Winners and layoffs

Congrats, Best of Chico winners; and condolences to certain city workers

Sometimes there are so many things to write about that I don’t know where to start.

This week certainly is a doozey.

First off, it’s a time of celebration for those who took home top honors (or placed) in the CN&R’s annual Best of Chico contest. Congrats to this year’s winners. And thank you to everyone who voted, even if those votes are the bane of the editorial department’s existence for the many hours we spend counting ballots.

You’d think the winners would be computed electronically and spit out into a spreadsheet. But since people spell their picks’ names in numerous ways, we have to sort through all of the answers and, for example, group and count all of the Lyon Books with all of the Lyon’s Books and Lyons and Lyon Books and Learning Center. You get the point.

Be sure to check out the CN&R editorial staff’s offbeat Best of Chico choices, too. You can probably guess, if you know what my office windows look down upon, at least one of my contributions to the editors’ picks.

We’re sans a City Council meeting in this issue, but that doesn’t mean there’s no news out of City Hall. Word came down late last week that 11 employees are being cut loose (see Downstroke, page 12). This is on top of the sweeping mid-summertime round of layoffs. It goes without saying that the new list also represents individuals and families who will be greatly affected.

Quoted in Chico E-R reporter Ashley Gebb’s write-up on the layoffs, City Manager Brian Nakamura said, “[I]t’s not one of our finer moments.” I have to agree.

I took a closer look at the list this week and noticed that a lot of institutional knowledge is being yanked from City Hall. It’s hard to say how this will affect city services, but it goes without saying that these are big losses.

Capital Projects Services Director Tom Varga, an engineer I’ve interviewed and quoted from City Council meetings over the years, is one person on the list. He’s been in the public-works business for nearly 30 years.

Another employee is Shawn Tillman, a senior planner. If his name sounds familiar, it’s probably because we’ve interviewed him twice in as many weeks for separate stories. In the first, written by yours truly, (see “Meter matters,” Newslines, Sept. 26), Tillman was the lead staff member at a meeting in which Finance Committee members were contemplating the idea of allowing parking-meter revenue to pay for certain improvements to downtown, such as enhanced security and cleaning.

Last week, in News Editor Tom Gascoyne’s story on IT-services company Milestone Technologies Inc. setting up shop in Chico—and bringing with it some 230 jobs—owner Prem Chand said that his eleventh-hour decision to put down roots here was in part related to having been convinced to do so by Tillman (see “A call for jobs,” Newslines, Oct. 3).

Local journalists rely on getting accurate info from longtime employees such as Tillman and Varga. I can only hope that there are folks left to interview by the time the city finally gets its financial house in order.