Melanie Bassett, DCBA – city not providing “really necessary services to keep the Downtown vital and vibrant”

10 Jan


I get very frustrated by the missing links in the “homeless” conversation. Different groups are having very different conversations, and working in opposite directions on this issue.

Some see it as an issue of housing helpless people – I believe this attitude has attracted people from all over the United States, people who are not necessarily helpless, who don’t necessarily want that kind of help. What they come here for is the tolerable weather and the laissez faire attitude toward criminal activity.

The other day, I read the kind of horrific front page story I had always feared would come to Chico. A “homeless” couple had murdered another “homeless” woman at a de facto camp in Oroville. I won’t relate the details, I hate reading stuff like that. I will share what I found on the Butte County Superior Court website – these people had been arrested several times over the previous year, in Chico, and the man had recently been released from prison.  They were using crank, and that’s kind of hard to miss. They were released “O/R” – own recognizance – time and time again. Finally they got into a methamphetamine motivated rage with this woman they knew, and they killed her at least 50 times.

Years ago when I was a young woman living, working and going to college in the Sacramento area, I became aware of “crank.” I had some customers at my night job who casually offered me some, but I was a “health nut” back then, working out at a gym, eating protein shakes. I used my fitness routine as my polite excuse, not realizing – these people were politely offering me what amounted to rat poison.

But now I was aware of the stuff.  Suddenly it seemed everybody around me – from customers at my retail job, co-workers at my manufacturing job, and even old friends from high school – was on crank. I did not hear about it at college, my friends at college were too stressed out to do drugs.  It had become the drug of choice for working people – it was cheaper than coke, more available, and it made you want to work like a bastard. I had a friend who got on it when he was on a crew that installed garage doors. Within a few months he had his entire crew on it. Not only was he getting garage doors installed all over the greater Sacramento area, he was making extra money off his co-workers. 

Cranksters are under a spell. When they’re on that stuff they think the world is great, they think they can do anything. But, as you could expect, the comedown is at least as dramatic – you don’t want to be the one holding money when your friends are out of crank. 

When I think back on it I remember an almost surreal feeling that I couldn’t trust anybody I knew. I had friends steal out of my purse, threaten me, and bully me to loan them money, or even my car. I had co-workers offer me drugs and when I didn’t accept they never spoke to me again – how do you work with people like that?  Tension was building at my manufacturing job as my supervisor became aware of the problem and began to sort out employees. He was an older guy, remembered “crystal meth” from his “hippy days”, and feared he might have to purge the whole staff and institute drug testing – very expensive all the way around.

Talking to my boss, I felt we were the last people in town who were not on crank.  So, I took my grandma’s suggestion and transferred to Chico State. Growing up in Glenn County, I had visited Chico many times as a child, shopping, movie theater, Easters at One Mile, Grandma’s ear doctor, etc.  I loved Chico as a child, it was shinier and prettier than Willows, with more ice cream shops.

 As an adult, the first thing I noticed about Chico was the huge emphasis on booze and partying. As I drove into town from the Westside, I saw groups partying, drinking beer in their front yards at 10am. I thought, “I’m too old for this…” But, family and friends helped me find a good part of town to live in, instead of “The Ghetto,” and I stayed. 

Sacramento seemed a million miles away, a stinking island teeming with leeches. 

Almost 30 years later (gasp!), I have made my home and raised my kids here, and suddenly the town seems to be teeming with leeches.  Call me Slow, but it took me a while to realize what my friends who get out more had already concluded – Chico is full of creepy cranksters. Look at these people – they’re gaunt, their skin is tight and sallow, their eyes are baggy, and if you come close enough, you smell their constant nervous sweat. Just yesterday I observed a campful of them at the post office annex on Vallombrosa – Safeway moved the recycling enterprise but these people just camp in the old location anyway. 

This is a problem all over town. You might have heard they found a dead body along the freeway out past 20th Street – next time you drive Hwy 99, look at the bushes, they have old mattresses laying in there, the trash indicates regular camping.  I see the same thing along the freeway and in commercial parking lots in North Chico.

