What were they thinking?

Body shop sting exoneree

Body shop sting exoneree

DA rides a high horse
Butte County District Attorney Mike Ramsey is a former media member, so it’s not too difficult to get his explanation of a decision. That doesn’t mean we always understand it, as happened twice this year.

As 2006 was giving way to 2007, Ramsey jumped head-first into an auto-body-shop sting conducted by state investigators, and his office invited newspaper photographers and TV videographers to turn one of the arrests into a media circus. The cases were far from air tight, though—and in a sad bit of irony, that poster boy for repair fraud was the first defendant to get his charges dropped.

Ramsey had us shaking our heads again this fall. Greg Wright clearly was disturbed when he took more than two dozen of his schoolmates hostage at Las Plumas High. Yet Ramsey decided to prosecute the 17-year-old as an adult and charge him with, among other things, attempted first-degree murder—an offense carrying a life sentence.

Community members were outraged, particularly since Ramsey’s daughter received lenience from a prosecutor when she discharged a firearm in the family home. The DA did not waver, though, and now Wright will be locked up until he’s at least 36. Moreover, Ramsey branded Wright’s decision to take a plea offer as an admission he couldn’t behave in prison and “earn” an early parole in a life sentence.

More shocking charges
When 23-year-old Orland resident Reny Cabral was booked into the Glenn County Jail in early January, charged with assaulting his girlfriend by choking her into unconsciousness, relatives and friends told jailers he was having a psychotic episode and needed to take his medications.

Reny Cabral

Instead jailers apparently treated him as a common criminal, ignoring his ravings and responding to his wild acts by dousing him with pepper spray and Tasering him.

After they moved him into the padded “safety cell,” the former Orland High lineman charged into the wall head first, breaking his neck and rendering himself quadriplegic. For eight hours or more he lay immobile on the floor, while jailers ignored his pleas for help and protestations that he was paralyzed.

Now, despite assertions by two experts that Cabral was insane at the time of the alleged attack, the county insists on trying him for attempted murder.

E-R’s commission omission
In a May 26 interview with Steve Bertagna, titled “Bertagna worries planners are stressed out,” Enterprise-Record reporter Jenn Klein talked with the city councilman about the decision by Patrick Murphy, a senior planner with the city, to quit his job and tour the world. The reason Murphy left, Bertagna said, was because a dysfunctional process and a nitpicky Planning Commission were driving out talented people.

In an editorial the next day, the E-R, which has been on a jihad against the commission—and especially Chairman Jon Luvaas—for some time, lambasted a commission whose meetings “are looking more and more like a scene from the Inquisition” and a development process that “sends a message to everyone in the building industry … that the city is going to make their lives difficult.” The editorial went on to suggest that Murphy had left because of “the turmoil.”

But, Murphy told the CN&R, before the stories appeared Klein had “posed the question” of whether he was leaving because of problems with the Planning Commission, and he’d told her no.

Say what?!?
Speaking of Steve Bertagna and his thoughts about the city Planning Commission, the jocular councilman had something else interesting to say. “It’s chaos. I’ve never ever in my 11 years on the council seen anything close to this,” he told the CN&R in June. Then he went on to say the commission should either be disbanded altogether or turned over to longtime Commissioner Kirk Monfort as a commission of one.

Which raises the question: Hey, Steve, can there even be such a thing as a commission of one?

So much for generalist equity
Chico has embarked on an update of its general plan, a document that shapes decisions on how and where development takes place. Residents care how their neighborhoods grow, so the update process includes a wide range of ways people can give their input.

The City Council decided the best conduit for public opinion would be a General Plan Advisory Committee to vet the suggestions. It was important to councilmembers to select “generalists” for the GPAC—average citizens, not activists or other “stakeholders,” to ensure as wide a net as possible.

That’s why the council got flak when the committee it selected was composed of eight men and one woman. The first reaction was to make her the GPAC chairperson; then, just last week, two more women got added, joining two additional men. That upped the ratio to 10:3. You’ve come a long way, baby … or maybe not.

Tradewinds Court neighborhood

Blowing in the Tradewinds
Chico City Councilman Larry Wahl, a proud conservative, often argues against pulling the rug out from building-project applicants who follow the rules. He’s also quick to point out decisions and budget items he sees as wastes of taxpayer money. The Humboldt Dump embodies his pet peeves, and at the Oct. 2 meeting, when City Attorney Lori Barker asked for additional legal-defense funds, he complained that “the reason we’re here is a reversal by the majority of the previous council … against the advice of the city attorney.”

So it was particularly surprising an hour later when he made a motion that went against the advice of both Barker and Mayor Andy Holcombe, also an attorney—exposing the city to the same risk for litigation.

Wahl and progressives Scott Gruendl, Ann Schwab and rookie Mary Flynn made a far-reaching interpretation of “public interest” in deciding to deny a utility easement on Tradewinds Court. That prevented the property owner from going forward with remodeling plans previously approved by the city. Naturally, the next morning, her lawyer uttered the word “lawsuit” …

Nice try, dudette
Guy or gal? That’s what the Chico Area Recreation and Park District had to figure out when Tedra Thomsen wanted to play co-ed softball as a woman. Tedra, you see, is transgender, and in April she requested to be considered a female player.

Well, CARD was having none of that. Probably for the best—considering that females in co-ed softball typically use a harder ball than males (which, of course, travel much farther off the bat), the games would have gotten a bit boring with the 6-foot-4, muscular Tedra smacking dingers like Babe Ruth. Sorry, soft balls for you.