Speaking of change…

It’s time to create a true leadership position on the Chico City Council

CN&R readers who also read the Sacramento Bee are aware that the capital city’s new mayor, Kevin Johnson, wants to change the nature of his job by giving the mayor major new powers and reducing the powers of the City Council and city manager.

Sacramento voters of course will have the last word on Johnson’s proposal. Jerry Brown, when he was mayor of Oakland, pushed a similar change—successfully, as it turned out. Both cases are reflective of a trend toward more dynamic and accountable leadership in the country’s largest cities.

It has significance for Chicoans, as well.

This newspaper has long lamented the lack of leadership in Chico city government. What we have now is leadership by a committee of part-timers, the City Council, none of whose members was elected by a majority of the voters. The interminable disc-golf fiasco is an apt illustration of that lack of leadership, with the council (in several iterations) taking literally years to resolve the issue—and it’s still not over. And who can forget the “disorderly events ordinance,” which took forever, it seemed, and several rewrites before it finally got passed?

We appreciate that the council wants to be deliberative and inclusive in its processes. With nobody leading the way, those processes can become excruciatingly slow and drawn out.

We don’t advocate making Chico a traditional strong-mayor city. But we believe it would be of great benefit to create at least one position on the council—the mayor—who was elected by a majority of the voters, who would chair council meetings for a full four years, and who would be tasked with a level of authority that the other members of the council did not have.

That’s the form of government Sacramento has now. It may no longer be adequate for that city of nearly a half-million people, but it might be perfect for this one of 100,000 people.