My lunch with Andy
During a quiet noon hour at Panama’s, Andy Holcombe took a seat in the alcove table near the entrance. He ordered a Coke; asked if Pepsi was OK, he ordered iced tea, after making sure it had no stealth sweetness or flavoring.
The server described the specials: prime-rib sandwich, tahini burger. Are those truly specials, or menu items priced 50 cents cheaper today? A couple other questions followed; sufficiently informed, he ordered the classic burger, then slid into other discussion.
Chico’s mayor isn’t a particularly fussy eater (and he even accepted a Pepsi because they’d run out of tea). He’s a lawyer—detail-oriented, careful with words, concerned about procedures and predisposed to getting pertinent facts before drawing a conclusion.
Holcombe spent two years as the council’s voice of legal reason before his peers elected him mayor. He sets agendas and runs meetings along with cutting ribbons and welcoming eventgoers. It’s actually a bigger job than it sounds.
“I feel comfortable,” he said, “but I’m definitely still learning. It’s much more of a full-time job than I realized. You’re always ‘on’ as mayor. That’s not a bad thing, but I haven’t completely integrated it in my day-to-day reality.”
Even more than before, “I have to be up on the issues”—and he explained his views on some of the big ones, interrupted only by a burger break.
The “Gold Line": Vice Mayor Ann Schwab sparked citywide discussion by proposing a construction boundary to protect the foothills in the way the Greenline protects ag land. “I like the idea on a certain philosophical level,” Holcombe said, “but as a matter of practicality …”
Hold tight, Andyites, he hasn’t abandoned you: “There’s a lot more to the Gold Line and ‘viewshed’ than view,” he continued. “If you focus on the ‘shed’ part—watershed and environmental sensitivity—that certainly merits careful attention on a project-by-project basis.”
Homelessness: As chairman of the Greater Chico Homeless Task Force, Holcombe spearheaded recent talks about a homeless camp in Chico. Yet, interestingly, he doesn’t plan to put homelessness on the council’s front burner because “I see that more as a community issue than a city government issue.”
As such, “I’d like to use my energy to get the community to respond, including the buy-in of the homeless.”
Wal-Mart: OK, Andyites, brace yourselves again—Holcombe doesn’t have a reflex reaction to a new supercenter proposed for north Chico, in an area he sees poised for wholesale growth.
“If that’s correct, the Wal-Mart question to be answered is, if there’s supposed to be retail and commercial growth, then why not Wal-Mart as part of that retail growth mix? I know there are opinions about that…. As a lawyer as well as a citizen who cares, this sort of debate is interesting and a planning challenge.”
Moments later, Chico’s caring-lawyer mayor paid his share of the bill, said farewell and headed off for a meeting—leaving no leftovers but plenty of food for thought.