Magnet magic

I had the good fortune of covering this week’s Butte County Board of Supervisors meeting, when I could have been stuck at some stupid party in the Playboy Mansion. (No kidding.) I’d seen this particular supes lineup in action only once before, when there was a fairly innocuous set of items on the agenda—nothing like redrawing the supervisorial districts. (I do recall the matter coming up briefly at that earlier meeting. Supervisor Kim Yamaguchi, almost in passing, mentioned that he wanted to make sure that, when the time came, supervisorial districts weren’t set up in such a way as to place houses on one side of a street in a different district than those on the other side. Sounded reasonable. But then, inexplicably, he drew up a convoluted plan to do just that.) I couldn’t help but notice that the supes’ political direction is being defined by the same blind ideology that drives the Chico City Council. These seven middle-aged men—Supervisors Kim Yamaguchi, Bob Beeler and Curt Josiassen and Councilmembers Rick Keene, Dan Herbert, Steve Bertagna and Larry Wahl—aren’t conservatives, they’re reactionaries. The word “compromise” is not in their vocabularies.

But, as happens in politics, the pendulum will swing back to the middle as voters tire of blind ideology from the right and demand more from the left until they can’t stand that kind anymore. Look at Chico’s Measure A, which stopped the Otterson Bridge project. That issue united and ignited Chico’s progressives and picked up a few conservatives along the way. Now comes the three supervisors’ plan to radically alter the supes’ districts to try to oust moderates Jane Dolan and Mary Anne Houx. With the taste of victory still fresh from Measure A, look for the progressives to come together again to fight Plan 5 from Yamaguchi. And this time joining them will be their Measure A opponents, including Jim Goodwin and the Chamber of Commerce and Tod Kimmelshue and the Butte County Farm Bureau. Toss in fervent political adviser Bob Mulholland, who in this case is acting not only out of political conviction but coming to the defense of his wife Jane as well, and you have a hell of a storm brewing. The first victim will be Bertagna, who plans to run against Houx next year. Without Yamaguchi’s goofy plan in place and with Houx’s constituents united by this attempt to silence many of their votes, the councilman’s hopes for a supervisor’s seat are history.

The oddest sight at the supervisors’ meeting was that of Yamaguchi political consultant David Reade sitting in the front row on a white-with-gold-trimmed seat cushion that was draped over his chair. From behind, the shape of the top of the cushion with its regal gold trim made it look like Reade was sitting on a throne. (Later Reade told me that the cushion is lined with magnets, which somehow ease his aching back.) Reade is now a consultant for Norcal Waste Systems, which has received exclusive rights—split with Waste Management—to service Butte County’s trash routes. Yamaguchi pushed hard for that arrangement. So hard, in fact, that Dolan wanted the supervisors to pass a law requiring "lobbyists" like Reade to register with the county. "Even in San Francisco an individual like Reade has to register as a lobbyist and file disclosure forms if they are paid $3,000 or more a year," Dolan said in a press release. "Butte County’s regulations should require full financial disclosure, including listing campaign contributions and any gifts to the elected officials, their spouses, and to any county staffers or their spouses." Dolan’s proposal was shot down by Yamaguchi, Josiassen and Beeler in a foreshadowing of what was to come later in the meeting, when the subject turned to redistricting.