City of Chico fiddles while Rome burns

18 Jan

It’s only been a couple of weeks since I reported an illegal camp in Bidwell Park. It took the city a few days – New Year’s weekend! – to get them out and then collect up the trash. We knew that wouldn’t be the end of it, and again yesterday my husband found an illegal encampment – this time right off a main trail, right out in the open, unabashed and unafraid of detection.


Some people just get too comfortable in the park.

When my husband was taking a picture of the tent a woman actually confronted him. He had our 10 year old diabetic dog, so I started to worry – what if one of these people had a pit bull or other killing machine type of dog? I started to question my husband’s insistence to walk the park with my old dog every morning, even though this routine has successfully kept her blood sugar down to manageable levels.

There you are folks – I don’t feel safe in Bidwell  Park, and you shouldn’t either. Arm yourself and be ready to defend yourself and your children/pets. 

When the woman shouted at my husband, “what are you doing?!” he responded, “what does it look like?” And he took a picture of her tent. He told her, “you know what you’re doing,” and that she had about 30 minutes to clear it all out before he’d report it to the police. 

When he made he way back home with Biscuit, the tent was gone. 

Yeah, the park looks like a hobo camp, why not? The city has allowed the park to sink into horrible disgrace. It’s not “natural,” it’s a manmade disaster of non-native species and septic swamp. Nothing has been done to maintain the health of the park for at least 20 years. The city turned maintenance over to “volunteers”, has brought in jail crews a few times, but has no cohesive plan for how the park should be maintained.  How many millions have gone to plans for Bidwell Park? I’ve lost track. 

City council voted last night to spend more money on staffing Chico PD. I will make my official prediction – the homeless problem will continue to get worse, Bidwell Park will continue to sink into disgust.

UPDATE: I will say, Mark Orme is quick to respond to my inquiries.

Ms. Sumner,

 Thank you again for your input.  I’ve cc’d the Police Chief and Public Works Director over Operations on this e-mail, as they may have additional feedback to give.  I can tell you that staff is evaluating every opportunity to move forward with an effort to deal with this situation more aggressively.  One potential program we are working on is furthering the bond between our public works team and the Police department.  They already have a great working relationship, but we’re looking at a creative approach to securing an even smoother ability to deal with these park issues.  It will roll out during the budget process.  As for now, the Police Department and Public Works will continue to monitor and conduct sweeps on a regular basis…although not as often as staff would like to be able to do, simply due to resource constraints.  

 Have a great day,   Mark

 Mark Orme

City Manager

For the Beautiful City of Chico

But there’s your answer – “resource constraints”. A hundred million plus budget, and this guy is complaining about “resource constraints”?

So I had to ask him about this.

The podcast is still available, listen to it yourself. Mr. Van Rossum spoke at last night’s council meeting in favor of increasing the police budget – without talking about his “Business Support Team” or mentioning that he raised a few thousand dollars through North Valley Community Foundation Annie B’s for Chico PD. I asked Orme if it’s still true, the police spend so much time at Enloe dealing with the homeless, they need a substation?

When I asked Dorian Kitrell, a director at Butte County Behavioral Health, why the cops were spending so much time babysitting the homeless,  waiting for county employees to pick them up for a ride to the facility in Oroville, he didn’t know what I was talking about. 

We’ll see what Orme says. I’m getting kind of tired of hearing about “resource constraints” from a guy who sits on a $100 million-plus budget and a $200,000-plus salary. 

 UPDATE UPDATE: I have to hand it to Orme, he’s quicker on that send button than Donald Trump!

Yes, the business support team is an independent group, not under the City’s auspices.  The person who usually speaks on their behalf is Ms. Donna Sherry.  I don’t have her contact information readily available, but it may be something you can reach out to Chief O’Brien to get.  As for the radio issues at Enloe, I know it has been an ongoing problem, however, one of the capital expenditures the City is evaluating this year is an upgraded radio system that would deal with this issue.  Again, the Chief would be the best person to speak to that concern.

 If you e-mail him on both of these matters, he is really good about getting back. 

 Hope this helps and gets you connected to the right folks,


So I wrote to the police chief:

Hi Mr. Obrien,

I was told by city manager  Mark Orme to forward the inquiries below to you.

