Embarrassing partisanship

Chamber of commerce reps take potshots at mayor; council majority shuts out conservative incumbent

I was too busy to attend the State of the City address hosted by the Chico Chamber of Commerce last Friday, so I didn’t get a front-row seat to the surprising fireworks show. Luckily, reporter Ashiah Scharaga recorded the proceedings, allowing me to catch up on the pomp and pageantry. Emphasis on pomp.

In short, Mayor Randall Stone gave a speech and left immediately thereafter to attend meetings of the League of California Cities in Sacramento. After Stone departed, representatives of the chamber repeatedly threw barbs at him, turning the event into a partisan affair lacking context on complex issues (e.g., the City Council majority’s forthcoming removal of the sit/lie law in light of a 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that’s applicable in Chico).

Not the classiest move. Not the smartest one either.

These are some of the same chamber officials who formed a task force back in 2018 and asked city officials to consider a “revenue measure.” In other words, a sales tax initiative.

Know how much headway they made when the council had a conservative majority? Zilch. The tax-averse panel wouldn’t hear of such a thing. Not so in 2019—you know, after the progressives took control. A proposed 1 percent sales tax hike is scheduled to be on November’s general election ballot.

News flash to the local organization: Those who voted aye to place it on the ballot—Stone included—also have the power to reconsider and rescind it.

I doubt they’ll do so. But they could.

Do they have reason to—other than payback? Sure, the fact that it’s regressive—meaning it hurts the poorest folks the most—is a good place to start. It’s also worth mentioning that we live in a community with a median household income of $43,000.

The chamber already owed this panel a belated thank you. In my mind, an apology is now in order not only to Stone but also to businesspeople who support the council majority. My advice for speakers at future events is to look to the immortal words of comedian Eddie Murphy: “Have a Coke and a smile and shut the hell up.” Only Murphy used more colorful language. Look it up.

Speaking of the progressives: They deserve to be dinged for what happened at last week’s council meeting. Aside from longtime Councilwoman Ann Schwab, who took the high road, the four others voted to deviate from putting the same districts on the November ballot that voters would expect based on incumbency. The result: Councilman Sean Morgan, whose term ends then, was effectively shut out (see “Boundaries and bathrooms,” Jan. 23).

I contacted Morgan the next day to see if he intended to run, and he responded in political speak. “If I had, I’d have won. Districts or not,” he told me. His former closest ally, Reanette Fillmer, said publicly last year that he wouldn’t seek a third term. Still, Morgan hadn’t announced that himself and the guy is allowed to change his mind.

Councilman Karl Ory made the motion, which contrasts with his earlier comments on sequencing. Then again, he has announced he’s not seeking another term, and thus had nothing to lose. Still, his council cohorts should’ve minded the optics on this one: It’s not a good look.