmental and Fiscal Responsibility] opposed to Measure A have spent their time misinforming voters, stealing yard signs and belittling people who take financial risks and invest themselves in Chico. I’m one of those people, and I’m fed up with NEFR’s lies, distortions and personal attacks.
In 1989, Chico was short of improved and ready-to-build industrial land, and job creation was a community-wide priority. The city had about 200 acres along Hegan Lane zoned industrial but without roads or infrastructure. We proposed and the city approved an 80-acre business park, with two conditions: First, that we build public roads, sewers, water, storm drainage and utilities to serve all the area at a cost of $3.2 million. And second, that we pay full city impact fees on every building constructed. The city in return committed to building the second access crossing Edgar Slough.
As a direct result of our risk and investment, the area now employs over 1,000 people, contributing over $25 million annually in wages and salaries plus increased sales and property tax revenues. The initial role of the developer enabled business owners to acquire facilities, invest in plant and equipment and people, and that, NEFRs, is how jobs are created.
Stop these zealots from controlling our community through political obstruction, stalling schools, stopping churches, delaying housing, discouraging private investment and killing jobs. Vote yes on June 5.
As a fiscal conservative, I would like to respond to recent comments regarding the appropriateness of using city funds to pay for much-needed transportation and infrastructure improvements associated with Measure A.
First, taxpayers are not footing the bill, and no general-fund money paid by local taxpayers will be used. Second, funds from the park will come from impact fees paid by developers and from redevelopment revenues generated by new business growth. Third, the funds for this project cannot be spent for schools or ongoing city operating expenses, and should Measure A fail, the city would face costly Band-Aid traffic improvements and potential liability for toxic cleanup, only to see eventual traffic gridlock on the Midway.
Fourth, good traffic planning, good jobs and parkland for people benefits all Chico residents, not just a few landowners. Fifth, maintaining the safety, efficiency and attractiveness of Chico’s limited industrial areas directly facilitates business investment in areas designated for such purposes, creating jobs, protecting agricultural land and minimizing unplanned sprawl.
Finally, let’s be clear—this project protects Chico’s neighborhoods by directing truck and vehicle traffic away from residential areas along the most direct route to Hwy 99, providing pedestrian and bike trails to and from the workplace, and preserving and making accessible the creekside greenway.
Yes on Measure A: a win-win for all Chicoans concerned about the watchful spending of our dollars, economic vitality and the enduring quality of our community. Get out and vote yes on June 5.
We live in Chico because it’s the best community we know. People here care about education, so we pulled together and passed a $40 million bond to build a high school. We care about homelessness and housing affordability, so service groups, government and the private sectors are working to help the jobless and homeless. We care about parks and traffic, so we’ve established the highest park fee allowable by law and street fees to fund public roadway improvements, all funded by new construction.
Thankfully, folks across the board are very concerned about preserving Chico. We care about our heritage and the generations who’ll follow us as stewards of this town, but we face a huge obstacle in creating and maintaining the things we value, embodied in a political movement whose grass roots are planted in the spirit of “just saying no.” While it’s alluring to think that we save what we value by “just saying no,” it’s absurd to think that it’s the way good things like employment, investment, efficient roads, bike paths and parks are created, and that’s what distinguishes supporters of Measure A from opponents.
A yes vote acknowledges the crucial importance of planning and improving our community to accommodate urban growth in order to preserve Chico’s character and quality, and puts planning over politics. It is a wise investment of public funds that solves otherwise unsolvable traffic gridlock in the area, preserves our environment, and encourages private investment and employment. Vote yes on June 5.