Predictably political

As Chico City Councilmember Dan Nguyen-Tan observed, this week’s vote on how to fill the late Coleen Jarvis’ council seat was predictable and at the same time discouraging in its predictability.

Nguyen-Tan was hopeful the council could come together, and so were we.

Instead, the vote fell along political lines, the three progressives voting to appoint Jarvis’ husband, Michael Stauffer, to fill out the final five months of her term, while their conservative counterparts voted against the motion.

It’s hard to believe Councilmember Dan Herbert’s assertion that the move was not political. Its results surely are.

With a board split 3-3 at least until the November general election, it will be difficult if not impossible for the council to decide on key issues. A special election would be expensive and pointless, filling the seat for a matter of weeks, and the council seems likely to leave the seat vacant until November, when it will be up for grabs in the general election.

Had Stauffer been appointed, he would have brought another moderately liberal voice to the council, tipping the balance in favor of the progressive contingent. But that’s irrelevant. If Stauffer’s votes mimicked what Jarvis’ would have been, that’s no different from what would have happened had she lived out her term. And there’s no reason anyway to believe Stauffer wouldn’t have been an independent thinker.

Jarvis’ death, though mourned by all her council peers, resulted in a political advantage to conservatives. Councilmembers Herbert, Larry Wahl and Steve Bertagna could have taken the high road—as their counterparts did after the 1999 death of Bill Johnston—and appointed someone of like mind. It would have been a gesture of civility equivalent to the liberals’ support of Cheryl Lange to replace Johnston when he died.

Apparently Chico politics are too predictable for that.