Suggestion for the council: switch seats

Scrap the dais arrangement that places lefties on the left and right-wingers on the right

We were a bit surprised Tuesday evening (Dec. 4) when the Chico City Council’s reconfigured panel—with three new members and its new liberal majority—voted in the folks who will lead the city as mayor and vice mayor for the next two years.

We called it on the mayoral post—although it comes with the asterisk of Councilman Randall Stone having immediately jumped in to nominate himself—but we didn’t see it coming when political neophyte Alex Brown was nominated and voted in as vice mayor.

That unpredictable outcome is a good sign.

Indeed, over the past four years, with few exceptions, the conservatives were predictable. That was true two years ago, when we watched the four of them vote in Sean Morgan as mayor—the expected choice, as he’d served as a councilman for four years, vice mayor for two of them, and was thus the most experienced among those on the right side of the dais who hadn’t held that post. Choosing Reanette Fillmer as vice mayor was predictable, too, and unfortunately a very poor choice.

To put it bluntly, the way they ran the meetings—the primary role of the largely ceremonial positions—ushered in an era of public discourse that will be remembered as some of the most combative and divisive years in the city’s history. Fortunately, their reign—and subsequent disrespect for the process—has ceased.

Brown didn’t get voted in unanimously. Morgan cast a nay vote, which seemed odd considering he voted last, meaning it was already a done deal. So much for taking the high road. Veterans Ann Schwab and Karl Ory were more diplomatic—abstaining from a vote on Stone, because Schwab had nominated Ory for mayor.

We hope to see more civility in the City Council chambers in the years to come. That includes a more collaborative working relationship with colleagues of divergent views. On that front, we offer a humble suggestion: that the council nix its long-held seating arrangement that places the progressives on the left side of the dais and the conservatives on the right.

Mixing it up would not change any of the council members’ minds on policy. But it would be a symbolic gesture that signals the panel’s willingness to work beyond the philosophical divisions that have hampered the process. One would hope it would sow some common ground and foster positive working relationships. Now, more than ever, our elected leaders need to work together for the greater good.