General plan generalization

The Chico City Council has approved an ambitious process for revising the city’s general plan. It includes an unprecedented variety of ways in which residents can participate, with an advisory committee to collate and present their ideas to the council.

This nine-person panel will consist of a planning commissioner, an Architectural Review Board member and seven “average citizens"—referred to as “generalists” because they’ll take a broad view and will not be members of special-interest groups.

Councilmembers fixated on the term “generalist.” Steve Bertagna wondered how the city would find so many people who’d make a two-year commitment unless those individuals had irons in the fire. He deferred to colleague Mary Flynn, who said it certainly was possible. Yet this “generalist” constraint stuck, and it’s fostering pessimism and dissent.

Flynn is right. The General Plan Advisory Committee will provide a unique opportunity for civic engagement. People will want to participate; why is it so hard to believe only “stakeholders” will apply?

Chico’s population is roughly 80,000, so the odds are good that the city will find seven residents who care deeply about the future of their community without waving a flag for BEC, DCBA or any other acronymed outfit. Passion and partisanship often go hand in hand, but they don’t have to.