Where they stand
Chico City Council candidates answer the call
As we are wont to do each election year, the News & Review asked candidates for Chico City Council to answer some questions. Most did. We print their answers, some slightly edited, below. Here are the questions:
1. Why are you running for a seat on the Chico City Council?
2. Should the Greenline, the boundary along the west side of Chico designed to protect agricultural land, be adjusted to allow for residential growth? If so, where?
3 Do you think the council has any business trying to regulate the arrival of big-box retailers like Wal-Mart?
4. What should be done in the south campus area to improve the sometimes rocky neighbor relations between homeowners and student renters?
5. How do we pay to develop the city’s parks?
1. With my experience and interest in city government, I believe that I can assist the City Council, its residents, property owners and city voters in arriving at decisions that will be in the best interest of the community to meet its needs for the present and future.
2. At the present time, I do not believe that the Greenline should be adjusted to allow for residential growth. There is ample land available in the northwest and the southeast urban area. In addition there are opportunities for additional residential area south of Chico.
3. No, since the city would have difficulty discriminating against businesses that are important to many of our residents who in many cases have inadequate income and rely on big-box discount-type businesses. In addition the same big boxes can be located outside the city, and the city would lose the tax revenues generated by the big boxes.
4. I believe that this problem can be solved by cooperation between homeowners and the owners of the rental properties. Owners of rental properties should have strict, enforceable rules, and students who violate the rules should be asked to leave. I know that this is sometime difficult to enforce, but there are examples where this has worked. (Call Scott Chalmers re the Zoo.) While attending UC Berkeley, eight of us living in a residential neighbor worked out methods that made us compatible with our single-family neighbors.
5. Several methods. (a) Form benefit assessment district around neighborhood parks and ask voters to approve the design and maintenance of the park. (b) Use impact fees to the extent that they can legally be used. (c) Ask the voters to approve a benefit tax citywide. (d) Ask the voters to approve a general-obligation bond issue. (e) Require the developer to construct the park and provide reimbursement to developer as other properties develop in the area of the park.
1. I want to make a difference in my hometown. I was born and raised in Chico and have deep roots in our community. My children, parents, sisters, in-laws, nieces and nephews all still call Chico home. Serving on the city Planning Commission for over eight years has been both challenging and educational, and I want to continue working to ensure we maintain a community of livable, healthy neighborhoods for our future.
2. The community doesn’t need any more reasons to divide itself, and adjusting the Greenline has the potential to be the most divisive of all. This community will continue to grow. Planning for reasonable and responsible growth may require us, from time to time, to review long-standing policies. There is nothing wrong with that. We do need community discussion about, and study of, new growth areas in order to provide housing for our children and grandchildren, but I don’t believe that adjusting the Greenline is necessary.
3. I don’t feel comfortable leaving the decisions about what businesses can and cannot operate in Chico to a four-member majority of the City Council. Of course we should demand the very best from all retailers, just as we should from any business locating in our community. They must prove their ability to be good corporate citizens for Chico, provide the infrastructure necessary to minimize their impact and build facilities of the highest possible design. The reality is that there are thousands of people in our community who count on low-cost retailers to stretch their limited budget dollars to make ends meet every month. Consumers in Chico are smart enough to make their own choices. If they disapprove of a particular retailer they can and should vote with their pocketbook.
4. Neighbor relations can be challenging in any neighborhood. I think we need to recognize that irresponsible residents negatively affect homeowners, renters, students and non-students alike. I think we should be careful branding students as the only irresponsible residents in Chico. In my discussion with city police officers, I know that there is a very real problem in some campus neighborhoods. University and Butte College students who commit crimes in Chico should be held accountable the same as every other resident. In more severe cases, I’d like the university and Butte College leadership to consider educational consequences for students who cause real problems in our neighborhoods and community. This would help ensure the safety of all residents, including the many law-abiding students who live there.
5. The city has an aggressive plan for development of future community and neighborhood parks to add to our park system. Build-out of the plan will take time because the funding is expected to come from fees on future development. If neighborhoods are interested in accelerating the process for their own neighborhood park, I would encourage them to come together to form assessment districts for park development and maintenance, like the one formed to develop Oak Way Park in west Chico.
1. I am running because it is personally and professionally the right time for me and for Chico. I have a 25-year history of community service and the dedication, skills, and commitment to be an effective council member. My law practice is at a point where cutting back is feasible. I work hard and make a difference in both my work and community service. City Council is an opportunity to put the two together. Important planning decisions with long-range impact need to be made. I am running now because I am a problem solver and consensus builder who can make a positive contribution to Chico at this crucial juncture.
