Vying for majority

Q&A with the eight City Council candidates in head-to-head match-ups for four district seats

Notes on this feature:

Candidates’ answers have been minimally edited, mainly for grammar and punctuation.

Seats for Chico Cty Council Districts 2, 3, 4 and 6 are on the 2022 ballot. For this election, Districts 2, 4 and 6 comprise newly redistricted areas for four-year terms, and 3 is based on the district map that was in place during the 2020 campaign for the two-year balance of the term of former Councilwoman Kami Denlay, who resigned in 2021 and was replaced by City Council appointment. Find your district on the interactive map at tinyurl.com/chicodistrictmap.

This feature is part of the CN&R’s Oct. 6 Election Issue. For more stories on the 2022 general election click here.

Morgan Kennedy (District 2)

1. What are your qualifications for serving?

I have a career history in social services and reproductive health as well as a long tenure in community organizing as a volunteer. I am currently one of the owners of a local family business that involves industrial real estate, so I have a very diverse background. Most importantly, I am a lifelong resident of Chico and Paradise, which makes me have a deep investment in the betterment of our community.

2. What are your top priorities?

My top priorities are infrastructure repair and maintenance, fire preparedness, public safety through proven resources and affordable housing.

3. What’s most crucial to your district?

Public health and safety issues in the form of affordable housing and fire preparedness. Lindo Channel in particular is a huge fire danger to residents in District 2, and we need to put more time and resources into preventing disaster immediately.

4. How would you grade the current council?

D-. Six out of seven current council members have repeatedly shown that they have no interest in hearing community member concerns. They’ve gutted public programs that benefit our community and spent millions in court for ignoring the United States Constitution and blatantly violating civil rights. They continue to act as if they are above the law, and it puts our city in a horrible position.

5. Is Chico in a housing crisis? Where do you see the needs?

We are in a housing crisis. Our current council repeatedly prioritizes “luxury” development that is not affordable for the average Chicoan and creates negative environmental impacts that put us all at risk. We need to be focusing on affordable options for all—no matter your income. We should really be working on infill projects that create a more walkable city. These types of projects safeguard our fragile resources and create safer neighborhoods.

6. How should the city address homelessness? What will you advocate?

Some important actions for combating homelessness are sanctioned campgrounds and affordable housing. I know from working with the homeless that a lot of them are seniors on very fixed, very low incomes. This problem is only going to become more abundant as our local population ages. Our current council was forced to open the Pallet shelter due to the lawsuit they embroiled us in, and the process to get into that shelter is very challenging. You can only stay in the Pallet shelter if you have contact with the city target team, which is an unqualified organization that was founded by my right-wing opponent Kasey Reynolds. We have residents languishing in our parks and streets who want help but can’t get into the Pallet shelter. This is resulting in massive damage to our environment and decreasing Chico’s quality of life. We need accessible places for our homeless residents to go and receive resources immediately.

7. What do you propose to reduce wildfire danger?

Our city recently identified the highest areas of fire danger in our city, most of which are in D6 and D2. In D6, our current council wants to build a massive subdivision of luxury homes called Valley’s Edge right where our current fire break is. That fire break was used to stop the deadly Camp Fire from entering Chico in 2018, and it is absolutely foolish for us to sacrifice that with our current fire climate. We are also in danger in D2 due to Lindo Channel not being maintained or cared for by the city. If a fire were to take off in the channel, hundreds of surrounding homes and apartments could be destroyed. We need to put a bigger priority toward maintenance of our green spaces and not continuing our growth through dangerous sprawl.

8. How will, or can, the city fix our streets?

Our city is bleeding money in terms of lawsuits, bloated pay and pensions for higher ups and unconstitutional punitive punishments for our most vulnerable residents. We need a drastic change in our city budget, one that improves our community in several ways, including road improvement.

9. Do you support either city measure on the ballot?

I oppose both measures. [Measure H] gives unlimited and unallocated funds to a council that has a long history of financial recklessness. The other was deemed “unlawful” by our city attorney and contains such open-ended language that it’s not a matter of if it will involve us in more lawsuits, but how many lawsuits it will cause.

