Chico say no on Measure A

Special-election results and a glimpse of the aftermath

The smiles disappeared Tuesday night for Stephanie Taber, the woman behind Measure A.

The smiles disappeared Tuesday night for Stephanie Taber, the woman behind Measure A.

file photo by tom gascoyne

The initial online posting Tuesday night by the Butte County Elections Office told the story: Measure A was getting rejected by nearly 70 percent of the voters, and that was just the mail-in ballots. When the final “semi-official” count was posted a few hours later, 68 percent of the voters had said “no” to the effort to move City Council elections from November to June.

While the votes were getting tallied, that same City Council was holding its regular meeting, listening and debating matters like sewer rates and medical-marijuana regulations. But Measure A hung in the air, and was mentioned more than once by members of the public lobbying against sewer-rate increases or for allowing marijuana dispensaries.

At the end of the meeting, when Mayor Ann Schwab called for “comments from the floor,” Stephanie Taber, Measure A’s chief proponent, chastised the council, calling its actions against Measure A “despicable” while holding aloft a poster featuring a photo of a saluting member of the Ku Klux Klan standing in front of a burning cross. Taber had earlier told a KRCR-TV news reporter that she had discovered the offensive poster on her mailbox a day or so earlier.

Five of the seven councilmembers, those generally perceived as liberal (and the motive for the measure in the first place), had come out publicly against Measure A.

The meeting was adjourned and Taber headed toward the door. In the council chamber lobby she was asked if she had any reaction to the early vote count that showed Measure A going down big time.

“No,” she said. “I’m sorry I have no idea what that means exactly. I think what the council has done is exactly what the [Enterprise Record] said: despicable. They [the council majority] are funding [the anti-A] campaign.”

(It’s not clear what Enterprise-Record story or editorial she was referring to; the paper came out against Measure A, whose opposition campaign was actually funded for the most part by local activist Kelly Meagher, along with donations from the Service Employees International Union and the California Nurses Association. The pro-A campaign was funded largely by local businessman Thomas Dauterman.)

At that moment in the lobby, Councilwoman Mary Flynn approached Taber and asked to see the poster. An argument ensued, Taber grabbed back the poster, twisting and finally ripping it from the councilwoman’s grip. Flynn took a step back and told Taber to calm down. Taber did not. Instead she said, “I ought to whack you,” pushed her way through the lobby’s glass door and headed into the night, poster in hand, as Flynn accused her of threatening a public official. When she was gone, Flynn looked around a bit flummoxed and asked the eight or so people still present, “Did you see that?”

Measure A has colored the political discourse in this town since the signature-gathering effort to qualify it was launched last year. And it was a bitter campaign with each side pointing at the other with accusations of false claims, ulterior motives and elitist attitudes.

We want to remove the council election from the clutter and shadow of the general election so voters can make informed decisions, said the pro-A folks. You want to hold elections when there are fewer voters around, including the thousands of students who are out of town in June, the anti-A folks shot back.

Anti-Measure A spokeswoman Jessica Allen said she wasn’t surprised by the final vote count and credited the many volunteers who helped in the campaign. And former Butte County Supervisor Jane Dolan issued a statement within minutes of the posting of the final results. “The defeat of Measure A reaffirms the decision by the people of Chico in 1984 to hold our council elections in November. Now let’s move forward on the real critical issues.”

The semi-official numbers show that 14,635 votes (34 percent of the city’s voters) were cast, with 9,939 voting no and 4,681 voting yes (a few were left blank).

Candace Grubbs, the county’s clerk/recorder, says there are about 1,400 ballots left to be counted, including absentee ballots dropped off the day of the election and so-called provisional ballots, those where there is some question as to whether the voter was actually registered in the precinct where the vote was cast.

Either way, Measure A is dead—the voters, about a third of them anyway, have spoken.