Can’t walk it back

The City Council members’ vote to give the cops raises hurts services

Chico City Manager Mark Orme—essentially the CEO of a municipality with a $110 million budget—has been working without an executive assistant. That revelation from the city’s recent budget session underscores just how screwy City Hall is in the wake of the sweeping layoffs that took place in 2013 amid a crisis triggered by the Great Recession.

Orme asked for that position to be included in the city’s recent draft budget, which was approved along party lines (conservatives voting yea) on Tuesday (see Howard Hardee’s coverage on page 8). Other additional positions funded through the draft budget include a civil engineer, maintenance worker, an administrative analyst in community development and a code enforcement officer, but by far the Chico Police Department is getting the bulk of the new employees—two sergeants, four officers, a community services officer and a records technician.

Of course, the city could hire even more officers had the City Council not caved to the Chico Police Officers’ Association during recent contract negotiations. The newest agreement with the union will cost taxpayers an additional $1.5 million over the life of the three-year contract.

Councilman Randall Stone said as much during Tuesday’s meeting, though he’s been shouting into the wind on that issue as of late. All of the so-called “fiscal conservatives”—Mayor Mark Sorensen, Vice Mayor Sean Morgan and Councilmembers Reanette Fillmer and Andrew Coolidge—and progressive Councilwoman Ann Schwab voted for the cops’ pay increases.

The truly conservative thing to do would have been to give the CPOA a modest cost-of-living adjustment to see the city through to fiscal stability. Had that happened, there would be no haggling over hiring Orme an assistant, other departments could be shored up and, again, the police department could put more officers on the streets.

Coolidge said it’s not helpful to point fingers as the city works to regain solvency. That’s comical considering that’s exactly what he and the other recently elected council members did during the elections. Those who voted for raises for cops cannot back away from that decision. The consequences are patently clear already.