10. What importance do you place on funding arts? Bidwell Park?

I place a high importance on both. Our city is unique and beautiful—it’s what attracts people to our area. We need to be making sure that our gorgeous parks and vibrant arts programs are taken care of, for ourselves as well as future generations.

Kasey Reynolds (District 2)

1. What are your qualifications for serving?

I have served on the Chico City Council for four years, and I am the current Vice Mayor. I have spent my time on the council working with city staff and community partners to meet the needs in our community related to business, housing and homelessness.

2. What are your top priorities?

My top priority is cleaning up our city’s public spaces and greenways and restoring them to mitigate fire risk and address public safety concerns. I will continue restoring and enhancing the community’s quality of life by supporting businesses and fixing the roads that are in dire need of repairs.

3. What’s most crucial to your district?

The top priorities of District 2 are restoring the network of bike paths, addressing roads in need of repairs and supporting economic development at North Valley Plaza and at the Chico Airport.

4. How would you grade the current council?

I would give the current council a good grade as we are delivering on the promise to address the illegal camping in public spaces, enhance public safety and keep a balanced city budget. Even through the adversity of COVID and the delay from a lawsuit, the current council is succeeding.

5. Is Chico in a housing crisis? Where do you see the needs?

Chico is in a housing crisis just as the state is in a housing crisis. We need to build all types of housing to address our community growth needs, especially in the aftermath of the devastating fires that impacted our region.

6. How should the city address homelessness? What will you advocate?

The homeless cannot be allowed camp in public spaces, and the city has adequate shelter beds to address the issue. Getting individuals into shelter beds and connected with services is the only way to address the issues at their root cause.

7. What do you propose to reduce wildfire danger?

Controlled burns and vegetation management are great tools to address fire risk on city property. Maintaining adequate staffing at the fire department is key so they can be proactive in our community reducing risk as opposed to just responding to service calls.

8. How will, or can, the city fix our streets?

The city will continue to make road repairs a top priority through the city budget and aggressively pursuing state and federal grants to match funds or finance projects. A great example is the $20 million state funding the city acquired to widen Bruce Road to four lanes.

9. Do you support either city measure on the ballot?

I support both measures on the ballot. Accountability to the public for maintaining public spaces is key to ensuring good government. I have pledged to use Measure H funds to repair roads and hire public safety professionals if the measure passes.

10. What importance do you place on funding arts? Bidwell Park?

I believe that there are plenty of state and federal dollars directed at recreation and arts that fit perfectly in supporting Bidwell Park and public art projects. Our city should pursue these funds and disburse them to support these area that help make Chico the jewel of Northern California.

Dale Bennett (District 3)

1. What are your qualifications for serving?

Knowledge, experience, common sense and wisdom: I have been an asset manager for over 45 years, which includes direct responsibility for finances and budgeting, operations and personnel. Civic experience includes current council member, planning commissioner, Architectural Review & Historic Preservation Board chair, Chamber board, DCBA board, Chico History Museum board and Chico Noon Rotary.

2. What are your top priorities?

Homelessness and harnessing inappropriate behavior by certain individuals: The top priority is to continue managing the homeless issues in a compassionate, collaborative and responsible manner along with fellow council members and city staff. The managing activities also includes holding the unhoused accountable. Additional priorities are conservative fiscal management, supporting city staff and responding to local city issues.

3. What’s most crucial to your district?

Homelessness: Most folks in the district are tired of the homeless situation and are asking for relief and resolution. Next are repairs to the roadways in the older areas of District 3.

4. How would you grade the current council?

A+: The current council is one of the best in the last 20 years. It should be mentioned that with the hiring of the new city manager, the council and the city secured a great and talented mind, leader and person at the helm of the city administration.

5. Is Chico in a housing crisis? Where do you see the needs?

Housing challenged: The need is for available land at an affordable price and supporting the home-building community. Building homes is a privilege and a choice by home builders, and without them, who else will step forward to provide the additional inventory of all housing types, including affordable housing, which Chico desperately needs?

6. How should the city address homelessness? What will you advocate?

In progress: The City Council, staff, advocates and service providers are currently addressing homelessness as best we can. As a council member, I advocate for the continuation of our efforts with perseverance and commitment.

