Republicans have stunningly retaken the Chico City Council, reversing a 5-2 liberal majority, with a 2-5 Trump-styled majority. Going forward, after the new census report, the new council will redraw the seven council districts to ensure a 10-year hold.
What are the issues facing us? The new council’s campaigns were funded by large-scale developers. What will be the response by this council to the 1,400-acre Valley’s Edge proposal? We have 6,000 units in a pipeline of approved development and are building at a historic rate of over 500 units a year, yet the new council might allow an additional 2,700 units in response to campaign contributions.
The new council has a $2 million opportunity of one-time monies to address homelessness. The new council likely will fund police rather than shelter beds. At their first meeting, infractions were changed to misdemeanors, further criminalizing not having a home.
The previous Republican council outlawed cannabis sales including delivery. Will they allow the new rules allowing a few storefronts to take effect in January?
The city is woefully underfunded. Very few cities in the state have a lower sales tax rate than Chico’s. We could dramatically improve public safety, roads and waterways with a proposed increase of sales tax. The Republican slate insists on a two-thirds voter approval, unlikely in our partisan climate.
How does this change? We who are opposed must embrace big-tent coalition building and avoid bickering. We must condemn $250,000 campaign PACs funded by our largest developers. We must use our constitutional weapons of recall, referendum and initiative.
If new cannabis rules are undermined, or no new funding is proposed for our streets and creekways, Chico residents will respond with initiative.
If massive new developments are approved on our far southeastern boundary, or along the green line, Chico residents will respond with referendum.
If councilmembers criminalize homelessness and fail to provide for shelters, residents will respond with recall.
Finally, a bipartisan redistricting commission will take the bite out of the $250,000 conservative PAC trying to buy our elections.
The author is a recent Chico City Councilman who served for a total of 12 years (the last four, plus 1977-85, including a term as mayor)..