Downtown Business Association and  even Chico Chamber would have you believe this is just a Downtown problem. Council and staff have spent hours, and money, on the Downtown problem. I was just listening to an interview with DCBA director Melanie Bassett on Alan Chamberlain’s podcast news show “Chico Currents.” 

Bassett was talking about the private security hired by DCBA to patrol Downtown Chico. “This whole idea happened as a result of the city not having the financial resources to provide some of the really necessary services to keep the Downtown vital and vibrant.”

You mean, cops?

The police have cried that  they don’t have the employees to protect our town, so DCBA has hired private security “for our merchants Downtown, so they have someone to call, and someone to respond quickly to issues that they’re experiencing…”

Bassett added that DCBA is “working on private funding” for the patrols. According to their website, DCBA is currently working with the city to reassess merchants in the “Downtown” grid for fees, they say the fees have not been raised for a long time. You have to pay DCBA to locate your business Downtown.

So, what about the rest of town? I’m seeing these freaks walking down my street, I see them in gross numbers near my rentals. I hear reports of break-ins around my neighborhoods. I have transferred all my mail to my post office box, but I can only access that between 7am and 10pm because of “security concerns”.  

Council just handed the cops a bunch of guaranteed raises and okay’d more hiring. Again. They keep giving the cops more money, but the problem is not getting better. I’d say, it’s getting worse. 

When I related the story of the stabbing of a passerby by a homeless man in Sacramento, Ann Schwab laughed out loud at my narrative. She found my description of a man being “stabbed in the gut” with a 12 inch knife to be comical. I had related it because the homeless man had been a regular fixture around Downtown Sacramento, I’d see him almost every day walking the K Street mall as I changed buses in a sea of commuters. People called him “Jesus” because he wore bedsheets and would hold his fingers up in blessing as you walked by him. One  day, he was “initiating” some young woman in the bushes alongside Sutter’s Fort, and a man who was on his way to Sutter Hospital to see a friend thought it was a sexual assault. “Jesus,” whose real name was Jerry Paddy, pulled a long knife out of his sleeve and stuck the man right through his “abdomen”. The man died within minutes, never saw the ambulance coming. 

Reading about these two who murdered the third, people who wandered the streets of Chico at various times, according to arrest reports, really woke me up to our “homeless” problem. Up til now it’s just been disgusting – both having to move among these creeps every time I go out and about, and also having to put up with a police force that is overfed and unable to do it’s job. 

What really frustrates me now, is that if you complain about this problem, the cops just hold their collective hand out for more money.











4 Responses to “Melanie Bassett, DCBA – city not providing “really necessary services to keep the Downtown vital and vibrant””

  1. Jim January 10, 2016 at 8:27 am #

    The City just blew $200 grand on airport consultants, and $100 grand on traffic consultants for The Esplanade. How come they have money for this, but not crime prevention?

    • Juanita Sumner January 11, 2016 at 6:40 am #

      Thanks for asking Jim.

      I’m going to guess, the Esplanade corridor thing got them matching grants – just a guess.

      The $200,000 on airport consultants was just stupid. I think they were as unimpressed with his song and dance as I was.

      I think Mark Sorensen is so excited to be mayor he’s just putty in the hands of staff. He isn’t really that smart – look in his eyes – and staff is having a jolly time with the guy.

  2. Jim January 11, 2016 at 6:52 am #

    The deal with The Esplanade is that it’s a highway, so there is state and maybe federal funding available for road improvements. Of course the City staff will siphon off money to fund their own benefits. Fixing other roads in Chico doesn’t have that benefit of state grant money.

    • Juanita Sumner January 11, 2016 at 4:43 pm #

      Yeah, that figures.

      City streets are supposed to be fixed with gas tax, which Jennifer Hennessy long ago told us went to salaries, etc. Chris Constantin criticized this “loosey goosey” fund raiding, but has instituted the practice under the guise of “fund allocation.”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: