I support the recall of Mayor Andrew Coolidge and Councilman Sean Morgan. Here’s why:
On April 23, 2021, Federal Judge Morrison C. England, Jr. in a court hearing said, “You can’t justify the ordinances that are violating the United States Constitution.” The conservative judge added: “These ordinances on their face, they’re invalid. You can’t do what you’re doing. You’re criminalizing people, which is a direct violation of Martin v. Boise because they don’t have a place to live.”
Violating the Constitution. Criminalizing people because they don’t have a place to live. This is what the leadership of the current Chico City Council has done.
On Jan. 14, the city and the homeless plaintiffs reached a settlement in the Warren v. City of Chico lawsuit, and the city is now being held accountable for its past misdeeds. Good. But we all know there was no reason for it to get this far. Hundreds of us had advocated for exactly the solution that the settlement calls for—a shelter at the old BMX track site—five years ago.
Coolidge and Morgan are responsible for this avoidable outcome because they have done nothing to address actual core problems: a lack of affordable housing, the ordinances that criminalize poverty.
This is not about politics. A recall is a democratic tool of last resort. Recalls should not be used to remove someone from office because you disagree with them. Mind you, there is much to disagree with about the way Coolidge and Morgan have led this city, from fiscal irresponsibility ($35,000 a month to let a handful of people “rest” on unshaded pavement at the since-abandoned airport resting site?), to threatening to eliminate Chico’s green line, to stalling for years on commercial cannabis, to disregard of the basic tenets of fair governance as seen in multiple likely Brown Act violations.
But these disagreements, regardless of how egregiously Coolidge and Morgan have failed the city of Chico, are not enough to recall and remove them. Voting for and then implementing “ordinances that are violating the United States Constitution”—that is the reason to recall and remove these two failed leaders. They swore an oath. They have broken that oath. They must go now before they do more damage to the city we love.
Richard Ober is a community organizer and former Chico City Council candidate who has served on multiple local nonprofit boards and city commissions.