Right wing rules

The conservatives are back in power, folks. At the federal level Bush the II is fast repealing Clinton’s stab at leaving a legacy of environmental reform. Now, just as in the Reagan years, we can expect profitability to play a major role in industry regulation. In other words, the bottom line will take precedence over health and safety. Locally, the Butte County Board of Supervisors now has a solid conservative majority ready to exact revenge on the progressive Jane Dolan and moderate Mary Anne Houx, the longtime Chico-area supes. The board’s moderate/progressive political paradigm has held sway since the 1980s under such supervisors as Ed McLaughlin, Vivian Meyer, Len Fulton and more recently Fred Davis, as well as Dolan and Houx. Now we have three like-minded conservatives—Kim Yamaguchi, Kurt Josiassen and Bob Beeler—apparently ready to turn the county on its head. Yamaguchi, elected last fall, is a product of the Bernie Richter political machine that is now run by the late assemblyman’s son-in-law David Reade, who also ran Josiassen’s campaign. (Reade crony Sean Worthington handled Beeler’s campaign.) Nothing would have pleased Richter more than stripping power away from Dolan, the young upstart who unseated him as a supervisor back in 1978.

These three will now try to make their mark. Yamaguchi, we’ve heard, came into office ready to take down at least three department heads. It’s happened with two: Tom Parilo, the county director of development services, was fired, and Chief Administrative Officer John Blacklock has announced his retirement, very likely to escape the bloodshed. The third name we’ve heard is that of Mike Crump, director of public works. These conservatives are apparently tired of the way projects develop in the county. Yamaguchi told this paper Butte County should be more cooperative with developers, like they are in Los Angeles County, where plans are returned a day after they are submitted. Visited there lately? I have. It’s not a pleasant place. Yamaguchi also said the sacking of Parilo had to do with something called the Dougherty Report, which he said found Parilo’s office to be overly bureaucratic and top-heavy. John Dougherty, the author of that report (and Chico’s former assistant city manager), has written a letter to Yamaguchi pointing out, among other things: “I did not conduct any examination of the Department during Mr. Parilo’s tenure of office and have not expressed any opinion(s) regarding the Department, its organization or its procedures during his tenure.”

Chico City Councilmember Rick Keene, a good friend of Josiassen’s, is said to be tickled pink with the new county power structure, figuring the conservative cause will be easier to push now that the county’s political attitude has come around.

Speaking of the Chico City Council, this week it voted unanimously to try out a touch-screen computer voting system in the June 5 vote on the $2.9 million Otterson Road extension and bridge project. Butte County Clerk Candace Grubbs would like to see the county adopt such a system and talked the council into buying into a plan to lease the equipment for this one election. The city will put up $48,000 on top of the $78,000 it will pay the county to run the election. If the system proves popular and the county opts to buy it, at a price that has yet to be determined, the city’s $48,000 will go to the purchase. If the system is not adopted, the $48,000 will help pay for future election costs, Grubbs said. Both Keene and Councilmember Steve Bertagna lauded Grubbs for the excellent manner in which she runs local elections. That praise was not surprising, coming as it did from guys who were elected to office. But the unanimous vote to adopt the new computer system was curious. When the council set the date and type of election this would be, Keene kept saying he wanted a traditional vote as opposed to a mail ballot so as not to confuse the voters. This vote was too important, he said. But, as Councilmember Dan Nguyen-Tan pointed out, Keene had voted to use a system local voters had never tried before. Keene said his concern was that the voting be "deliberate." And with no further discussion the matter was closed.