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SPECIAL REPORT: •What Butte County is doing to improve wildfire alerts and evacuation plans •With more PG&E-sparked blazes burning, watchdog group calls for more upgrades




See Sample Ballot page 35






Vol. 44, Issue 15 • September 2, 2021 OPINION


Editorial . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4 Second & Flume . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4 Guest Comment . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5 This Modern World . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5 Letters . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6 Streetalk . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7




Downstroke . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8 Should Gov. Gavin Newsom be recalled? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8 Water dilemma for California’s small farms . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 16



Has Butte County improved its emergency planning? . . . . . . . . . . . 18 PG&E’s equipment is still sparking fires . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 24




September Events . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 28 Scene . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 30 Reel World . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 34 Arts DEVO . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 36 Brezsny’s Astrology. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 38 ON THE COVER: DESIGN BY TINA FLYNN

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Doctor knows best “IThose only way out of this pandemic.” were the words of Enloe Medical want you to know that vaccines are our

Center’s chief medical officer, Dr. Marcia Nelson, in a video posted on the hospital’s social media feed last week. Her plea to the community to get vaccinated comes amid a massive surge of COVID-19 hospitalizations, an increase that has forced the facility to open a third intensive care unit. Nelson was calm but direct, her message relaying the urgency of the crisis. Twenty percent of all hospitalizations are for COVID, the vast majority of them attributed to the highly contagious delta variant. That strain is killing “too many of our older family members,” the doctor lamented. Then she said that a baby was recently admitted. Nelson issued a dire warning: A few weeks back—due to the COVID spike, a large number of other admissions and staffing shortages—the hospital nearly had to turn away trauma patients. Such a scenario

by Melissa Daugherty m e l i s s a d @ n e w s r e v i e w. c o m

is a very real possibility, should COVID cases overburden the facility. Enloe is now sharing hospitalization data directly with the public, and we commend the facility for doing so. It’s something other health care providers around the nation have taken to in recent months to convey the seriousness the situation. As of deadline, there were 63 people with COVID at Enloe. Of the six in the ICU, including three on a ventilator, all were unvaccinated. As Nelson pointed out, more than half of eligible Butte County residents remain unvaccinated. She stressed that the vaccines are safe—that Pfizer’s earned FDA approval last week—and that they are effective. Those who get the shot may still get COVID, but they generally don’t get as ill, meaning they typically don’t end up in the ICU. Most important, they rarely die. When it comes to helping the community by keeping its hospital functioning, Nelson put it best: “Please get vaccinated. Please wear your mask. Please help us help you.” Ω

Vote no and … ? CdayNewsom his job? Yes, it could. On the of the governor’s infamous mask-free

ould one fancy dinner end up costing Gavin

lunch at French Laundry on Nov. 6, 2020—in the middle of the pandemic, with restaurants forced to close and public masking orders in place—the recall campaign had gathered roughly 55,000 signatures. One month later, the total was close to half-a-million. Should Gov. Gavin Newsom be recalled? No. As it would be for any governor, Newsom’s record at the two-and-a-half year mark has been a mix of successes and failures. While we want him to do more to address the dearth of affordable housing in the state, and wish he’d spend money on year-round wildfire prevention rather than grossly overstate his actions, Newsom has made good on many environmental, educational and criminal-justice promises. And his COVID-19 pandemic response, which has the Republican party and many anti-vax/anti-mask opponents in an uproar (but actually wasn’t even a major concern for the original recall sponsors), has in truth been frequently nimble, aggressive and more successful than most others despite navigating a publichealth emergency in the most populous state. (For expanded analysis see “Should Newsom




be recalled,” Newslines, page 8.) If Newsom is recalled, however, what California will likely get is some form of celebrity candidate—like right-wing radio talk-show host Larry Elder (who leads in most polls) or Kevin Paffrath, who hosts a popular YouTube finance and real estate channel (second in most polls, first in at least one). Elder is anti-immigrant, opposes expansion of Medi-Cal, calls environmentalists “environmental extremists,” would roll back COVID-19 vaccine and mask mandates, and would want to get “somebody who has the same philosophy as the former Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos” to run the state Board of Education. Paffrath is probably the only Democratic candidate with a chance should Newsom be recalled. Question is, if you say “no” to the recall, should you vote for him—or do as the Governor and the state Democratic Party advise and leave the second question on the ballot blank? Paffrath, a centrist, might have some good ideas, but he is only 29 and has no experience in the political arena. Still, Elder would be scary for California, so hedging your bet on Paffrath or another (less-likely candidate) just might keep California from waking up to a nightmare. Ω

Accountability It didn’t take long for the Dixie Fire to bring it all back: The anxiety, sleeplessness and, yes, a fair bit of irritability. I’m speaking for myself, a journalist who spent a lot of time in Paradise in the days, weeks and months after the Camp Fire torched the Ridge. It’s hard to believe we’re approaching the third anniversary of that blaze, the deadliest and most destructive in state history. With two additional megafires in Butte County in as many years, it’s almost like the flames of the Camp Fire were never fully doused. It doesn’t help that PG&E likely is responsible for igniting the Dixie. I’d say it opens old wounds, but the truth is that many fire victims are still healing. For one thing, most haven’t been compensated by the utility giant or come close to rebuilding their lives. For another, the brown-gray smoke enveloping the valley is a constant reminder of Nov. 8, 2018. I’ve been counting down the days until fall, when what I really need to do is adjust to the fact that our fire season is now eight or so months of the year, starting in April. It ends when we get decent precipitation, and, as we know, rainfall is occurring later and with less frequency. Remember that the Camp Fire wasn’t fully squelched until December. For people who were affected by any of the fires, especially those whose loved ones were killed, this is a long and excruciating season. I didn’t lose anyone, but I’ve definitely been feeling blue. As I said, I’ve also been a bit cross. Like, the other day, when I fired off a heated email to a senior editor at the Bay Area News Group, the publishing group owned by the same hedge fund that owns the San Jose Mercury News and the Chico Enterprise-Record. I’d read a story in the Merc on the Dixie Fire that incorrectly reported that the Camp Fire killed 86 people. I clicked on the “report an error” link, doing the professional courtesy of alerting the paper to the factual error. I tried to understand how they could have gotten it wrong and remembered that the number had fluctuated. There was a long stretch when a final toll was hampered by the difficult identification process, in several cases requiring DNA analysis on bone fragments. And at one point, the sheriff’s office announced that what was thought to be the remains of a few people were actually that of one. But eventually, it was determined that 85 were killed. That includes a burn victim who died nine months after the blaze, as well as a man who killed himself as the fire bore down. The Merc would have gotten it right had an editor read its sister paper’s reporting on the subject or dug beyond the most cursory Google search. Yet, the aforementioned editor responded with links to dated stories, saying, “Lots of questions on the final number.” That hasn’t been true for ages. The reality is that the story in the Merc was written by a green reporter who came into town to cover the Dixie, knew little about the blaze two years earlier, and did not receive adequate fact-checking. I fault her much less than an editor who doesn’t think he’s accountable to readers in this region. I may have shot back an email with a word one might consider coarse, giving the editor more than enough info to correct the story. Still, as of this writing, the error remains. Sure, I’m cranky. But it’s because I care. I’ve edited more than 300 stories on the Camp Fire, and last summer, while the CN&R was temporarily shuttered, I covered PG&E’s sentencing. I feel close to the subject matter, a topic of great importance in Butte County. Speaking of which, there are wildfire-related must-reads in this issue, which hits the newsstands roughly one year after the North Complex Fire roared into Butte County, destroying Berry Creek and Feather Falls. I’m talking about the best kind of community journalism, from professionals who care about getting it right. I’ve seen numerous nits to pick in local disaster reporting by regional papers like the Merc, as well as a few national publications, but I’ve never felt compelled to send in a correction. It’s not pedantic to ask that a newspaper is accurate when it comes to the number of dead. I probably shouldn’t be so peeved, but because Butte County is basically the wildfire epicenter of the West, I expect we’ll continue to see a lot of outlets parachuting in for the story. My advice to them: Report and edit it like you would in your own community.


Our wildfire breaking point of the most-productive brush-growing Plandsatopinsome the world. We got away with building

aradise, Cohasset, Forest Ranch and Berry Creek are built

stick-framed houses in places like these for a century by continually upping the ante on our fire-suppression efforts. Jumbo-jet airtankers can rain 9,000 gallons of red mud on a fire in a single drop; we can mobilize 3,000 firefighters from places like Beverly Hills or Huntington Beach to Chester in a day; but we have reached a breaking point. Our army will never outmatch fire. We might as well fight the by ocean. Zeke Lunder A hundred years waging war The author, a pyroon fire and criminalizing its geographer who has worked in wildland use gave us broken ecosystems fire management and and communities on the brink. analysis since 1995, We won many battles, but with publishes the wildfireclimate change as an ally, fire education website won the war. It’s over, and as the-lookout.org. long as we refuse to surrender,

fire will keep up its siege until every last mountain town and green tree burn to ash. We can blame PG&E or Gov. Gavin Newsom, but when the weather, fuels and topography align, fires like the Dixie, Camp and Bear are an unstoppable force. The longer we pretend this isn’t true, the more dangerous living in the hills becomes. When I say we should surrender to fire, I am not suggesting we park our fire trucks and watch our last couple foothill communities get fried—rather that we should stop pretending firefighters and bigger airtankers can continue to protect us, and take matters into our own hands. We’ve led people to believe 100 feet of brush clearance will make their house defendable. But that’s not enough, not anymore. We need to see the entire community as the treatment area, connecting our brush-cutting efforts with our neighbors and, most importantly, burning together in the winter. As long as we deny fire its rightful place in our hills, it will continue to eat our lunch. For more information on how to use fire on your land, contact the Butte County Resource Conservation Ω District (bcrcd.org).

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Pandemic alarm Re “COVID surges, a self-inflicted consequence” (Editorial, Aug. 5) and “A dark cloud” (Second & Flume, by Melissa Daugherty, Aug. 5). A big “Thanks” to CN&R for its crucial editorial and its opinion column regarding the grave and self-inflicted COVID surge currently striking Butte County and other under-vaccinated regions of California. Just a week earlier, I emailed both Butte County Public Health and the Enterprise-Record expressing my concern that, while COVID infections in Butte were surging, no one seemed to be sounding the alarm. With schools opening and kids under 12 not vaccinated, I am very concerned that the surge could expand massively. Richard Seyman Durham

I’m thankful that the Chico Unified School District (CUSD) is attempting to keep our children and community safe by following science and requiring masks to be worn indoors. I realize it must take bravery when so many people are arguing against masking because of fallacious information they read and unscrupulous media reporting. We are all in this together, and we can work together to keep ourselves and others free from harm. Our health is our greatest wealth. The American Medical Association’s journal (JAMA) is a great resource for the freshest medical science. We are still learning about this virus and its variants. Thanks for protecting our health, CUSD. Ann Knight Chico

One for the gov California has been blessed in recent years by its last two governors, both hands-on administrators. Jerry Brown provided steady leadership for eight years and Gavin Newsom for the past two-and-a-half years. Both recognized climate change early on and took firm steps to deal with it. Newsom knew immediately the threat imposed by COVID-19 and took drastic measures to reduce the peril. It’s not by chance that California is a leader in environmental awareness. It is a result of leadership, of which Newsom has been an integral part. Don’t be misled by the governor’s carping critics, all of whom have been part of the problems, offering no real solutions. In the upcoming recall election, mail your ballot soon after you receive it and vote a resounding no on the recall.

the majority voting power. This is due to their very undemocratic voting structure of one acre equals one vote, certain to ensure a favorable outcome for the largest landowners. One of the four largest is Deseret Farms, a multinational and multicorporate company owned by Farmland Reserve, a Salt Lake Citybased holding of the Mormon church. It is not the only farm in the proposed district with corporate ownership outside of Butte County. I’m afraid that the intentions of the TWD and corporate stakeholders will fuel the Californiadriven water market and lead to large scale “water banking,” a system whereby farmers can legally sell our water for profit. We are in a drought state of emergency. Our water is our life source. The shallow aquifers are what our domestic wells and urban forest thrive on. We need to achieve and maintain groundwater sustainability in Butte County and beyond. If allowed to be formed, the TWD would be the 10th largest water district in the state. This is an attempt to privatize a public resource and steal our water. Paula Busch Chico

A good story or two I want to share some positive news about Chico—specifically about our city animal shelter, a couple of recent stories about the excellent work of the Chico Animal Shelter staff. Max and Lucy are two dogs that were rescued from the North Complex Fire one year ago. They came from the same home, which, unfortunately, was lost in the fire. Their owners could not have dogs where they were staying and thought they would have to put their dogs up for adoption. The staff at the shelter took care of the dogs’ medical needs and found foster homes. Last week, the dogs were reunited with their owners. Ruby, a German Shepard that preferred women and didn’t appear approachable nor adoptable, spent three years at the shelter before a home in Paradise adopted her. Most shelters would not care for a dog for that long. Some would consider a dog like that unadoptable and would euthanize her. Want a third good story? Registration is open for the annual Walk Woof Wag event to be held Oct. 30. This is a fundraiser for the shelter’s medical fund. Bring your dog to this fun family event at Bidwell Park and help support our shelter. More info at walkwoofwag.com Karen Holcomb Chico

Robert Woods Forest Ranch

Whose water? There is a private entity that wishes to form the Tuscan Water District (TWD). They are a group of about 75 farms, membership by invitation only, of which the largest four will hold 6



Write a letter Tell us what you think in a letter to the editor. Send submissions of 200 or fewer words to cnrletters@newsreview.com. Deadline for October print publication is September 28.


