Tell your council rep, the election is over – time to get to work

22 Nov

I know I’ve been writing a lot about Downtown lately – well, the other day, my husband and I were actually forced to go Downtown, to deal with our bank. I found out everything I’ve suspected is true.

The first note I’ll make is how dirty the sidewalks are. And it’s not soda, there are dried pee puddles in corners and porticos all over the place. Our bank shares a portico with a popular eatery, there was a huge pee stain right next to the door of the restaurant. Yes, it’s pee, don’t try to bullshit me – just like that huge stain in the lobby of the city chambers. The sidewalks Downtown are sticky with urine and filth, I felt a compulsion to throw away the shoes I was wearing, but opted for an alcohol wipe-down when I got home. This was a Thursday morning, I hate to see what a Saturday or Sunday morning would look like.

We had to make an appointment with our bank staff before the bank opened, because, we were told, they are currently short of staff. I could understand why – who would want to work Downtown? The first thing that comes to my mind is, where do they park? How far and through what do they have to walk to work? Cause after everything opens at 10am you’d be lucky to find a parking spot. I assume they are told by their employers to scout for spots in the adjacent neighborhoods, the neighbors have complained about that for years.

While city staffers try to tell us otherwise, there is a parking shortage Downtown. And not everybody can walk, ride a bike, or afford a taxi/rideshare. We encountered an older lady who lives outside the city limits, but does a lot of business in town – that is so common. Does Chico want to drive away business from people who live on the wrong side of the city limits? Council wants a viable Downtown, but they seem to be choosing alcohol related businesses over general retail. This lady told us, she comes into town as much as an hour ahead of an appointment just to secure a parking place. There she was, walking around, milling in front of various closed businesses, trying to stay two steps ahead of the panhandlers. We were panhandled three times as we waited outside our bank, once within an illegal proximity of the ATM machine.

I also got a good, up close look at the current parklets, and they’re filthy. While proponents claim people “just love outdoor dining,” I can’t imagine enjoying sitting there in a plastic chair, bumping elbows with drinkers, right next to moving cars, smelling the cocktail of exhaust fumes and garbage cans, waving off the flies and the panhandlers … wow, gross.

The last times we ate Downtown we were entertained by transients right outside our windows, and that was bad enough. Outside one restaurant, a woman stood in front of the window, acting as though she was using the window asa looking glass. She stripped naked, replacing her filthy clothes with a freshly-shoplifted dress – tag still hanging. She left her discarded clothes in a heap on the sidewalk and wandered away. At another restaurant. a really dirty man clutching a bundle of rags to his bosom repeatedly rolled across the window at our table, demanding our attention as we tried to enjoy our spendy meal.

I can imagine the entertainment available out on the street. It’s not that I don’t have compassion, but these people are not innocent, they know they are being obnoxious in their behavior. They’re not part of the community, and they don’t want to be part of the community – I believe they are screaming for help. They’re mentally ill, many of them criminally insane, and they need to go to a hospital where they can receive treatment instead of tormenting the rest of the community. I believe we all have a tenuous grip on our mental health, and as a community we need to make progress toward mental health, not allow some people to drag us all down into the nightmare.

Another elephant in the room is the perpetual atmosphere of alcohol and drugs Downtown. Council wants to ignore our historic community drinking problem, allowing bars to move into the streets? When grown men get so drunk they will piss in the street, in front of the doorway of a business, under an ATM machine, that’s just lawlessness. And that’s the atmosphere we have in Downtown Chico after 9 pm. I had to laugh when one bar owned insisted his business is “family friendly”. Yeah? Your 9 year old an alcoholic? Does he piss in the corner of his bedroom and then sleep in it?

Meanwhile, the pavement in front of my house is separated from the base. Years ago, we were told that if we agreed to be incorporated by the city, our neighborhood would receive “better service”. We’ve had one sewer hook-up after another, sloppy patches that turn into serial potholes, the street needs a total resurfacing. We were told the enhanced garbage rates would be spent on the streets in front of our homes, wow, that was another Whopper.

So, yeah, I’m angry about the way Council spends money, and I hear from other angry people all the time. One woman is is a block away from a sewer toll line for which the city has no schedule for completion. Then there’s the residents of Guill Street who have to drive blocks out of their way every day because the city has funding to fix their bridge but has not yet scheduled the repairs.

Tell your council rep the election is over, time to get to work.

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