State of the City

Address at City Council chambers focuses on the positive

Out of the public’s view on the dais at City Council chambers, Chico Mayor Ann Schwab keeps a card in front of her that lists four words: listen, consider, respect, civility. As the person in charge of leading City Council meetings, she wrote the note as a mental cue to remind the public to maintain decorum.

That was a tall order in 2009, a year in which Chico’s leaders faced heated debate as they tackled incredibly polarizing issues, especially those surrounding the environment and development. Yet instead of lamenting having to use the note as she’d intended, in looking back on the year Schwab reflected on how she used it in another way.

“I’ve learned that these words … are of much greater value to remind myself of my promise to you, the residents of Chico, to be fair in my decision-making,” she said. “Listen, consider, respect, civility are my Chico values—values which guide my decision-making.”

That sentiment seemed to reflect the overall tone on Tuesday evening (Jan. 26), during the inaugural State of the City address at council chambers. Schwab’s anecdote came toward the end of a meeting focused on the bright spots of the past year and a sunny outlook on the future.

Council members sat in their usual spots, while the mayor did nearly all of the speaking during the hour-long meeting. Her participation included a voiceover recording she’d created to accompany a photographic slide show reviewing the city’s accomplishments during an economically challenging year.

Some examples of the things highlighted in the presentation are the roadway improvements on Manzanita Avenue near Upper Bidwell Park and the $2.5 million in federal funding for construction to widen Cohasset Road on a stretch leading to the airport. Additional items boasted: the retrofit and reopening of the historic downtown Municipal Center, a statewide Award of Excellence for the City Plaza from the California Redevelopment Association, the appointment of veteran cop Mike Maloney as chief of the Chico Police Department.

Though the list of accomplishments continued, a balanced budget appeared the salient achievement. That was clear when Schwab gave her State of the City speech, laying out the city’s vision for 2010.

She stressed the city’s significant challenges of maintaining a balanced budget, enhancing economic development efforts and furthering the process to adopt an update of the general plan. Noting several steps city leaders have taken starting more than three years ago to address a budget deficit, she stated that panel is again prepared for impending economic uncertainties.

“The city of Chico is weathering the worst financial storm of our lifetimes. In June 2009, this Chico City Council acted fiscally responsible and passed a balanced budget,” she said. “Seven months into the fiscal year the city of Chico’s budget remains balanced and is expected to remain balanced through the end of this fiscal year.”

Schwab called the city a haven for innovation and entrepreneurship in the North State, and she noted the creation of more than 80 jobs—and the predicted 185 additional jobs within the next five months—through the city’s investment in direct services to businesses.

She also gave props to each of the council members for their work on various committees and task forces, noting that Larry Wahl, the lone conservative, is a champion of veterans’ issues and several organizations, such as the Salvation Army and the public library. “Committed to transparency, Larry does his homework and asks tough questions,” she said.

Wahl returned the favor during a reception designed to give members of the public one-on-one access to city leaders, including Maloney, who was one of several law-enforcement officials sitting in the gallery during the meeting. Wahl was complimentary of Schwab’s presentation, though when asked about the format of the meeting, he said he’d like to be able to speak next year if the set-up remains the same. He also noted that he would have that opportunity during the Chamber of Commerce’s “2010 Community Forecast” on Friday (Jan. 29).

“Everybody gets a chance to get in there and give their take,” he said.

In leading up to her final words, Schwab did acknowledge that the community has often participated in rancorous and destructive conversations—or “drive-by debate”—and said she would like to see more-considerate discussions.

“While we will not always agree on issues, it is important that we understand one another and believe that we are all working for a better Chico,” she said.