Chico council, school board candidates distinguish themselves

Chico council, school board candidates distinguish themselves

The eight Chico City Council candidates at the Sept. 27 forum. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

What a difference it makes seeing and hearing candidates in person versus reading about them whether it’s through campaign materials, news articles or letters to the editor.

In some ways it was refreshing to attend the Sept. 27 forum put on by the Chico chapter of the League of Women Voters. I didn’t know a single candidate. I didn’t know anyone in the room other than the two people I went with. This is quite a change from my days of living in South Lake Tahoe.

What disappointed me was how the League of Women Voters did not explain which candidates were running for which seat. There was no formal introduction of who each person was. The event was run as though the audience knew who everyone was, whether they were an incumbent or challenger, what district they were in, and like we had some knowledge about them. It’s been a while since I’ve felt like an outsider at a local political event. It was interesting, informative and a bit enlightening.

What it made me realize is the importance of hearing candidates for myself. Something I encourage you all to do no matter where you live and the offices being contested. Your vote matters, but so does your understanding of the candidates and the issues.

I had few expectations. I had only made a couple early judgments based on signs. One guy’s you can’t even read. While driving I pulled over only because I could see the word “tennis” so that got my attention. It turns out it is someone’s last name. Another dude has so many signs that it makes me wonder where all the money is coming from to pay for them.

Chico now has district elections for City Council and school board; much like a lot of jurisdictions. This all came about so ideally people have representation from where they live. But it also means I only get to vote for one candidate. This council has seven members, while the school board has five members. Call me old school, but I like at-large elections better. But then again, I’ve never felt like I was not represented—at least at the local level.

Neither of these offices are partisan, though based on what some of them said it was easy to know which side of the aisle they would line up on.

Mostly I was surprised (though probably should not have been) by anger, hostility, and lack of compassion expressed by some of the candidates. I would never vote for Matt Tennis. Wow—his words, his demeanor—all anger. (Glad I’m not in his district; though it would be great to vote him off the school board.)

For council, it’s a big no on Tom van Overbeek. He exuded zero compassion for the unhoused community, which is still the No. 1 issue in Chico. Even in his closing comments it was like and us vs. them instead of being inclusive.

While most of the council candidates were in favor of Measure H, which will raise the sales tax one percentage point, many had reservations. It would go from 7.25 percent to 8.25 percent.

I will vote no against Measure H because the money will go to the General Fund instead of being allocated for something in particular—like roads. Plus, there is no sunset for the measure; this means the added tax will go on forever. This means the council will be able to spend the money however it wants. It might not be spent how I would choose. This could be better summed up as: I don’t trust the council to do the right thing.

If I could vote in each district, for council I would choose Morgan Kennedy, Monica McDaniel, Addison Winslow and Jesica Giannola. For school board it would be Tom Lando and Eileen Robinson. The district 1 candidates did not participate on Tuesday night. However, considering Tennis threw his support behind Rebecca Konkin, this would have me marking my ballot for Scott Thompson.

Sandstone cliffs of Drakes Beach create dramatic scene

Sandstone cliffs of Drakes Beach create dramatic scene

The cliffs at Drakes Beach in Marin County are breathtaking. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

Hundreds of feet tall, the sandstone cliffs at Drakes Bay rise in dramatic fashion from the beach.

Looking at the ocean it’s easy to feel small. Turn around to face the cliffs and your stature is further diminished.

In many ways it felt like there was no way out. It seemed impossible to scale the cliffs without equipment. Even then, the sandstone was sure to crumble. The Pacific Ocean, while rather placid on this particular day, is still often an uninviting mass of water.

The tide was out, so we had plenty of beach to meander along. No worry about being trapped and not getting back to the vehicle. But this ruggedness had me imagining what it might have been like way back when before a paved road led me here.

Sue looks rather small standing near the sandstone cliffs of Drakes Beach. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

The beauty is captivating—all 360 degrees. We could have walked for miles in either direction. We sauntered, appreciating the debris deposited onto the sand—whole crab shells, evidence a pelican lost a fight with some predator, kelp that resembled art.

History proves this is not where you would want to be marooned in a storm. Today, though, this stretch of land in Marin County is part of Point Reyes National Seashore.