7. What do you propose to reduce wildfire danger?

Fire-safe construction practices: The voluntary use of fire-safe building materials and adding landscaping buffer zones are important practices in reducing fire risk. The aggressive creation of fire breaks, including removal unwanted plant material in close proximity to residential areas, must be a priority.

8. How will, or can, the city fix our streets?

Measure H: The 1 percent sales tax measure will provide approximately $24 million per year. This influx of additional funds would be instrumental in the initiation of corrective pavement maintenance and repair actions. The city currently spends approximately $3 million per year on pavement work, needs $9 million per year to maintain current conditions and needs $16 [million] to $24 million for a rehabilitation effort. H is the only way we can move forward.

9. Do you support either city measure on the ballot?

Yes and yes.

10. What importance do you place on funding arts? Bidwell Park?

Economic reality: Funding of the arts is not a current practical economic funding priority. The arts are important, of course, and especially to me as a former art major at Chico State. Bidwell Park is an entirely different issue. I fully support additional funding for the maintenance and upkeep of Bidwell Park. Measure H could be a source of funding to assist in keeping the park beautiful and safe.

Monica McDaniel (District 3)

1. What are your qualifications for serving?

I am a citizen who has been involved in city governance for the last 13 years, serving as a public appointed official. During that time, I have become astute with city budgets and funding, brokered effective bipartisan initiatives, developed successful city policies and plans, and have learned how to be a good member of a governing board

2. What are your top priorities?

Public safety, infrastructure and economic development. Citizens of Chico deserve to live in a community where they feel included in their own safety and well-being. Strategic community planning and policy to afford those programs are necessary.

3. What’s most crucial to your district?

Considerations of the Rio Lindo Channel. This area of Chico has long been overlooked and ignored. People have been living along there since before the Camp Fire. Extreme overgrowth, an influx of trash and outdated levees make this area of Chico vulnerable to fire, flood and crime.

4. How would you grade the current council?

I would give them a C. City Council is supposed to be a nonpartisan group that represents the citizens and follows the law. Current council has made several mistakes by making unilateral decisions that have cost city taxpayers tons of money and have involved the city in a string of lawsuits.

5. Is Chico in a housing crisis? Where do you see the needs?

Everyone in the community benefits from home ownership, and ownership creates positive personal economics. Many citizens in Chico cannot consider this option. There is a need for advocacy of smart growth in Chico: development of underutilized areas in town to create mixed-use housing and policy change to free up these spaces for more housing development.

6. How should the city address homelessness? What will you advocate?

Advocacy for multi-agency collaboration with the county and already-existing agencies, such as CHAT, is essential to support the ongoing challenge of homelessness in Chico. People who have sought refuge in areas near waterways and in areas of high fire danger can not be allowed to threaten public resources. To this end, city-sanctioned camp sites that offer basic hygiene, mental-health and substance-abuse services are still needed.

7. What do you propose to reduce wildfire danger?

Removal of excessive overgrowth on a massive scale, while also restoring native plant habitats, would reduce risk of wildfire significantly. Another fire station in the north part of town is also needed.

8. How will, or can, the city fix our streets?

It takes revenue to support city infrastructure. A bond measure would help significantly with this. So would raising the city’s sales tax. Roads cost $9 million on a year to maintain current quality. Chico only has $3 million to spend. This needs to change if we want our roads to improve.

9. Do you support either city measure on the ballot?

I support Measure H. Chico’s current 7.25 percent retail sales tax generates less than half of what it costs to cover city expenses, and only 1 percent of that tax money stays in Chico.

10. What importance do you place on funding arts? Bidwell Park?

Bidwell Park is the third largest city park in California and probably one of the largest in the country. The arts build economic prosperity. In 2015, Americans for the Arts did a study in Chico that showed that just a little funding for arts brought $17 million in revenue. Funding these two valuable resources gives so much back to the community.

Nichole Nava (District 4)

1. What are your qualifications for serving?

I have a 24-year career in social services, six years in property management, self-employment, a business management degree and five years of community advocacy. I lobbied the Capitol with others to successfully secure millions in post-Camp Fire funding and proposed legislation to mandate and fund addiction and mental health facilities.

