Tea Party tax rally

Conservatives gather to protest big government, wasteful spending

City Council candidate and local business owner Toby Schindelbeck at the Tea Party Tax Day rally at City Plaza.

City Council candidate and local business owner Toby Schindelbeck at the Tea Party Tax Day rally at City Plaza.

Photo By Dugan gascoyne

Cliff Erickson wore a red T-shirt and hat with messages proclaiming allegiance to the Chico Tea Party. Sitting on a bench in downtown Chico’s City Plaza last Sunday, April 15, which traditionally is Tax Day, Erickson also held a sign that read: “Recession: When your neighbor loses his job. Depression: When you lose yours. Recovery: When Obama loses his!”

That message reflected the Tea Party theme on this day—frustration with the status quo and resentment toward the president.

The rally was hosted by Republican Party activist and NorCal Blogs blogger Jack Lee, a member of the Butte County Republican Central Committee and a candidate for the 3rd Assembly District in 2008.

Attendance was lighter than last year’s rally, which drew a couple hundred. About 35 to 40 people showed up to hear a number of Republican candidates stump for votes. The low turnout possibly was the result of the competing Steve Harrison Memorial Downtown Criterium cycling race, which made nearby parking impossible.

Speakers included candidates vying for the 3rd District Assembly seat, the 1st Congressional District seat left open by retiring Rep. Wally Herger, and what likely will be a hotly contested race for the Chico City Council.

Council candidate and incumbent Bob Evans took the stage and immediately referred to his recent weight loss. The svelte-looking Evans said he’s lost so much that folks have expressed some concern. “I’ve never felt better in my life,” he said. Then joked: “Ever since I joined the City Council I’ve lost my appetite.”

This year four seats, including Evans’, are up for grabs—Mayor Ann Schwab is seeking re-election, while Councilmen Jim Walker and Andy Holcombe are not. Evans called the Tea Partiers “super supportive” of his political efforts thus far.

“My primary intent is getting Chico back on its feet,” he said. “There is a push for four open seats, and there are five conservative candidates. Let’s get them elected, so we can put the other side on the outside looking in and not being a part of the discussion.”

He said the state has financially dinged the city budget, including the loss of $8.6 million in redevelopment funding. Besides that, he said, an expected drop in enrollment at Chico State could mean a hit of $77 million to the local economy.

“So the City Council is looking for new sources of revenue, wouldn’t you think?” he asked. “You’d be wrong.”

He said there were more than 70 items on the panel’s agendas in 2011. “How many times did the words ‘economic development’ appear? Zero. How many times did the word ‘jobs’ appear? Zero,” he said.

Evans said the council needs to help develop the local business community so the city can become independent of the state.

“We need to change the council,” he said. “With three liberals’ seats coming up and me, we have a great opportunity to do so. It’s not just you guys who are disappointed in the council, it’s the [political] middle, too.”

City Council candidate and 34-year-old local business owner Tony Schindelbeck, whom Lee described as “full of passion,” also spoke during the event.

Schindelbeck owns two local Nutrishop stores. He blames a recent redesign of turn lanes on Forest Avenue near one of them for a dramatic drop in his sales, and he says that is proof that Chico officials don’t understand how to run a business.

During the rally, he asked how the city could cut back on law-enforcement personnel while approving low-income housing, suggesting such housing draws crime. Schindelbeck criticized spending money on the arts and said “common sense is an oxymoron” with the current council majority.

He went on to say it was time to “get rid of this good-old-boy network of those who have no experience in running a business. We have the opportunity to bring back common sense.”

Lee came back on stage and said the current council majority is too concerned about fair-trade issues and low-income housing.

“I know about low-income housing,” he said. “I used to be a police officer in south Chicago near Comiskey Park, and when the sun goes down you get a real good idea of what happens in public housing. You didn’t step foot in there for any reason after the sun went down.”

(According to the 2010 Chico police crime report, a majority of property crimes occur in the south-campus region, including the downtown, and the north-campus area.)

The last speaker was Ryan Fedrizzi, the president of the Chico State Republicans Club. “I represent the next generation of leaders; I represent our future,” he said. “It’s a hard fight. But we have to fight these lies, these falsehoods we are taught in the classroom. I was brought up a Christian, and these politicians in Washington, D.C., are not connected to reality.”

And with that, Lee thanked the audience just as a recording of the Smash Mouth song “All Star” filled the air.