Red tape

I wanted to write about something other than the Camp Fire this week. But it’s difficult to escape the calamity. Maybe impossible.

We’re in a new post-fire world, and there are a lot of ramifications. Our friends and loved ones are traumatized—in many cases by a terrifying escape from the Ridge and the loss of a home. There are desperate searches for new places to live, especially in Chico, which, as this newspaper has chronicled in depth, has struggled with a housing crisis for years.

I worry most about those on the margins: folks on fixed, lower-tier incomes who were able to get by living on the Ridge—maybe by renting an old cottage, a mobile home, a duplex or apartment. So many of those previously affordable units have been reduced to ashes—along with so much else—and the reality is that there’s no telling whether or what the landowners will rebuild.

What options do these displaced people have? Soon enough, they will include living in travel trailers provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (see Ashiah Scharaga’s report on page 8). The holdup, we gather, is the red tape.

Considering there’s so much infrastructure repair needed in the fire-scarred regions, Chico seems like the optimal stopover. Exactly where is the question.

That’s something the new incarnation of Chico’s City Council will consider in the coming weeks, as the leaders of Butte County’s largest municipality take on the role of being a good neighbor.

The panel’s next meeting, on Tuesday (Dec. 4), includes the ceremonial changing of the guard. Recall that, though it seems like a lifetime ago, there was an election two days before the Camp Fire. Three conservative council members—Mark Sorensen, Reanette Fillmer and Andrew Coolidge—are taking their leave. Coolidge lost his bid for a second term on the panel. Fillmer and Sorensen, a one- and two-termer, respectively, didn’t seek re-election.

Their replacements on what will become a progressive majority council are Alex Brown, Scott Huber and Kasey Reynolds. The latter is the only conservative. My guess is that Randall Stone will be voted mayor—aside from the newbies, he’s the only liberal holdover who hasn’t held that post. It’s a toss-up as to whether Ann Schwab or Karl Ory gets the nod for vice mayor.

We shall see.

Irrespective of political bent, the panel’s members have their work cut out for them. Public service isn’t easy—even absent of a disaster. With what’s going on, you can almost file this one in the category of “be careful what you wish for.”

A pitch for giving Each year, the CN&R is a partner in an effort to provide gifts for children at the Esplanade House, a transitional housing program. If you have a soft spot for kids, come to our office at Second and Flume streets to pick up a tag bearing the name of a child and suggested gifts.

I know there are many worthy causes to support, especially in the wake of the fire, but let’s not forget these kiddos.

About Melissa Daugherty 75 Articles
Melissa Daugherty is an award-winning columnist and editorial writer who started her career as a higher education reporter at a daily newspaper. Daugherty spent 17 years at the CN&R, eight of them as editor-in-chief. Comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable is her super power.