Sweeping up a mess

Revisiting a flawed editorial

No sooner had last week’s issue of the CN&R hit the stands Thursday morning than I got a call from Jim Walker. Chico’s vice mayor was mystified. Did you forget about me and Andy? he asked.

He was referring to an editorial in that issue, titled “New faces, new council,” about the post-election changes on the City Council set to take place Tuesday (Dec. 4). As a final note, the editorial had praised departing Councilman Bob Evans for “serv[ing] the people of Chico with intelligence and great good will,” adding that he would be missed.

The editorial said nothing about Walker, who chose not to run for re-election, after four years on the council (twice as long as Evans) and, before that, 10 years on the Bidwell Park and Playground Commission and eight years on the Chico Area Recreation and Park District board. Nor did it mention Councilman Andy Holcombe, who also chose not to run again, after eight years on the council, two of them as mayor. Both of them were to be honored at the Dec. 4 meeting, along with Evans.

And, as Walker pointed out, the editorial also wrongly stated that Andrew Coolidge was one of the three new faces on the council. Oops. That would be Sean Morgan. (How many mistakes can one little editorial have?)

Walker wasn’t angry, just a little hurt, I sensed. I didn’t blame him. He and Holcombe deserved better. I apologized, saying that it was an oversight, the product of momentary mental sloppiness and a failure to vet the copy well.

Walker wasn’t the only person who noticed the lapse. My predecessor, Evan Tuchinsky, weighed in from Hot Springs, Ark., where he and his wife, Amy Dolinar, now live. Even from that distance he knew Morgan had been elected, not Coolidge.

And Pastor Jim Peck, of the First Congregational Church, sent in the letter you see to the right of this column. He asks how we could have confused Morgan and Coolidge. It’s a good question. We’re still trying to answer it.

Needless to say, we’re being more careful now. There’s nothing like a major screw-up to focus the mind.

In the meantime: When Jim Walker and Andy Holcombe announced they weren’t running for re-election, I was saddened. They have been extraordinary public servants.

Both men have wide and deep knowledge of how things work in Chico, and each in his own way has articulated a vision of what the community can be and successfully advocated for it. Holcombe came to Chico as a VISTA volunteer, and he’s held on to his deep compassion for the poor, especially the homeless. Walker, with his background as a park commissioner and CARD director, has always had a keen desire to preserve the town’s natural treasures.

Their styles differ—Walker is a listener and synthesizer, Holcombe a talker and idea generator—but they are motivated by the same thing: the desire to be of service to Chico. They too will be missed.

Robert Speer is editor of the CN&R.