My bad

A reader takes the columnist to task

I’ve gotten a couple of e-mail messages recently from Chico resident Brahama D. Sharma, a frequent writer of letters to the editor, chiding me for something I wrote in this space recently.

In the July 1 issue, I wrote that I agreed with a suggestion put forward by the Chico Enterprise-Record that the members of the Chico City Council, in selecting someone to replace Councilman Larry Wahl when he moves to the county Board of Supervisors in January, “simply agree to appoint whoever comes in fourth in the November election, when three seats are up for grabs.”

It seemed like a good idea at the time, since it would give voters more of a say in the matter.

Professor Sharma didn’t mince words. I showed “abysmal ignorance,” he said. By law, he suggested, council members cannot make an agreement to vote in a certain way at a later meeting.

Well, yeah, come to think of it, he’s right, and I am an ignorant SOB. (So’s whoever wrote the E-R editorial, for that matter. We should form a club.) There’s no way to make such an agreement beforehand. Individual council members can say they intend to vote for whoever comes in fourth, of course, but two of them (Mary Flynn and Scott Gruendl) have to get re-elected before they can do so, and a third (Tom Nickell) is retiring at the end of the year.

Sharma, by the way, has taken out papers to run for City Council. As he often reminds us, he’s a registered parliamentarian, which I take to mean he runs a tight ship. If he wins, it will be interesting to watch him try to herd this particular group of cats.

More on Dr. Olmos: A Glenn County reader had questions about Meredith Cooper’s story last week profiling Steve Olmos, the former Willows Unified School District superintendent now working for the Butte County Office of Education (“Controversy follows county hire,” Newslines).

The reader took issue with some of Olmos’ statements, beginning with his comment that he had “never really met” county schools Superintendent Arturo Barrera. Barrera’s swearing-in ceremony took place in Olmos’ office, the reader noted. How could they not have met?

I called Olmos. He said, yeah, he’d sworn in Barrera, but that was about it. The two were never more than acquaintances, he said.

Fairness in sentencing: The Paradise Post reported last week that Michael Cavalli, the then-17-year-old kid who last year killed his unarmed stepfather in cold blood, had been sentenced to 16 years in prison on a charge of voluntary manslaughter.

Judge Clare Keithley’s sentence seems fair to me, neither too harsh nor too lenient. But I can’t help thinking of Gregory Wright, the Oroville youth (he also was 17 at the time) who in September 2007 took a gun to Plumas High School and held a group of kids in the band room for a while before finally surrendering. He hurt nobody but nonetheless was sentenced to 22 years in state prison.

When a kid who kills somebody gets 16 years and one who harms nobody gets 22, something’s wrong.