Downtown Assessment is just another nail in the coffin

8 Jul

Last night my husband and I had a gift certificate for a new restaurant Downtown, and tired as we were, we decided to go for it, Restaurant Week be damned!  We’ve been working hard in the heat lately, we’d put out chicken for bbq but we couldn’t stomach the idea of standing over the grill in 112 degrees.

My patio, Friday, July 7, 2017, about 4 pm.

Luckily (?) for us, the chain place we’d been sent was almost empty, meanwhile, all the trendier places around were swamped with business, 45 minute to hour wait for tables. Oh well, this eatery had good air conditioning, and the meal was free. We ordered. Our server was a nice, professional person, things were clean. 

As we waited for our meal, we entertained ourselves by looking out the big windows, onto Main Street. People were meandering toward the Plaza for Friday Night Concert, some of them carrying lawn chairs. I wondered how these people felt about the bums who were threading along among them,  looking really dirty, and pretty drunk already. We’d seen a couple of cops trying to get a guy off the sidewalk on Second Street.  

A woman walked up with a bike and an enormous over-full back pack on her back.  she was carrying a plastic shopping bag full of other possessions. She hauled herself onto a cement bench sitting just outside the restaurant windows, and gave the phrase “take a load off” new meaning. 

Downtown business and property owner David Halimi came walking down the sidewalk from his Diamond W western wear store, toward the Plaza, looking like the cock of the walk. He’s a funny little guy – likes to wear cowboy boots and a big hat.  But yesterday he was wearing very sensible shoes, and he walked up a block or so and then turned back toward his store, as if he’d just been out for a jaunt. He, Budd Schwab and Bob Malowney (also CARD board of directors) were really pushing that Downtown assessment, and they got it. My husband wondered if Halimi was gloating, I didn’t see that. I saw him looking out at the bums and the filth on the sidewalks, and his eyes were very glazed, and the muscles were working in his jaws. 

As I gazed out on Main Street, my husband, with his back to the front of the restaurant, was watching the side street.  We were  describing the characters we were seeing to each other.  I watched an older woman with a wild mane of bleach-blonde hair cross the street in some pretty outrageous platform shoes, wearing this skimpy little jumpsuit outfit. My husband was watching a man walk along the side street, leaning on parking meters and garbage cans for support. 

And then I noticed the woman on the bench outside the window was changing her clothes. She was just pulling up a pair of underwear when I saw her. She’d been wearing a shirt and jeans, now she was wearing a very stylish looking sun dress.  She left the clothes she’d removed in a pile on the bench, and started gathering up her giant backpack and her other bag. She took her bike by the handlebars and left.

I couldn’t help but wonder where she’d got the dress, looked expensive, like from one of the trendy shops nearby. I’ve heard shoplifting is a problem Downtown, and I wondered – did she just steal that dress and change into it in full view of restaurant windows? Was she using the windows as a looking glass? What? 

She was already gone and the pile of old clothes was still sitting there on the bench. We’d finished our meal and were figuring the tip, cause the staff of this place was very attentive. Leaving the restaurant we realized the food had been pretty poor, cafeteria style, but we’d bolted it because we just wanted to get the hell out of there. We felt bad for the staffers – one cook had come out of the kitchen for his break, and was standing on the street looking at the ragged passersby with a look of disbelief. 

The Downtown assessment is just  the latest in band-aid ideas for Downtown. Yeah, let’s throw more money at it! But every time I go Downtown I see more empty store fronts, I don’t know who the property owners will have to pay their little tax before long. 


4 Responses to “Downtown Assessment is just another nail in the coffin”

  1. janine July 9, 2017 at 4:37 am #

    Hey, they can start rolling the bums for it!

    • Juanita Sumner July 9, 2017 at 4:38 am #

      Thanks Janine, good point. They get $550 a day for each of the bums they drag over to the psychiatric facility – or “PUFF” – in Oroville. Maybe Behaviorial Health could kick into the assessment district. They could “own” the benches along the street, and pay an assessment on that square footage.

  2. Jim July 9, 2017 at 7:22 am #

    The problem is growth. Our city has grown to be a mid-sized city, with midsize city problems. Growth weakens a city, since the tax revenue of the new residents, doesn’t cover the increased costs associated with the new residents. That is one reason why we don’t have enough police to deal with crime.
    As we continue to grow, the problem will only get worse.

    • Juanita Sumner July 10, 2017 at 4:50 am #

      Of course you’re right, and that is a conversation we had for years in this town. I think the average Chicoan understood that growth was bad. But, Tom Lando, now a board member at Chico Area Recreation District, in about 2006, produced a “memo of understanding” or “MOU” that attached city salaries, including his own, to “city revenue increases, but not decreases.” Remember that hayride? Lando’s own salary when from about $65,000/year to over $150,000. They took salary increases of 14, 19, 22 percent, more, over a year or two. When we caught them at that, they threw it out and started paying not only the “employer share” of pensions but the “employee share” – “employer paid member compensation”.

      Ask Larry Wahl and Maureen Kirk, now Butte County Supervisors, why they went along with Lando on all that. Larry told me he didn’t understand the MOU. Maureen told me she couldn’t figure out the paperwork to apply for “Intervenor” status on the water rate increase.

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