Editor’s note: Reflecting ahead

Council majority shows blind spot for long-term implications

CN&R Contributing Editor Evan Tuchinsky fills in for Editor Jason Cassidy, who is on vacation.

“It’s like deja vu all over again.” This gem from Yogi Berra keeps popping to mind lately, and not just because of regressive decisions issued by the Supreme Court. I spent the bulk of June pinch-hitting as CN&R editor, a role I last filled 13 years ago, as Jason Cassidy took a well-earned vacation—while continuing to do my main job, reporting on the Chico City Council.

I’ve described covering the council as the best beat there is, because at any given meeting, anything can happen. Particularly with the current group at the dais. From my tenure as editor through three stints as contributing editor, plus time in other cities, I’ve observed various councils operate. None quite like this.

The conservative majority—first 5-2, now 6-1, following last year’s pair of appointments—has a pattern of acting to prioritize immediate effects with seemingly little regard for long-term consequences.

Most conspicuous is the council’s homeless “enforcement” push, forcibly removing campers from public spaces, that precipitated the Warren v. City of Chico lawsuit and ensuing settlement, whose ramifications the conservatives and their supporters lament. CN&R editorials referred to the sweeps as a “game of whack-a-mole”; I’ve called the activity “a game of pitch and catch without a catcher.” Either metaphor applies, because the plan, as it were, failed to consider where all those displaced campers would go. The tarmac “resting site”? Umm…

Other such instances:

· Conservatives jumped on a public speaker’s remark and voted to downgrade the Climate Action Commission to an ad hoc committee—only to reconsider the decision at the next meeting, in the wake of public outcry.

· That same meeting, last October, they reinstated the shelter crisis declaration they let lapse four months earlier because the city needed the designation, and the benefits it accords, after all.

· After the council parted ways with City Manager Mark Orme in March, the majority appointed Police Chief Matt Madden interim city manager—without consulting Madden. Within days, the city was looking for a new interim city manager. Ironically, Madden just announced he’s retiring.

· The conservatives, including members who deride taxes, declined to pump the brakes last month on a 1 percent sales tax measure for November, despite signs of a recession and disaffected Chicoans. Compounding the timing, they also upped the city budget by a third, to $211 million.

There are more, but you can see the throughline.

Yogi Berra also said, “The future ain’t what it used to be.” We can take that as a call to action come November—vote carefully. But it’s also a call-out to the council members shaping Chico presently. Every move causes ripple effects down the road.

Credit where it’s due, at the June 21 meeting, the conservatives paused a “Quality of Life Initiative” to give the city attorney a look before their next meeting, July 5 (after the CN&R published). That one of their own, Vice Mayor Kasey Reynolds, brought forward such a broad proposal, unvetted, with a compressed timeframe … well, the pattern may not be wholly past. To quote Yogi again, “It ain’t over till it’s over.”

Evan Tuchinsky is Contributing Editor of the Chico News & Review.

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