Life without labels

How we like to apply political labels. “So-and-so’s a liberal,” we say, as if that tells us something valuable about the person. People aren’t so predictable or easily pigeonholed. Sometimes liberals do “conservative” things, and vice versa.

Such was the case at this week’s Tuesday (June 20) meeting of the Chico City Council, when “liberal” Councilman Andy Holcombe and “conservative” Councilman Steve Bertagna voted the same way on a proposal to add three firefighter positions to the city budget (see “Budget balloons,” Newslines, page 15).

The two men opposed it because they didn’t know where the money was going to come from and were being fiscally “conservative.” “Liberal” Councilwomen Ann Schwab and Maureen Kirk supported it because they “trusted” firefighters’ hints that they would negotiate the positions during contract talks, as did “liberal” Mayor Scott Gruendl. “Conservative” Councilman Larry Wahl joined his “liberal” fellows in voting yes because he wanted to fill the positions and was willing to gamble that the money could be found.

The discussion was sharp and lively, and it showed that people are people, complex and thoughtful, before we slap them with a label. That’s worth remembering.