Applicants all around

More than 70 people vie for 20 posts on city panels

Dozens of Chicoans got their first taste of life in public service at a special Chico City Council meeting Tuesday evening (Dec. 14) during which the panel got a look at the applicant pool for city boards and commissions.

Fittingly, many of the candidates sat through the entire 3 1/2-hour interview process. The meeting was not a super long one by City Council standards. Still, it gave the applicants an idea of what they may encounter while sitting on various commissions, especially when dealing with contentious or controversial issues.

Long and stressful meetings are certain to occur at least once during an appointee’s tenure. That’s part of the reason Mayor Ann Schwab noted the qualities she looks for in applicants. Among the biggies is open-mindedness and good listening skills. The groups, she said, provide another forum for public input, so it’s important that their members remain courteous and respectful of others’ views.

“They are really representing the City Council,” she explained.

With that said, each candidate was afforded three minutes to give the panel an idea of what he or she planned to bring to the table. More than 70 residents filed applications for the 20 seats up for grabs on the five panels: Airport Commission, Arts Commission, Bidwell Park and Playground Commission, Planning Commission, and the Architectural Review and Historic Preservation Board. Some applied to multiple groups.

The gallery was filled with several familiar faces, including two residents who ran for City Council last month.

Mark Herrera, who placed fifth in the race for three open seats, is now vying for a spot on the Bidwell Park and Playground Commission. Herrera noted his passion for Bidwell Park, which he says he visits on a near-daily basis. He also touted his experience working with the public. While campaigning for a seat on the council, he listened to the diverse needs of the community, he told the council.

“Ninety-one-hundred and fifty-four people thought I ought to serve on the council, and I hope you think I should serve on the commission,” said the outgoing 25-year-old.

Quentin Colgan, who placed seventh in the council race and ran on a platform stressing job creation, is now seeking appointment to the Planning Commission.

He and Herrera are in pools with several impressive candidates. Among those looking for one of the five empty spots on the seven-member Planning Commission is David Allmon, who holds a bachelor’s degree in geography and planning. Additionally, current Commissioners Jon Luvaas and John Merz are seeking re-appointment.

However, there are no requirements for appointment to this important commission.

That’s not true of Chico’s new Architectural Review and Historic Preservation Board, formerly simply the Architectural Review Board. The ARHPB was established this year to review and make determinations on applications from property owners seeking to carry out major alterations or demolitions of any structures listed in the city’s Historical Resources Inventory—a document approved in 2009 and comprising about 260 sites.

All of the panel’s five members are required to have knowledge of historic preservation or related disciplines. Three of them are to have experience in the visual-arts field, and two must have professional experience in architecture, history, architectural history, planning archeology, or historic preservations.

Pam Figge, a retired city of Chico principal planner with more than 30 years of experience in her field, was among the more notable applicants lobbying for one of the two open seats. Her familiarity with the panel is pretty much as good as it gets, considering she spent a dozen year as professional staff to the board.

The only other panel with requirements is the Arts Commission, which mandates that three of its seven members be involved in the arts. Fourteen people applied for one of the five open seats in the group, despite recent concerns that its members haven’t been given the proper authority to vet publicly funded art treatments to capital projects. Three of the commissioners have resigned from their posts over the past year.

Late into the evening, Councilman Jim Walker called attention to the number of “regular people” who are interested in serving Chico. He noted that 20 years ago, when he served on the BPPC, he had no credentials but a love for the park.

“I’m really proud of the community for stepping up,” he said.

This year, the applicants weren’t subjected to the City Council’s usual (and humiliating for some) hand-raising voting process. Each council member has until Friday morning to submit his or her nominees for each open seat to City Clerk Debbie Presson, who will compile the names for a paper ballot. The finalists will be voted on during the council’s next regular meeting on Dec. 21.