The Chico City Council recall effort doubled in two days. Councilman Sean Morgan received notice Thursday (Nov. 4) from the same newly formed Chico Voters group that served Mayor Andrew Coolidge during the council meeting Tuesday night (Nov. 2).
A Chico State student handed Morgan—a lecturer in the college of business management department at the university—the notice of intent to circulate a recall petition during one of his classes in Glenn Hall. A press release from Chico Voters quoted the student as volunteering to deliver the notice to Morgan “because I am shocked by his callous attitude towards the people of my hometown. Moms, dads, students, workers … we are all struggling, and Morgan’s demeaning attitude is not the Chico way.”
Chico Voters did not identify the student, citing concerns over retaliation.
By phone this morning (Nov. 5), Morgan told the CN&R, “If it’s one of my students, I don’t know it. Wow, how cowardly. What kind of person do they think I am? … It makes it look like I’m the kind of person who would do that [retaliate], and I’m not, and my students know it.”
The Chico Voters group listed grounds for recalling Morgan along the lines of the grievances leveled against Coolidge, both members of the conservative majority elected last November in the city’s first district elections. (Morgan represents District 1, in north Chico, and Coolidge represents District 5, around the university.) Recall proponents criticized Morgan for ordinances and the airport resting site at the heart of the Warren v. City of Chico federal lawsuit; the city’s litigation with Chico Scrap Metal; his order, when mayor in 2018, to remove public speaker Mark Herrera, who ultimately secured $50,000 in a settlement with the city; and his “stall[ing] jobs and revenue from a new industry,” which Morgan identified as, by definition, cannabis (though Chico Voters representative Morgan Kennedy said in a telephone interview this afternoon that wasn’t the case—without elaborating further).
Calling the recall petitions “a non-partisan effort,” Kennedy told the CN&R, “This is really a grassroots group of Chico citizens who are frustrated with these council members.”
Morgan, first elected in 2012, responded that the CSM dispute preceded his tenure and that police made a determination to arrest Herrera after a lawful order to remove him. As for the city’s response to homelessness under the current council, Morgan said, “By early next year, when the things that we’re doing to help get the injunction lifted are complete and there’s somewhere for the homeless who want help to go—and then we’re also able to motivate those who don’t want help to move along—things are going to change pretty drastically in the city pretty quickly. …
“On cannabis,” he added, “I’m anti-cannabis, I’ve been very public about it, but I realize there’s a lot of people in the community who want it, so we [on the council] made it available. We didn’t put it on every street corner and we didn’t start handing it out with needles—but those retail establishments can get started.”
Proponents need to collect signatures from 25 percent of the district’s registered voters to trigger a recall, which according to the City Clerk’s office is 2,424 (out of 9,699 total). As with Coolidge’s, in the event a successful petition, the Chico Voters group aims to consolidate with the June primary to minimize the city’s expense. Butte County Registrar of Voters Candace Grubbs told the CN&R earlier this week that she could not estimate the cost until knowing the scope but confirmed that a standalone special election would run higher than combining with an existing one. Kennedy said the group is targeting a 45-day window to gather signatures to meet the timetable to qualify for the primary.
“The common thread that the two [councilmen] share is they have made the most damaging decisions and have the longest left in office,” Kennedy said.
District 7 Councilwoman Deepika Tandon is another conservative with the same term as Coolidge and Morgan—expiring in 2024. When asked if there might there be a third recall drive, Kennedy said, “It is not outside the realm of possibility.”