What makes Chico great?

Thoughts on the town, its people and its awful animal shelter

Tom Gascoyne is back in the CN&R big time this week. The paper’s former editor wrote not only the 3,200-word cover story about the struggles of the Butte Humane Society (and took many of its photos), but also two Newslines stories. We should call it the Gascoyne News & Review.

It’s ironic that in a week when Chico has been designated (by Men’s Journal) one of the best cities in America to live in, Tom is exposing just how awful its animal shelter is, and how little the city has done to make it better.

It’s shameful, really. The facility is a dump. Animals are overcrowded and, in many cases, forced to live outdoors in the most extreme weather. And the shelter is almost as hard on its employees, who offer compassionate care to animals under outrageously difficult conditions.

Yep, it’s a great place to live: I haven’t read the Men’s Journal article that names Chico as one of the best places to live. I’m skeptical of such pieces, figuring they’re based mostly on data like crime stats and how many movie theaters there are. More important is how the people who live in a town feel about it—something that’s been confirmed by a new Gallup poll, called “Soul of the Community,” sponsored by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

Gallup’s study of 26 U.S. communities found that “a community’s social offerings (fun places to gather), its physical beauty and its openness to new and different people are most important to making residents love where they live.”

The poll was designed “to explore the connection between economic growth and residents’ emotional attachment to their community. The latest results … suggest a significant correlation between the two.”

Which brings me to: the city’s new economic-development Web site, chicoeconomicdevelopment.com. It’s good as far as it goes—there’s valuable info about Chico—but it’s written in the same bland Visitor Bureauese that makes a million other Web sites like it so dull. Unlike Chico, it doesn’t stand out. Here’s an idea: Take a cue from the Gallup folks and include a few flesh-and-blood Chicoans on the site, talking in their own voices about why they like to live and work here. And not just business people—artists and teachers and teenagers, too. That would enliven the site, no?

Credit Where It’s Due Dept.: Thanks to Kelli Saam and Jerry Olenyn, who recently put together a stellar two-part series for KNVN Action News on the death of Tommy Botell, the 9-year-old Red Bluff boy who died in a freak accident on the Lassen Peak trail. They dug up the official report from the investigation of the accident that we cite in our editorial on the facing page.

A handy guide: As you can see, our semi-annual dining guide, All You Can Eat, is included with this issue. It’s a great tool for when you’re looking for a place to eat. Stash it somewhere convenient—it will come in handy, I promise.