Measure A: pros and cons

One person’s ‘accountability’ is others’ unfairness and cost

The official ballot arguments are in on Measure A, the initiative that would change Chico City Council elections from November to June. They make for interesting reading.

The Yes on Measure A argument is pretty simple: “‘A’ is for accountability,” it reads. Moving the nonpartisan council elections to June, when voting for county offices is done, and removing them from the “multi-million dollar hyper-partisan state and national campaigns that dominate our media in the November Elections,” would enable voters to give them “more serious focused attention.”

Maybe, maybe not. What’s certain, as the No on Measure A folks point out, is that “moving council elections to June cuts the number of voters in half and raises the cost … by $73,000.” They note that in November 2008, 39,044 city residents voted, compared to 12,393 in June 2008. They blame this attempt to manipulate voter participation and increase costs to “local Tea Party activists.”

Up to five people can sign the ballot arguments, but only one name is on the Measure A argument: that of Stephanie Taber, who is in fact a local Tea Party activist. She’s also Butte County Supervisor Larry Wahl’s executive assistant. Although she initiated the signature-gathering drive, the real work was done by a Florida company and paid for by Chico businessman Tom Dauterman, who ponied up $31,500 for the cause.

The No signers are Chico Mayor Ann Schwab, Councilmen Jim Walker and Scott Gruendl, Chico Economic Planning Corp. President/CEO Bob Linscheid, and Peter Tichinin, owner of Prudential California Realty.

What about Jim Nielsen? That’s what a lot of people are asking these days, following news about the 10 criminal counts filed against Ken Mariette, a former manager and board member of the Mountain Gate Community Services District.

According to the Redding Record Searchlight, Mariette is charged with using a former girlfriend’s address to register to vote in the Shasta County hamlet in 2004 and become a member of the services district, even though he didn’t live there. He was appointed to the CSD board in March 2005 and served as district manager from July 2005 to July 2009.

Mariette is charged with voter fraud, perjury and fraudulent voter registration, and faces about 11 years in prison if convicted. He has pleaded not guilty. Trial has been set for July 12.

Mariette apparently lacks the friends in high places Assemblyman Nielsen enjoys. There’s plenty of evidence that Nielsen does not live in the 2nd District, which he represents and in which he has registered to vote. So far, though, Tehama County District Attorney Gregg Cohen, an early supporter of Nielsen, has refused to investigate, much less bring charges.

Blue Oak update: If you attended the March 23 meeting of the Chico school board because the CN&R reported the board would be voting then on Blue Oak School’s charter petition, I apologize. The school’s assistant director, Dan La Bar, informed me this week that the matter had been moved to a special board meeting on April 6, location TBA.

Robert Speer is editor of the CN&R.