Dancing around the issue
Listening to Chico city councilmembers talking about expanding the General Plan Advisory Committee Tuesday night (Nov. 27), one would have thought the issue was whether the committee had enough members to do the job.
The real issue—the fact that councilmembers selected only one woman when they created the nine-member committee at their Nov. 6 meeting—hardly got mentioned.
Instead councilmembers talked about Mayor Andy Holcombe’s suggestion that they increase the number of alternate members from one to as many as two or three, whether they should add more regular members, and what to do about Tony Kilcollins, the man who’d been selected Nov. 6 as the single alternate almost as an afterthought—no such position had been mentioned on the agenda—only because he was the next-highest vote-getter.
The ostensible reason for the discussion, as Holcombe expressed it, was a concern that, if some of the GPAC members dropped out over the course of the two-year effort, the committee would become too small. But, as Councilmen Larry Wahl and Steve Bertagna both noted, this hadn’t been a concern on Nov. 6.
“We started at seven, and then we went to nine,” Wahl said. “Everybody knew the rules, and now they want to add one to three members.”
Bertagna did joke that, following that earlier meeting, “We had two people [Laurel Blankenship and Karen Laslo] who commented that there weren’t enough women. Well, there aren’t enough business people on it, and I didn’t see a short, bald Italian, either.”
But that was the extent of the discussion of that subject for some time. Instead, the council went back and forth about whether to add more alternates and whether the alternates would be passive or active participants.
It was Bertagna who said what the pro-expansion members wanted to hear. “Wouldn’t it make more sense just to make them members, knowing there might be some attrition? That way they’d have a vested interest [in the proceedings].” He then added, “I’m not voting for it, but it does make sense.”
“That’s a good point,” Mayor Andy Holcombe quickly noted.
“I like what Steve just said,” Councilman Scott Gruendl echoed.
Vice-Mayor Ann Schwab, who also liked the idea, was concerned about Kilcollins. “I don’t feel good about taking away his alternate position,” she said.
It was left to Elizabeth Devereaux, who served on the 1994 General Plan Task Force and had applied to be on the GPAC but didn’t qualify because she lives outside the city’s sphere of influence, to say the “D word"—diversity.
“There aren’t enough women on the committee, the different neighborhoods aren’t represented, different ethnicities aren’t represented,” she said. She recommended the committee be doubled in size.
That idea went nowhere, but Schwab did move to expand the GPAC by four members, to 13 total, to make Kilcollins a regular member, and to select the three new members from the list of eligible applicants the council considered Nov. 6.
This bothered Councilwoman Mary Flynn, who didn’t think Kilcollins, the lobbyist for the Chico Association of Realtors, was the kind of “generalist” the council had said it wanted on the committee. “He stood there and told us he represented 500 realtors,” she said. “That’s a special interest, not a generalist.” She wanted Kilcollins’ name to be put back in the pool of eligible applicants.
She ended up voting with Wahl and Bertagna against the motion, but it passed 4-3. The council will select the three additional GPAC members from the list of eligible applicants it considered Nov. 6.