Beyond the rhetoric

Chico Councilman Andy Holcombe, in his Guest Comment, does a good job of debunking one of the charges flying around during this year’s City Council race—that liberals are somehow responsible for the city’s projected future (10 years) $40 million budget deficit.

In a letter to the editor (on page 8) responding to Holcombe’s comment, Councilman Dan Herbert suggests that a recent lawsuit and two charrettes somehow are leading to the supposed deficit. But their costs add up to, at most, less than half a million dollars.

Our experience, watching council meetings, is that no person or group has a monopoly on spending. We distinctly remember, for example, conservative Councilman Larry Wahl’s passionate determination recently to fund five new public-safety positions—at a cost, incidentally, of a half-million dollars annually—even though no money was available in the budget to do so.

Herbert also charges that “additional consultants and ‘charrettes’ … delay projects for years, adding millions to the city’s total costs.” He offers no substantiation, however, because there is none. The city has held only two charrettes, one on downtown parking access and the other on the Northwest Chico Development Area. The latter was part of the process leading to creation of a specific plan, and its costs will be reimbursed by developers. It didn’t hold up the project at all—and in fact probably speeded up development by incorporating neighborhood concerns early in the process.

Chico elections are always littered with misleading hyperbole, and it comes from liberals as well as conservatives. When liberals talk of a “developers’ slate,” they want voters to think builders and their cohorts have certain candidates in their pockets. It’s just not so. Ask Tony Symmes, who contributed $2,000 to Councilman Steve Bertagna’s supervisorial campaign this year, only to watch him recently vote no on Symmes’ Wildwood Estates project, which would have passed with Bertagna’s yea vote but failed.

Obviously, there are differences among the candidates and specifically between the two groups in this election. The conservatives believe creating a thriving economic base is the most important factor in creating a healthy community, and they look first for ways to do that. Liberals tend to focus more on such “quality of life” issues as environmental health, open space, protecting neighborhoods and sustainability.

We think both camps have something to offer Chico. It may sound naïve to say so right now, when they are filled with pre-election hostility and slinging accusations about, that they need to listen to each other and work together, but it’s true. Chico belongs to all of us. Whoever wins on Nov. 7, we hope they keep this in mind.