First came the presentation of colors. The Chico Police and Fire Rescue Honor Guard flag procession ahead of the pledge of allegiance was just one of the ceremonies to mark a, well, mostly ceremonial City Council meeting on Tuesday night (Dec. 6).
Following the flags was the recognition of outgoing council members Alex Brown and Mike O’Brien, as well as the swearing in of the four candidates who were recently elected to the City Council: incumbents Kasey Reynolds (District 2) and Dale Bennett (District 3), and first-timers Addison Winslow (District 4) and Tom Van Overbeek (District 6).
After all that, there was a vote among council to elect a mayor and vice mayor from the panel, and not much else.
The outgoing members were sent off by colleagues, with Councilman Sean Morgan and Mayor Andrew Coolidge, respectively, presenting plaques and sharing complimentary words for Brown and O’Brien. While Morgan acknowledged their almost universal opposition on most matters, he expressed great respect for Brown as “a fierce supporter of things she believes in.” In her speech, Brown spoke to the perspective she gained over the past four years.
“The best thing about sitting in that seat and in that role is the vantage point you get for your community,” she said. “There is so much good being done in the City of Chico, from the city staff who keep the engine running, which is no easy feat especially through some major crises; to the service providers and organizations that are serving the least among us, prioritizing well-being and inclusivity … doing so with very small budgets; to the business owners who are leading innovation and sustaining our community; all the way down to individuals who are fighting the good fight.”
O’Brien, the former police chief, took the opportunity to reflect on his overall career of public service in Chico, thanking the people who he’d worked alongside along the way—from city staff to members of the faith community.
“This is the culmination of 30 years of a love affair with this city,” he said.
Chico City Clerk Debbie Presson presided over the swearing-ins as well as the election of mayor and vice mayor. For mayor, Councilwoman Deepika Tandon nominated Vice Mayor Reynolds while Councilman Morgan nominated current Mayor Coolidge for another two-year term.
Tandon and Winslow as well as Reynolds voted in her favor, one shy of the majority needed. With the previous nominee out of the running, the council voted 6-1 (with Reynolds dissenting) to keep Coolidge as mayor.
For Vice Mayor, Councilman Bennett nominated Reynolds and Morgan nominated newcomer Van Overbeek. Overbeek went out in a 3-4 decision, and the Vice Mayor would go on to retain her position as well in a unanimous vote.
After a break for re-organization, the new council—which continues as a 6-1 conservative majority, Winslow replacing Brown as the only member on the left—took the dais and quickly voted in favor of two staff requests. First, was the re-approval of signing and referral bonuses for lateral hires of Chico Police officers; second, was referral/signing bonuses and increased uniform allowances for Chico Public Safety Association employees and the freezing of two open positions to provide for a 15 percent salary increase for Dispatch-Communications Supervisor positions. Both items were approved 6-1 with Winslow dissenting.
After the meeting, when asked how it felt to sit on the panel, Winslow said, “The seats are comfier than I expected.”
The new councilman explained that it was more than a matter of ergonomics. As a regular speaker at council meetings over the years, the setting is a familiar one and he said he appreciates that in his new role he won’t be limited by the time constraints of a public speaker. “I have a little more leeway to express myself,” Winslow added.
Both of the newbies took advantage of the council member request time at the end of the night, with one gaining more traction with his new colleagues than the other. Overbeek’s two items presented for future discussion—the establishment of pedestrian zones and increasing diagonal parking in downtown Chico—were moved forward with 6-1 votes (Bennett dissenting on both).
Winslow presented six of his campaign promises—from community input on major streetscape projects to renter protections—for potential discussion and most died without a second motion. His pitch for agendizing discussion of “improving safety and comfort on bike paths through crime prevention [via] environmental design strategies” did get a second from Reynolds, but only receiving three votes (from Reynolds, Tandon and Winslow) failed to move forward.
When asked about lobbying for so many items that he will now be restricted from proposing again for one year, Winslow said he wanted to “make these points public, make people aware of it,” and that as discussions continue, other council members are free to propose them for future agendas—especially the bike-path issue in light of his colleagues’ campaigns for public safety.
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