Have wildfires/ smoke made you consider moving?

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Not really, because it’s not just wildfire in Chico and the North Valley. We were in Washington for a few years and every August we got smoke for six weeks. I’m not thinking we can move away from it.

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It’s certainly something I’ve thought about, but not very heavily yet. Is this going to be every year? Is this just sort of a reckoning that will then balance out? I don’t know. But I love the area, I love Chico, so for the foreseeable future I’m still here.


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NEWSLINES DOWNSTROKE SPEAK UP FOR WATER The future of groundwater in Butte County will be on the agenda throughout September. A group of farmers and ranchers has filed an application with the county’s Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO) for the creation of the Tuscan Water District. The controversial proposal for control of the management of water for more roughly 100,000 county acres will be discussed at a handful of meetings this month where the public can weigh in on a matter that could have long-range impacts on local water rights. The Butte County Water Commission met the day before publication (Sept. 1), but there are still two more public forums: The Vina Groundwater Sustainability Agency board meeting happens Sept. 8, at 5:30 p.m., in Chico City Council Chambers (411 Main Street); Zoom link at vinagsa.org. And the Butte County Board of Supervisors will take up the issue Sept. 14, at 9 a.m., at 25 County Drive, Oroville, and via web stream. Visit buttecounty.net/clerkoftheboard/boardmeetings for details.

Should Newsom be recalled?

TOP DOC RETIRES Butte County will be looking for a new public health officer for the second time since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic after Dr. Robert Bernstein (pictured) announced his retirement. Butte County Public Health, which released the news last month, said his last day will be Friday (Sept. 3). “Dr. Bernstein has been a huge help for us,” Public Health Director Danette York told the CN&R. “He had spent most of his career working at the federal and even the international level, and so during this COVID response, his expertise level from being with CDC and in other countries responding to infectious diseases has been very instrumental.” Butte County’s turnover in leadership is in line with a national trend of a record number of public health officials leaving or being fired from positions that have become lightning rods for political battles and targets of public backlash during the pandemic. For his part, Bernstein has not given any statements as to whether or not the volatile climate surrounding COVID-19 was a factor in his decision making.




What he’s done, and what he hasn’t —the governor’s report card


By Ben Christopher & Sameea Kamal for CalMatters

ackers of the campaign to fire Gov.

BCalifornians Gavin Newsom are hoping that will keep some things in mind when they cast their vote in the Sept. 14 recall election. To name a few: Mask mandates, shuttered schools, sluggish vaccine rollouts and the French Laundry. More than any other issue, the pandemic—and Newsom’s handling of it—is the reason the state is holding its second gubernatorial recall ever. But the governor isn’t just in charge of pandemic policy. How the state’s children are educated, the help we extend to the state’s poorest, who is punished and who About this feature: gets leniency under It was produced by the law, and how the CalMatters, an independent public journalism state balances the venture covering California demands of industry state politics and governand those of environment. For more info, visit mental stewardship calmatters.org.

are among the questions facing the state’s chief executive—whether it’s Newsom or any of the 40-plus people hoping to take his place. For voters who need a highlight reel of Newsom’s two-and-a-half years at the helm of state government, here’s a look at some of the most significant ways he’s changed California—and some of the ways he hasn’t.

Criminal justice What he’s done:

• End the death penalty (for now): Newsom made no secret of his opposition to capital punishment during his 2018 campaign. Sure enough, one of his first acts as governor was to place a statewide moratorium on executions. It’s not a permanent ban—there are still more than 700 people on death row, and a future governor can undo the move with the stroke of a pen. Recall supporters are counting on it. • Put new limits on police use of force: One of 2019’s fiercest legislative battles

was over a bill to make it more difficult for police to legally justify killing civilians. After helping to broker a compromise between criminal justice reform advocates and police unions, Newsom signed the bill into law calling on further action to “make this moment meaningful.” A CalMatters analysis found that the law hasn’t yet had the transformative impact hoped for by supporters. • Move forward with two prison closures: Newsom has been flirting with the idea of closing a state prison since his inauguration. Now, he’s pushing ahead with shuttering two: Deuel Vocational Institution in Tracy by Sept. 30 and California Correctional Center in Susanville by next summer. It’s a response to a long-term decline in the state’s incarcerated population—helped along by the pandemic—but it also represents a sea change in a state once the epicenter of the “tough on crime” movement. What he hasn’t:

• End the death penalty (for good): In

Above: Micah Castillo, 10, holds up a sign while his father, David Castillo, speaks at the podium during a rally to reopen Oakland public schools on Feb. 28, 2021. PHOTO BY ANNE WERNIKOFF, CALMATTERS

Left: Gov. Gavin Newsom announces a new requirement for all school teachers and employees to show proof of vaccination or to undergo weekly COVID-19 testing at a press conference Aug. 11, 2021. PHOTO BY ANNE WERNIKOFF, CALMATTERS

2018, Newsom not only said he wanted to end capital punishment in California, he said he wanted the voters to do it. In 2016, voters rejected a ballot measure that would have done that by a 6-percentage-point margin. Newsom hasn’t yet given them another chance—or backed an effort to put it back on the ballot. • Support a new gun tax: In 2021, Newsom’s tough-on-guns rhetoric collided with his commitment not to raise taxes during a budget boom. An excise tax on guns, gun parts and ammo to fund violence intervention programs passed the Assembly by a thread and is pending before the Senate. Newsom has been mum. • Replace cops with mental health professionals: Newsom last year vetoed a bill that would have let some cities send clinicians or social workers to respond to certain mental health-related 911 calls rather than armed police. He praised the bill’s “underlying goal” but argued that it put responsibility for the new project with the wrong state agency. Another version is before the Legislature this year, while some cities have acted on their own.

Economy/poverty What he’s done:

• Push the largest economic stimulus ever: Buoyed by higher than expected tax revenue and an avalanche of federal money, Newsom proposed the largest budget in this state’s— or any state’s—history this year. It included $100 billion in headline-grabbing, povertytargeting initiatives including direct payments to millions of Californians and billions more for housing, debt relief, pre-K education and broadband. • Expand signature anti-poverty program: At Newsom’s urging, the 2019 state budget doubled the size of California’s Earned Income Tax Credit, which sends cash to low-wage workers. That expansion, which also included a supplemental boost for taxpayers with young children, was, according to one enthusiastic commentator, Newsom’s “biggest accomplishment” to date. Last year, he signed a bill extending the payments to undocumented immigrants. • Support controversial gig worker law: In 2019, Newsom signed a bill that rewrote California labor law and sent shudders through the political system. It codified a state Supreme Court ruling to make it much harder for companies to classify their workers as “independent contractors.” For freelancing Californians, this meant the prospect of less flexibility, or less work in general, but also a minimum wage, worker compensation protection and other benefits of formal employment. Corporate titans of the gig NEWSLINES C O N T I N U E D

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C O N T I N U E D F R O M PA G E 9

economy pushed back, placing a carve out for ride-hailing company on the 2020 ballot. Newsom didn’t take a side, and it passed overwhelmingly. • Extend rent and utility debt relief: With the end of California’s eviction moratorium rapidly approaching, the governor and other state lawmakers set aside a $5.2 billion pot of federal cash to help Californians pay their back rent. Another $2 billion has been set aside to help people pay their delinquent utility bills. But both initiatives, mired in delays and confusing or complex applications, have struggled to get money out the door. What he hasn’t:

• Reform the state tax system: Another one of Newsom’s ambitious policy plans was to overhaul California’s top-heavy tax system. On the table: a sales tax on services, an oil severance tax, an adjusted income tax structure and reform of state property taxes. All of this would stabilize the state’s oscillating revenues that spike during boom years, but leave the state scrambling for cash and cutting services during recessions. Though he did back a ballot measure in 2020 to raise property taxes on many large commercial properties, it failed. None of the other ideas have gone anywhere. • Cut interest payments on child support debt: California is particularly tough on those who don’t pay their child support on time, charging 10 percent interest on outstanding payments. A bill scrapping that highest-inthe-nation levy made it to the governor’s desk, but Newsom vetoed it, citing cost concerns. While this year’s state budget included partial forgiveness for some debtors, the 10 percent interest rate remains in place over the objections of anti-poverty advocates.

Education: K-12 What he’s done:

• Expand early childhood education: 10



Back on Memorial Day, drought-stricken Lake Oroville was already down to 38 percent capacity. PHOTO BY WIKIPHOTOGRAPHER (VIA FLICKR)

Courtesy of the unprecedented amount of money sloshing around the state budget, the governor and Legislature hammered out a new plan that would allow every 4-year-old in California to attend transitional kindergarten by 2025. • Provide free school meals for all: During the pandemic, the federal government gave schools permission to offer free grab-and-go breakfast and lunch to all students, suspending proof of income eligibility requirements. Universal school lunch is a policy long sought by anti-poverty and child welfare advocates. This year, Newsom signed off on a legislative proposal to keep the pandemicera program going at a cost of $650 million a year starting in 2022-23. • Overhaul charter school law: In 2019, the Legislature passed and Newsom signed a package of new bills subjecting charter schools—publicly funded but independently operated—to new rules. One makes it easier for local school districts to block the creation of new charters, while another requires that charter teachers hold California teaching credentials. What he hasn’t:

• Mandate ethnic studies in high school: In the fall of 2020, Newsom vetoed a bill to make ethnic studies a required course for California’s high school students, citing “uncertainty about the appropriate K-12 model curriculum.” His decision came after months of public debate over what the class would actually teach. A model curriculum from the state Board of Education was denounced for including “anti-Jewish bias” and the Los Angeles Times editorial board labeled it “jargon filled and all too PC.” This year, a new model curriculum was approved NEWSLINES C O N T I N U E D

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and a new bill introduced. • Require public schools to reopen: Public schools may be open for in-person classes this semester (most of them anyway), but that isn’t because the governor forced them. As ticked-off parents, teachers’ unions and a divided Legislature did political battle this spring over when and how to reopen schools, Newsom struck a balance: offering financial incentives and urgent pleas, but no mandates. • Increase funding accountability: How exactly are school districts spending state money set aside for disadvantaged kids? In 2018, Newsom vowed to push for more transparency and accountability to ensure that the money was actually being spent on narrowing the achievement gap. But in 2020, he vetoed a bill that would have slapped school districts with new financial reporting requirements for the funding over concerns about “new and unnecessary procedural requirements.” This year’s budget includes a massive increase in funding for high-need schools. While it includes a new requirement that districts account for the dollars they’re awarded, it stopped short of the bill that Newsom vetoed and does not require that the money be spent on students being targeted for help.

to turn any Obama-era environmental regulations reversed by the Trump administration into state law. The bill passed, but Newsom vetoed it, siding with water agency heads and farmers who were particularly concerned that endangered species protections would be used to curtail water transfers. • Prevent wildfires: Clearly not. Newsom’s time as governor has coincided with some of our worst wildfire seasons. Though his administration has ramped up spending on forest management and fire prevention—a budget item that often gets the financial short shrift over fighting active fires—Newsom has also overstated the scope of its recent efforts, according to CapRadio. • Support buffers between oil wells and homes: State lawmakers have twice proposed mandatory setbacks between oil and gas-related facilities and “sensitive receptors”—namely, homes, schools and medical facilities. Both bills died in the Legislature, buried in opposition from industry, labor, business-aligned Democrats and Republicans. Newsom didn’t vocally support either bill and hasn’t stepped forward to offer executive workarounds, despite calls to do so from environmentalists.


Health care

What he’s done:

What he’s done:

• Ban future fracking: After dancing away from this hot-button campaign promise, Newsom finally moved toward a phase-out. The fracking ban isn’t slated to go into effect until 2024, but in July, the administration denied 21 additional fracking permits, citing environmental concerns. • Announce the end of fossil fuels (eventually): The governor has set two especially audacious goals for the state: an end to oil extraction by 2045 (he wants to bump it up to 2035) and a ban on new gas-powered cars by 2035. These aren’t detailed policies, and Newsom won’t be governor long enough to see them implemented, but they’re signals to both business and other policymakers where the state is headed. • Prohibit a widely used pesticide: For decades, California farmers have used chlorpyrifos to kill the pests that ravage their fields and orchards. It’s also a neurotoxin. The administration ordered it banned, though it won’t be fully outlawed for two years.

