Barely mayor

Randall Stone hangs onto his leadership position by the skin of his teeth

Randall Stone is still the mayor of Chico. But those paying attention know he hung onto that role by the skin of his teeth.

That became clear during the City Council’s regular meeting Tuesday evening (Sept. 17) as the panel considered Councilman Sean Morgan’s request to reconsider his appointment to that position. That is, Morgan, the previous mayor of Chico, was hoping the panel would dethrone Stone (see Ashiah Scharaga’s report on page 9).

First, though, he needed to persuade the liberal-majority council to put his request on a future agenda. Alas, it wasn’t meant to be.

Stone largely has Councilman Karl Ory to thank for that. Himself a former mayor, Ory trumped Morgan’s request with a strategic submotion to reject the proposal. He also changed the focus of the conversation from Stone’s purported failures of leadership to the divisiveness of Morgan’s request and what a waste of time it was considering the issues facing the city.

Prior to that, the narrative centered on grievances from the dais—on both sides of the ideological divide. Though the embattled Stone wasn’t technically on the chopping block that night, it certainly seemed like it. In making his motion to agendize a mayoral reconsideration, Morgan read a long statement that, among other things, alleged Stone had attacked local police officers and business owners on social media.

He offered no proof, but it wouldn’t surprise me. Stone has a penchant for poking the bear from behind a keyboard.

Interestingly, in his comments, Morgan acknowledged that he hadn’t set a good example during his tenure as mayor. He also said the public should move beyond “incivility … recalls and other shenanigans. We need to set policy, respect those who carry it out—even when we disagree with them—and set an example for others.”

Amen to those things.

What I also found surprising were the comments by Councilwoman Ann Schwab and Councilman Scott Huber. Schwab seized the moment to gently—and indirectly—chide Stone. She explained how an unnamed person had informed her that she’d been accused of conspiring with a conservative activist and siding with the group attempting to recall Stone and Ory. “Power, sanctions, bullying and retaliations have no place at this dais or a backroom,” she said.

Schwab should know—she was appointed to two consecutive terms as mayor, the second one in 2010 by unanimous vote of a panel that included conservatives Larry Wahl and Mark Sorensen.

Councilman Scott Huber gave a more pointed assessment, including that numerous council members felt “disparaged, bullied and ignored” by the mayor. He offered up the best advice of the night: Learn from mistakes, be open to critique, avoid defensiveness, apologize when wrong, and practice humility.

Stone’s response to the criticism was, well, strange. It included giving a rambling speech that mentioned the recent mass shooting in Gilroy, race (his maternal grandparents are from Mexico), and the collective trauma of the community following the Camp Fire. He acknowledged he has “the warmth of a dead fish,” but he didn’t offer an apology. He couched his comments about changing as an effort the entire body needed to take up.

Will he change? Maybe so. Given what happened at the meeting, he definitely has an incentive.