First, I wonder when we can expect regular patrols of Bidwell Park. My husband and I keep encountering illegal campers on morning walks with our dog, and we don’t feel safe in the park or our adjacent neighborhood anymore. We feel the park has become a haven for criminals to predate our neighborhoods.  The online police reporting website does not have a button for “illegal campers” so we have made reports to the city manager and staff. 

Second, I wonder if you have contact information for the Chico Police Business Support Team, Donna Sherry.  I wondered about a fundraising effort made in 2015 through the Annie B’s drive, by Jack Van Rossum. He made comments on a local podcast show, Chico Currents, saying the police spend so much time at Enloe with homeless people, they need a private “substation” and special radios for communication. I wondered if this is still true and what became of the fundraising efforts. 

Thank you, at your convenience, for your anticipated cooperation, Juanita Sumner

I have not had any dealings with O’Brien, we’ll see what we get.


O’Brien responded with contact information for Officer Scott Zuchin. I had told Maureen Kirk about a tent spotted along Hwy 32 below the new  water tower, and she told the cops. Here was Zuchin’s response:

Greetings… The Target team linked up with realtor Tamara Lambert-Valencia from Coldwell Banker DuFour to address the encampment issue near the water tower located inside the new Oak Valley subdivision two weeks ago. This camp is no longer an issue. Target will continue to work with the realtor and developer as crime and safety issues arise. Please give me a call. I can arrange a neighborhood meeting with the Target team to discuss your questions and concerns.

I had told Kirk, I’d just seen it the previous weekend, and I saw it again the day before Zuchin responded. I told him it was still there, visible from Hwy 32, a green rain fly strung up over it, bike carts piled next to it. He responded again,

Please be more specific then. We may not be speaking about the same location. You may attach photographs to your email if that helps.

That answer pissed me off. I could tell, he didn’t even take a look. It’s visible from the road. I  gave him more specific directions, and told him he could talk to Kirk about it, she was the one who was complaining about break-ins to Cal Park garages,  etc, threatening to move herself and her husband to a “Del Webb Leisure Village.”

But yesterday, Saturday January 21, on their morning stroll in Bidwell  Park, my husband and  dog encountered illegal tents again.


This tent was concealed in brush, but with a well-worn path leading right to it. I think the cops need more appropriate shoes.

They also saw piles of trash containing bike parts, the usual. So he took the usual pictures, and we made the usual complaint, this time to Zuchin instead of  the city manager. And this time we got no response.

That Orme, he responds very quickly, no matter the day of the week. This Zuchin person has the weekend off! What a boon for criminals! Wouldn’t you think the chief would give me a number that is good for weekends? I mean, if he’s really serious about wanting citizens to report this illegal activity. There’s no mechanism for reporting illegal camping on the Chico PD website.

So, I’ll tell you what, if my husband  finds campers again this morning, I’ll say  it’s official – Chico PD is turning a blind eye to illegal  camping.  They don’t want to do anything about it because it’s just more fodder for their threats to cut services if they don’t get more money.


3 Responses to “City of Chico fiddles while Rome burns”

  1. Jim January 19, 2017 at 8:33 am #

    What is so ridiculous is that the City has come down hard on that guy offering to allow the homeless to camp on his leased property on Notre Dame, however does nothing when people camp in the park.

    • Juanita Sumner January 19, 2017 at 8:44 am #

      I don’t know – I wouldn’t want to be the owner of Payless Bldg Supply. And as a customer, I resent that these people cost him money that he has to tack on to the price of my fence boards and other supplies. I wouldn’t want to have to keep inventory of a yard full of stuff like boards and cement blocks when I’ve got a little army of creeps cutting in and climbing over my fence to steal stuff like that, almost every night. And of course he has to add the cost of any security lights or cameras, and god forbid – an actual security guard, with salary and benefits – onto the price of my fence boards.

      I think both areas deserve equal priority, right now the cops are just throwing their hands up – “constrained resources” – like, “lions and tigers and bears, OH MY!”

      I’ll say it – my husband is out there right now, doing their job, and these pussy cops are huddled in their breakroom talking about how they’re going to bully us into paying more of their benefits. Our city council is also a pile of shit. And Mark Orme and Chris Constantin need to go. OBrien too.

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