• Expand Medi-Cal for undocumented residents: For years, one of the top items on California progressives’ wish list has to been to make Medi-Cal, the publicly funded health insurance program, available to the largest group of uninsured people: undocumented immigrants. In 2019, Newsom signed a law letting young adults as old as 26 sign up. And this year’s budget covers those 50 and older. • Boost Obamacare subsidies: Few states embraced the Affordable Care Act like California. In 2019, Newsom proposed a few enhancements: Though Congress stripped the

What he hasn’t:

• Defend environmental rules against Trump: In 2019, top Senate Democrat Toni Atkins pushed a bill to give state agencies carte blanche A free drop-in flu shot clinic at Santa Clara County fairgrounds on Oct. 17, 2020. PHOTO BY ANNE WERNIKOFF, CALMATTERS

September is National SUICIDE PREVENTION Awareness Month Many survivors of sexual violence struggle with thoughts of suicide at some point in our lives. We may start to believe that no one cares about us, no one understands, and even our family, friends, partners, and the world would be better off without us.

federal law of the mandate to get insurance, California would add its own. The state also made roughly 1 million more Californians eligible for subsidies through the state insurance marketplace.

Comanche Creek homeless encampment. CN&R FILE PHOTO BY JASON CASSIDY


were skyrocketing and a potential wave of evictions presented not only an economic crisis, but a public health one. So the governor issued an executive order barring evictions for non-payment of rent—though crucially, tenants still owe their back rent. The Legislature has renewed that policy twice now, most recently through Sept. 30, in part because the state has been slow to roll out rent relief. But a CalMatters investigation found that thousands of tenants had been evicted despite the moratorium. • Turn hotels into housing: In the early months of the pandemic, Newsom launched Project Roomkey, a program that spent federal money on acquiring vacant hotel rooms and converting them into temporary shelter for homeless Californians. It temporarily helped more than 42,000 people off the street while also curtailing the spread of the raging virus. Since then, the governor has supercharged the idea, converting 6,000 rooms into permanent supportive housing. This year’s state budget includes another $5.8 billion for the program, about half people with mental illness. That’s all part of an unprecedented $12 billion package to reduce homelessness.

What he’s done:

What he hasn’t:

• Enact mild rent control: In 2019 state lawmakers placed a ceiling on how much landlords can hike the rent. At roughly 7 percent, the cap only banned exorbitant increases. Many rent control advocates were not impressed, and they put an unsuccessful rent control measure on the ballot last November. But in a state that has long been wary of telling landlords what they can charge their tenants, it remains one of Newsom’s biggest legislative accomplishments. • Ban many evictions during COVID: In the summer 2020, COVID cases were reaching ever higher totals, unemployment rates

• Meet housing production goals: Running for governor, Newsom vowed to oversee the construction of 3.5 million new units by 2025. That works out to about 500,000 units a year—a feverish pace of construction unseen even in the state’s boomingest years. Critics called the promise wildly unrealistic. It looks like they were right: Even before the pandemic, new building permits statewide were coming in at about a fifth of the goal. • Reduce the number of homeless people: California’s most intractable problem has not

What he hasn’t:

• Enact single-payer health care: Few campaign proposals generated as much attention—and as much heat—as Newsom’s 2018 pledge to bring state-funded health insurance for all Californians. So far, the governor has assembled a task force to look into how to get to universal coverage, but he was silent on last year’s single-payer proposal in the Legislature. • Lower health care costs: On his first day in office, Newsom signed an executive order directing state agencies to collaborate on purchasing prescription drugs, and last year he signed a bill enabling the state to produce its own generic drugs. But the state has yet to get into the pharmaceutical business and likely won’t for years. And last year alone, manufacturers reported price increases of more than 16 percent on more than 1,200 prescription drugs to state regulators.

Ongoing depression can lead us to severe sadness or moodiness, hopelessness, sleep problems, withdrawal, and changes in our behavior. Questions to ask ourselves: • Do I feel worthless, guilty, helpless or hopeless? • Have I been feeling sad, down or blue on most days?

Warning signs that we are not doing well and when it is time to reach out for help: • Taking part in risky behaviors? • Talking or writing about suicide?

• Do I have trouble sleeping or am I sleeping too much?

• Thinking often about taking our life.

• Do I feel life isn’t worth living? • Do I feel restless or unable to sit still?

• Feeling that death is the only solution to our problems.

• Do I eat more or less than normal?

• Giving away our possessions.

• Planning how we would attempt it.

If you or someone close to you has been struggling with any of the above behaviors, feelings or thoughts please know that you are not alone. We are here for you and believe you. Please reach out to us on our 24 hour Crisis Hotline.


National Suicide Prevention Hotline 24/7: 1-800-273-8255 (English) Nacional de Prevencion del Suicidio: 1-888-628-9454 (Espanol) Butte County Behavioral Health 24/7 Crisis Line:1-800-334-6622 Tehama County Behavioral Health 24/7 Crisis Line: 1-800-240-3208 Glenn County 24/7 Crisis Lines: During business hours (8a-5p) 1-800-500-6582 Outside of business hours: 1-800-507-3530 evenings/weekends/holidays We are open and affirming to all regardless of ability, gender, gender identity or sexual orientation.

Butte/Glenn: 530-891-1331 | Tehama: 530-529-3980 Calling from Corning: 530-824-3982 Virtual Business Hours: M–F 10am-6pm (excluding Holidays)

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gotten any less so on Newsom’s watch. Since his inauguration, the number of Californians estimated to be living in shelters or on the street has increased by 25 percent. • Ease zoning laws: Since Newsom took office, some of the most ferocious legislative battles have been over bills that would relax local zoning rules across California, opening up neighborhoods to more duplexes and apartment buildings. To the dismay of “Yes In My Backyard” activists, none of those proposals have earned the full-throated endorsement of Newsom and—perhaps partially as a result—all have failed so far.

• Led in acquiring personal protective equipment: In the early months of the pandemic, everyone—hospitals, households, national governments—was scrambling to get masks, face shields and ventilators. With the federal government taking a laissez-faire approach to PPE, the governor coordinated purchases with neighboring states, massaged the Trump administration for more gear and deployed a torrent of contracts to private vendors. While some of those last-minute contracts collapsed or went to eminently unqualified vendors, other no-bid deals benefited Newsom’s biggest campaign benefactors. What he hasn’t:

Pandemic What he’s done:

• Ramp up vaccinations: California may have gotten off to a rough start, but we’ve since turned a corner maintaining an inoculation rate higher than all but 12 states. Newsom has helped with the pro-vaccine campaign—funding door-to-door vaccination campaigns, partnering with churches and other trusted community groups and, of course, emceeing those cheesy vaccine lottery drawings. • Set the record for executive orders: While the pandemic slowed the other branches of government to a crawl, the governor’s office went into lawmaking overdrive. In 2020, Newsom issued more executive orders than any governor in a single year in modern history. Of the 58 that were COVID-related, some called for lockdowns or implemented color-coded tiers, while others lifted and relaxed them; some redirected billions of dollars while others loosened restrictions on aid; and many reshaped other areas of the law in response to the public health threat, suspending evictions, extending tax filing deadlines and ensuring that every voter would receive a ballot in the mail, to name a few. “Masks required” sign at Bootleg clothing boutique in downtown Chico. (Poster by John Reed)







• Solve the unemployment catastrophe: Since the beginning of the pandemic, California’s Employment Development Department has struggled to keep up with the historic surge in unemployment claims. Hundreds of thousands have spent weeks or longer waiting for desperately needed assistance while the department and its contractors fight against fraud. Newsom has deployed a “strike team” to streamline the process and the state has spent hundreds of millions on consultants. But the governor has also conceded that the current system was “not designed for the challenge.” • Shutter churches to prevent COVID: The earliest pockets of pushback against Newsom’s handling of the pandemic came from houses of worship. As early as Easter 2020—less than a month after the first public health orders—churches represented by conservative legal action groups began suing the state over the right of congregations to pray, chant and sing in-person and indoors. Initially, the churches lost, but as their challenges landed at the nation’s highest court with its newest member, Justice Amy Coney Barrett, California restrictions began to fall— a loss for Newsom and a sea change in conΩ stitutional law. MORE


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‘Hour of reckoning’ for small farms Full Belly Farm, in Yolo County, is one of many small farms in California facing water shortages as exceptional drought conditions persist in the state. PHOTO COURTESY OF FULL BELLY FARM

An essay from a Northern California farmer facing uncertainty as the state dries up by

Judith Redmond

Stomatoes farmers market, people ask if our are dry farmed. No, they ometimes when I’m selling at the

aren’t. Dry farming is a method of growing crops so that they develop deep roots that can access subsurface water instead of relying on irrigation. This summer, temperatures well over 100 degrees have been fairly common and nighttime temperatures have lingered on the hot side as well. Sometimes when it feels like an oven outside, I imagine that the plants are basically baking out in the field, a situation not conducive to dry farming techniques. I am an organic farmer in the Capay Valley west of Woodland. We grow fruits, nuts, flowers and vegetables year-round on the banks of Cache Creek. Our farm, Full Belly Farm, is in Yolo County, and 16



we rely on water from the creek as well as from underground aquifers (“groundwater”) to keep our crops growing during the heat of the summer. If we could dry farm our summer vegetables, we would, as extreme drought conditions up and down the state are affecting urban and rural alike. Cities in several parts of California are now relying on trucked-in water; Huntington Beach is about to build a desalination plant, and the Edward Hyatt hydroelectric power plant at Lake Oroville recently shut down for the first time since it was built in 1967, all because of the water crisis. We are used to comparing conditions to “normal” averages, but how should we think about the current drought? Maybe the envelope of what is “normal” has changed and we are moving into a hotter drier future in California. Many of our fields can be irri-

gated using groundwater or creek water, and because of differences in water quality, we often have to strategize about which water source is best. In the summer, Cache Creek is fed by releases from Clear Lake and Indian Valley Reservoir. Those releases ended on June 28 this year (not much of a summer season!), and now there are long sections of the creek that are completely dry, with a few deep springs here and there providing respite for the remaining living fish that are certainly doomed. We have stopped using one of our wells because our neighbor felt our use was affecting theirs. All of this will drastically reduce our fall planting options. In order to provide salinity control in the Delta and minimize drought impacts on fish and wildlife, the State Water Resources Control Board has released a drought emergency regulation that caused an uproar in farm coun-

try. The board had already told water users in the Russian River watersheds in Mendocino and Sonoma counties that they could no longer use water from the rivers, and those same restrictions were extended to thousands of farmers in the Sacramento and San Joaquin River watersheds on Aug. 20, even for those who have some of the strongest water rights that exist in California’s complicated system. I bring this subject up endlessly with non-farmer friends, and mostly they are clear on one point: Of course the farmers shouldn’t take water from the rivers when the fish are all dying. But on the other hand, those farmers may have to lay off crews that have worked for them for decades. The fruit growers will have to stop watering trees that represent the next few decades of their livelihood. Several CSAs (communitysupported agriculture programs) in the Russian River watershed had to shut down when their water rights were curtailed. A balance that includes agriculture among all the demands on California’s water is hard to find, especially because, historically, agriculture has plenty of culpability when it comes to overuse of water and damage to fish runs. In A drought-stricken Lake Oroville, barely visible through wildfire smoke, is down to 25 percent capacity. PHOTO BY ASHIAH SCHARAGA

his book The Dreamt Land, Mark Arax describes Central Valley farms that suck irrigation water from hundreds of feet below the ground’s surface with their deep wells. He documents how some farms have finagled access to surface water in order to irrigate their orchards—not just to keep them alive, but even to expand them during droughts. The maneuvers are underhanded and sometimes illegal. One proposal, from Community Alliance with Family Farmers (CAFF), is that the state should provide support to remediate the wells on farms of 200 acres or less. A program to help rural residential areas and towns with drinking water wells that go dry already exists, but there is no equivalent program for small farms. The CAFF proposal would go some way towards leveling the playing field, but the idea may shock many people, given that the aquifer is in dire condition. The alternative is that as various regulatory processes grind forward, those with the shallow wells will suffer more and those left standing on two feet will be the ones with the deeper wells. In addition to funds for well remediation on small farms, the CAFF proposal suggests direct relief for small-scale farmers and dry farming education focused on wine grapes in the coastal regions. How to apportion water in California is one of our wicked problems. We tend not to want to think about it until we’re in big trouble, but there is a growing likelihood of droughts and floods that fall outside of the scope of our “normal” expectations. There are a lot of voices already at the table trying to figure it out, but as with some of the other issues we face, we may be approaching an hour of reckoning. Ω





Heat of the moment What we have— and haven’t—learned from wildfires


or those of us living in Northern California, there is perhaps no more fear-inducing sentence during wildfire season than, “The winds are picking up.” On Nov. 8, 2018, it was the notorious Jarbo Gap winds pushing 50 mph. One year ago this week, on Sept. 8, it was a cold front that arrived to blow gusts of 45 mph down the Feather River Canyon. Those two events fanned the flames of the Camp and North Complex fires, respectively, and made evacuating nearly impossible. All told, 101 people died as a result, with most being overtaken before they could escape. On this one-year anniversary of the North Complex Fire and the destruction of the towns of Berry Creek and Feather Falls, we take a look at the alert and evacuation plans that were in place for the fire that killed 16 in two Butte County foothill communities. We ask what’s been learned from the failures during past fires and how officials plan to better respond in order to save as many lives as possible when the next blaze hits our wildfireprone county. Also in this special wildfire issue, we check in with the Sierra Club’s Utility Wildfire Prevention Taskforce, a watchdog group that tracks fires sparked by electric utilities. It’s likely that failure of Pacific Gas & Electric equipment near the Butte County border is responsible for igniting the current Dixie Fire, and environmentalists say that its the latest example of unrealized upgrades by the power giant leading to catastrophic wildfires.