2. Planning needs to be done now so that, if the Greenline is adjusted, it is the result of planned foresight, not “broken” in response to unchecked growth. Presently, infill development should not be forgotten. The city should grow in as much as out. I do anticipate that new land will ultimately need to come within the Greenline for residential development. The city needs to plan and coordinate with the county so that any such development is under city standards. Presently, the Northwest Chico Planning Area, the Alkop ranch area and the Bel-Muir area are undergoing study for projected growth. With proper planning, adequate density, infrastructure planning and funding mechanisms in place, that is an appropriate place for our city to grow.
3. Big-box retailers have a legal right to do business in areas appropriately zoned for that type of business and development. However, the city can and should regulate that process. Setting zoning and development standards is what city government does. The EIR process should apply as it does to any large-scale development. The city is also under an obligation to adhere to its General Plan. Our General Plan has a goal or policy to promote neighborhood commercial cores. Big-box retail development may be antithetical to that goal. That potential adverse economic impact and inconsistency with the General Plan also need to be evaluated when reviewing any development.
4. Rocky student/neighbor relations are due in large part to poor communication that aggravates problems that should be solved without acrimony. I pride myself on being a good listener. Bringing that skill to the council is one way I hope to facilitate a dialogue among community members when there are problems. Students are community members and neighbors themselves who deserve to be listened to as much as any other Chicoan. I support the charter amendment on the ballot to lower the age from 21 to 18 for local citizens to participate in city government. If citizens, including students, feel they have a voice that is listened to and respected, it will go a long way toward solving whatever their issues may be.
5. First and foremost, Bidwell Ranch should not be sold to fund park and recreation development. Of equal importance is making sure development impact fees keep pace with all costs associated with new development. The “gap” in funding is in large part due to prior council members keeping the fee artificially low. How that gap is now covered in large part depends upon just what parks are built and what recreational facilities are included. The community is to be surveyed on that issue; the amount needed will depend upon that survey. The community is then to be surveyed on how they wish to pay for it, so the community will decide. Methods of funding I support are an increase in the transit occupancy tax, a sunsetted increase in the local sales tax, and using RDA funds to assist with the development of parks and recreational facilities.
1. I have a sincere interest in the future well-being of our community. I am an advocate of long-range planning and sensible land use. My interests also include the cultural and economic aspects, the vitality and social cohesiveness of our neighborhoods; also housing, parks, library, recreation and essential city services. In essence, the elements that make Chico the livable place that it is.
2. No! However, the area northwest of the Greenline (Garner on north) should be studied for possible future residential development, as the agricultural potential may be marginal. I will support the present proposed specific plan for the Northwest Chico Development Area.
3. Certainly! Legally you can’t keep them out. However, the city can insist on compatible site selection consistent with good planning and a strong EIR, as well as stricter architectural controls to modify the “big-box” façade. These matters should be of great council concern, superceding the planning and architectural-review process. Also, architectural atrocities such as the Mangrove McDonald’s and the Old Navy “box development” should never have happened, as they are simply “not Chico.” Architectural renderings should precede the submission of development plans. Canned, off-the-shelf building plans are not acceptable!!!
4. Outreach and education. As many student renters are away from home for the first time, they are frisky free and sometimes unaware of problems created by their behavior vis-à-vis their neighbors. I would suggest a cooperative approach between the university administration and the city to make students aware of the problem and, if warranted, a special annual council meeting in the fall inviting all students and residents from the area south of the campus to get their input and ideas and discuss the responsibility of being good neighbors. Results of such a discussion could be mailed to all residents in the area.
5. Initially, the City Council used developer fees to buy park land and then asked neighborhood residents to approve an assessment district for development and a service area for maintenance. Apparently, community thinking now is that it’s a general city responsibility, and so there has been a shortage of park development funds. Why not put the matter to the voters in the form of a general-obligation bond issue? If a neighborhood desires to develop a park immediately, the initial financing mechanism can be operative. In the long range these small parks could be included in an amended redevelopment plan or developed when additional city funds become available. To sell off Bidwell Ranch to pay for neighborhood park development is less than shortsighted. It’s simply too valuable a long-range community asset to divest for short-term gain. Regarding park developer fees: If the city now wants to assume responsibility for the construction and maintenance of new neighborhood parks, development fees on new construction should be increased accordingly.
