Start the countdown

A petition to unseat two Chico City Council members has officially begun

Chico City Clerk Debbie Presson on Tuesday (June 11) confirmed that an effort to recall two City Council members had met the requirements to move forward.

The folks behind the campaign to unseat Mayor Randall Stone and Councilman Karl Ory have until the end of the business day on Nov. 18—that’s 160 days altogether—to turn in the signatures of at least 7,592 registered Chico voters. That works out to about 47 (valid) signatures per day for roughly the next five months.

Can it be done? I don’t see why not. Other local drives have resulted in higher numbers of signatures in shorter time frames. Ory himself was instrumental in gathering more than 9,000 signatures in just a month on a referendum petition intended to compel Chico Scrap Metal to vacate its home on East 20th Street. Granted, that aforementioned effort was led by folks with experience in this sort of thing.

Speaking of 9,000 signatures, that’s pretty much the target this group ought to be shooting for.

Of course, simply getting those John Hancocks doesn’t mean Stone and Ory will get booted from that dais. That will be up to the electorate to decide. Those behind the recall effort will have to make their case to voters. Likewise, the councilmen will need to convey the reasons they ought to stay put.

I’m interested in seeing how each side handles the situation, but readers can get a pretty good indication by simply perusing the petition language. That’s where the recall organizers have laid out their arguments and Ory and Stone have responded with their own takes.

It should be noted that Presson’s vetting applies only to, as she put it, “form and wording” requirements under the Elections Code. That is, she has nothing to do with the arguments made on either side. Unsurprisingly, they are quite subjective.

Here’s a sneak peek: The No. 1 grievance listed by the petitioners is the councilmen’s purported “inability to uphold Chico’s mission to make Chico a safe place to raise a family, an ideal location for business, and a premier place to live.”

Stone and Ory became part of the council majority only in December, but the main folks driving the petition had been griping about Chico’s quality-of-life issues long before then. Given that, I have a few questions: Why now and why just two of the panel’s seven members?

Ory clearly has his theories. According to his written response—in which he comes out swinging by calling the effort a “scam”—the petition’s organizers are “a fringe element of local Trump gadflies.” That’s just part of the first sentence.

Surprisingly perhaps, Stone’s tone is more reserved and diplomatic. His introduction refers to his family, including his two young boys, whom Stone and his wife are raising “in the best town in California.”

Both men invoke the Camp Fire and the subsequent strains Chico’s new population has put on city services.

Personally, I don’t get the urgency that the petition seems to imply, especially considering the cost that will be borne by taxpayers should the organizers gather enough signatures to put the issue to a vote. After all, both Ory and Stone’s terms end next year. If replaced, their successors won’t be in office for long. What’s the point?