Ten-year Crews

This Christmas Eve marks the 10th anniversary of Tim Crews‘ Sacramento Valley Mirror, the paper that more than a few politicians and government officials in Glenn, Colusa and Tehama counties wish would just fold up and go away. The irascible Crews, who got worldwide attention last year when he was jailed for a week by a Tehama County judge for refusing to reveal sources, says he is not surprised the paper has lasted this long. “Oh yeah, I expected it. I just didn’t think it would be quite this rough. We get the job done, but there is just no commercial community over here, and that makes things tough.” Crews publishes out of the office of an old lumber mill in the tiny Glenn County town of Artois. “I knew what the rules were when I got started. The reason the Northstate, at least Tehama, Glenn and Colusa counties, is so blessed poor is because we have had generation after generation of really bad newspapers—papers that would say things are all right when things weren’t all right.”

Most of the discussion and action at this week’s City Council Meeting, which felt like it went into triple overtime, is too difficult to translate in a comprehendible way into the space allotted for our standard newsline size—about 400 words. If I tried, it would be like watching a low-resolution, muffled video tape of Osama bin Laden talking and laughing with some of his buddies. I can report, however, that the council voted down Gary Lewis‘ request to appeal the Planning Commission’s approval of a 24-hour, six-pump gas station in the parking lot of the Park Plaza (aka Safeway) Shopping Center on Mangrove. Lewis, who is not the son of a famous comedian nor the singer of “This Diamond Ring,” fears the Safeway station will kill his ambitious plans to build a gas station, car wash, mini mart on the corner of Vallombrosa and Mangrove. Otherwise, the council took on the subject of growth and did different things to the 12 areas it has designated for possible future growth, which includes—much against Councilmember Coleen Jarvis‘ wishes—paving the way for a possible assault on the Greenline.

When that was wrapped up, Councilmember Larry Wahl introduced a plan to expand the city’s sphere of influence to an area that nearly reaches Tehama County to the north and dips down beside Durham to the south. Wahl said his idea is to protect the habitat from the less-restrictive growth allowed by the county. Councilmember Rick Keene said the expanded sphere was a good way to stop sprawl, though he seems deathly allergic to any plans that call for housing with a higher density than 4.5 houses per acre. In the end, Wahl agreed with Councilmember Dan Nguyen-Tan that his big sphere would probably never be recognized the LAFCo, the agency that would have to buy off on this to make it so. Part of the criteria for an approved sphere of influence is whether or not it is feasible that the city could afford to provide services—police and fire protection—and infrastructure—sewer lines, roads, parks—to the expanded region. Ironically, the city still owes $10,000 for the last time it expanded its sphere of influence in 1994.

Got a call last week from a fellow named Les Roberts, who pitched me an idea for a story. A little more than two years ago, he said, he damaged his spinal cord while riding an off-road motorcycle in the Nevada desert. Now he’s paralyzed from the chest down. But he has a chance to fly to Taiwan and receive experimental surgery from a doctor there. Roberts told me this doctor has been in the news and was even given the thumbs by former President Bill Clinton. But Roberts does not have health insurance, and MediCal won’t cover it because the operation is both out-of-country and experimental. So Roberts wants some publicity to help raise the $15,000 to $20,000 needed to cover the surgery and the cost of traveling to Taiwan. He leaves the country on Jan. 5. As part of his pitch, Roberts told me he used to write letters to this paper under pen name Von Grafen. If I remember correctly, Grafen’s letters chastised this paper, called for Clinton’s head and suggested environmentalists are elitist nuts. So here’s what we have: An anti-environmentalist Clinton-hater who broke his back while tearing through the Nevada desert now relying on a Clinton medical endorsement for overseas surgery. You gotta admire that. Send whatever you can to: Les Roberts Recovery Fund, P.O. Box 2136, Chico, CA 95927.