Who we watched
Were the people picked in 2006 as newsworthy as expected?
Last year, the editorial staff of the Chico News & Review picked nine people to watch in 2006. Did they live up to the hype? Mostly. Let’s take a look …
Before taking office on Jan. 2, 2006, Chico’s new city manager said his style was to set goals, make sure all employees knew their missions, and then leave them alone to use their talents. He certainly did that in 2006, and much more. Eschewing top-down management, he fostered bottom-up decision-making by encouraging people to make independent decisions. And structurally he reorganized the monolithic Community Services Department into four smaller, more focused departments. He also encouraged the City Council to sunset some city commissions and committees. In just a year, this quiet, low-key man has had a dramatic impact on city government.
Whew! What a year of highs and lows Dan Neumeister had in 2006. It started off well, with the newly appointed Enloe CEO successfully shepherding the hospital’s controversial expansion plans past the Chico Planning Commission and City Council, adroitly fending off efforts to alter them significantly. Right afterwards, though, he faced a rebellion on the part of doctors upset by the dismantling of a first-rate anesthesiology team. They’d been harboring grievances against him for some time, and by the time the dust settled Neumeister had resigned.
Connie Huyck and Larry Bassow
Chico State’s Greek Life advisers had their work cut out for them in 2006, following a tumultuous year that was marked by the death of 21-year-old student Matthew Carrington. In response, the university compiled a list of 59 guidelines to be followed in order for fraternities and sororities to remain recognized by the school.
Huyck, who had been an adviser for years, was joined by Larry Bassow, the former assistant director for residence programs, to help the Greeks keep their noses clean. For the most part, it was an uneventful year, save for a couple of calls to university police (who took over as first responders to Greek houses from city police in April).
And, per the guidelines, the Interfraternity and Panhellenic councils also voted not to recruit first-year, first-semester students or students with fewer than 12 units and those with GPAs less than 2.25.
The Chico Unified School District had been stung by a personnel controversy and Grand Jury rebukes, plus it faced the prospect of a labor dispute, when Dr. Chet Francisco took over as superintendent in October 2005. In 2006, Jeff Sloan and the district reached a settlement, and the teachers’ union agreed to a new contract. The Grand Jury still had some sharp critiques, particularly the handling of ASB monies; Francisco has pledged to address them.
His primary focus, as he told the CN&R soon after moving from Southern California, is “addressing the whole student achievement area. How can we work together better; how can we utilize our resources better?” To that end, CUSD is developing an interlocking curriculum with individualized assessment tests to gauge progress. Teachers have, on the whole, embraced his initiative.
So, with support from both staff and school board, Francisco has reason to sport his trademark smile.
Heather Schlaff heads CARE, otherwise known as Chico Advocates for a Responsible Economy. CARE’s goal: To stop Wal-Mart from growing in Chico. With two environmental-impact reports due in 2006 (one for the expansion of the Forest Avenue store and one for the proposed new Supercenter in north Chico), Schlaff was expected to have her hands full. Everything didn’t quite work out that way, though. Both EIRs, due out last summer, were delayed, with the first coming out finally at the end of December.
Schlaff didn’t sit by and wait for those EIRs, though. She set up booths at Thursday-night farmers’ markets to gather supporters and signatures. She held meetings to discuss the issues, and she even commissioned well-known economists to put together a study of their own. Expect more out of Schlaff in 2007, when the Supercenter proposals really will be up for review.
As new director of the Torres Community Shelter (she got the job in October 2005), Corla Bertrand had quite a bit to work on this past year. While the shelter’s plans to build a second wing didn’t come to fruition (yet—they have been pushed back to spring 2007), it did see more clients than ever before—and had fewer resources. “Consistently our numbers have been twice what they were in 2005,” Bertrand said.
In addition, funding went down. She said federal funding has decreased by almost 50 percent in the past six years. So the shelter has had to increasingly seek out private donors, which now make up about 30 percent of its budget.
Wally Herger can sleep through a campaign and still get re-elected to Congress in the heavily Republican 2nd District, and that’s pretty much what he did in 2006. He didn’t even get his campaign Web site up and running until just before the election. Legislatively, the 11-term backbencher had his usual unmemorable year, but then he’s always chosen to focus on constituent service rather than lead the way on national or foreign-policy issues. On the latter, he backed President Bush down the line, as always. The big questions now are: When will he retire and whom will the Republicans anoint to replace him?
About five seconds after our Who to Watch issue went to press last year, our excitement over the Crux Artist Collective’s moving into a new downtown location was proven premature, as the funky art space headed by Fulton stayed put in its south Chico warehouse. That is, until this past October, when the Crux finally found a new home closer to town, on Park Avenue across from Off Limits.
So, if we could just have a do-over on this one, we’ll suggest keeping an eye on the Crux for 2007. Dig?