What were they thinking?
All the things in 2016 that made us go hmmm …
In April, Chico residents got riled up over news that convicted rapist Fraisure Earl Smith, a diagnosed “sexually violent predator,” was looking to move into a home on Bell Road. Smith, approved for conditional release from Coalinga State Hospital in 2013, is under strict monitoring by Liberty Healthcare, which had been seeking housing for Smith. The company first attempted to place him in his home county of Solano, where he committed his crimes and, when unsuccessful there, moved on to Contra Costa County before zeroing in on Butte.
Public outcry prompted the owner of the Bell Road home to back out of a rental agreement. Marysville residents gave Smith a similar unwelcome and he continues to live in motels in Solano County pending a permanent residence.
“With some reasonableness, the NIMBY mentality does reign—appropriately, I think—supreme,” Butte County District Attorney Mike Ramsey told the CN&R.Pay to play
The Chico City Council made a questionable move in July, when the panel voted to raise the rental fee on its own chambers from $29 to $139 an hour, effectively pricing out community groups that used to regularly rent the space.
To be fair, the city wasn’t recovering its costs, but raising the fee by so much proved prohibitive for organizations including the Chico Unified School District and the League of Women Voters of Butte County. During election season, members of the league told the CN&R that they had moved their candidates forums elsewhere because they couldn’t afford the new rate for the chambers.
So much for promoting community discussions.City gets played
In August, Rep. Doug LaMalfa held a supposedly apolitical “community coffee” at a Chico fire station. While there, in the middle of the general election campaign season when he was defending his seat against Democrat Jim Reed, LaMalfa, among other things, spread lies about Planned Parenthood selling baby parts.
The congressman campaigned in front of a captive audience of firefighters at no cost thanks to city administrators, namely Fire Chief Bill Hack, who wanted to stress to LaMalfa the department’s need for continued federal grant funding that paid for 15 firefighters. Hack had gotten the OK from City Manager Mark Orme, despite the City Council’s recent action to substantially increase the fees community groups pay to use the City Council chambers, another taxpayer-funded facility.
Hypocritical much? To top it all off, the city lost the grant funding.Insecure legacy
What’s in a name? Well, a whole lot of controversy in the case of the Paul and Yasuko Zingg Recital Hall inside Chico State’s new $58 million Arts & Humanities Building.
During the fall semester, a faction of staff and faculty decried that the decision to name the 196-seat performance space was made without transparency while now-retired Paul Zingg was still president of the university. Betsy Boyd, chair of the Academic Senate, characterized the move as “a bit incestuous” and questioned whether it violated the university’s naming policy.
Zingg wasn’t exactly the most popular guy on campus when he retired. In fact, he was one of three top executives to receive a vote of no confidence from the Academic Senate last December. The naming was tied to his years of service to the CSU, which went against campus policy, as well as a parting gift to the university—an art collection appraised at about $300,000 (the school had been seeking a $1 million donation in return for naming rights).Dungeon drama
An Aug. 23 raid of The Dungeon smoke shop in downtown Chico by the Butte Interagency Narcotics Task Force resulted in the arrest of three members of the Saeidah family—Ehab, 21; Mahmoud, 34; and Nizar, 43—who own and operate the store. The three were charged with felonies for allegedly selling equipment used to make butane honey oil, and Mahmoud was also charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm and metal knuckles.
The next day, Action News Now cameras caught another relative—Iyad Saeidah, 19—claiming the family was targeted because of its Palestinian heritage and saying, “I don’t give a fuck about the rules of America, fuck America.” On Aug. 25, when a CN&R staffer went to cover a protest organized by Iyad, the young man said, “I might just come down and shoot a whole motherfucking news station …”
The CN&R alerted Action News Now, which reported the incident to authorities. Iyad was arrested the next day and charged with the same crime as the other Saeidahs, as well as with making criminal threats. Iyad’s father, Nizar, apologized for his son’s rant in a later newscast, and Iyad apologized in court, leading to dismissal of the threats charge. The Saeidahs are scheduled to appear in court on Feb. 28.What a mess
The Glenn County Solid Waste Conversion Facility was pitched as a clean solution to the county’s messy problem: The landfill outside of Artois was nearing capacity, so KVB Inc., a company led by local entrepreneur Kara Baker, stepped forward and touted state-of-the-art recycling technology as a means of diverting reusable material from the landfill.