1. Running for City Council is not only my patriotic right, but also my civic duty. If you feel like you have lost the ability to change the things you resist with all your soul, then take heart: Change is possible, and it starts with individuals getting involved locally. I believe in the dream of a country that does not discriminate against anyone based on political ideology, religious beliefs, gender, color or age. But, the process toward a true democracy has been hijacked and subverted by a rich corporate state. Fight Evil, Vote DNA.
2. Growth will, and is, radically changing the face of our community. I think the Greenline should be held along with the work of Jane Dolan. As time passes and land becomes more valuable, there will be a serious push to encroach on agricultural land. Once we begin to “massage” the Greenline we are a step closer toward developers offering farmers much larger sums for their property than the market will fetch for land that is slated for agriculture. Rather than tear down orchards perhaps we should annex Chapmantown and fix up rundown neighborhoods. Where and how Chico expands is a question that needs more exploration and community input.
3. If not the council, then who? Chico is at a crossroads and is quickly slipping down the wrong path. Do I need to buy a rake at Wal-Mart at 3 a.m.? Can’t I wait till the next morning to get it at Collier Hardware? Wal-Mart destroys communities across the country (and now Europe) by putting small traditional mom-and-pop stores out of business who cannot compete with their lower prices. Employees make less than the standard of living and are coerced into staying unorganized with no union rights. If the state does not want to preserve a community’s better qualities, then citizens better get ready to act. We need to support locally owned businesses such as LuLu’s Fashion Lounge and Melody Records.
4. I lived in the Fifth and Ivy area of Chico for the last year. My experience was that the students at CSU are invigorated night owls. Parties that went to 5 a.m. four days a week were not unusual. Homeowners feel that they are the ones who should have sovereign rights over the neighborhoods and that the students are transients who should be silenced. I suggest that every CSU student should get involved with at least one community organization. I also believe that every Chico community member should become part of one CSU organization. If we do not get to know each other, face-to-face, how can we expect to solve our “rocky” relationships? We all need to grow up, together.
5. I have a lot of ideas regarding this question; here are a few suggestions: Charge a daily fee for people to store their cars at the park, like they do at Honey Run Bridge. Print more brochures and other publications. Have fund-raisers like all other struggling non-profits do. Take away some of the funding that the Chamber of Commerce receives. Raise developer fees. Lease out the park once a year for a large outdoor festival. Let me and some other community members take over Halloween and create a safe, city-wide event that we charge $50 to attend. Have an auction to re-name it—the highest bidder wins! Take 10 cents out of every beer sold in Chico. Did I mention raising developer fees? Yes, I think it is unfair to put the burden directly on developers, but the money has to come from somewhere.
1. I am running because I feel there is no representation on the council for the working class—someone who works in restaurants, coffee shops, grocery stores, etc. The person who pays their rent and utilities and because money is tight might have to shop at the dollar store to pick some grocery items a couple days before payday. I believe everyone should feel that their individual as well as community concerns are addressed!
2. The Greenline should remain as it is presently, as there are areas of infill throughout Chico. The city should concentrate its efforts in such areas. The General Plan calls for maintaining a compact urban core through infill development. Developers could design houses that work on smaller lots that would perhaps also address density issues with neighborhoods. Smart growth through proper planning with adequate discussion with affected neighborhoods would appear to be the most commonsense approach to pursue.
3. The council should try to regulate the arrival of big-box retailers such as Wal-Mart. Whenever a Wal-Mart is built, for every one job it provides, two jobs at a local business are lost. Wal-Mart, McDonald’s, Sears, Macy’s, etc. are opposed to Proposition 72. They are willing to make millions in profits, but do not want to provide health insurance. Any company that puts profits before people is a detriment. If big-box retailers don’t provide health insurance, the burden falls to the taxpayers through Medi-Cal and Healthy Kids.
4. I believe that the second-response ordinance, already on the books, needs to be approved by the council. The city would then have a tool available to ensure all the citizens of Chico are responsible for their decisions. There also need to be neighborhood associations formed with students, homeowners and property owners talking and arriving at solutions to the problems concerning their neighborhoods. I believe council members and police representatives should also be present. All neighbors’ concerns should be respected and addressed.
5. We need to increase developer fees to pay for the city parks. Because there is a $12-$25 million shortfall for the funding of parks, some of the burden to pay for the parks will affect the homeowners in areas of proposed parks. I believe there should be neighborhood meetings to find out the interest concerning parks. I also believe all new developments should have a park included in their plans.
