Appoint Stauffer to council

Less than a week after Coleen Jarvis died—and before her memorial service is held—may seem too early to start talking about filling the empty Chico City Council seat created by her death. But this is Chico, where nearly everything turns on politics.

And in this case Jarvis’ family has expressed a desire for the council to fill the seat, a notion suggested in the same press release that announced her death. Jarvis’ new husband and longtime partner, Michael Stauffer, has said he will seek the appointment to complete her term, which ends in November. Stauffer, we’ve learned, has no political agenda or ambition and so would be a good choice to make the council whole for the next five months.

We think he would greatly increase his chances of getting the needed fourth vote, which would have to come from the conservative side of the council, if he were to announce that he will not seek election in November. That is how the seat was filled the last time there was a vacancy, when the progressive side of the council agreed to appoint Sheryl Lange to replace Bill Johnston, who died in office about a year before his term expired.

Johnston came to the council after a bitter stand-off between the progressives and conservatives following Councilmember Ted Hubert’s death three weeks after he was re-elected. Unable to settle on a compromise replacement, the council was forced to call for a special election, won by Johnston seven months later at a cost of $60,000.

The city charter says the council should fill a vacancy until a long-term successor can be chosen at the next general election. If the council fails to appoint within 30 days after the seat is declared vacant, the charter says “it shall cause and to be held forthwith to fill such vacancy” a special election. But with voters already set to go to the polls in November, it’s not worth the cost.

The council should declare the seat vacant at its June 14 meeting and then appoint Stauffer at the following meeting. Do it for Coleen.