Partisan jabs convolute the debate

Passion for Chico doesn’t require grandstanding, personal insults

The tenor of Tuesday evening’s Chico City Council meeting was, how shall we say, rancorous and at times bordering on the absurd.

Take, for instance, Councilman Sean Morgan’s roughly 11-minute dramatization. For those not in attendance, you missed the two-term councilman reading a long portion of the minutes from the previous meeting. Morgan sported a MAGA-type hat with the words “Make Northwest Chico Great Again” while he went through the script to make a point that could have been summed up in a minute or two.

To be fair, Morgan had a valid gripe. Due to the move to district-based elections, and four of his liberal colleagues voting for election sequencing that diverted from incumbency, Morgan was the only councilmember with a term ending in 2020 who would not wind up on November’s ballot. That is, if he chose to seek re-election—an announcement he has yet to make—he’d have to wait until 2022.

That issue and several other controversial agenda items drew overflow crowds to the City Council chambers following a large demonstration outside. It would have been the perfect night for all of the representatives to use their utmost restraint—to take care in every word and to steer clear of partisan games.

But that wasn’t to be, as many comments illustrated. Cases in point: Morgan invoked talk of “a civil war.” Councilman Karl Ory became combative not only with Morgan but also with a member of the public during her brief window to address the panel. Interestingly, Ory had a pretty plausible justification for choosing the alternative sequencing that ultimately left Morgan out. Had he maintained his composure, the meeting may not have devolved as it did.

Both councilmen set a poor example, and unfortunately the public followed suit—several people crossed the line that night. That included a regular advocate for local homeless folks dropping an F-bomb and a Chico State student calling Mayor Randall Stone a “fake Latino.” Both did so while standing at the lectern.

Sure, it was great political theater—full of grandstanding, outrage and accusations. But it also divides our community.

The only positive takeaway: What we witnessed is indicative of the passion the public and its leaders have for this city. Indeed, Chicoans love this town. The fact that so many showed up to address their representatives would be a good thing if civil discourse had reigned. We hope everyone remembers that when the panel meets again in a few days.