Taking stock of Measure A

Now that it’s over, we can step back, take a breath and reflect on the dynamics that defined the Measure A campaigns and special election. We can consider what was lost, what was gained and what lessons were learned.

Most obvious, Chico lost an opportunity to build a bridge and road extension that would have alleviated future traffic congestion along the Midway from Park Avenue to Hegan Lane. Some would argue that, because by law the City Council cannot reconsider the project as proposed for one year, the city also lost control over what will be built on the 14 acres along Comanche Creek. The property’s owners have threatened to construct something along the lines of a mini-storage facility that, because it is currently not within city jurisdiction, would have to meet only the county’s less-stringent building requirements.

In arguing for Measure A, the four members of the City Council majority that originally approved the Otterson project said they found that prospect distasteful. So do those who voted against Measure A. That’s why the council majority should join the council minority and move to purchase the land by using greenway creekside funds, which is precisely what those funds are for. Short of that, the council should move to annex the property under the island annexation law, which is designed to help communities like Chico unify their urban boundaries.

One consequence of the defeat of Measure A is that we’ve gained more time to study the larger question of traffic in southwest Chico and take into account important aspects other than the issue of access to the Hegan Lane Business Park. These include the potential development of the Diamond Match property to the northwest and the existence of a large and toxic plume of gasoline, MTBE and benzene floating underneath the Midway to the south. Passage of Measure A would not have solved the pollution problem, and it would have limited the traffic options for serving the Diamond Match area.

We’ve also learned from the angry post-election comments of business park owner Doug Guillon, the man who opponents said would most benefit from the project, that his true motivation was indeed the health of his own bank account, not the economic benefit of the rest of the community.

We learned that raising more money than the other side has does not guarantee victory in an election. In Chico, at least, it’s still the way you run a campaign and the merits of the issue that count. The pro-A folks easily raised (and spent) three times the money the anti-A faction did, yet they lost by 10 percent of the vote, close to a landslide. Walking precincts, talking to voters and distributing fliers and door hangers were more effective than direct-mailing expensive brochures.

And we hope those on the council who pushed through the Otterson proposal have learned that the success of such projects depends on how broadly members of the community have participated in the process of solving the problem the council is addressing. That didn’t happen here; no choices were given. It was Otterson or nothing, and the voters chose nothing.

We now call upon the councilmembers to act responsibly, put aside any personal feelings based on the outcome of the election and work together and with the community to devise a solution that will consider all interests, vested and otherwise.