COUNTRY After three megafires, two resulting in mass casualties, Butte County adjusts to new normal of perennial threat

Josh Phillips warned his grandfather the day the North Complex Fire burned through Berry Creek. Asleep at home, he’d received no warning that danger was heading his way. PHOTO BY ASHIAH SCHARAGA

BY ASHIAH SCHARAGA ash ia h s@ newsr ev iew.c o m


n the day the North Complex Fire barreled into Berry Creek, Josh Phillips’ phone lit up with an emergency alert sent out by the Butte County Sheriff’s Office. The first thing he did was drive to his grandfather’s house. He shudders to think of what might have happened had he been out of town. By that point, the complex of lightning-ignited wildfires (primarily the Claremont and Bear fires) had been burning nearby in Plumas National Forest for nearly a month. His grandfather was asleep and hadn’t received the evacuation order. “I went there and he didn’t even know,” Phillips said. “I got him outta there.” Phillips told the CN&R that he thinks his grandfather could have easily died on Sept. 8, 2020, the day the wildfire rushed into the county, killing 16 foothill residents—14 in Berry Creek and two in nearby Feather Falls—and he believes that public safety agencies and PG&E hold a share of the blame. A complex set of circumstances led to the tragic outcome that day. Like Phillips’ grandfather, other residents of Berry Creek did not receive an alert, according to numerous interviews conducted by the CN&R. Some had no cellphone, television or internet access because of a PG&E power-safety outage. Additionally, public safety personnel issued no warning ahead of an evacuation order for several towns, including Berry Creek, and had difficultly alerting those in the furthermost reaches. Leading up to the anniversary of the disaster, the CN&R spoke with Butte County Sheriff-Coroner Kory Honea, Cal Fire personnel and others about what went wrong with the evacuation, the tragic outcome of the blaze, and what the agencies are working on to improve emergency response and communication in a region now facing potential mass casualty wildfire events on an annual basis. What they made clear is that the ways public safety departments historically have dealt with wildfire are not sufficient to deal with today’s megablazes.

Land of megafires Back in 2018, it seemed like the Camp Fire was “a once in a lifetime thing,” Honea said. Until that point, the 2008 Butte Lightning Complex was the largest fire he’d witnessed in his decades-long career in local law enforcement. That series of blazes leveled the small community of Concow and injured nearly 80 people. “Now they seem to be occurring on a regular basis,” Honea said. Indeed, Butte County has experienced three megafires since 2018— two resulting in catastrophic loss of life. The 2018 Camp Fire and the 2020 North Complex Fire together killed 101 residents. The fires are the deadliest and fifth deadliest wildfires in state history, respectively, arguably making Butte County the megafire epicenter of the West. The Dixie Fire, the second largest wildfire in state history at 807,000 acres burned (as of press deadline), ignited near the Butte and Plumas county border and is still tearing through Northern California. Garrett Sjolund, assistant chief for the Cal Fire Butte unit’s north operations, said that fire personnel have to be progressive in their approach to these new massive wildfires. Over his 25-year career with the agency, he’s noticed an evolution in tactical planning. Predicting fire behavior and its path of travel about a mile out used to be the standard. Now, in order to be prepared, professionals have to make such predictions 10-20 miles out because these fires burn so rapidly. Though the North Complex Fire WILDFIRE C O N T I N U E D

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Rushing Around Town… Is There Accountability and Transparency in Butte County Law Enforcement? Why did local Law enforcement officials withhold crucial evidence from the legal team representing the family of Tyler Rushing? Fellow investigating officers interviewed the guards and officers involved in the killing of Tyler Rushing on July 24th, 2017, just hours after Tyler was killed at Mid Valley Title. Investigators recorded the interviews. The Rushing legal team requested from the defendants, Chico and Butte County, all the evidence in their possession, whatsoever, in 2018. In June 2021, these recordings, and a few related documents, were released to ChicoSol journalist Dave Waddell ...under the threat of a lawsuit from Mr. Waddell’s attorney. It appears that without the threat of a lawsuit, the city and county would not have released the evidence. Concealing evidence is arguably a violation of SB1421. The Rushing family and legal team are shocked and believe the concealment of crucial evidence has compromised the Rushing family’s legal filings. I argue that the police should not investigate themselves when officers kill a civilian. Doing so is a conflict of interest in my point of view. The good people of Butte County, and the Rushing family, deserve law enforcement officials to be transparent, compliant with state laws, and to be ethical. Any thoughts Chicoans? Please send a message to: therealchiconews@gmail.com

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had been burning for weeks, the blaze became incredibly fast moving the day it made its run toward Berry Creek. The high winds that pushed it toward Berry Creek also grounded U.S. Forest Service planes, according to a video update shared on social media that day by the Plumas National Forest. In fact, Sjolund said that Cal Fire had to send out battalion chiefs to identify where the fire was in relation to Butte County, because it was progressing through areas outside their jurisdiction that were unstaffed. That morning, Sjolund was the incident commander of a contingency team tasked with preparing a response plan if the fire entered Butte County. His team received a notification from Plumas National Forest representatives at 9:30 a.m. that the fire had escaped its containment line. At that point, however, it was still way outside of Butte County. For most of the day, predictions indicated the fire was headed toward La Porte, in Plumas County. “This fire was in Quincy, 23 air miles away. It wasn’t anywhere near Butte County. There was no immediate threat up until the point we started receiving calls that we needed to pay attention [from Plumas National Forest],” Sjolund said. At noon, Cal Fire’s Butte unit posted on social media that fire was not burning in Butte County, and the sheriff’s office shared the post on its platform. While that info technically was true, just a few hours later the sheriff’s office sent out an evacuation order, having issued no warning ahead of time to the foothill communities of Berry Creek, Brush Creek and Forbestown (only Clipper Mills and Feather Falls received a warning prior to an evacuation order). Sjolund said his team did not receive notification from the Plumas National Forest, the lead agency on the North Complex Fire, that the fire was coming toward Butte County until 2:30 p.m. The official evacuation order from the sheriff’s office went out about an hour later.

Dazed and confused Kyle Bisping, a fire survivor who now lives in Magalia, said the series of communications was confusing. For those who didn’t continually check for updates, the message that the fire was not in Butte County may have given a false impression The afternoon of Sept. 9, a PG&E wildfire camera captured the full scope of the wind-driven North Complex Fire as it established a foothold in Butte County LICENSE #1024110

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that the region was safe. The fire didn’t arrive in Butte County until around 8:30 p.m., but many were still caught unawares. Berry Creek resident Ray Bartley and his wife, Teanea, were woken up at 11 p.m. by a firefighter friend banging on their door. Their power had been out due to PG&E’s public safety power shutoff, so they had no television or internet. Bartley said his wife charged her phone with their generator, but they received no notice of the evacuation order earlier that day. They turned to social media to try to figure out what was going on “because we didn’t know,” Bartley said. That’s where they read in a foothillsarea Facebook group that there was no fire in Butte County. That night, they had just enough time to grab some of their animals and flee. Like all of the residents the CN&R spoke with, the Bartleys lost their home. “If he wouldn’t have come to our house, we probably would have been running out of the house with the back of it on fire … with just the shirts on our backs,” he said. Erik House experienced a similar abrupt awakening—a sheriff’s deputy pounding on the door and telling his family to get out. Like the Bartleys, his power had been shut off. His phone was barely charged, but he never got an emergency notification, he said. He’d WILDFIRE C O N T I N U E D

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been checking his wind-up radio for any evacuation news and hadn’t received any. On getting out of Berry Creek: “It was hell,” he said. “It was such a rush that even my grandma’s ashes got left in the fire.” Bisping doesn’t mince words when talking about his views on the job that emergency responders did during the fire: “Those we count on to protect us let us down.” “There are a lot of people that do not have cellphones and the power was off, so there were many, many people that got no word of warning,” he said. Though the Butte County Sheriff’s Office equipped every patrol vehicle with high-low evacuation sirens in July 2019, none of the residents the CN&R spoke with heard them during the North Complex Fire. Honea said that deputies used them, but he acknowledged that they couldn’t get through more remote parts of the foothills due to the rough terrain. “It was not for a lack of real effort on our part to get that message out,” he said. “There is no way to guarantee 100 percent saturation of your message, especially in remote, difficult-to-reach localities. That’s why we have tried really to develop as robust a system as possible.” Honea acknowledged other communication issues that transpired that

day. He told the CN&R he found out about the danger to Butte County after receiving a call from the Plumas County sheriff, who’d attended a briefing with the Plumas County incident management team, which did not have a BCSO representative. Honea said he immediately alerted his team, which worked in conjunction with Cal Fire to communicate evacuation information to the public as quickly as possible. “Our position is that the [Plumas] incident management team should have been keeping us better apprised of what was going on,” he said. “That was one of the frustrations we had. … We don’t feel they provided us with timely info.” Honea has since worked to improve inter-county communications by including a representative from his department as part of the incident command team of fires in neighboring counties, starting with the Dixie Fire. That representative is still working with the team today, even though the fire is no longer active in Butte County. “We’re continuing to embed personnel, so I can be assured that we’re getting info that we need in a timely fashion should the situation change and a threat to Butte County arrives again,” he said. The CN&R reached out to Plumas National Forest representatives, who did not respond to questions as of press deadline. A video update posted to the WILDFIRE C O N T I N U E D

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agency’s Facebook page at 3:44 p.m. on Sept. 8 detailed how rapidly the North Complex Fire exploded that day, at a rate of 1,000 acres every 30 minutes. (Sjolund told the CN&R this “was astronomical” and “off the charts.”) It grounded aircraft and made it challenging for USFS to get data on the fire. A representative projected that the North Complex Fire would reach Oroville and urged everyone to check their county’s evacuation information and follow those orders to leave. As for PG&E, company spokesman Paul Moreno told the CN&R that the utility’s power-safety shutoffs are triggered by low humidity, wind and fuel conditions, and other fire risk factors. He said that PG&E notifies customers multiple times before the power is shut off and also alerts emergency responders in advance. “We do meet with and hear from agencies to get feedback on the PSPS [Public Safety Power Shutoff] program and to help us identify ways we can improve the program,” he said via email. “We also urge customers to be prepared for PSPS events and other power outages by charging cell phones and devices, having a battery or crank radio, and to have an emergency plan.”

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Life-saving improvements Sjolund said the magnitude of the loss of life in the Camp Fire wasn’t ignored after that massive blaze, pointing to changes made as a result. Cal Fire set up a triage unit at its Berry Creek station during the North Complex Fire, he said, noting that Highway 162, a major evacuation route, was cut off by the blaze. Firefighters brought imperiled residents to this refuge point, Sjolund said, and treated more than 20 for second- and third-degree burns. “That was something very significant on the incident that saved lives,” he said. Cal Fire has made additional operational improvements since the North Complex Fire, too. This summer, incident commanders received a technology upgrade that allows them to examine current weather and fuel types to create wildfire models, Sjolund said. This new tech was used extensively during the Dixie Fire. They deployed drones with infrared technology that examine fire lines to provide real-time information to firefighters on the ground, he said. In addition, they

Sheriff Kory Honea speaking to the media during one of the nightly briefings in the days following the Camp Fire. CN&R FILE PHOTO BY KEN SMITH

installed mobile communication devices on their pickups that allow them to receive satellite communications. Sjolund said these changes are, in part, why the Dixie Fire hasn’t been as devastating for Butte County. “It is very fresh in our memories on what worked and what hasn’t worked in the last four years,” he said. “I think it could have been a lot worse.” Meanwhile, earlier this year, Honea was contacted by Global Security Systems, a company that specializes in emergency alert technology. The company recommended a program called ALERT FM, which is used by emergency personnel to send alerts, such as evacuation orders, via satellite to FM radio stations and on to batterypowered receivers in people’s homes. The devices display messages and emit a bright, flashing light and a high-low siren sound. In May, the Butte County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to spend $500,000 from its Camp Fire settlement with PG&E to pay for the system’s satellite services, licensing, installation, operation and warranty for five years. Shortly after, PG&E committed $100,000 to subsidize the cost of receivers for citizens in remote parts of the county. Honea said he intends to get ALERT FM off the ground as soon as possible.

