When Wally visits

It must be election year, because our favorite sitting congressman, Wally Herger, paid us a visit this week. He arrived as enthusiastic as ever, with field rep Sol Cranfill in tow. “Hey, how you doin'?” Herger said when I went downstairs to the front office to greet him. After a hearty handshake, he noticed some framed enlargements of past CN&R covers hanging on the wall. The one that caught his eye was entitled, “The Strong Arm of Cal-Fed,” and is about the ambitious federal and state plans to redistribute water in California. “Hey, I never saw that one,” Herger said. “But boy, isn’t that the truth? The strong arm of Cal-Fed. When was that story?” The top-corner teaser, the notice of another story inside, was about the San Francisco Giants. I told Herger it was from a couple years ago because the teaser said “Giants win!” That got us to talking about the World Series, which, because I was involved, got us to talking about the Cleveland Indians. Then, as we started our tour of the office, I told Herger that I’d heard he was a pretty good ballplayer himself at Rio Oso High School. “That was a long time ago,” he said. “But you know we’ve got a congressional team that plays. Pretty good, too.”

Herger was hobbling noticeably while climbing the stairs, and I saw that he had a cast on his foot. He told me he had broken his ankle a few weeks earlier while walking down the steps of the of the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C. “I got to the bottom and didn’t notice that there were still a couple of steps left,” he explained. Herger told us that after 16 years in Washington he’s moved back to California with his family. He has one daughter, 17, still at home, and they currently have a house in Elk Grove. Herger explained how he was planning to build a house on his father’s property in Rio Oso but has learned the state will eventually build a “cloverleaf” on-and-off ramp as part of the expansion of Highway 70. (He told me this three times during his short visit. You get the feeling Herger suffers from permanent jet lag. When I asked how long since he came back from Washington, he couldn’t figure it out without the help of Sol.) That cloverleaf will apparently sit on his dad’s property. Herger said now he is looking to buy a house in Chico because this is where he spends most of his time when he’s in California. I told him about the skyrocketing housing costs here, and he said, “Boy, isn’t that right. How is a first-time homebuyer supposed to do it?” He blamed those rising costs on the lack of available land due to those darn environmental protections. I introduced Herger to everyone on the second floor, took a picture with him ("Does this mean an endorsement?” he said as he wrapped his arm around my shoulder) and escorted him to the front door. We said our goodbyes with more hearty handshakes, and I told him to be careful on our front steps. “Don’t break the other foot,” I said. He smiled, waved over his shoulder and was gone.

The first walls of the Torres Community Shelter for our homeless residents were erected Oct. 30. The shelter, built with community support and a forgivable $500,000 state loan, should be completed early next year, said local attorney Andy Holcombe, one of the prime motivators behind the effort to build the shelter. Others include Councilmember Coleen Jarvis and activist Mary Flynn. There are many more who deserve credit, and the 13 local churches that have provided cold-weather shelter on a rotating basis for the past four years should be commended, as well. The shelter, which is being constructed by Modern Building, is located on Silver Dollar Way, just south of Costco, and when completed will offer two open-space dormitory rooms, a shower, laundry and family-unit rooms. The Chico Community Shelter Partnership is trying to complete the community’s share of the funding. You can sponsor a square foot of the project for $73. For information call CCSP at 891-9048 or visit its office at 430 W. Seventh St.