Endorsements: Who, what and why

Chico City Council
The News & Review endorses incumbent Maureen Kirk and challengers Scott Gruendl and Barbi Boeger for Chico City Council. Since 1996 a four-person conservative majority has held and brashly wielded power on the council. And, while conservatives such as incumbent Mayor Dan Herbert and outgoing Councilmember Rick Keene like to say that the council majority is responsible for a balanced budget, comfortable General Fund reserves, expanded police and fire protection and the elimination of the utility tax, the fact is that all of the councilmembers voted for those accomplishments.

On the other hand, this conservative majority has dragged its feet on providing funding for neighborhood parks by refusing to implement adequate developer fees. Now the majority claims it has set aside $500,000 for parks, neglecting to point out that money is simply being shifted from the General Fund. This conservative majority has also resisted building a homeless shelter, using the anemic excuse that it will make Chico the “homeless capital of Northern California.” It has pushed for the ill-conceived (and voter-defeated) $2.7 million Otterson Drive extension, coddled certain homeowners who’ve illegally encroached upon Lindo Channel, and chipped away at the General Plan in favor of developers’ wishes.

The conservatives made a mockery out of campaign reform by hijacking the original idea, which called for a conflict-of-interest ordinance that would preclude councilmembers from voting on projects that financially benefit large campaign contributors. Rather than address the big contributors, including those looking to buy council influence, campaign reform under the conservative rule went after the small, grass-roots contributors.

Stuart King

Courtesy Of Stuart King

The conservative majority voted against implementing specific planning for new growth areas in northwest Chico, leaving that area and the folks who already live there to flounder amid incoherent planning and traffic nightmares as developers propose and build a hodgepodge of projects that ultimately will not mesh together.

We believe that it is time for the progressives to take control. Kirk serves well as the much-needed moderate voice on the council. Gruendl is a thoughtful progressive, and Boeger, we believe, would serve well as a truly independent voice. As for candidate Jjon Mohr, we suggest that, since his campaigns always center on school issues, next time he should run for school board.

3rd State Assembly District
Democrat Stuart King, a painter for Chico State University Plant Operations for the last 20 years, has served on city commissions and worked behind the scenes for progressive candidates for many years. He’s never run for office but is no stranger to politics, having worked behind the scenes for progressive issues. He has run what can only be described as a low-key campaign this far. But even with that, we endorse him over Republican and soon-to-be former Chico City Councilmember Rick Keene. We pick King instead of Keene because King understands the dynamics of politics, while Keene is a conservative ideologue whose inflexibility will render him politically impotent in the Democrat-controlled Assembly. Keene will get little if any legislation pushed through for this district. What he will be able to do is raise money for local conservative causes and candidates, much as the late Assemblyman Bernie Richter once did. Whatever respect we may have had for Keene as a criminal-defense lawyer has been eclipsed by his employment of political hatchet man John Gillander and his pathetic excuse in a letter to the local daily for using Gillander.

2nd State Assembly District
While wealthy rice farming family member and Republican Doug LaMalfa seems like a nice enough fellow, we are troubled by his ties to political consultant David Reade and, by extension, Gillander. We know next to nothing about his Democratic opponent Doug Kinyon, other than the fact he lives in Cottonwood, is a Democrat and an electrician. We cannot comfortably make an endorsement in this race.

Marianne Smith

Photo By Tom Angel

4th State Senate District
We endorse Democrat Marianne Smith, an energetic, intelligent and personable breath of fresh air. Unlike her opponent, incumbent 3rd District Assembly member Sam Aanestad, Smith has never held office, but we like her enthusiasm and realistic view of the job. In her campaign she hits on such issues as health care reform, education, water conservation and economic development. Just like Keene, Aanestad would be too much of an unbending Republican ideologue stuck in a Democrat-controlled Senate to carry much political weight for his constituents. Plus it would be nice to have legislative districts in the Northstate represented by progressives for a change.

The time has come to stick out our collective necks and endorse Green Party candidate Peter Camejo for governor. We admit this decision is made easier by the fact that our second choice, Gov. Gray Davis, has a comfortable lead in the polls over our least-favorite candidate, Republican Bill Simon. Plus we recognize that our endorsement will have little effect on the outcome of the statewide race. If we thought we had more influence, as does, for example, the Sierra Club, which endorsed Davis over both Camejo and Simon, or the Latino Caucus, which made no endorsement, we probably would not be so cavalier with our decision. So, while we recognize, unlike many on the left, that there is a significant difference between Davis and Simon, we also believe that the state and nation would be much better off if a third party were able to offer legitimate competition to help keep the major parties a bit more honest and responsive. It is time to break the iron grip the Republicans and Democrats hold on the political process. We fully endorse the Greens’ call for instant-runoff voting, in which voters pick their first and second choices, thus removing the fear of helping elect the candidate they want least.

Measure G
We’ve heard good arguments from both sides in this hotly contested debate, but in the end must side with the folks voting “No” on Measure G. While the wording of the Master Tobacco Settlement of 1997 seems to command that the money—in Butte County’s case $2.5 million per year—be spent only on tobacco-related matters, in fact the wording only directs it to be so. And since the county lost one source of revenue when the utility users’ tax ran its course, the tobacco settlement money couldn’t have come at a better time to the chronically strapped county. We believe, despite persuasive arguments for proponents of Measure G, that more people will benefit if that money remains available for the county, rather than going to doctors, health clinics and hospitals. While Measure G opponents told us the money will be there forever, we have our doubts and can only wonder what will be around to replace it 25 years down the road.

2nd Congressional District
Wally Herger has been our representative in Congress since 1986. This is such a safe district that the Republicans could probably run a monkey as a candidate and would still soundly defeat the Democrat. So who are the Demos putting up this year? Mike Johnson is a Chico man we’ve never talked to directly, but we have learned that he is pro-choice, pro-gun and pro-labor. We also heard him say at a lightly attended League of Women Voters forum that Herger’s been in office too long and is a “do-nothing” legislator. Tell us something we don’t know. Johnson also said that we need more reservoirs. We can’t endorse Johnson based on what little we know of the man, and we choose not to endorse Herger, despite the fact he is now a senior member of Congress and sits on the powerful Ways and Means Committee. While he is accessible and pleasant, we simply can’t get past his undying devotion to his party and the Bush administration, particularly with its steady push for war despite opposition from a majority of Americans.

Peter Camejo

Photo By Tom Angel

Other related stories in the CN&R this week:

Six questions for six candidates

School board shakeup

Measure G—Who gets the money?

Daunting Propositions?