2. What are your top priorities?

Infrastructure: fixing roads/sidewalks and maintaining trees. Public safety: maintaining parks, waterways and bike paths for use by all; strengthening traffic safety, and collaborating in treatment partnerships. Affordable housing: bolstering First Time Homebuyer Program, sustainable infill and cooperation with housing providers like CHAT and CHIP. Increase revenue: boost Chico scene (i.e., arts, culture, music, sports) to increase tourism and explore pension solutions.

3. What’s most crucial to your district?

During canvassing, D4 residents shared that fixing our roads/cracked sidewalks; trimming and, if dead, removing trees; lighting up neighborhoods, and improving drainage issues as key for them. Many residents who live near bike paths, alleys and channels consistently brought up feeling unsafe using those areas and worried about environmental damage.

4. How would you grade the current council?

Average. Their platform of a clean and safe Chico was hamstrung. Council started strong but didn’t revise ordinances via minor tweaks to avoid lawsuits, hence lower grades in fulfilling promises, fiscal responsibility, quality assurance and public transparency. However, absent interference, their grade/public satisfaction would have been higher.

5. Is Chico in a housing crisis? Where do you see the needs?

Hundreds of affordable units will soon be available. However, Chico has an inadequately resourced mental-health and substance-abuse crisis; Butte [County]’s overdoses are 2.5 times higher than the state average. We absorbed 18,000 people overnight in 2018; capacity planning didn’t factor that growth for another 15 years. We need additional affordable housing given multiple disasters and inflation; mental health/addiction treatment, and supportive housing.

6. How should the city address homelessness? What will you advocate?

Respond at every point of contact to bring people into assessment, safety and shelter. The county could incentivize staff to work non-traditional hours to better serve the unhoused and hold “no pressure” open houses at shelters to meet staff, guests and encourage accepting shelter services. A 100-bed [Jesus Center] Renewal Center opens summer 2023, which is progress!

7. What do you propose to reduce wildfire danger?

Community education; vegetation fuel reduction; appropriate clearance around structures; consultation with tribal experts; monitoring thermal anomalies and water stress; enforcing fire-safety ordinances; adhering to restrictions during exceedingly hot and/or windy days; ensuring the city is maintaining public spaces and that CalFire is clearing agreed-upon areas abutting the city.

8. How will, or can, the city fix our streets?

If Measure H passes, $24 million per year would be generated. Our PCI [pavement conditions index] is 46, “poor,” and it costs $500 million for total replacement of our roads. We [must] allocate $24 million per year over 10 years to reach a PCI of 80, “very good,” and/or generate new revenue, or reduce pension liability payments, likely not advisable, and eliminate waste/redundancies.

9. Do you support either city measure on the ballot?

I haven’t decided yet, but am glad voters will decide. I spend hours researching issues, reviewing the LAO’s [state Legislative Analyst’s Office] pros and cons, backers, funding sources, weigh the ROI [return on investment] and how it impacts my household and community. I do wish Measure H had a sunset clause and was directly allocated to roads and public safety.

10. What importance do you place on funding arts? Bidwell Park?

My husband is an arts commissioner, and we support more art exposure for all of Chico! Experiencing art is vital in embracing diversity, cultures, freedom of expression and is a healthy outlet and coping mechanism. The arts also draw tourism to support local! Bidwell Park is our treasure, is in sore need of maintenance and provides similar benefits.

Addison Winslow (District 4)

1. What are your qualifications for serving?

In my hometown, I’ve been involved in policy since 2019. I have a background in

nonprofit housing and shelter, environmental planning and land use, including work for CHAT, Safe Space and Butte Environmental Council. As a volunteer, I’ve coordinated projects in tenant advocacy, mutual aid and homeless outreach.

2. What are your top priorities?

More housing, less sprawl and better neighborhoods: Promote more diverse housing at

lower cost to residents and the city. Resist automobile-dependent sprawl threatening our natural surroundings for the sake of luxury housing. More efficient, walkable community design to bring us toward financial sustainability—the bottom line for better neighborhoods.

3. What’s most crucial to your district?

Like all the central city areas, neighborhoods in District 4 are more compact and tax-rich

but underinvested in, with much of the worst infrastructure in the city. Street design prioritizes through-traffic over the safety and comfort of people walking or biking. Supporting a sustainable future means reinvesting in the core of our city and fulfilling the promises made in our neighborhood [plans] and general plans.

