How to end divisiveness

It’s easy: Just stop being divisive

Last Friday’s (Jan. 28) Chico Chamber of Commerce-sponsored State of the City gathering at the CARD Center had a split personality. Part of it was wonky stuff about the budget, jobs and redevelopment (city officials are really nervous about losing redevelopment as a funding tool), and part of it was juicy political stuff about filling the empty council seat.

Most of the council members devoted their allotted five minutes to talking about the state of the city, which they suggested is fairly good considering the crappy economy but is also crazy uncertain due to the governor’s budget proposals. They were eager to publicize all the work they’re doing to create the conditions that support business and jobs.

Andy Holcombe and Mark Sorensen, however, chose to talk about the selection process that had resulted in Sor Lo and Bob Evans ending up as the council’s favored candidates to fill the seat vacated by Larry Wahl.

Sorensen basically repeated the pitch he’s made for Evans twice before at council meetings, adding info about Lo that wasn’t known then, such as his never having voted. Holcombe, who’s a Lo supporter, tried mightily to express his vision of a welcoming community. His speech calling for an expansive diversity that transcends left-right politics was heartfelt, but it’s hard to campaign against polarity and divisiveness when you’re up to your eyeballs in a polarized pile of glop you helped to create.

It’s fairly easy to end divisiveness: Just stop being divisive. Become inclusive.

For an example of what not to do, look at what happened to a group of enviros and other progressives meeting Jan. 18 at the Chico branch library to plan advocacy activities. As reported in the Enterprise-Record, when the group’s members learned that Mary Kennedy, Larry Wahl’s appointee to the county Planning Commission, was in attendance, they asked her to leave.

Turns out the group’s agreement with the library called for meetings to be open to the public.

Robin Huffman, the advocacy director for the Butte Environmental Council, later told E-R reporter Roger Aylworth they hadn’t been aware of the clause. “Our bad,” she said. No kidding. E-R Editor David Little had a field day with the screw-up in his Sunday column.

But why ask Kennedy to leave in the first place? Why not bring her into the group, let her get to know you? This isn’t war we’re engaged in; it’s democracy.

Postscript: The above was written before Tuesday’s City Council meeting, at which Holcombe switched his vote to Evans, breaking the tie. As he said then, he wanted to end the rancor and promote healing. I’m proud of him.

Out with Cooper, in with Graham: Some of you hawk-eyes may have noticed that Meredith J. Cooper’s byline is no longer appearing in the paper. That’s because she recently got married, and in true feminist fashion exercised her right to do what she damn well pleased by taking hubby Josh’s last name. So look for Meredith J. Graham’s byline from now on, and join us in congratulating the happy couple and wishing them good fortune and fun times for always.

Robert Speer is editor of the CN&R.