Watch-dogging the newbies, especially Andrew Coolidge, who has ties to a convicted polluter

Last week, I weighed in on the first Chico City Council meeting with a conservative majority. It was fairly uneventful as far as policy-making goes, if you weren’t paying attention to the nuances. I was, and especially when it came to the two new members of the panel—Reanette Fillmer and Andrew Coolidge. Here’s more on what I took away:

Fillmer came out swinging. After Sean Morgan nominated Mark Sorensen for mayor, rather than seconding the motion, Fillmer attempted to close the nominations (and was told that’s something the panel must vote on). Minutes later, she spoke over the city clerk to “move to elect” Morgan as vice mayor. (Council members can only make nominations.)

But those gaffes are understandable. There’s a steep learning curve at the dais. And that’s not what concerns me. What I’m worried about is the new majority catering to monied special interests.

That brings me to Coolidge. His first motion as a councilman was to agendize discussion of Chico Scrap Metal, whose owner, George Scott, was convicted of environmental crimes—namely polluting the East 20th Street property housing one of his four scrap-metal operations. Back in 2007, the Department of Toxic Substances Control found contamination including chromium, lead and zinc, and polychlorinated biphenyl (or PCB). The business sits immediately adjacent to an elementary school and across the street from environmental leaders Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.

Scott pleaded no contest and was fined $700,000 by a Butte County Superior Court judge, and has since made several unsuccessful appeals. He also waged a campaign against District Attorney Mike Ramsey, who’d filed the charges against him. In 2010, Scott and other ax-grinders recruited Sacramento-based DUI attorney Lance Daniel to run against Ramsey. They formed a political action committee called Citizens for Economic Balance that hired none other than our new councilman, Mr. Coolidge, as its public relations consultant. The PAC paid Coolidge thousands of dollars during that failed attempt to unseat Ramsey, according to disclosures filed with the county clerk. I don’t know exactly what kind of PR Coolidge did, but Ramsey trounced Daniel, a carpetbagger who immediately left Chico.

It’s no coincidence that Kim Scott, George’s daughter and Chico Scrap Metal CFO, asked for discussion of the scrap metal yard on the night Coolidge and the other conservatives were sworn into office. She and her father are seeking an extension on an order to discontinue its operations—action related to the East 20th Street property’s noncomforming uses in that part of the city. They came at the eleventh hour. Could it be because they now have a friend on the panel?

In 2006, the City Council gave Chico Scrap Metal five years to move. In 2011, it received an extension of three years that ends this month. Somehow the Scotts have had eight years to comply and have had the money to pay lawyers for appeals in the criminal case. But they haven’t moved their business. I guarantee they will say it’s too expensive. Give me a break. It’s time for their business to go, and anyone who disagrees is not fit for public office.