4. How would you grade the current council?

Neither intelligent nor humane. The airport “shelter” was just the most public blunder. The council also put $50,000 into a “Homeless Strategic Plan.” It was never published because its conclusion, “there is no shortage of housing, shelter and services to assist individuals and households in Chico,” is patently absurd.

5. Is Chico in a housing crisis? Where do you see the needs?

The housing crisis is undermining the economic and social foundation of our city. We need more housing of all sorts, but primarily for poor and working-class people. We should not, however, allow for more income-segregated subdivisions. Neighborhoods should be diverse, with people of all classes sharing economic centers and public spaces.

6. How should the city address homelessness? What will you advocate?

The city needs to take responsibility for where people go. Ultimately, the solution to homelessness is housing. It should never have taken years and a lawsuit to get a managed campground. We still have unregulated camping, so we still have work to do. Fortunately, we have community organizations offering to take lead.

7. What do you propose to reduce wildfire danger?

1) No to sprawl projects in the fire hazard severity zone. 2) Well-funded maintenance of parks and open space. That means more goats and ecological restoration.

8. How will, or can, the city fix our streets?

Seventy years of developments that don’t pay for themselves have left us with a city that is fiscally insolvent. To restore and improve all of Chico’s public infrastructure, we need more tax-rich development, especially in and around downtown, and incremental growth toward all neighborhoods being more efficient and sustainable.

9. Do you support either city measure on the ballot?

Just the sales tax measure. We need funds to improve the city, not bureaucratic innovations. Especially as lame performance art.

10. What importance do you place on funding arts? Bidwell Park?

Great places are expressions of the community inhabiting them. All neighborhoods should have support for art and place-making. All our greenways should be made inviting. It should be more comfortable to hang out downtown. It pays to invest generously in good places. We deserve bread, but roses, too,

Jesica Giannola (District 6)

1. What are your qualifications for serving?

I earned my degree in public health education, minor in community health and wellness. I regularly attend City Council meetings. I have worked in collaboration with many of our housing partners and outreach providers, and volunteered with many outreach services that connect with the community members of our wonderful city.

2. What are your top priorities?

Ensuring that our city has affordable housing units to house the people of Chico. I am committed to working with our fire department to ensure that they are well prepared to defend Chico from fire. Making more informed decisions for the city while remaining fiscally responsible.

3. What’s most crucial to your district?

Fire risk is one of the most crucial issues in District 6. It lines the eastern edge of Chico, where we would typically see backfire burns set in defense of an approaching wildfire. If development grows too close to the foothills, then we lose our firebreak and risk fire going straight into Chico neighborhoods.

4. How would you grade the current council?

Failing. The majority [members] are neglectful of citizen needs and disconnected from their reality. There is bipartisan demand for better actions. The council majority [members] continue to vote opposite of public asks. They continue wasteful spending, form illegal ordinances that violate constitutional rights of citizens and prove their inability to govern effectively and responsibly.

5. Is Chico in a housing crisis? Where do you see the needs?

We need low-income, income-based and smaller units that can help house single adults, couples, people with children and people with disabilities safely. Development should be considered near major transportation routes and close to schools and parks so that people without reliable transportation can still access employment, nutrition, public transportation and their children’s schools.

6. How should the city address homelessness? What will you advocate?

Homelessness is complicated and challenging to overcome. Case management may be needed to assist with obtaining housing vouchers, deposit and first month’s rent, improving credit scores, budgeting, employment, etc. [The] city should be prepared to offer resolutions in some form that will meet the housing needs of the people who live here.

7. What do you propose to reduce wildfire danger?

Having a fully staffed and equipped fire department will be essential. Resources that provide

defensible space around homes should be considered. I also oppose fire-risky development, like Valley’s Edge, and support development that offers less fire risk to our city and will serve the housing needs of the city.

8. How will, or can, the city fix our streets?

I can’t imagine going much longer with the state that our streets are in. They need repair immediately. The city needs to make our streets a priority, before serious accidents occur and citizens end up with damaged cars or seriously hurt. They can be fixed.