“The sands of the Drakes Bay cliffs were deposited in a shallow sea 10–13 million years ago, compacted, then uplifted. Erosion has revealed the striations of this story in the cliff faces,” according to the National Park Service.

At the visitors center a slew of panels touch on the history of Francis Drake, the namesake of the Pacific Ocean bay.

A stranded crab at Drakes Beach. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

The Englishman accumulated his wealth by attacking Spanish ships and stealing their gold. Signage says, “Spanish witnesses reluctantly admitted that Drake treated his captives well and often released them with gifts—unusual practices for his time.”

Less controversial is the fact Drake was the first person from his country to circle the globe.

He entered what is now known as Drakes Bay to repair damaged ships. They spent 36 days there.

Drake called the bay Nova Albion, or New England, “because the cliffs reminded the homesick sailors of the white, chalk cliffs along the English Channel.”

Drake and his men were the first Europeans to visit this part of California.

“This Bay of Francis Drake and the land of Nova Albion were marked on the world’s maps, and led John Smith to name New England after Drake’s claim on the other side of the continent,” according to the Park Service. “Nova Albion was not erased from maps and charts until 1846, when Great Britain agreed to the present boundary between the United States and Canada.”

Rethinking the words we use when it comes to gender

Rethinking the words we use when it comes to gender

Words matter. Innocuous as some may be, they can come with baggage not always obvious. It may simply be because we grew up saying certain words and accepted them or we could be oblivious or something else might be going on.

Words like fireman, policeman, serviceman, workman, etc. all probably came into being because only men once had those jobs. It makes sense that firefighter, police officer, service member, and worker are the more preferred words today.

It’s beyond being politically correct. It’s about being inclusive. It’s about not be discriminatory. It’s about being accurate. It’s about evolving.

The use and connotation of words can change. We don’t call someone a Negro today. We don’t say a bundle of sticks is a faggot, though it is. Plenty of examples exist as to words that are no longer acceptable in every day conversation.

Pronouns and other gender distinguishing words are also important to reconsider.

Voters in the Bay Area city of Oakland this November will decide if the Charter (which is akin to a constitution for a city) should have gender specific words replaced with gender neutral ones. Berkeley already did this in 2019.

In Oakland’s Charter, which was adopted in 1968, female police officers are known as matrons.

Where he/him/his is used to refer to everyone and not just men, those words would be replaced with they.

Now if only we could collectively do away with woMAN, feMALE and MANkind, to name a few words, then we truly would be making progress when it comes to having words be less male centric.

It’s not that I want to do away with my gender. I just would like it tied less to the other one, to be more autonomous and distinctive in the words that are used for it. It probably won’t happen in my life time, but it doesn’t hurt to dream.

Finding evidence of fire throughout Northern California

Finding evidence of fire throughout Northern California

Vegetation fills Sugarloaf Peak after fire took out many trees on this 6,552-foot mountain in 2009. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

Today it seems impossible to hike in California without seeing scars from wildfires. I don’t remember that always being true. Maybe I’m more aware now. Maybe there are simply that many more burn areas. Likely, it’s both.

On a recent hike in Lassen National Forest I expected we would either see charred trees from last year’s Dixie Fire or we would walk through dead timber. We did both.

What I wasn’t prepared for was witnessing the devastation from other fires.

Being new to this part of Northern California I’m not as aware of past fires as I am in the greater Lake Tahoe area. It just goes to show how we don’t always pay attention to what is happening outside our sphere.

It was overlooking the Hat Creek Valley along Highway 44 that these other fires were a focal point. While it was fairly obvious to see the forest had been burned, the regeneration of flora was encouraging.

One sign about the Sugarloaf Fire (a fire I have no recollection of) said, “Aug. 1, 2009, the Hat Creek Valley was blasted by more than 800 bolts of lightning. The fury ignited 47 wildfires, scorching 9,365 acres. After the fire, the burned trees along the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail were cut to increase safety, help the forest become re-established, and protect the trial from future devastating fires.”

The amount of acreage seems like nothing today. Still, it’s huge to the humans and wildlife affected by it.

Older fires that could be seen from this vantage point were the 1992 Red Rock Fire that was caused from a spark on a bulldozer. It burned 290 acres. The 1987 Boundary Fire charred 310 acres after a trash fire got out of control. Lightning caused the 1987 Lost Fire; it burned 23,000 acres.

