Disclose developer donations

For years the liberals who follow Chico City Council politics have complained about the disproportionate imbalance of developer dollars that flow into council candidate campaigns. There is a reason for this imbalance: The building industry, along with Enloe Medical Center and Chico State University, is one of the three largest businesses in town.

Political decisions affecting the building industry are made at the city level; matters affecting the later two are decided at the state level. Each industry spends large amounts of money to lobby and gain access to decision-makers. The money spent at the state level is a relative drop in the bucket. On the other hand, the amount of money spent by developers to try to mold government at the local level is downright garish.

Both the developers who dole out the big checks and the candidates who take them argue that there are no strings attached, that the money simply goes to like-minded individuals, those who think residential growth is good for the community. The liberal candidates don’t benefit from these large single-source contributions and thus cry foul when they are made, which is every two years.

The $12,000 fine handed down to Councilmember Larry Wahl last week for violations committed while he was a planning commissioner shows that the state takes these potential conflicts seriously. The penalty, we think, is appropriate. The question, of course, is why City Council members aren’t subject to the same requirements as the commissioners. After all, it is the potential of gaining that council seat in the first place that generates the large contributions. If the state won’t impose restrictions, maybe the new council will.