The long view

Chico Youth Court gets at the root of community-wide issues

Some fixes are patchwork. Take, for instance, Chico’s Offenses Against Waterways and Public Property ordinance, which was recently expanded by the City Council. As an effort to address homelessness in our community, it’s the equivalent of putting a Band-Aid on a gaping wound.

The best kind of fixes aim at the root of a problem. Chico Youth Court, set to launch next month, is one such effort (see Howard Hardee’s report on page 10). In what looks to be a great benefit to local young people, the youth court will allow first-time offenders to be sentenced to some form of community service by their peers and encouraged to re-engage with their schools, families and the broader community. The alternative is facing the traditional juvenile criminal justice system and having a criminal record before reaching adulthood.

Research shows that juveniles who commit crimes are likely to become adult offenders, so it’s sensible to intervene early and encourage at-risk youth to make meaningful changes in their lives. Down the road, that means fewer criminals, less burden on local law enforcement, more space in jails and more active community members. In other words, this program has the capability of being a real, long-term solution—not a Band-Aid.

Furthermore, Chico Youth Court is a great example of collaboration across party lines. Founding members include Chico City Councilwoman Tami Ritter, a progressive, and Joe Montes, a Republican running for Doug LaMalfa’s seat in Congress. They don’t see eye-to-eye on many social issues, and they came together for a cause they are both passionate about.

We’d like to commend them and encourage our other local policymakers to take note. Crime, homelessness and public safety are systemic issues that need smart solutions. When it comes to addressing our community’s most pressing problems, political affiliations don’t have to get in the way.