1. To represent the blue-collar, average-Joe worker who pays the majority of the taxes that run the city of Chico but has very rarely been represented on the council. If you look at who is on the present council, the builder-developers are over represented, along with the banking and property management and chain businesses, but who’s on the council now to represent the little guy? When we lost Coleen Jarvis, coupled with Dan Nguyen-Tan and David Guzzetti bowing out, we lost the representation and the voice for the average and the little guy.
2. With the shortage of land available for building and a General Plan that is almost 10 years old, we need to revisit what we had planned, what really happened, like Bidwell Ranch was pulled out of the acreage slated for growth, and look at what the county has done to smear the boundaries. There are some obvious places like the Bell-Muir area and West Sacramento area that the county has not held to the Greenline boundary, when the city was trying to. We need to reassess what’s working and what’s not and look to where we can grow responsibly while maintaining our proud agricultural heritage. We need a new General Plan to envision our next 10 years of planned sustainable growth, with infrastructure improvements and actual costs calculated so we can pay for streets and parks.
3. Obviously the big-box retailers realize that the council does and will enforce. That’s why they have gone outside the city’s jurisdiction into county-controlled north Esplanade for their super-store project. We need to look at the area that will be Chico proper and make a coalition agreement with the county to uphold the city’s standards to what will obviously be city someday; that or get off the stick and annex everything at once so we can control it. I do see hope in that the nitrate problem involving septic tanks is going to mandated by the state real soon and will take away some of the objections that county residents of our city have had to annexation.
4. I think a city-sponsored hotline and a mediator to work out a livable situation between all parties involved would cut down on some of the calls that take up valuable policing time. Also, neighborhood meet-ups every September to let the new tenants know what their neighbors’ problems have been and what could be agreed upon in advance to alleviate “the Town vs. Gown"-type issues. Communication can’t hurt.
5. Chicoans need to vote moderate progressives onto the council who will deal in real costs. The conservatives, Dan Herbert, Steve Bertagna and Larry Wahl, have continued to keep the developer fees, which in part go toward park development, artificially low for years. The Nexus Study, upon which the fees are based, should reflect the real costs, not some political payback to developers for their campaign support of conservative council candidates.
1. I am seeking reelection to continue a financially disciplined course that provides quality police and fire protection, library availability, good roads and streets, parks and recreation facilities, humane animal shelter, housing affordability, recognition of returning veterans and sound long-range planning.
2. Butte County established the Greenline and would have to be the entity to change it. We have not had a request to change the Greenline, so would have to evaluate any specific request before forwarding a recommendation to the Board of Supervisors.
3. The council should not regulate the arrival of big-box retailers. However, the council must address environmental and traffic impacts created by their arrival.
4. Most good neighbors can resolve their own problems. However, the city can be available to facilitate discussions between renters and homeowners as the need arises.
5. I voted in favor of our city parks plan. Some of the funding will come from appropriate development-impact fees. Some funding could be done through the Chico Redevelopment Agency. Overall improvements that benefit all residents must be placed before the voters for approval.
1. My wife told me to stop complaining and to do something about my concerns as to the direction Chico is going. I have lived in Chico for over 15 years, and I have watched it grow by leaps and bounds. I do not want to watch as Chico looses its small-town charm and sense of community.
2. I am very skeptical about any new growth to the west of town. I am concerned that the area to the west is prone to flooding. I am also concerned about preserving the agricultural beauty surrounding Chico.
3. Yes, I am very concerned with the impact that a store like Wal-Mart has upon the economy of a small town like Chico. Wal-Mart historically pays their employees a wage that is below the minimum level of poverty in this country. They also have historically undercut small-town retailers to the point of bankruptcy. I believe that the health of the downtown area of Chico is a key element to its charm and therefore worthy of protection, along with the other numerous small retailers in Chico.
4. I would like to see the creation of a neighborhood association comprised of the homeowners and renters in the area this will create a forum for those with concerns. I would also like the city to support a series of block festivals inviting all of the residents in the area.
5. I hate to say it, but if the community wants the parks, we are going to have to raise taxes. I would also support an increase in developers’ fees.
1. My kids! Preparing for Chico’s future is a large part of a councilmembers’ responsibility. I take that responsibility very seriously. We must plan for our kids as well as anyone else planning on moving here for a better quality of life. I have served on the Chico City Council for eight years, and more work is ahead. We can achieve our goals with leadership, commitment and honesty. I have these qualities.
2. Much of my family farms! We must explore all options before planning growth in our ag lands. I have been very outspoken on when and where the Greenline should be moved and what the new boundaries should be. The issue becomes making less-desirable land available for development. I support using lands east of Bruce Road and saving the prime ag land for growing food.