9. Do you support either city measure on the ballot?

No on Measure J. It will lead to more lawsuits. Chico’s current policy should effectively satisfy the needs of our community. The tax increase will be necessary to address Chico’s neglected needs—like our roads, for example. Current council is irresponsible with our money, but with responsible leadership, the dollars would go to good use.

10. What importance do you place on funding arts? Bidwell Park?

Arts are beautiful and should be shared with the people of the city for enjoyment and education. The parks are a gem and gorgeous natural resource. They need proper maintenance of pathways and restrooms, clearing of trip hazards and limbs, and adequate staffing and funding to keep them beautiful.

Tom van Overbeek (District 6)

1. What are your qualifications for serving?

Chico is a special place, and I am determined to help restore the gentle and kind quality of small-town life, which has degraded here in recent years. With 30 years’ experience as an executive in the technology industry and a deep background in team building, managing large budgets and difficult negotiations, I have the skills necessary to help solve our problems, and I know how to get things done. As a local business and property owner, I have been deeply involved with community and downtown. My work enabled me to travel extensively, and I have seen what works in other cities.

2. What are your top priorities?

Improving the quality of civic life in Chico is why I am running for council. To make that happen, we need to do the following: [Firstly,] reclaim our public spaces for the public. That means that homeless people must use the shelters, which have empty beds. Camping in public spaces cannot be tolerated. Secondly, we need more firefighters and police officers. Chico has only two thirds the number of firefighters we had 15 years ago, and our population has increased by 20,000 people.

3. What’s most crucial to your district?

After reclaiming our public spaces for the pubic and staffing public safety functions, the most critical issue for District 6 is fire. District 6 is on the eastern edge of Chico and is the interface with the undeveloped grasslands to the east, which is where the fires that threaten Chico come from.

4. How would you grade the current council?

The current council has made huge progress on two major issues. First, no previous council has seen a greater increase in the number of affordable housing units. On its watch, 937 units in 10 projects are currently under construction. Second, we finally have a solution to the homeless problem that works for the city as well as the homeless. This council has built the Pallet shelter, which is the largest in California. Other councils have talked about it, this one got it done.

5. Is Chico in a housing crisis? Where do you see the needs?

All of California, including Chico, has a housing crisis. A shortage of housing supply has been caused by a burdensome entitlement process, overly restrictive zoning and environmental regulations. These need to been streamlined so that well-planned housing projects can be built. We need more of all types of housing but especially affordable (subsidized housing) as well as middle-market housing. Our priority must be putting a roof over people’s heads.

6. How should the city address homelessness? What will you advocate?

Chico has a solution to the homeless problem, which is currently being implemented. With the building of the Pallet shelter, the homeless have a place to go, and they must go there. It has become obvious that camping in public spaces is a disaster for the city and a disaster for the homeless. The unhoused homeless die at five times the rate of the general population.

7. What do you propose to reduce wildfire danger?

There are three major elements to reducing wildfire danger. First, fuel management, especially the amount of dry grass in Bidwell Park and along the eastern edge of Chico. Second, we need an adequately staffed fire department. All large fires start as small fires. It is essential that our fire department be able to respond rapidly when a fire starts. Third, we need to reduce ignition sources as much as possible. The city has removed campers from areas with dry grass like Lindo Channel and Old Humboldt Road. We must stay vigilant and not allow campers to return.

8. How will, or can, the city fix our streets?

Fixing our streets is a matter of available resources—money. Chico is currently spending $3 million on roads but needs to spend $9 million just to keep our roads in their current state of repair. If the sales tax measure is passed, I would advocate increasing the budget for repairing and maintaining our roads to $9 million.

9. Do you support either city measure on the ballot?

Measure H, the 1 percent sales tax increase, is essential for us to regain Chico’s quality of life. Road maintenance and repair is a major need; the city needs more police and fire personnel, and also needs to assume the operating cost of the Pallet shelter.

10. What importance do you place on funding arts? Bidwell Park?

Bidwell Park is a jewel and one of the defining elements of what makes Chico, Chico. The park is in desperate need of repair, tree maintenance and the need to reduce flammable grasses. Art, particularly public art, helps to create a sense of place for revitalizing downtown, and I’m a supporter of that. But given Chico’s current list of needs, the city does not have the resources to publicly fund art. That’s best left to the private sector at this time.

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