Bowing out

Reanette Fillmer just made a wise move—to not seek re-election

On Tuesday morning, Chico Vice Mayor Reanette Fillmer announced that she’s not going to run for re-election in November.

Her stated reason: She was promoted at work to a position that will, as she put it in a press release, “require a greater work load and time commitment.” The real reason: She’d get trounced in November and doesn’t want to be labeled a loser. That’s my take, anyway, and I suspect it’s hers as well.

To make my case, we’ll have to go back to the climate leading up to the 2014 election—namely the previous council’s efforts to deal with a massive general fund deficit stemming from the Great Recession.

The panel had begun that effort years earlier by, among other things, hiring hatchet man Brian Nakamura—he did what the previous city manager didn’t have the stomach for: extensive layoffs to keep the city afloat as the economy tanked, local coffers contracted and the state stole redevelopment money.

Virtually every mid-size city in the nation grappled with the fallout from the global economic crisis—Stockton and San Bernardino even filed for bankruptcy—but here in Chico you’d think we were the only ones teetering on insolvency.

During campaign season in 2014, Fillmer raised a ton of cash and hammered on the topics of public safety and purported fiscal mismanagement. To wit: “[S]ome of our elected representatives depleted the city’s financial reserves and passed smoke and mirror budgets designed to cover up the city’s fiscal condition so that excessive spending could continue.” That’s a quote from her candidate’s statement.

Meanwhile, despite having stanched the city’s economic aneurysm, the lefty contingent made the mistake of letting the conservatives control the narrative. It showed at the polls—Fillmer and company swept the three open seats, including that of two-time Mayor Scott Gruendl.

Fillmer was one of the lesser-qualified candidates that year—no city board or commission experience, no volunteering to speak of, and an abysmal voting record. Her claim to fame was that her job as human resources representative would aid the city during employee bargaining processes, but the proof was in the pudding. One of her crowning achievements over the last three years was giving the Chico police officers a big, fat raise during the crisis ($1.5 million over three years). Others include: criminalizing homelessness (via the sit/lie and offenses against waterways laws); being combative with the public and her left-leaning colleagues; cursing from the dais; and voting to continue expensive litigation over Chico Scrap Metal despite a judge’s ruling that the case doesn’t hold merit.

Those are things Fillmer would have to reconcile with voters were she to seek re-election. Then there’s the so-called Democratic wave predicted for the 2018 midterms—here in California, it’s being heralded as a “tsunami.” Will it trickle down to the local races? Seems likely.

Quite honestly, I think bowing out is the smartest move Fillmer’s made in her short political career.

Still, she has a little over 10 months to go, and I’m rooting for her in at least one area: pensions. Rising costs associated with them are only going to lead to further reductions in staffing and fewer services for taxpayers. It would be a major accomplishment to persuade high-cost employees to contribute substantively more to their retirement. I’d love to give her credit for that.