3. We already do! We must make them pay their own way, just as we do with all business. I am not interested in trying to stop retailers from doing business in Chico. I am a small-businessman. I know what it is to compete with these big-box stores. They are part of the “retail landscape.” Their competition, like any other, is part of keeping prices fair. Much of our sales tax revenues come from this retail environment created in Chico. Our process must hold everyone accountable with paying their way, on a level playing field.
4. Many of the issues are instigated by out-of-control partying. Most of our young people are responsible; a few are not. We must work as a community to end out-of-control activities. I am very supportive of the ongoing communications between the student organizations and leaders in our community. Educating and holding people accountable for out-of-control behavior will restore much of the neighborhood norm.
5. Few popular options exist! General Fund, bonds, taxes or selling property are the options touched thus far. None of these options have been explored fully. We are not in a position to fund our parks from our General Fund, nor will we be able to soon. I see “Bidwell Ranch” as an option that could fund the $25 million shortfall to complete our parks build-out, without bonds or raising taxes. We should look at the “what ifs” of using part of Bidwell Ranch for its intended purpose. How much? What part? When? I don’t know, but to ignore the possibility is sticking one’s head in the sand. We should look at all the possibilities, then decide.
1. I am running for a seat on the Chico City Council because I believe the local development community has too much control over the current council, especially the two incumbents who are up for re-election. This has led to short-term benefits for the few at the expense of the community as a whole. Chico needs councilmembers without conflicting financial interests and a vision that all Chicoans can embrace. I believe I have such a vision and the experience and insight needed to help turn this vision into reality. For further information, please go to my Web site at www.merz4council.com or contact me by phone (345-4050) or e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org).
2. The Greenline does not need adjustment at this time, but the Bell-Muir area should continue to be looked at as part of the development of the Northwest Chico Specific Plan and the Highway 32/Eaton Road Extension Project.
3. The council has every right to regulate the arrival of big-box retailers, starting with extensive environmental and fiscal review of potential impacts to both the immediate neighborhood to be affected and the community as a whole.
4. The city should encourage the continuing development of the South Campus Neighborhood Association and facilitate forums and other avenues of communication as requested and/or needed.
5. The citizens of Chico will need to decide this question via ballot, both as a community (in terms of development ) and in each affected neighborhood (in terms of design and maintenance). Speaking to the former issue, I personally favor a slight increase in the sales tax, with a sunset clause of five years or so, depending on the details provided by a fiscal analysis that would need to be done as part of addressing this issue.
1. I’m committed to preserving Chico’s heritage and quality of life for future generations while carefully planning for Chico’s growth. I will assure you that our vision of Chico—our wonderful parks, tree-lined boulevards, livable neighborhoods and vibrant downtown—will have my support in the planning process. Chico is small enough, neighborly enough that we can all make a difference. I will advocate for community members and create new opportunities for volunteerism in our city, finding new ways to engage all citizens—including CSU, Chico students—in community service.
3. No. We cannot break the Greenline to build more homes when agriculture is an important industry in Butte County. Productive agricultural land is needed to produce food for our community, country and the world, not for houses. Residential needs can be met by encouraging infill development, building higher-density developments with a variety of housing types (apartments, condominiums, single-family homes) and annexing the pockets of county land inside the Chico sphere of influence to have control over land that is already thought of as Chico. High densities will allow our housing industry to grow while simultaneously slowing Chico’s sprawl.
3. The council has a responsibility to its community to protect jobs. While there is a need for people to have an option for low-cost merchandise, a city that has only large big-box retailers is depriving its citizens of opportunities for service and quality. For every minimum wage, non-union job that Wal-Mart creates, two positions are lost at another business. I will strengthen Chico’s downtown core, provide suitable support for small business, and encourage the local development of tourism—a clean, non-intrusive industry with great growth potential.
4. I will build relationships between the groups and encourage them to engage in civil dialogues. A strong community is achieved when citizens act together on behalf of shared values. Chico has a responsibility to teach students about community, and the students have the responsibility to learn about their community and to respect their neighbors. Because of Chico’s budget crisis our Police Department is unable to engage in the type of policing necessary to build relationships. Instead of pro-active community policing programs like bicycle cops and neighborhood outreach, the police cannot build positive relationships when all they really want to ensure students’ and other community member’s safety.
5. The city has let development occur without collecting the necessary developer fees to fund our park system. The city and CARD are financing a study to poll community members about their desires in parks and how they should be funded. An increased sales tax might be explored as a method that would share the burden with the regional users and would be for a specific period of time.