The most apropos comment during the two-hour disc-golf tussle at Tuesday night’s Chico City Council meeting had nothing to do with disc golf but everything to do with the tussle.
Bob Kromer, the first of 25 speakers who commented on the matter, declared that “disc golf is not the most important thing the council should be focusing on.” He encouraged city officials to identify their top five priorities and every meeting assess how they’re addressing them. (Presumably, the location of the short course could make the top five, but not likely.)
Scott Gruendl got it. He noted that two hours of disc-golf talk—following two hours that included a lengthy back-and-forth over 20 feet of setbacks in the building code for second units—put off a matter that affects 25,000 homeowners who could have to pay $1,500 in additional insurance premiums. “I’d rather be dealing with serious issues,” he lamented. Decertification of the city’s levees certainly qualifies; so do the budget, the general plan, public safety and water rights.
That’s five right there.
Disc golf drags on, however. Literally three minutes after endorsing Caper Acres as the preferred place for relocating the short course, the council decided to reconsider the decision that led to this decision: the decision to relocate.
Remember, the relocation decision—made unanimously on Jan. 6—reversed another decision, from Nov. 18, when the council deemed the Upper Park site along Highway 32 inappropriate for disc golf. That vote was 4-3; so were both votes Tuesday night.
On we go to May 19, when council members again will hear from supporters and opponents, then do another do-over.
I understand that Mayor Ann Schwab’s hands were tied to some degree Tuesday night. Council members afflicted with process fatigue wanted to put the Highway 32 site on the table, rather than just hash out a Caper Acres site that a majority found problematic. The agenda is the agenda, though, and it’s made public so citizens can decide if they wish to attend the meeting to speak out on an issue that matters to them. The ol’ bait and switch is legally, politically and ethically unsound.
Schwab did sign off on the Caper Acres agenda item, however, which she said was crafted by General Services Director Dennis Beardsley and approved by City Manager Dave Burkland. The mayor was concerned enough about its wording that she sought the counsel of City Attorney Lori Barker on the shape the deliberation could take.
Two councilmen disagreed with the legal opinion that they could not consider the Highway 32 site; they’re not lawyers and not the mayor, so the limit stood. The result: two hours of debate, following months and months of meetings, for a ruling that may well get backburnered forever.
Or maybe not. Hard to tell.
Since that November vote, Jim Walker has replaced Steve Bertagna on the council, but in all probability he’ll vote the same way, in support of the Highway 32 site. Larry Wahl was a vocal supporter; Mary Flynn and Ann Schwab were vocal opponents, and Andy Holcombe feels disc golf is an intense use incompatible with Upper Park.
Will Gruendl remain a supporter? Will Tom Nickell, who voted no the first time but yes on reconsideration, shift his stance? And what about Caper Acres?
The saga continues. Grrrr.