Double disagreements

Two Chico controversies, two sets of arguments

Letter written by Jolene Francis, Chico Chamber of Commerce, to Chico Police Officers Association.

Letter written by Jolene Francis, Chico Chamber of Commerce, to Chico Police Officers Association.

Would changing City Council elections from November to June cost taxpayers more money? Well, yes and no, which is why there is some confusion on the issue.

Tea Party activist Stephanie Taber wrote the ballot arguments for Measure A. In her rebuttal to the anti-A argument, she writes that “There is no extra cost to TAXPAYERS by combining City Elections with existing County Elections” in June. That’s true technically, but also potentially misleading.

As City Clerk Debbie Presson points out to Taber in an April 4 e-mail message, “while the overall cost of an election may be substantially the same, the statement as written will lead readers to the conclusion that the cost to the city, and therefore city taxpayers, does not change. That would be misleading….”

The June 7 special election on Measure A will cost the city $151,000, and future June City Council elections would cost it $73,000 more than November elections. That money would have to come from the city’s general fund, meaning some services would have to be cut by the same amount.

Presson tried to persuade Taber to clarify or remove that part of her rebuttal, but Taber refused. “I am … going to exercise my right to free speech and not make any change,” she e-mailed Presson.

Letter written by Greg Keeney, Chico Police Officers Association, in response to the Chico Chamber of Commerce letter.

Speaking of disagreements, there’s a doozy going on these days between the Chico Police Officers Association and Jolene Francis, president and CEO of the Chico Chamber of Commerce.

It began when Francis learned that the union was planning to place some billboard messages that read: “Gangs are hiring. Why aren’t we?” In a respectful but sharp May 3 letter to CPOA President Greg Keeney that he passed on to us, she says she is writing to express “my most sincere disappointment” with the plan.

After praising and expressing gratitude for the Chico Police Department, she writes that “this advertising campaign will do nothing to improve your image in our community.”

Her main concern is the impression the billboards would give families visiting Chico during commencement weekend. “Shouting this negative image from billboards … paints our community in a very bad light to thousands of visiting parents and grandparents. Chico businesses will not appreciate it,” she writes, especially during the “very poor economic situation we are in.”

Keeney’s response to Francis is just as respectful—and just as pointed. It paints a picture of Chico as a city under siege from “a significant and growing trend towards violence and other lawlessness. … We can either face these challenges now … or later when things have spun too far out of control. Other cities … have learned the hard way the difficulties of reclaiming a city overrun by criminals.”

The Police Department is seriously understaffed, he writes. The billboards “are designed to raise awareness and engage the public in conversation. … A majority of the [City] Council has not listened to the Chief, they do not listen to us, and they do not make Police services a priority.”

To read the letters in their entirety, go to this column under Opinion at For another take on this issue, see Evanne O’Donnell’s letter to the editor.

Robert Speer is editor of the CN&R.