The sheriff’s office anticipates easily integrating the technology with its current emergency notification system, CodeRED (which sends out alerts via landline, cellphone text and email), with all of the alerts sent out at the same time. “There’s no one perfect solution to this very complex problem,” Honea said. “We have to have multiple platforms, multiple tools.” Other emergency evacuation improvements are underway as well. Notably, the sheriff’s office is working with Cal Fire and other Butte County departments, including the Office of Emergency Services, to create evacuation zone maps. Three years ago, when the Camp Fire struck, Butte County had no public facing evacuation map, according to BCSO spokeswoman Megan McMann. The zones are intended to make it much clearer for residents when disaster strikes—all they need to know is which zone they inhabit. Butte County tentatively plans to release the zones to the public next year, McMann said. All of these improvements are part of the county’s evolving understanding of the way fires develop, Honea said.

Engaged and alert Phillips has chosen to stay in Berry Creek, but his grandfather, who is in his 70s, and mother have since relocated to the Bay Area. Though his grandpa The North Complex Fire blew through Berry Creek, leaving no time for firefighters to get to Butte County Fire Station 61 before it was destroyed. CN&R FILE PHOTO BY JASON CASSIDY.

is a “mountain man,” it’s not practical for him to live in such a rough, remote area, given the dangers, he said. When it comes to the evacuation improvements that are underway at the county, Phillips said he supports “any step to help us … one million percent.” However, he’s still uneasy about the future. He worries that the county will have a hard time reaching secluded residents who live off-the-grid, he said. One of his friends was killed by the blaze. “These are some of the best people I’ve ever met in my life,” he said. “I just feel like we were kicked to the curb at the end of the day, and those are lives people are playing with.” Honea stressed the importance of community members staying engaged and alert. The sheriff’s office conducted interviews with the family, neighbors and friends of those who perished during the North Complex Fire. Some knew the fire was coming but chose to stay, he said. Residents living in wildfire-prone areas need to create defensible space, be ready to go and heed evacuation orders “to prevent those kind of tragedies from occurring in the future,” Honea said. “It is certainly my hope and desire that we never lose another person to these fires,” he said. “And that is one of the reasons that we continually look at ways that we can enhance and develop and improve our ability to alert and Ω warn people.” MORE


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LICENSE #1066922






Watchdog group takes PG&E to task for failure to address fire dangers

BY EVAN TUCHINSKY evan t @ n ew sr ev i ew. com


here’s no easy way to get to where the Dixie Fire started. The “point of origin,” as it’s known in fire terminology, sits on a steep hillside off a onelane dirt road about 8-1/2 miles from the tiny foothill community of Pulga, at the edge of the Camp Fire burn scar. In many spots, the maximum possible speed is less than 5 mph.

Robin McCollum made the trek last Friday (Aug. 27) looking for answers. A retired Butte County tree foreman who chairs the local environmental group Chico Tree Advocates, McCollum has spent the last three years as part of the Sierra Club’s Utility Wildfire Prevention Taskforce, a statewide group tracking fires caused by electric utilities. Top of their watchdog list is Pacific Gas & Electric, which was responsible for the 2018 Camp Fire in Butte County, the deadliest wildfire in California history, and for the Dixie Fire, which ignited July 13 and is the state’s second-largest ever at over 807,000 acres as of CN&R deadline. McCollum and his task force colleagues had sifted every detail from PG&E reports and press conferences about the Dixie Fire. They knew the account: a power outage early that morning; a blown fuse, spotted hours later by a Chico-based “troubleman” via binoculars from Cresta Dam, a quarter-mile up the Feather River Canyon; a nine-plus hour journey for that PG&E employee to reach the spot; a Douglas fir, burning at its base, fallen on distribution lines; and a fire spreading down the slope. Accompanied by the CN&R, McCollum made his way to the source Much of Wildfire taskforce For information about the the relevant hardSierra Club’s Utility Wildfire ware—wiring, Prevention Taskforce, fuses—and the contact Nancy Macy at tree in question nbbm@cruzio.com or (831) 345-1551.




had been removed, as expected for a fire under investigation; but McCollum saw enough with the line of power poles, the tree clearance pattern and the forest terrain. “In that rugged environment, response to a fire is critical,” he said. “Quick response is critical. Anybody is going to have trouble getting there in time. “PG&E had numerous resources. They had different routes they could take to get there. They had a helicopter they could have observed it with [and] call it. Or they could have just called it [a presumed fire situation] because the circumstances were it was hot, low fuel moisture, a high fire threat area—and if there’s an outage, 90 percent of the time, there’s going to be sparks. “And, of course, there were.”

Crux of the matter McCollum’s concerns transcend the Dixie Fire. He started focusing on PG&E after observing questionable tree-cutting practices in the wake of the Camp Fire, both by PG&E and Butte County (see “Uprooting concerns,” Sept. 4, 2019), and what he considered slow progress by the utility in providing safer power lines to Paradise. While attending California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) hearings, he encountered members of the Sierra Club task force. He’s now among 10 core members in a group of 40. The task force is pushing PG&E to do what utilities to the south—Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric—have been doing with their power distribution networks: update for safety. Specifically, the task force calls for insulated wires that won’t arc or spark when dislodged (as appears to have happened in the Dixie Fire) and for a remote current-interruption system that not only cuts off the electric flow immediately but also identifies the exact location of the problem. Currently, members explain, the wires PG&E has running through fire-risk

Robin McCollum, a member of the Utility Wildfire Prevention Taskforce, at the service road above Cresta Dam on the North Fork of the Feather River at the spot where the Dixie Fire started on July 13. PHOTO BY JASON CASSIDY

areas lack insulation; in describing the situation, McCollum evokes imagery of the insides of a toaster. The utility has 25,000 miles of power lines though areas considered high risk for wildfire. Much of the current circuit-breaking relies on expulsion fuses: glass-encased metal components that, when blown, become molten projectiles ejected from the power pole. Not only do these fuses pose fire risks should they

contact flammable material, those breaker units do not transmit a signal to PG&E to indicate an outage. “I’m seeing a very dangerous situation that the majority of people aren’t aware of—as I wasn’t,” Dan Courtney, a task force member, told the CN&R by phone. A commercial realtor from La Jolla, Courtney manages family property outside Yosemite, in the vicinity of the 2013 Rim Fire. PG&E lines run by his cabin.

“It’s such a big problem,” he added, noting that the distribution lines at both the Dixie Fire point of origin and his site “were built back in the 1950s with technology and materials that were available back at that time—and they’ve never been upgraded or modernized; they’ve just been fixed on an as-needed basis, when something gets really bad or breaks.” PG&E has pledged to make its grid safer—publicly and to Judge William Alsup, who’s overseeing the company’s probation stemming from its role in the 2016 San Bruno gas line explosion. Since then, along with the Camp and Dixie fires, PG&E has taken responsibility for last year’s Kincade and Zogg fires and the small Bader Fire in Magalia July 14. The Bader Fire, which burned a quarter acre, started when a tree leaned on a wire and snapped it— similar to the cause of the Zogg Fire. Cal Fire determined the Kincade Fire started when a transmission tower cable broke during high winds and arced. The Camp Fire, which claimed 85 lives, stemmed from a high-voltage line breaking free from faulty C-hook that had been in use for nearly a century. A week after the start of the Dixie Fire, PG&E committed to bury 10,000 miles of power lines underground in “high fire threat districts,” as it has promised for Paradise. Spokesman Paul Moreno told the CN&R by phone that this is the most recent development in PG&E’s Community Wildfire Safety Program (pge.com/cwsp), a “multifaceted approach” that includes hardening its distribution network as well as public safety power shutoffs (PSPS). “It’s not a destination but a journey,”

he said. “And I know that’s a little bit trite and overused in some cases, but it really best describes how we’re approaching a safer grid…. We’re always looking at new and better ways to operate our power grid for safety against wildfires.”

Trees for the forest PG&E’s most conspicuous efforts have centered on “enhanced vegetation management”—a broad program of trimming, pruning, cutting and removing trees. Its site lists a goal of completing 1,800 miles by the end of the year, out of 2,400 miles total, to ensure a minimum of 4-foot clearances around power lines. McCollum, an arborist, has long taken issue with the selection process of trees targeted for removal—PG&E’s notably, though also Butte County’s after the Camp Fire. Courtney told the CN&R that he challenged, successfully, PG&E tree removals on his mountain property in the wake of the Rim Fire. The task force’s overriding concern is proportion: clearance versus equipment upgrades. At a point two years ago when Southern California Edison had committed to replace 5,000 miles of bare wire with insulated and completed 1,200 miles’ worth, McCollum said, PG&E was “creeping up on” 300 miles. “We want the focus to stop being on trees as the solution when that’s really only 25 percent of the solution,” Nancy Macy, task force chair, said PG&E C O N T I N U E D

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PG&E was found responsible for igniting the 2018 Camp Fire and is suspected of causing the current Dixie Fire, both of which originated in the Feather River Canyon, just a few miles apart. GOOGLE EARTH IMAGE





F R O M PA G E 2 5

by phone from her San Lorenzo Valley home in Santa Cruz County. “We’re trying to get PG&E to focus primarily on upgrading its infrastructure in high wildfire threat areas so there will be fewer fires. They keep having fires because they’re depending on cutting down trees to do the job; it’s not.” After an audit last spring in which the CPUC found that PG&E was focusing primarily on trimming trees that were not in high-fire-risk areas, regulators reprimanded the utility for not doing enough to maintain its grid in order to prevent forest fires. In a separate report, the CPUC’s Public Advocates Office called into question PG&E’s tree-trimming methods, as well, and also criticized the company for moving slowly on grid improvements and for focusing on lowerrisk areas. Moreno said PG&E is ramping up the upgrades, “but it takes time to be able to get the resources and human resources to work toward that goal…. We have tens of thousands of miles of power lines, so this work cannot be done just in a year.” He said the utility’s rebuild work in Paradise—“like for like” but with insulated wiring and stronger poles—was hindered initially due to limited materials. PG&E decided in May 2019 to fully underground the town’s lines, and Moreno said the company is “on track to complete that within four or five years from now.” After visiting the Dixie Fire’s point of origin, gazing down the row of vegetationmanaged poles, McCollum said he’s certain upgraded infrastructure could have prevented the weeks-long devastation. Had the tree fallen into insulated instead of bare wires, no “stray current” would have traveled from wire to wire or by wire to the On July 28, PG&E delivered images to a federal judge of a tree leaning against a power line (below, left) as well as the remains of its scorched trunk (right) that was found at the point of origin of the Dixie Fire, currently the second largest wildfire in California history. PHOTOS: FEDERAL COURT, NORTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA




The 2018 Camp Fire, the deadliest and most destructive fire in California history, was caused by a PG&E high-voltage line that busted out of a faulty steel C-hook. PHOTO COURTESY OF THE BUTTE COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY’S OFFICE

ground. “There would have been no short circuit; no problem,” he said. Current-interruption technology would have detected the line break and immediately cut the power flow remotely, thereby eliminating another opportunity for sparking—not to mention the potential of an expulsion fuse blowing (which in this instance has not been found to be the case). “Looking at 100 million trees and trying to pick the three or four out of there that are going to cause a problem is not the way to go,” McCollum said. “They need a fire-proof system, consisting of insulated wires [and] circuit protection— and a ready response when something Ω happens.” Jason Cassidy contributed to this report.

POWELL ROOFING INC. “Honesty and Integrity”

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Arts &Culture SEPT. ONGOING Art 1078 GALLERY: Prompt, a group of more than 30 local artists were invited to create something written and image-based based on five randomly chosen postcards from the collection of the late renowned artist Peter Jodaitis, who gathered thousands of the cards from museums, art shows and travels over his lifetime. Reception Fri, 9/10 at 5:30pm. Shows through 9/26. 1710 Park Ave. 1078gallery.org

CHICO ART CENTER: Visionary Art Legacy, an exhibit featuring paintings by artists from the original Visionary Art movement born in San Francisco in the 1960s, including Susan Cervantes, Geoffrey Chandler, Margaret Daley and more. Shows through 9/19. 450 Orange St. chicoartcenter.com

GATEWAY SCIENCE MUSEUM: Fossils Lab, the museum’s Demo Lab has been taken over by Chico State GEOS Department as expert paleontologists and fossil scientists-in-training work on actual finds from the field. Watch live fossil preparation and chat with our scientists in residence. Through 9/4. 625 Esplanade. csuchico.edu/gateway

WILD WOMEN OF WINEDALE Thursday-Saunday, through Sept. 12 Theatre on the Ridge

JANET TURNER PRINT MUSEUM: Janet Turner Unwavering Naturalist, prints and process materials by the printmaker, former Chico State professor and museum namesake. Through 9/11. Arts & Humanities Building, Chico State. csuchico. edu/turner

MUSEUM OF NORTHERN CALIFORNIA ART: No Word for Art, an exhibition of contemporary Hmong art from Northern California. Co-curated by Elizabeth Lee and Stacey Lo. Through 9/26. 900 Esplanade. monca.org

Pattie Pardini-Barrett, Samantha Shaner and Lorry Coots in Wild Women of Winedale.


