For want of a woman

When the Chico City Council first weighed the idea of a citizens’ panel for updating the general plan, we expressed confidence that enough Chicoans without an axe to grind would step up and be counted. Sure enough, for seven at-large spots, the council had about 25 candidates present as required at the Nov. 6 session.

So much for the concern about “generalists.” Who’d have thought the council would prove the limiting factor?

The General Plan Advisory Committee as selected that night— eight men and one woman—is not a cross-section of the community. While appointing members of different genders, races and affiliations may not ensure diversity of opinion, it’s a sure bet that homogeneity will preclude it.

Part of the problem was the council’s manner of considering and voting on the candidates. Councilmembers took no time beforehand to discuss what they sought in a panel or to note that the applicant pool was heavily weighted toward men.

Then, as the voting proceeded, they seemed not to realize they were selecting only one woman. In the future they need to be more mindful and proactive in such situations.

We hear the city is considering whether to increase the committee by a member or two, an effort we applaud. We suggest revisiting Chico Chai owner Sara Adams, artist Winder Baker, Chico State business student Tara Hansen and River Partners intern Kristin McHenry. Carefully reading their applications, it’s clear that all of them would bring distinctive perspectives to the GPAC.

The general plan will chart Chico’s course for decades to come. Let’s make sure we have the appropriate cartographers.