Referendum, anyone?

Petitions to overturn redistricting ‘Plan 5’ are already on the street

HOT OFF THE PRESS <br>Bob Mullholland, seen here at Ed’s Printing, says he hopes to have referendum petitions circulating throughout Butte County by the weekend.

Bob Mullholland, seen here at Ed’s Printing, says he hopes to have referendum petitions circulating throughout Butte County by the weekend.

Photo by Tom Angel

Eat ‘n’ run: Referendum organizers plan to meet at 9:45 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 1, at Guzzetti’s Catering for breakfast before walking door-to-door collecting signatures.

As soon as the Board of Supervisors gave narrow approval to the controversial redistricting plan known as Plan 5 on Aug. 28, its opponents sprang from their chairs to start a campaign to overturn it. Literally.

State Democratic Party adviser Bob Mulholland snorted in the front row at the meeting as the 3-2 majority approved the plan and then stood up and started fielding questions from the media about the referendum he’s helping to organize. And organized it is, as the petitions were ready to go to the printer long before the board had officially approved the controversial plan.

Mulholland didn’t mince words about his disdain for Supervisors Curt Josiassen, Bob Beeler and Kim Yamaguchi, who together formed the majority needed for approval.

“This was another midnight deal after a couple of drinks,” Mulholland said. “They can all go rot in jail for all I care.”

Yamaguchi, who took office only last November, wrote the plan and presented it for approval at a board meeting July 28—two weeks after the public’s ability to present alternate plans closed and without the prior notice given to the other plans the board was considering at the time. He’s admitted that political consultant David Reade—who has a long history of political handiwork in Butte County—"consulted” on the plan with him, but Yamaguchi maintains that it was he, not Reade, who wrote the plan.

It’s not just the way the plan was put together that has a growing number of people up in arms; it’s also the plan’s content. It would break up several urban “communities of interest” in Chico and place them in more-rural voter blocs, making it harder—if not impossible—for liberal-minded supervisorial candidates to be elected.

Specifically, it would break up a sizable voting bloc in Chapmantown (now represented by Jane Dolan’s District 2) and place its residents in Curt Josiassen’s rural District 4. Those voters, now set to vote in the 2002 supervisorial races, would also lose the ability to vote until Josiassen’s term is up in 2004.

Mulholland, who is Dolan’s husband, said he has already sent out “thousands” of letters to Butte County voters about the redistricting plan. Just hours after the plan was formally approved, petitions for a referendum started coming off the presses, and organizers were planning a Saturday-morning meeting to start going door-to-door collecting signatures.

They need a minimum of about 6,600 of them, and Dolan said that she expects to get far more than that.

“I’ve been getting calls from all over the county from people who are just fuming about the way this happened,” Dolan said.

If the organizers get all the signatures they need, the referendum will force the supervisors to declare their approval null and void and vote again. If the vote remains the same, the public will get a chance to vote on the plan at an election.

Even Supervisor Mary Ann Houx, a Republican, signed on to help with the referendum and said she’s “disgusted” with Yamaguchi and Reade.

“I only know five people who think this is a good idea,” she said. “That’s three board members, David Reade and [conservative political gadfly] John Gillander.”

Even a highly placed county Republican official, who asked not to be named, predicted that the referendum petitions would easily get the signatures they need.

“It’s going to pass like greased lightening," the official said. "People are pissed about this one, and I don’t blame them."