PUB SCOUTS HAPPY HOUR: Traditional Irish tunes every Friday during happy hour. Fri, 9/3, 5pm. Duffy’s Tavern, 337 Main St.

COMEDY THURSDAY: Weekly comedy open mic hosted by Dillon Collins. Thu, 9/2, 8pm. Free.

TYLER DEVOLL: The local singer/songwriter serenades the happy hour crowd. Fri, 9/3, 5pm.

Bella’s Sports Pub, 231 Main Street.

ELDARTHA: Local eclectic rock. Thu, 9/2, 7:30pm. $7-$10. Argus Bar + Patio, 212 W. Second St.

Markets FARMERS MARKETS: Butte County’s markets are open and selling fresh produce and more. Chico: Downtown (Saturdays, 7:30am-1pm & Thursdays, 6-9pm); North Valley Plaza (Wednesdays, 8am1pm); Chico State University Farm (Fridays, noon-4 pm). Paradise: Alliance Church (Tuesdays, 7:30am-2 pm; “Farmers Market Mobile” in Paradise, 1397 South Park Drive (Thursdays, 2pm).

Theater CLUE, ON STAGE: A stage version of the cult classic film (and board game), this whodunit comedy will keep you guessing until the end. Opens Oct. 1. Shows ThuSat, 7:30 pm & Sun, 2pm, through Oct. 24. $16-$20. Chico Theater Company, 166 Eaton Road, Ste. F. chicotheatercompany.com

THE LAST FIVE YEARS: California Regional Theatre debuts its new downtown theater (in the old Blue Room space) with a musical about two New Yorkers in their twenties who fall in and out of love over the course of five years. Cathy tells her story starting from the end while Jamie tells his chronologically. Opens Sept. 17. Shows Friday-Saturday, 7:30pm & Sunday, 2pm, through Sept. 26. $31.50-$35. First Street Theatre, 139 W. First St. crtshows.com

WILD WOMEN OF WINEDALE: A comedy about three women at a crossroads in their lives. Directed by Judy Clemens. Shows Thursday-Saturday, 7:30pm & Sunday, 2pm, through 9/12. $16. Theatre on the Ridge, 3735 Neal Road, Paradise. totr.org




THE ROCKHOUNDS: Classic rock covers. Thu, 9/2, 6pm. La Salles, 229 Broadway St. THURSDAY NIGHT MARKET: Weekly party on the streets of downtown with farm-fresh produce from CDFA certified farmers, live music, local arts & crafts, food trucks and downtown restaurants Thu, 9/3, 6pm. Downtown Chico. downtownchico.com

FRI3 AJA MAE: The Sacramento comic headlines the stand-up show. Also performing is Al Shuman. Hosted by Jerm Leather. Fri, 9/3, 8:30pm. $15. The Maltese, 1600 Park Ave.

CHUCK EPPERSON BAND: Local jam band. Fri, 9/3, 6pm. Free. Secret Trail Brewing Company, 132 Meyers St., Ste. 120. simpletix.com

FRIDAY NIGHT CONCERTS: Live local music downtown every Friday evening. This week: Sounds Good. Fri, 9/3, 7pm. Free. Chico City Plaza. downtownchico.com

OC HURRICANES: Outpatient Records presents the Santa Ana rock band along with Sacramento garage rock crew Th’ Losin Streaks and locals The Wind Ups. Fri, 9/3, 8:30pm. $10-$15. Argus Bar + Patio, 212 W. Second St.

La Salles, 229 Broadway St.

SAT4 KELLY AND ROY: Local singer/songwriter duo. Sat, 9/4, 1pm. The Allies Pub, 426 Broadway St.

THU9 COMEDY THURSDAY: See Sept. 2. Thu, 9/9, 8pm. Free. Bella’s Sports Pub, 231 Main Street.

MAX MINARDI: Charismatic singer/songwriter on the back patio. Thu, 9/9, 7:30pm. $7. Argus Bar + Patio, 212 W. Second St.


ROB SCHNEIDER: The one time Saturday Night Live cast member live. Sat, 9/4, 7pm. $25$65. Gold Country Casino & Hotel, 4020 Olive Highway, Oroville. goldcountrycasino.com

SLAUGHTERHOUSE ROAD BAND: Nor-Cal country music. Sat, 9/4, 9pm. $5. Tackle Box, 379 E. Park Ave.

THIN AIR, LDF, THE TIGHTYS: Locals-only showcase featuring three bands that haven’t previously played at the bar. Sat, 9/4, 9:30pm. $7. Duffy’s Tavern, 337 Main St.

SUN5 BLU EGYPTIAN: Local high-energy jam band. Sun, 9/5, 3pm. Free. Secret Trail Brewing

the streets of downtown with farm-fresh produce from CDFA certified farmers, live music, local arts & crafts, food trucks and downtown restaurants Thu, 9/9, 6pm. Downtown Chico. downtownchico.com

YURKOVIC: Local blues/soul music on the patio. Thu, 9/9, 6pm. La Salles, 229 Broadway St.

FRI10 ‘80S NIGHT: Travel back in time. Music by DJ Allen. Fri, 9/10, 9pm. Free. The Maltese,

THE LAST FIVE YEARS Friday-Sunday, Sept. 17-26 First Street Theatre

1600 Park Ave.

FRIDAY NIGHT CONCERTS: Live local music downtown every Friday evening. This week: The Fritz. Fri, 9/10, 7pm. Free. Chico City Plaza. downtownchico.com

ICE CREAM SOCIAL: Ice cream, house tours and an art exhibition coordinated by Chico Art Center. Fri, 9/10, 6pm. $5-$7. Stansbury Home, 307 W. 5th St. downtownchico.com

PUB SCOUTS HAPPY HOUR: See Sept. 3. Fri, 9/10, 5pm. Duffy’s Tavern, 337 Main St. TOM BLODGET: Local singer/songwriter entertains the happy hour crowd. Fri, 9/10, 5pm. La Salles, 229 Broadway St.

Company, 132 Meyers St., Ste. 120.

WED8 OPEN MIC COMEDY: Hosted by Dillon Collins. Sign ups 8pm, showtime 9pm. Wednesdays. Free. The Studio Inn Lounge, 2582 Esplanade.

SAT11 BACK IT UP: Legendary hip-hop with a trio of OGs: Twista, Juvenile and Ginuwine. Sat, 9/11, 7pm. $55. Gold Country Casino & Hotel, 4020 Olive Highway, Oroville. (800) 334-9400.


MOTHER HIPS (TWICE!) Oct. 2 at The Commons (full band) Oct. 3 at Chico Women’s Club (duo) THE DALES: The five-piece Americana rock band out of LA is on tour. Sat, 9/11, 11am. La

So is the CN&R calendar! Submit virtual and real-world events for the online calendar as well as the monthly print edition at chico.newsreview.com/calendar

COMEDY THURSDAY: See Sept. 2. Thu, 9/30, 8pm. Free. Bella’s Sports Pub, 231 Main

Salles, 229 Broadway St.


FAITH THROUGH FIRE: Christian singer/songwriter Jordan St. Cyr shares local stories of faith and courage. Donation proceeds going to the Rebuild Paradise Foundation. Sat, 9/11, 7pm. Free. Paradise Performing Arts Center, 777 Nunneley Road, Paradise. eventbrite.com (search “Faith Through Fire”)

THUMPIN’ THURSDAY ROCK ’N’ BLUES JAM: Hosted by JP Roxx & The Loco-Motive Band. Sign up at 6:30pm, music starts at 7pm. Thu, 9/30, 6:30pm. Free. The Tackle Box, 379 E. Park Ave.


THE POSEY’S: Live jukebox-style music from the ’40 through the ’70s by the local musicians. Sat, 9/11, 1pm. The Allies Pub, 426 Broadway St.

comedian returns to the casino for two shows. Fri, 10/1, 7pm & 9:30pm. $45-$85. Gold Country Casino & Hotel, 4020 Olive Highway, Oroville. goldcountrycasino.com

Park Ave.

RENAISSANCE FAIRE: Pirates, Vikings, mermaids, PUB SCOUTS HAPPY HOUR: See Sept. 3. Fri, 10/1, 5pm. Duffy’s Tavern, 337 Main St.

belly dancers, musicians and jugglers all set within a Renaissance Village scene. Exotic food and drink, arts and crafts, historic weapons and goods. Sat, 9/11, 10am. Free. Feather Falls Casino & Lodge, 3 Alverda Drive, Oroville. featherfallscasino.com

TYLER DEVOLL: The local singer/songwriter serenades the happy hour crowd. Fri, 10/1, 5pm. La Salles, 229 Broadway St.

SURROGATE: Local indie rock faves. Sat, 9/11, 9:30pm. Duffy’s Tavern, 337 Main St.


HOT FLASH: Local female-fronted cover band. Sat, 9/18, 6pm. Free. Secret Trail

RENAISSANCE FAIRE: See Sept. 11. Sun, 9/12, 10am. Free. Feather Falls Casino & Lodge, 3

WAYWARD BLUES: Blues tunes with brunch. Sat, 9/18, 11am. La Salles, 229 Broadway St.

Brewing Company, 132 Meyers St., Ste. 120.

Alverda Drive, Oroville. featherfallscasino.com

WED15 OPEN MIC COMEDY: See Sept. 8. Wednesdays, 9pm. Free. The Studio Inn Lounge, 2582 Esplanade.

THU16 COMEDY THURSDAY: See Sept. 2. Thu, 9/16, 8pm. Free. Bella’s Sports Pub, 231 Main St. THE LOCO MOTIVE: Classic rock and blues covers. Thu, 9/16, 6pm. La Salles, 229

SUN19 JAM SESSION: Local jam sessions presented by Mora Sounds. P.A., drum kit, guitar and bass amps provided. Comedy sets in between jams. Special musical guest Big Mo. Sun, 9/19, 5pm. The Union, 2053 Montgomery St., Oroville.

WED22 OPEN MIC COMEDY: See Sept. 8. Wednesdays, 9pm. Free. The Studio Inn Lounge, 2582 Esplanade.

Broadway St.

THURSDAY NIGHT MARKET: Weekly party on the streets of downtown with farm-fresh produce from CDFA certified farmers, live music, local arts & crafts, food trucks and downtown restaurants Thu, 9/16, 6pm. Downtown Chico. downtownchico.com

THU23 ANDRE THIERRY: Accordion soul with the Bay Area Zydeco musician. Thu, 9/23, 6pm. La Salles, 229 Broadway St.


COMEDY THURSDAY: See Sept. 2. Thu, 9/23, 8pm. Free. Bella’s Sports Pub, 231 Main

FRIDAY NIGHT CONCERTS: Live local music down-

THURSDAY NIGHT MARKET: The last installment

town every Friday evening. This week: The Esplanade Band, playing the final concert of the season. Fri, 9/17, 7pm. Free. Chico City Plaza. downtownchico.com

PUB SCOUTS HAPPY HOUR: See Sept. 3. Fri, 9/17, 5pm. Duffy’s Tavern, 337 Main St. TYLER DEVOLL: The local singer/songwriter serenades the happy hour crowd. Fri, 9/17, 5pm. La Salles, 229 Broadway St.

SAT18 DRAG SHOW: An evening of drag, drinks and dancing. Sat, 9/18, 9:30pm. The Maltese, 1600 Park Ave.

FENIX FLEXIN: LA rapper and former Shoreline Mafia member is on tour in support of his new album Fenix Flexin Vol.1. Sat, 9/18, 9pm. $18. Senator Theatre, 517 Main Street. jmaxproductions.net

Street. for 2021 of the weekly party on the streets of downtown with farm-fresh produce from CDFA certified farmers, live music, local arts & crafts, food trucks and downtown restaurants. Thu, 9/23, 6pm. Downtown Chico. downtownchico.com

and Sid Walker. Sat, 9/25, 7pm. Paradise Performing Arts Center, 777 Nunneley Road, Paradise. paradiseperformingarts.com

CALIFORNIA NUT FESTIVAL: The return of the agriculture-focused culinary event. Guests will spend the day sampling and savoring nut-inspired dishes by local restaurants, caterers and chefs and sipping local wine, beers, coffees and juices, and listening to local musicians (including The Gnarly Pints and Alan Rigg Band, among others) on two stages and enjoying art and special activities. Sat, 9/25, 11am. $10-$35. Patrick Ranch Museum, 10381 Midway, Durham. (530) 3424359. californianutfestival.com

IRA GLASS: Chico Performances presents an evening with the host and creator of This American Life, who will talk about his four decades in radio. Sat, 9/25, 7:30pm. $30 $48. Laxson Auditorium, 400 W. First Street. chicoperformances.com

ONOFF: The Irish rock trio is on tour with support from Sacramento rockers Cities You Wish You Were From. Sat, 9/25, 8pm. Tackle Box, 379 E. Park Ave.

of the Paradise venue, the blues/funk/rock jam band performs along with Volker Strifler

opened for Bon Jovi, The Doobie Brothers and The Struts. Sun, 10/3, 3pm. Free. Secret Trail Brewing Company, 132 Meyers St., Ste. 120.

