Eliminate the abuse factor

When the Chico City Council gave final approval to the so-called “disorderly events” ordinance, we opined that “this addition to the municipal code takes too big a bite out of the First Amendment.” As such, we predicted, “someone will challenge the ordinance in court, and the court will strike it down.”

Turns out, Chicoans might not need to wait for a judge’s ruling—or an annual review, or even the referendum circulated by Chico Citizens for Civil Rights.

Councilmembers have privately and individually bandied about the idea of revising the ordinance so as not to impinge on the freedom of peaceable assembly. Scott Gruendl, who cast the lone dissenting vote because he wanted the wording changed, would favor this reconsideration. Both Ann Schwab and Tom Nickell said they would, too, if the referendum has ample support (i.e., gains enough signatures by the Dec. 5 deadline).

Obviously, we encourage them to do this soon—and do more than remove weddings, funerals and marches from the list.

We appreciate Nickell’s assurance that, “as a cop, I’d be the first to pull it off [the books] if there was any abuse.” But why create a situation that allows abuse in the first place? We hope the council will lessen the potential for abuse simply by making citations, rather than circumstantial evidence, the requirement for breaking up a party.

Truth be told, Chico police drafted the ordinance as a party-control measure. The other events got included only so students wouldn’t feel singled out. Shaving away the pretense will satisfy some opponents, but as long as the ordinance remains a blunt instrument, Chicoans will object to its being wielded.