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Chico homeless rights controversy

One city council member's homeless proposal is firing up an already hot topic in the city.

Posted: Mar 14, 2020 5:26 PM
Updated: Mar 14, 2020 5:44 PM

CHICO, Calif. - One city council member's homeless proposal is firing up an already hot topic in the city.

Alex Brown wants to get rid of laws protecting public parks and waterways. Laws like not letting people store personal property by creeks.

"Nothing surprises me anymore I just I have no idea I hope that it doesn't move forward," said concerned citizen Teri Dubose.

"I'm actually really excited to see those go up and see those removed," Lauren Kohler, who's lived her whole life in Chico, said.

Brown is proposing to eliminate amendments that fall under the Offenses Against Public Property Ordinance.

"To eliminate the allowable hours of the civic center," Brown said in a city council meeting last month, listing the elements she wants to be removed.

"We're already seeing numerous needles showing up in the plaza crime increased down there," Dubose said.

"People need a place to go and I feel the plaza and park are as good a place as any because we don't provide safe places for people to go of their own will," Kohler said.

"To eliminate the storage of property in public places," added Brown.

"We see it in the park every day we walk every day we see the camps we see the trash," said Tom Nickell, another concerned citizen.

"I'm not denying that there's a lot of trash everywhere I have eyes and I see it but the way that we get rid of trash is to provide trash cans," Kohler said.

Brown also wants to eliminate the storage of property near waterways.

"We do absolutely need to be protecting our waterways and the way we do that are putting more bathrooms in you can't criminalize people for using the resources that are already there like the creek when we aren't providing other resources," Kohler said,

"I'm deeply disturbed by the policy and lack of understanding to open up these waterways to disposal of the garbage," said Jody Gallaway, a senior biologist. 

Gallaway told Action News Now the proposal could put the city at risk for a clean water violation.

"These creeks and waterways are already in a serious state of degradation due to the garbage and chemicals," said Gallaway. 

"I've seen campfire pit down in the creek systems that have shown signs of burnt plastic which would release dioxins not only into the air but remain in the soil so if water passes through in a dry creek that would reach down into our groundwater," said Steve Kampfen a state-licensed professional geologist.

Brown also wants to reduce the penalty for violating the ordinance.

"And amend them to violation of the chapter to an infraction the difference in that is a possibility of arrest," Brown said.

"Tackling the root of the problem rather than criminalizing the outcome is what I see as a solution and we need to do that by changing where our money is going," said Kohler.

"We want to take our kids to the park we wanna go to the creeks we wanna feel safe we want the people that are homeless and struggling to get help and this does not help them either," Dubose said.

Twice brown agreed to meet with Action News Now about her proposal and both times she canceled the interview.

The council was set to discuss Brown's proposal Tuesday, March 17th, but in light of the coronavirus, it has been pushed back at least 90 days. 

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A disturbance moved over northern California and the rest of the Pacific Northwest this afternoon. It brought more gusty wind like yesterday, and cooler air, but only isolated rain showers. It will be much quieter this weekend with a late summer warmup.
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