MOTHER HIPS DUO: The founding members

AUTOBERFEST CAR SHOW: Vehicles, vendors, food and drinks and guest stars Mad Mike from Pimp my Ride, John D’Agostino from Celebrity Kustoms, Noel G “Hector” from Furious 7 and Roli Szabo from Counting Cars. Live music by the Rock Monsterz. Sat, 10/2, 10am. Free. Feather Falls Casino & Lodge, 3 Alverda Drive, Oroville. featherfallscasino.com

JONATHAN FOSTER: Redding-based Americana roots songwriter on tour. Sat, 10/2, 11am. La Salles, 229 Broadway St.

LANCE MICHAEL CORNWELL BAND: ’90s country music. Sat, 10/2, 9pm. Tackle Box, 379 E.

of the Mother Hips perform an intimate acoustic show. Sun, 10/3, 6:30pm. $35. Chico Women’s Club, 592 E. Third St. eventbrite.com

WED6 EALDOR BEALU: Stoner prog rock out of Boise, supported by local heavy bands Shadow Limb and West by Swan. Wed, 10/6, 8pm. $8. The Maltese, 1600 Park Ave.

OPEN MIC COMEDY: See Sept. 8. Wednesdays, 9pm. Free. The Studio Inn Lounge, 2582 Esplanade.

Park Ave.



MASTERWORKS 1 – THE SOLDIER’S TALE: North State Symphony returns to the stage with Igor Stravinsky’s L’Histoire du Soldat. Sun, 9/26, 2pm. $10-$40. Laxson Auditorium, 400 W. First Street. northstatesymphony.org

WED29 RAINBOW GIRLS: Outpatient Records presents


DARING GREATLY: Canadian rock band that has


J.T. LAWRENCE: Local roots rock for the happy hour crowd. Fri, 9/24, 5pm. La Salles, 229



Broadway St.

OPEN MIC COMEDY: See Sept. 8. Wednesdays, 9pm. Free. The Studio Inn Lounge, 2582

PUB SCOUTS HAPPY HOUR: See Sept. 3. Fri, 9/24, 5pm. Duffy’s Tavern, 337 Main St.


headlines and The Coffis Brothers open for this all-ages parking-lot celebration of three years of the taproom’s existence. Sat, 10/2, 12pm. $30-$40. The Commons Social Empourium, 2412 Park Ave.

RON MATHEWS: Live music by the local artist during brunch. Sat, 9/25, 11am. La Salles, 229

FRI24 Broadway St.

Salsa. Celebrate a rich and varied tapestry of music with Latin artists from across the Americas. The daylong event will feature an outdoor stage, a community art project, food trucks and a beer garden. Featured artists include ECNO, Edgardo & Candela, Mariachi Divas and Califas. Sat, 10/2, 1pm. $7. Kendall Lawn, Chico State. chico performances.com

THE MOTHER HIPS: The legendary Chico band

LARRY THE CABLE GUY: The iconic sleeveless

REMIX: Popular covers by the Nor-Cal rock band. Sat, 9/11, 1pm. Tackle Box, 379 E.

LATINX MUSIC FEST: Cumbia, Mariachi and

Esplanade. the Bay Area acoustic trio along with local indie rock band Solar Estates. Wed, 9/29, 8:30pm. $10 - $15. Argus Bar + Patio, 212 W. Second St.

THU30 BLACK FONG: Local crusty butt funk on the patio. Thu, 9/30, 6pm. La Salles, 229 Broadway St.

North State Symphony Chico Performances and the North State Symphony, two of Butte County’s cultural cornerstones, have been on a pause from in-person productions for a year and a half. The pandemic is, unfortunately, still with us, but thanks to the availability of COVID vaccines—and the requirement that those attending events at Chico State show proof of inoculation—live shows are finally

returning to the Laxson Auditorium stage. Chico Performances kicks of its season with Ira Glass on Sept. 25. The This American Life creater/ host will give a talk on his four decades in radio titled Seven Things I’ve Learned. The following night, Sept. 26, the symphony makes its Chico return with a one-piece program: Igor Stravinsky’s The Soldier’s Tale.





Art speaks Intimate group exhibit shares personal stories of the Hmong-American experience

Aenterofthethevideo’s gallery’s white walls as two fingers frame to pinch then pull the

closeup of an eye is projected large onto one

long eyelashes from their lids. It’s part of an appropriately uncomfortable opening scene to the video installation “Becoming” by flow-artist Der Her (aka Mage Flow). In the accompanying description, she describes the piece as an exploration of the influence that Western beauty ideals—“blue eyes, double eyelids, fair-skinned, high cheekstory and bones”—have had on photos by Eastern cultures. After Jason Cassidy dropping the discomj ason c @ fort of the facade, the newsrev iew.c om Hmong-American artist underneath emerges without makeup and is Review: free to express her true No Word for Art: self via a mesmerizing Contemporary Hmongfire-and-hoop dance perAmerican Art in Northern formance. Her’s video California shows through Sept. 26. installation is illustrative of the mood of the rest Upcoming programs: of the current Museum Sept. 4, 5:30-7:30 p.m.: Paj of Northern California Ntaub: Embroidering traditional Hmong art workshop. Art (MONCA) group Tickets $20. exhibit No Word for Art, Call museum to reserve. which weaves a thread Sept. 10, 5:30-7:30 p.m.: of intimacy through very Community art-making personal and often internight. Free. active pieces. Sept. 19, 5:30-7:30 p.m.: The show, subVirtual artist panel/convertitled “Contemporary sation. Visit site for details. Hmong-American Art Museum of Northern in Northern California,” California Art was co-curated by 900 Esplanade Elizabeth Lee and Stacey 487-7272 Lo; in a press release, monca.org




“The Echo of Emotions is All That Remains After a Nightmare,” installation with video, by Stacey Lo

Lee explains that the title refers to the challenge faced by young Hmong-Americans whose elders literally don’t have the language to understand their creative pursuits. The focus of the show is to, through art, start conversations about the complexities of Hmong-American identity. In her own works, Lee—first generation Hmong-American— “is focused on the integration and progression of the Hmong culture into American culture.” For this show, she illustrates this via elegant gouache paintings of Asian market staples that have started making their way into American grocery stores, items such as Japanese Pocky cookie sticks (“$1.00, $1.49 (Pocky)”) and Vietnamese and Thai fish sauces (“$3.99, $4.99 (Fish Sauce)”). Lee was also involved in a collaboration with the Hmong youth-empowerment program Leaders for a Lifetime for a series of “story cloths.” The

project features embroidered representations of stories from the lives of the program participants (from junior high through college age) on a square of blue cloth. Some feature multiple snapshots from personal timelines, while others focus on one vision, such as “My Academic Journey” by Pa Zao Her, with its stitched squirrel hunt alongside a photo of a young boy carrying the day’s kill to the stock pot. There are several interactive works in the exhibit that invite the viewer to take part. The most striking of these is the large “Xaws Ua Ke” (“Community Weaving”) display. A long section of chicken wire mounted to a blue wall is covered with colorful fabric strips that have—as the instructions direct—been woven in and out of the mesh at the viewers discretion. In the same darkened room as the dance-performance video, co-curator Lo has installed a more passively interactive, and very intriguing, piece. “The Echo SCENE C O N T I N U E D

O N PA G E 3 3

“Our Journey,” digital art on canvas, by Chua Xiong

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“$3.99, $4.99 (Fish Sauce),” gouache on paper, by Elizabeth Lee

of Emotions is All That Remains After a Nightmare” is a full-scale model of a modest bedroom. A white dress with a red triangle of fabric (a wound?) pinned to it is laid across the white bed, and on the wall above is projected a video loop of abstract colors behind the text from the artist’s real-life nightmares (e.g., “If you call out your name, the ghost won’t touch you”). In the description, Lo says that a series of traumatic dreams triggered emotional and spiritual exploration that led her to seek out both Hmong and Western practices and guidance. Shamanism, dreams and the spirit realm were her inspirations for an installation that literally lets the viewer into her room to watch it all play out. For the show, MONCA was awarded a $4,379 Humanities For All Quick Grant by California Humanities, a nonprofit partner of the National Endowment of the Humanities. The program “supports locally initiated public humanities projects that respond to the needs and interests

of Californians, encourage[s] greater public participation in humanities programming, particularly by new and/or underserved audiences, and promotes understanding and empathy among all our state’s peoples in order to cultivate a thriving democracy.” The biggest strength of this exhibit is it meets that “public participation” requirement. The Hmong community has definitely been underserved in local arts, and handing the curatorial reins over to those whom the exhibit represents makes for a very rich, authentic experience. Ω

“My Academic Journey,” story cloth by Pa Zao Her for Leaders for a Lifetime program.





Down the dusty trail

Above: Jack Richardson, A Life for a Kiss Left: Straight Shooting

Pauline Bush, A Life for a Kiss

CN&R film critic rides into the online archives of early westerns A Life for a Kiss Ibandit western made in 1912, a lone with a posse on his trail n

, a 13-minute

takes a brief detour to get a drink of water at a small by tree-shaded ranch Juan-Carlos house. On impulse, Selznick he steals a very forceful kiss from the woman who gives him the water, then rides away again. The woman (played by Pauline Bush) realizes her bold visitor is a wanted man, goes out to where her husband (early cowboy star J. Warren Kerrigan) is working on the ranch and tells him what has happened. The husband immediately saddles up and goes off to join the pursuit of the bandit. They soon

cross paths, and a lengthy chase ensues. The posse stops briefly at the ranch, and the woman joins the pursuit. After much gunfire and a cliff-hanger style brawl, the bandit (played by the formidable Jack Richardson) is close to killing the wounded husband, but the woman and the posse arrive just in time for her to bring down the bandit with a single shot. As such, A Life for a Kiss unavoidably sounds old-fashioned and merely conventional, but watching this restored film on the Eye film museum’s YouTube channel shows it to be a surprising and surprisingly satisfying piece of early movie storytelling. The narrative is conventional, but the conventions are scrambled in interesting ways.

Kerrigan’s “good guy” has top billing, but it’s Bush’s female lead who rides to the rescue. And the bandit is the character we see first, and most often, in the film’s brief, unrushed running time. And he’s also in the film’s haunting, oddly angled final shot, with members of the posse crawling toward his corpse on that very steep hill. Bush’s ranchwoman has the “hero” role here, but Richardson’s bandit is arguably the central character in this small, swaggeringly off-handed tall tale. His passionate recklessness sparks the action and gives a touch of romantic outlaw balladry to the entire proceedings. (Think about that title: A “life for a kiss,” anyone?) Early on, he waits for the posse to get close enough for him to wave in defiance before galloping away. Later on, in the chase sequences with Kerrigan, he slows

down at times and even stops, as if daring his pursuer to fight face to face. This villain is a bad guy who seems to know that his goose is cooked. We aren’t party to his life story, but we do get the sense that he’s determined to go out with a flourish. Director Allan Dwan, whose filmmaking career would ultimately span a half century, stages those chase sequences on curved hillside trails and roads. The camera remains stationary as the riders rush past and into the distance or, less often, as they emerge in the distance and

swirl down toward the camera. Those long, patiently composed shots observe the surging action but maintain an impassive distance from it, rather as if to give precedence to the rough, glowing landscape over the furies of humans and horses. The results make for a rich mixture of the pastoral and the epic. One of the great pleasures of “streaming in place” has very much to do with an abundance of opportunities to visit and explore early cinema treasures like A Life for a Kiss. It’s in that spirit that I’d recommend online visits to the film collections of the Library of Congress and the Eye film museum, and video visits to such beautifully restored silent westerns as William F. Haddock’s In the Tall Grass Country (1910), William Nigh’s Salomy Jane (1914), John Ford’s Straight Shooting (1917), Ruth Ann Baldwin’s ’49-’17 (1917), Dwan’s Tide of Empire (1929), and two with Buck Jones in country-boy roles—Ford’s Just Pals (1920) and Frank Borzage’s Lazybones (1925), etc. Ω





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Time to vote:

such a great place to live and visit.

Our celebration of all the good stuff in Chico is finally here and you’re invited to be part of the Comeback! All you need to do is vote for your favorite people, places and things that make Chico

How to vote: The polls are still open and voting takes place exclusively online where full contest rules are available. Categories are shown on this page.

