Thanks, Ms. Fillmer

On districts and the City Council’s thin-skinned neophyte politician, Reanette Fillmer

My former boss, retired CN&R Editor Robert Speer, found himself in the unusual (for him) position of standing at the podium in front of the full City Council last week during that panel's regular meeting.

Speer's on a mission to change the current method of at-large, citywide council elections. He and the group he's a part of, Districts for Chico, propose that the city be carved into six districts of equal populations and that the residents therein vote in a candidate to represent their district (someone who lives within the boundary).

The nonpartisan group has many good points. Currently, Districts for Chico maintains, citizens and neighborhoods lack effective representation, elections are extremely partisan and expensive, and with few exceptions, those who win seats are white.

During last week's meeting, Speer's objective was to get the panel to agendize a public hearing about the group's proposal. It didn't go as planned. He was peppered with questions about the particulars of the concept, some of which haven't been fully vetted, including the exact language that would amend the city's charter.

When asked about the benefits of districts, one of the many issues Speer brought up was how constituents would have better access to their representatives. He told an anecdote about Butte County District 2 Supervisor Larry Wahl attending a Love Chapmantown Coalition meeting, noting that Wahl likely would not have been there if that neighborhood wasn't in his district.

Speer's point seemed to be a bit over newbie Councilwoman Reanette Fillmer's head. She seemed to think that the representatives under the proposal would be able to attend only the meetings within their own districts. Not so. Moreover, issues would still be voted on by the full council.

In short, there was some confusion about the concept. A public hearing would have been helpful to the council and the community, including the Chico E-R's editorial board, which, big shocker, weighed in on the issue prior to hearing its merits. To Fillmer's credit, after Mayor Mark Sorensen made a motion to agendize discussion, she voted aye. She was joined by Councilwoman Tami Ritter, creating an oddball split vote that didn't go in Speer's favor. Stay tuned on that front.

For me personally, the most entertaining part of the exchange was hearing Fillmer throw barbs my way. I'm sure it stems from me writing about her callous comment about how she “stepped in shit” while in San Francisco—and how needing to buy a new pair of shoes was the determining factor in her voting for the city's new anti-homeless law.

At first it was hard to understand what she was getting at when she said, “the media plays a really big role in the nonpartisan and partisanship that is happening.” Huh? But then she went on to say that the media tends to play the parties against each other. Blaming the media—how original.

But the best thing to come out of the thin-skinned neophyte's mouth was when she told Speer that she would love it if he would go back to being CN&R's editor (i.e., replace yours truly). I cannot think of a higher compliment a politician could pay to a journalist. So, thank you, Ms. Fillmer.