While almost all of us understand the devastation and tragedy that comes with an unmanaged fire, the prevailing thought today is fire can be good.

One sign read, “Without fire, forest ecosystems are becoming unhealthy and contain more fuel for larger, more severe fires. Even as we work to reintroduce fire on the landscape, we remain committed to protecting lives, property and resources. Today our challenge is to blend the needs of the American public with the needs of the land.”

Sadly, we still haven’t gotten it right.

Book Review: ‘Refraction’ illuminates life in Prudhoe Bay, Alaska

Book Review: ‘Refraction’ illuminates life in Prudhoe Bay, Alaska

One thing I love about reading books is learning something I knew nothing about. Refraction: An Artic Memoir by Bruce Rettig did not disappoint.

In some ways Refraction is like a coming of age book. Isn’t that what college years are after all—a time to learn about so much more than what is delivered in a classroom.

For Rettig, part of his education and growth came during the four summers he spent in Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, working for Arctic Marine Freighters, a division of Crowley Maritime. The company did work for oil companies.

It is his experiences during this time that fill the pages of his memoir.

It was as though I was transported to the desolate Artic outpost through Rettig’s words. I could feel the monotony of the industrial work, the depth of relationships, and visualize the desolate landscape through his words. His growth as a person is nearly palpable. As he learns about the area, this line of work and life so do readers.

The book kept getting better with each chapter. I kept wanting to know more, and Rettig was accommodating as his life’s story unfolded. Interwoven are the uncertainties that loomed because of the Cold War, as well as the challenges of being so far from family and friends, and questioning what he wanted to do after graduation. Interwoven in the stories are his questions about the environment, personal relationships and life in general.

“The personal connection forever changed how I viewed oil development in Alaska or anywhere else in the world. The words ‘Drill, baby, drill’ scorch my soul,” Rettig writes. After all, where he was working is the largest oil field in North America.

Many of the chapters start with a black and white photo that the Meyers resident took while in Alaska. They bring a stark a reality to the letters on the page.

Rettig started his Alaska work in 1982 as a grunt and finished his last season as one of the last to leave, doing a task in minus 40-degree weather.

As he said, “Living in such rugged territory is challenging and life-threatening.”

Tahoe residents will appreciate his references to the basin, while those with some history to the area will understand the significance to his mentioning MTBE and Shell Oil.

My main criticism is the title of the book. While it’s accurate and descriptive in a way, I’m not sure it is going to get someone to pick up the book. I hope I’m wrong because this is a book worth reading.

“Refraction” isn’t ready for the masses to consume. It is scheduled to be released Nov. 15 by Wayfarer Books, an Eco-Lit imprint of Homebound Publications. While it will be available online via large retailers, Rettig is a believer in buying locally and supporting independent bookstores.

Note: This book review first appeared in the Tahoe Mountain News.

Astonishing amount of trash to clean up in statewide event

Astonishing amount of trash to clean up in statewide event

A suit case and clothes fill part of Little Chico Creek. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

Looking over the bridge trash was everywhere. Three bags were not going to be enough. Even worse, we didn’t know how to safely retrieve it.

The leaders of the 35th annual Bidwell Park and Chico Creeks Cleanup said it would be steep to access Little Chico Creek. I failed to ask how steep; instead I said I can do steep. Four women were sent to the same location. Three of us found each other; not sure where the other one ended up. None of us thought we could safely get down the embankments, let alone climb out with bags full of garbage.

One location off Pomona Avenue was so bad I texted the organizers (as we were told to do) to send a truck. There was that much debris. Multiple wood pallets and what looked like debris left a homeless encampment filled the area.

Our instructions were to not dismantle someone’s home. Not a problem.

A city of Chico sign outlines the rules for this greenway. But there is no access to the area without climbing a fence. The garbage isn’t there anymore. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

The three of us decided to drive to various locations along the creek, which had no water in it, to see if we could climb down.

As we peered over one bridge to assess our access options, a guy asked if we were cleaning up garbage. We said, yes, but not taking anyone’s home. His was living below us along the creek. He said he could rake things up a bit, but wasn’t sure what to do about the garbage. One woman said put it in a pile and someone would get it.

