Context on our endorsements for Chico City Council
In case you skipped over the endorsements on the opposite page, I’m here to tell you whom we picked for Chico City Council: incumbents Scott Gruendl and Mark Sorensen, the mayor and vice mayor, respectively, and also Lupe Arim-Law, a triple threat: She’s a double minority—Mexican-American and a woman (obviously)—with an impressive business background.
Choosing these three candidates—two progressives and a conservative—wasn’t easy. In fact, on the run-up to deadline, our editorial board’s selection went through three iterations. That’s partly because, in one shape or form, every candidate has qualities we value. In the end, we weighed each person’s strong points against those of his or her competitors.
Andrew Coolidge, for example, was an early contender. He’s a self-employed conservative, but seems pretty moderate. However, after hearing him speak at the Chico Police Officers’ Association’s ridiculous candidates forum last week—where we learned his wife teaches a class at the Butte College Police Academy—we don’t believe he’ll take on that union or the other public safety bargaining group over their overly generous compensation packages. And that must be done to truly resolve the city’s ongoing financial difficulties.
I don’t want to pick on Coolidge too much. He’s a nice guy, but the last thing Chico needs is another Sean Morgan—i.e., a second mouthpiece for the cops. Speaking of nice guys, Rodney Willis is also one. We don’t see eye to eye on many major issues, though, including the consideration of a sales-tax increase. He favors one. We do not—and would not before the city gets its fiscal house in order. We think Reanette Fillmer and Forough Molina are smart and care about Chico, but we don’t think either has the level of experience at this time to lead the city.
That brings me back to the incumbents. I’m going to catch hell for choosing Gruendl and Sorensen, from conservatives and progressives, respectively. Right-wingers will say Gruendl abdicated his duties safeguarding the city’s coffers, while the lefties will say Sorensen is going to privatize city services and cater to business interests. Both statements hold shades of truth.
On a personal level, I’ll be holding my nose while voting for them. Gruendl threw city employees under the bus during the height of the financial crisis—even alleging fraud. To a lesser degree, Sorensen did, too, but he then used the situation as an opportunity to blame the progressive majority, though much of the predicament was beyond the panel’s control. Ah, politics. Meanwhile, Sorensen parlayed his short time on the council into a job in the public sector. He’s the administrator of the city of Biggs, a municipality of 1,700. I can’t find his salary listed on the city’s website, but his predecessor back in 2010 made just shy of $90,000 a year. But I digress.
There are clearly things about these two that drive me mad. That said, both have the breadth and depth of experience and are bold enough to help the city navigate through its continuing economic difficulties. That gets my vote.