HIT — Children are our future, and this week, we got reminded how bright the future can be in Butte County.
As education reporter Ed Booth reported, Chico High has a Mock Trial team for the first time. Seventeen students will compete in the Butte County Mock Trial competition in late February, vying with other schools for a spot at the California Mock Trial competition in Los Angeles. Las Plumas High was the county champion last year.
Chico High owes its team to a student, Alicia Hunt, who organized it and got English teacher Casey Van Attenhoven on board as adviser. Five attorneys including Deputy District Attorney Erika Romo, are volunteering to help the team. We’re encouraged to see such participation.
Ditto for Agribee, a spelling contest for grade-school students focusing on agriculture terms. Two-dozen students representing a dozen schools competed Friday morning at Durham Memorial Hall. (Disclaimer: Editorial Board member Evan Tuchinsky was among the three judges.) Participants needed to spell and define words from an extensive list.
Brandt Schager of Capay Elementary emerged as the winner after a seesaw final with Tyler Harper of Browns Elementary, the runner-up. (The winning words were whitefly and offspring.) With ag representing the leading local industry, we’re grateful for the young people who demonstrate such knowledge and excitement.
MISS — Mobile home parks are a bastion of affordable housing, particularly for retirees on fixed incomes. So we share the concerns of residents who’ve been hit by rent increases so heavy that city councilors may impose a rent stabilization ordinance for this sector.
Tenants at Pleasant Valley Mobile Estates in northeast Chico spoke at the last council meeting — and intend to do so again Tuesday — about jumps of up to 30% after back-to-back bumps of 10%. Compounded, that’s a whopping 57.5% in three years, which happens to be the span an out-of-state company, Legacy Communities, has owned the property.
We’ve heard of similar hikes from residents at two other parks: Chico Creek Mobile Estates, down the street from Pleasant Valley, and Chico Mobile Country Club, southwest of city limits. With 18 mobile home communities in Chico, councilors share a fear that these dramatic rises could reset the market rate and impact hundreds of seniors. Residents in these parks really have no option to move their homes, sell at a value that would allow them to move to an equitable residence or gin additional income to cover these cost increases.
We encourage the city and county to set reasonable limits along the lines of the state’s anti-gouging statute, which caps annual increases to 10% during an emergency. While the housing crisis isn’t a natural disaster, it’s certainly an emergency situation.
HIT — We’re both pleased and relieved that local investigators and prosecutors combined to put away three members of an international fraud ring. The trio, all from Romania, pleaded guilty to multiple counts of identity theft from skimmers placed on ATMs.
The Chico Police Department and the Butte County District Attorney’s Office began their investigation in February and identified the suspect in March. A search of their short-term rental residence, vehicles and a storage unit revealed over $50,000 in cash, skimming devices and dozens of gift cards cloned with stolen debit card numbers. The DA continues to investigate other perpetrators of this fraud, for which we’re grateful.
MISS — Pacific Gas & Electric isn’t the favorite company of many Northern Californians, what with the Camp Fire and other disasters triggered by faulty piping and power equipment. PG&E didn’t do much for its image with the latest rates proposed to the California Public Utilities Commission, which will go up 12.8% on Jan. 1. That’s an average increase of $32.62 a month at a time when other expenses are rising (see: mobile home park rents).
The CPUC unanimously approved the new rate structure this week. Jessica Tovar, an energy advocate, told commissioners before their vote, “You should be sending PG&E back to the drawing board. They have incinerated communities, devastated people and raised rates over and over.” Hard to argue with her.
Hits and misses are compiled by the editorial board.