It was astonishing to see all of the trash in the creek bed and along the edges. It’s not the homeless contributing to the trash problem. Apartment dumpsters were not closed, with crap all around them which was then blowing into the watershed.

Clothes were strewn about a suit case. All sitting on the rock bottom of the creek.  Who stole the suit case and who lost it? The clothes looked perfectly fine, as did the suit case; well, at least from my vantage point. This was another instance of not being able to access the discarded items.

Bringing in the day’s haul on Sept. 17 in Chico.

We texted in another location. Organizers said they noted it. Here a mattress with graffiti on it had been dumped. It didn’t look like it was part of someone’s outdoor home, but instead someone chose this public spot to be their garbage can.

We cleaned up trash in some the public rights-of-way near overpasses of the creek. We filled our three large black garbage bags with lots of bottles, cans, food wrappers, clothing, shoes, cigarette butts, cardboard, and a well-worn blanket.

A metal chair without a seat or back and a tire with the rim intact were part of our haul.

All of Little Chico Creek that we surveyed needs attention. With rains coming early (fingers crossed the wet stuff keeps falling), actual water in the creek mixing with all the debris is going to be an environmental nightmare.

Butte Environmental Council put on the Sept. 17 event which was part of the larger 38th annual California Coastal Cleanup Day.

The California Coastal Commission said, “With 60% of the cleanup sites reporting, the statewide count stands at 27,185 volunteers. Those volunteers picked up 220,861 pounds of trash and an additional 29,702 pounds of recyclable materials, for a total of 250,563 pounds or 125 tons.”

Feds Remove S-Word From Locations Throughout The U.S.

Feds Remove S-Word From Locations Throughout The U.S.

We all know the N-word. Now there is the S-word.

Earlier this month the federal Board of Geographic Names removed more than 650 instances nationwide where the word “squaw” was part of the name. This includes 80 locations in California and 34 in Nevada.

The site of the 1960 Winter Olympics is now known at Palisades Tahoe. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

“The term has historically been used as an offensive ethnic, racial, and sexist slur, particularly for Indigenous women,” the Interior Department said last year after Secretary Deb Haaland declared “squaw” a derogatory term.

A task force has been studying what locations should be changed.

In Placer County, Squaw Creek is now Washeshu Creek and Squaw Valley is Olympic Valley.

I grew up skiing at Squaw Valley. Still call it my favorite Tahoe area resort. But it’s not Squaw anymore. It’s Palisades Tahoe. That change came last year. I still think a better name could have been found, but that’s irrelevant to this story. The ski resort was one of many entities throughout the country that has proactively changed its name.

I completely understand and agree with removing the S-word. I do wonder when one references the 1960 Winter Olympics what it will be called. I wonder if one has hiking and snowshoe books with the S-word if those should be changed.

This is not the first time names have been replaced en masse. The federal government replaced a slew of slurs for Black and Japanese people in the 1960s and 1970s.

Here is the list of S-words that have been removed, the new name, and where it is located. Locations with new names include valleys, streams, reservoirs, ridges, flats, summits, pillars, gaps, springs, bays, islands, slopes, lakes, basins, cliffs, areas, bars (not the drinking kind), guts, capes, canals, bends, benches, and crossings.

Smell of rain a soothing, natural perfume

Smell of rain a soothing, natural perfume

A leaf catches raindrops on Sept. 12 in Chico. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

Waking to another overcast day can be so depressing. Then I heard it, and I smiled. That sound that has been absent from California for the better part of three years. Rain.

It wasn’t smoke filling the sky, it was actual clouds.

Not much rain fell Monday morning, but it was enough to get everything wet and bring down the temperature.

And that aroma. Mother Nature certainly has a way of stimulating so many senses.

The smell of rain even has a name—petrichor. The dictionary defines it this way: “a pleasant smell that frequently accompanies the first rain after a long period of warm, dry weather.”

With our doors open, this petrichor even filled part of the house. It’s like nature’s cleaner—erasing the dust and leaving this scent that is hard to describe. This fresh rain smell is unique, special and soothing.

It brings me hope that more wet stuff will fall this autumn and winter, with fingers crossed the drought doesn’t go into year four.

For now, though, I’m going to keep inhaling Mother Nature’s fragrance.

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