First strike

Conservative PAC goes after left-leaning council incumbents on a stupid premise

I’d considered taking Bob Evans’ $100 bet about local liberals putting out a hit piece tying the conservative Chico City Council candidates to the giant baby (my words) who is the GOP’s presidential candidate (see “A betting man,” Letters, page 6). Evans is a former city councilman, veteran and a staunch conservative, among other things. I like the guy, just as I like many other conservatives, including friends and neighbors, and especially the many members of my own family.

In hindsight, what I should have done is made a counter-wager—I should have bet Evans that local conservatives would strike first. I would’ve won. On Tuesday, I received a mailer saying that Council-members Tami Ritter, Ann Schwab and Randall Stone—the three left-leaning incumbents—“voted to DESTROY the Esplanade!”

This particular hit piece is referring to their votes to place roundabouts on that roadway. The flier is paid for by the political action committee Butte County for Awareness and Accountability, which is run by tea partier Thomas Kozik, and funded by conservatives, including Supervisor Larry Wahl and businessmen Wayne Cook, Tom Dauterman, Lewis Everett and Jim Ledgerwood. As of early October, according to finance reports filed with the city, those men had contributed $6,500 to that PAC—the same one responsible for the hit pieces targeting Scott Gruendl, Chico’s former mayor, prior to the 2014 election (Gruendl lost).

There are a couple of major problems with the recent piece of propaganda. First of all, if Ritter, Schwab and Stone voted to destroy The Esplanade, then so too did conservative darling and Chico Mayor Mark Sorensen. That’s because Sorensen also voted aye on the roundabouts. In fact, he was the swing vote. Meaning, it was his vote that determined the road would get roundabouts.

What happened next was your classic buyers’ remorse. Stone called for the panel to reconsider that course of action. He’d changed his mind. The roundabouts were put back up for a vote, and everyone except for Schwab balked on them. In other words, the issue of adding those traffic features along Chico’s beloved boulevard is long dead. What’s alive and well is dirty politicking by the likes of this PAC.

Speaking of the City Council election, Assistant News Editor Howard Hardee and I interviewed 10 of the 11 candidates recently. Vice Mayor Sean Morgan was the only one who chose not to meet with us. Morgan is also the only member of the council I’ve never sat down with one-on-one, though I invited him to do so last year.

As you’ll see from our endorsements, the vice mayor didn’t get CN&R’s nod. But it’s not because he spurned us; there are many reasons, but it’s mostly because we believe he’s in the pocket of special interests, especially the police union.

Hardee and I had great conversations with each and every one of the rest of the candidates. Our editorial board endorsed only those we believe are best prepared for the job, although we can see potential down the line in several of those who aren’t our picks. They genuinely seemed like they want to change Chico for the better. We just don’t agree on how to get there.