Pretzel logic

Because the Chico City Council could not agree on a replacement to fill the remaining six months of Councilmember Coleen Jarvis’ term, the city came embarrassingly close to holding a special election so voters could choose a candidate to serve for one month and attend, at the most, one meeting.

On the very same ballot, voters would have been asked to select four candidates to fill four-year council terms (including Jarvis’), with the winners to be sworn in Dec. 7. This week, the City Council agenda called for a resolution to set the special election and ask the county to consolidate it with the statewide general election on Nov. 2.

Mayor Maureen Kirk placed the matter on the agenda because the council had failed to act during the emotionally charged June 14 meeting, when the conservatives blocked three efforts by the liberals to appoint a replacement.

The city charter says a special election to fill a vacant seat should be held “forthwith” if an appointment is not made within 30 days. City Attorney David Frank says he interprets forthwith to mean “as soon as reasonably practical.” The election code says such an election can be held no sooner than 114 days after the vacancy is declared. City Manager Tom Lando indicated last month that he thought the city charter allowed for the seat to remain vacant until after the general election. But apparently Frank issued conflicting interpretations to different councilmembers.

While Frank should be held accountable here, the fact is the council shouldn’t have gotten to this point. It is downright shameful that it could not agree to appoint someone to fill the seat and thus avoid limping along for the next five months one member short. That the conservatives would not accept an appointment from the liberals suggests they are selfish and paranoid; that the liberals in response hedged toward a special election for a one-meeting councilmember suggests they are petty and vindictive.

In other words, it’s politics as usual in Chico.