Do the right thing

By not appointing Evans the council lost an opportunity for healing

I can understand why four members of the Chico City Council decided last week to throw open the process of selecting a seventh member to replace Larry Wahl instead of selecting Bob Evans on the spot. They wanted to take their time about it, see who indicated interest in the position, and expand their options.

They also may have wanted simply to send the message that the law gave them the authority to choose not only whom to appoint, but also how to go about doing so. They’d been under a lot of pressure—from the Chico Enterprise-Record editorial page and community bigshots, among others—to appoint Evans, and this was their way of telling them to back off.

I don’t blame them for that, either, especially when it comes to the E-R. As I’ve written here before, the E-R editorialists regularly beat up on the council liberals, often unfairly.

They’re also maliciously condescending at times. Consider this lead-in to the editorial, headlined “Appointing Evans right thing to do,” that appeared on the day, Jan. 4, when the council took up the appointment issue: “The Chico City Council, which has the penchant to make even a simple issue appear enormously complex, should avoid falling into its usual trap of over-analysis tonight.”

Still, I think the four council members who voted to throw open the selection process made a mistake. The pro-Evans campaign may have been orchestrated, but it was sincere. He did come in fourth on Nov. 2, he did receive more than 10,000 votes, he would lend ideological balance to the council, and he clearly is qualified.

The council majority lost an opportunity to do some healing. Councilman Andy Holcombe himself called attention to the need for that healing, saying he’d told Evans that he believed “the biggest problem in the city was the polarity and divisiveness in our community.” Then he joined the majority in voting not to select Evans.

What’s one to make of Kim Yamaguchi’s pointed refusal Tuesday (Jan. 11) not to vote for Maureen Kirk to be vice-chairwoman of the Board of Supervisors? These courtesy votes among the supervisors are usually unanimous, as was the case when Steve Lambert was elected to replace Bill Connelly as chairman, so Yamaguchi’s lone dissenting vote was puzzling. What did he gain by it? Not good feelings, that’s for sure.

Speaking of puzzling behavior, several readers have contacted me complaining about Supervisor Larry Wahl’s characterization, in an Action News interview, of the Tucson shooter as “a deranged pot-smoking wacko,” as if smoking marijuana had caused his behavior.

I asked Wahl about it. He said he’d read news accounts in which Jared Loughner’s friends described him as “a habitual and frequent pot smoker,” but he said he didn’t mean to imply that marijuana led to violence.

Well, OK, but I agree with my readers: That’s the takeaway from his comment. If politicians like Larry Wahl want to improve the tone of political discourse, they need to eschew such flippancy.

Robert Speer is editor of the CN&R.