There was fierce opposition to Baker’s proposal mostly due to the location along Stony Creek, which feeds into the Sacramento River and the Tuscan Aquifer, the reservoir that provides drinking water for surrounding communities.
Whether the project posed a risk to the aquifer was hotly debated, but Glenn County officials bungled the public notification process by failing to publish anything in Spanish (Hamilton City, the community closest to the site, is about 85 percent Hispanic).
In March, the Glenn County Board of Supervisors voted to reject the environmental impact report and mandate further study, prompting KVB to file a lawsuit against the county on Sept. 2.Safety's off
Back in March, the Greek system made headlines in the CN&R after a member of the Alpha Gamma Rho fraternity shot himself in the hand while showing off his .40 caliber semiautomatic handgun.
Turns out, AGR—the agriculture fraternity—is not formally recognized by Chico State and therefore is not governed by university rules. Representatives from the national AGR chapter didn’t get back to us on questions of liability at the house, so it’s safe to assume 21-year-old Adam Toomire was within his rights to keep that handgun in his room. Next step: Learn to use the safety.Trump's local gaffe
In the frenzy leading up to the primary election in June, Donald Trump arrived in his Boeing 757 on the tarmac of the Redding Municipal Airport. To the tune of the Air Force One theme song.
The “what were they thinking?” moment came during Trump’s speech in the sweltering 100-plus degree heat, when he looked out into a crowd of white faces, found a black one, and said, “Look at my African-American over there. Look at him. Aren’t you the greatest?”
Trump’s very own African-American turned out to be Gregory Cheadle, a Republican running for Congress in District 1. The funniest part is, when approached by news outlets after Trump’s now notorious gaffe, Cheadle proclaimed he was not even a Trump supporter.Access denied
During the grand opening of the so-called North State Republican Victory HQ last August, local GOP organizers let Democratic protesters, including longtime Democratic strategist Bob Mulholland, get under their skin.
So much so, it appears, that one of the organizers booted CN&R contributor Evan Tuchinsky (a former editor) from the building, though he’d been invited in by a member of the group Chico Republican Women Federated. Point person Saulo Londono justified ejecting Tuchinsky by charging that the speeches by local GOP politicos were not open to the press.
That didn’t go over well with several members of the women’s group, who maintained that there was nothing to hide.Vice mayor mum
Back in early October, CN&R began setting up interviews with the 11 candidates for Chico City Council. Those interviews, along with CN&R’s watch-dogging, would inform the newspaper’s editorial board of the candidates’ experience and temperament, so that the panel could make informed endorsements.
More than a month before the election, then-Vice Mayor Sean Morgan couldn’t avail himself. Unlike the other 10 council hopefuls, he was too busy to sit down with the largest-circulated newspaper north of Sacramento. (He didn’t get our endorsement, though he was re-elected.)In the line of duty
Talk about an inappropriate relationship with a student. In July, Jessica Jolene Hays, a 40-year-old yard duty supervisor at Fair View High School, gave birth to a baby girl believed to be fathered by a 16-year-old student at the school.
Not only that, the student, now 17, reportedly moved in with Hays after the sexual tryst began, and the couple used cannabis and methamphetamine together, District Attorney Mike Ramsey told the CN&R.
Hays pleaded no contest to unlawful sexual intercourse and furnishing marijuana to a minor on Nov. 23, online court records show. She’s set for sentencing in January.A bungled attack
From the dais and on Facebook, City Councilwoman Reanette Fillmer promulgated the theory that left-leaning Councilwoman Ann Schwab was shirking her duties by recusing herself too many times. She did so despite the council knowing that Schwab, who owns a business downtown, cannot by law vote on issues that are within 500 feet of it.
When asked about the subject, Fillmer refused to talk to a CN&R reporter. Later, in exchanges with Editor Melissa Daugherty, she attempted to walk back her comments, claiming she’d deleted them from Facebook. That wasn’t true. In fact, she’d pulled them only from one of her accounts—her official council member page, and had doubled down on her personal page (CN&R has the screenshot).
Around the same time, Fillmer called for the council to agendize discussion of local homelessness. It was ironic coming from her, the city’s representative to the Greater Chico Homeless Task Force, a group that asked for a replacement because Fillmer was chronically absent.
This was Fillmer’s second year in a row making this list.