VOTE NOW! Polls close Sunday, Sept. 5, at 11:59 p.m. Winners revealed in Best of Chico issue arriving Oct. 7, 2021! Outdoor living (patios, pergolas, pools, etc.) Plumber Professional photographer Housecleaning service House painter Real estate agent Roofer Solar company Tree service Window treatments

FOOD & DRINK Local restaurant – Chico Local restaurant – Oroville New eatery (open in last year) Food server (name and location) Delivery driver (COVID) Chef Caterer Cheap eats Craft beer selection Fine dining Patio Take-out/Curbside (COVID) Breakfast Brunch Lunch Munchies Bakery Diner Local coffee house International cuisine Asian cuisine Italian cuisine Mexican cuisine

Vegetarian cuisine Street food Barbecue Burger Burrito Ice cream/frozen yogurt Pho Pizza Sandwich Sushi Taco Local winery – Regional (Butte/Glenn/Tehama) Locally produced food – Regional (Butte/Glenn/Tehama) Local brewery – Regional (Butte/Glenn/Tehama)

HEALTH & WELLNESS Alternative health-care provider Acupuncture clinic Local CBD source Chiropractor Dental care Dermatologist Eye-care specialist General practitioner Hearing aid specialist Pediatrician Physical therapy office Veterinarian Massage therapist Gym Boutique gym Personal trainer Local Zoom workout (COVID)

202 1 NIGHTLIFE & THE ARTS Bar Sports bar Watering hole for townies Mixologist (name and location) Happy hour Place to drink a glass of wine Margarita Bloody Mary To-go cocktail or bar service (COVID) Virtual local show (COVID) Place to dance Venue for live music Local music act Local visual artist Art space Place to buy art Theater company Casino – Regional (Butte/Glenn/Tehama)

COMMUNITY Charitable cause Community event (virtual or in-person) (COVID) Farmers’ market vendor Museum Place to pray/meditate Radio station Youth organization Local personality Instructor / professor Teacher (K-12) Volunteer Dance studio Golf course – Regional (Butte/Glenn/Tehama) Martial arts studio Yoga studio Place for family fun

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CHANGE Under the shade of a plum tree sits a long wooden table with laptops and paper notebooks strewn about its weathered cedar planks. This is the bird’s-eye view of the Chico News & Review’s pandemic-era conference room, and as the last pair of shoes comes around the corner and crunches across the gravel patio over to a plastic chair, a scene of the editorial team making plans to tell the stories of Butte County comes into focus. Physical-distancing protocols sent us into our homes to write, edit and design, and into my backyard when we’ve needed to meet up. Amid the strain and uncertainty surrounding putting out a newspaper during a pandemic, the relaxed outdoor setting and actual human interaction has provided a measure of respite. What has most eased the minds of the editorial crew—as well as the designers, salespersons, distribution drivers, tech team and owners of the CN&R— has been your overwhelming contributions to the paper’s cause. We may have had a lean staff since the beginning of pandemic shutdowns, but the generosity of our readers and the support of our advertisers has inspired us to continue living up to the legacy of this newspaper that, since 1977, has endeavored to empower the full range voices in our community. In addition to expressing gratitude, I say all this now to offer reassurance—to all of you and to us at the paper—as we say goodbye this month to the building that’s been the CN&R’s home for 36 of its 44 years. This print issue is the last one that will ever come out of the West Second Street location. Our building is in the process of being sold, and we are greatly downsizing physical operations. Just as we have during COVID, we’ll continue to do most of our work remotely. We will have a new home base though—a couple of small offices inside the Idea Fabrication Labs building where we can print pages for editing, conduct interviews, and gather for meetings and just hang out when the elements keep us from the back yard. We’ve also rented a separate warehouse in the IFL compound for storage and to receive pallets of newspapers. Hopefully, once the coronavirus dissipates and businesses/advertisers fully recover, the number of those pallets will increase because we’ll printing more often (bi-weekly at first?). If you want to get in touch, send an email or drop a line (to P.O. Box 56, Chico, CA, 95927). It’s a bummer we won’t be downtown anymore, but thanks to you, we’re still here and will continue publishing online and once a month in print until we can afford to do more. So, from the backyard, we raise a cup of coffee (or a pale ale, depending on which side of deadline we’re on) in appreciation. SONIC TRUTH I must have promised y’all I’d stop talking about Track Star in this space, but

MONDAY-FRIDAY 11-7 | SATURDAY 12-5 1903 PARK AVE | 530.345.7787 | BACIOCHICO.COM 36



... I lied. Just as I started writing the column this morning, a package arrived. Inside was the long-awaited reissue of Sometimes, What’s the Difference?, the one-time S.F. crew’s 1995 10-inch released on Silver Girl Records. The dudes at the label went big for the update, adding 19 odds and ends to the original nine songs for a double-LP of noisy nostalgia. Included on the tracklist is “Silver Suit,” originally released on the Superwinners Summer Rock Academy compilation (which yours truly had a hand in) that features a couple fistfuls of Chico bands as well. At one point, I was asked to do a writeup on Track Star that didn’t end up being used. So, since I’m not one to let some good words about something I love go to waste, here’s an excerpt: My favorite dynamic in music is volume, and while I love the loudness that punk, metal, rap and hard rock bring to the world, for me, noise is most satisfying when it’s in contrast to quiet. I want to see the spotless pane of glass, then the brick flying through it. Then I want to return to stillness and anticipate the next rogue projectile. That’s what Track Star did, in a primitively perfect way. They punctuated three-chord break-up songs and jangly indie-pop with glorious jumps in volume via Who-sized amps. It was fun, and funny, and “fuck it, let’s get loud right … NOW!” When I first saw the dudes live, running up and launching themselves off the walls of Juanita’s (the cramped Mexican restaurant that was home to Chico’s music scene for so many years) and landing on their stomp boxes to window-rattling effect, I was floored. That experience, in addition to the many subsequent killer shows they played in Chico, honestly changed the way I looked at music, ruining me for anything less daring and wild. Track Star was pure, and pretense free, and an inspiring source of powerful energy. And so fun.








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ARIES (March 21-April 19): Aries poet Anna LIBRA (Sept. 23-Oct. 22): Several states in Kamienska wrote, “I’ve learned to value failed conversations, missed connections, confusions. What remains is what’s unsaid, what’s underneath. Understanding on another level of being.” In the coming weeks, I suggest you adopt her perspective as you evaluate both past and present experiences. You’re likely to find small treasures in what you’d assumed were wastelands. You may uncover inspiring clues in plot twists that initially frustrated you. Upon further examination, interludes you dismissed as unimportant or uninteresting could reveal valuable wrinkles.

TAURUS (April 20-May 20): After studying your astrological omens, I’ve decided to offer you inspiration from the ancient Roman poet Catullus. I hope the extravagant spirit of his words will free you to be greedy for the delights of love and affection. Catullus wrote, “Give me a thousand kisses, then a hundred; then another thousand, then a second hundred; then yet another thousand.” I’ll add the following to Catullus’s appeal: Seek an abundance of endearing words, sweet favors and gifts, caresses and massages, help with your work, and fabulous orgasms. If there’s no one in your life to provide you with such blessings, give them to yourself.

GEMINI (May 21-June 20): Gemini author Elif Batuman writes that the Old Uzbek language was rich in expressions about crying. There were “words for wanting to cry and not being able to, for loudly crying like thunder in the clouds, for crying in gasps, for weeping inwardly or secretly, for crying ceaselessly in a high voice, for crying in hiccups, and for crying while uttering the sound ‘hay hay.’” I recommend all of these to you in the coming days, as well as others you might dream up. Why? It’s prime time to seek the invigorating release and renewal that come from shedding tears generated by deep and mysterious feelings.

CANCER (June 21-July 22): A blogger named MythWoven imagines an “alternate universe where I literally go to school forever (for free) so I can learn about art and literature and history and languages for 100 years. No job skills. No credit requirements. No student loans. Just learning.” I have longings like hers. There’s an eternal student within me that wants to be endlessly surprised with exciting information about interesting subjects. I would love to be continually adding fresh skills and aptitudes to my repertoire. In the coming weeks, I will give free rein to that part of me. I recommend you do the same, my fellow Cancerian.

LEO (July 23-Aug. 22): In 2016, the International Garden Photograph of the Year depicted lush lupine flowers in New Zealand. The sea of tall purple, pink and blue blooms was praised as “an elegant symphony” and “a joy to behold.” What the judges didn’t mention is that lupine is an invasive species in New Zealand. It forces native plant species out of their habitat, which in turn drives away native animal species, including birds like the wrybill, black stilt and banded dotterel. Is there a metaphorically comparable phenomenon in your life, Leo? Problematic beauty? Some influence that’s both attractive and prickly? A wonderful thing that can also be troublesome? The coming weeks will be a favorable time to try to heal the predicament.

VIRGO (Aug. 23-Sept. 22): “I often wonder who I am and where is my country and where do I belong and why was I ever born at all,” wrote Virgo author Jean Rhys (1890–1979). I don’t think you will be agitated by those questions during the next eight weeks, Virgo. In fact, I suspect you will feel as secure in your identity as you have in a long time. You will enjoy prolonged clarity about your role in the world, the nature of your desires, and how you should plan your life for the next two years. If for some inexplicable reason you’re not already enjoying these developments, stop what you’re doing and meditate on the probability that I am telling you the bold truth.

the U.S. have statutes prohibiting blasphemy. Saying “God damn it” could theoretically get you fined in Massachusetts, South Carolina and Wyoming. In the coming days, it’s best to proceed carefully in places like those, since you’ve been authorized by cosmic forces to curse more often and more forcefully than usual. Why? Because you need to summon vivid and intense protests in the face of influences that may be inhibiting and infringing on your soul’s style. You have a poetic license to rebel against conventions that oppress you.

SCORPIO (Oct. 23-Nov. 21): Everyone dreams at least three dreams per night. In a year, your subconscious mind generates over 1,100 dreams. About this remarkable fact, novelist Mila Kundera writes, “Dreaming is not merely an act of coded communication. It is also an aesthetic activity, a game that is a value in itself. To dream about things that have not happened is among humanity’s deepest needs.” I bring this to your attention, Scorpio, because September is Honor Your Dreams Month. To celebrate, I suggest the following experiments. 1. Every night before sleep, write down a question you’d like your dreams to respond to. 2. Keep a notebook by your bed and transcribe at least one dream each time you sleep. 3. In the morning, have fun imagining what the previous night’s dreams might be trying to communicate to you. 4. Say prayers of gratitude to your dreams, thanking them for their provocative, entertaining stories.

SAGITTARIUS (Nov. 22-Dec. 21): In her autobiography Changing, Sagittarian actor Liv Ullmann expresses grief about how she and a loved one failed to communicate essential truths to each other. I propose we regard her as your anti-role model for the rest of 2021. Use her error as your inspiration. Make emotionally intelligent efforts to talk about unsaid things that linger like ghostly puzzles between you and those you care about.

CAPRICORN (Dec. 22-Jan. 19): “I could do with a bit more excess,” writes author Joanne Harris. “From now on I’m going to be immoderate—and volatile,” she vows. “I shall enjoy loud music and lurid poetry. I shall be rampant.” Let me be clear, Capricorn: I’m not urging you to be immoderate, volatile, excessive and rampant every day for the rest of your long life. But I think you will generate health benefits and good fortune if you experiment with that approach in the coming weeks. Can you think of relatively sane, sensible ways to give yourself this salubrious luxury?

AQUARIUS (Jan. 20-Feb. 18): While wading through the internet’s wilder terrain, I found a provocative quote alleged to have been uttered by the ancient Greek philosopher Socrates. He supposedly said, “My ultimate goal is to look totally hot, but not be unapproachable.” I confess that in the past I have sometimes been fooled by fake quotes, and I suspect this is one. Still, it’s amusing to entertain the possibility that such an august personage as Socrates, a major influencer of Western culture, might say something so cute and colloquial. Even if he didn’t actually say it, I like the idea of blending ancient wisdom with modern insights, seriousness with silliness, thoughtful analysis with good fun. In accordance with astrological omens, I recommend you experiment with comparable hybrids in the coming weeks. (P.S.: One of your goals should be to look totally hot, but not be unapproachable.)

PISCES (Feb. 19-March 20): “If you don’t know what you want,” writes Piscean novelist Chuck Palahniuk, “you end up with a lot you don’t.” Very true! And right now, it’s extra important to keep that in mind. During the coming weeks, you’ll be at the peak of your ability to attract what you want and need. Wouldn’t you prefer to gather influences you really desire—as opposed to those for which you have mild or zero interest? Define your wants and needs very precisely.

www.RealAstrology.com for Rob Brezsny’s EXPANDED WEEKLY AUDIO HOROSCOPES and DAILY TEXT MESSAGE HOROSCOPES. The audio horoscopes are also available by phone at 1-877-873-4888.







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