No time for incrementalism

Chico’s City Council must act with urgency to solve our many crises, including people dying on the streets

The author is a father, permaculturist, veteran and social critic.

Some of us have been trying to raise the alarm that right-wing discourse on “public safety” is a Trojan horse for fascist demagoguery.

A few weeks ago, the city’s perennial anti-homeless crusaders held a “public safety” event at Children’s Playground. Virulently hypocritical and viscerally disturbing, their political theater attracted demonstrably violent threats to public safety to our community. Attendees of “For the Love of Chico” included camo-clad men with Proud Boys tattoos and III% militia patches. These groups are well-known violent predators in the ecosystem of reactionary politics. The Southern Poverty Law Center tracks right-wing extremist violence as, acutely, rage against change. Yet as the old adage goes, it’s the only constant.

The city faces major problems, no doubt. Homelessness, drug addiction, low wages, high rents, inequality worse than Pharaonic Egypt—none are unique to Chico. Rather than creating a participatory process to guide the transformative changes now necessary, our leaders have chosen an incrementalism that refuses to sever the invisible hand now strangling the life out of our city.

Sixty percent of residents are overburdened renters, but basic eviction protections have yet to materialize. The new Climate Action Commission is infrastructure for a casual transition, not the restructuring of our material lives a looming apocalypse warrants. A shelter emergency declaration is insulting when human rights abuses remain codified and the suffering of unhoused people remains a negligible concern. Exposure likely claimed another recent victim—systemic violence they ignore. Pro tip: You weren’t elected to watch people die while you discuss these issues in committee.

The council’s failure to advocate for principled change and refusal to reorient its purpose toward human security and justice furrows fertile ground for fascist ideology as economic and ecological crises intensify. Anyone on local social media channels knows these noxious weeds have already taken root. Reactionary forces have risen to deny or delay the work necessary to transform society, but incremental centrists use a similar playbook. While they cling to a dying world, we will build the new.