The heroes next door

A long-time Butte County resident who has worked for the homeless the past 10 years

Looking back over the past year in Chico, much has stayed the same. Students come, students go. Housing developments are built. City leaders chafe over downtown celebrations like Halloween.

One interesting occurrence in the past year was the resurgence of citizen involvement in local issues. Consider these examples.

After months of debate and wrangling, voters considered Measure A, a $3 million bridge into the Hegan Lane Business Park. Voters got a direct say due only to the efforts of Neighbors for Environmental and Fiscal Responsibility (NEFR), which collected signatures and forced a referendum. Outspent 3-1 by the Coalition for Parks and Jobs (CPJ) and opposed by the Enterprise-Record, NEFR mounted a vigorous volunteer campaign, and the bridge was soundly defeated.

The bridge turned off liberals because of environmental issues, and it wasn’t all that appealing to true-blue conservatives because the price was too much when other city roads suffer, and moderate Democrats didn’t like being advised they would be dumb to vote against a “win-win” deal like this. Who was left to vote on this loser? Basically, the Chamber of Commerce and Bob Linscheid.

Now consider the redistricting of Butte County. I know we’re all sick of hearing about Supervisor Kim Yamaguchi, David Reade, Plan 5, blah, blah, blah. And yes, they probably are the most morally bankrupt group of Republicans this county has ever seen. Fortunately, they are politically inept. If not for this, Yamaguchi’s Plan 5, a.k.a. “Return to Fairness,” would be reality at this juncture.

Yamaguchi and his cohorts, Supervisors Curt Josiassen and Bob Beeler, seemingly have no knowledge of the nuts and bolts of open and democratic government. As such, more than 15,000 people signed referendum petitions to vote on whether this plan was really fair. On March 5 they will have that opportunity.

Citizen involvement in the work of government was the norm for local politics last year. It resulted in the defeat of one costly project and the successful drive to place an item on the ballot for the elections in March.

Since Sept. 11, there has been a great deal of flag waving and a lot of talk about "heroes." I would like to suggest that we display our patriotism best when we speak our mind, no matter how unpopular the view may be. I believe that this democracy’s true everyday heroes are those willing to sign their names to a letter to the editor that will inspire debate or sign their names to a petition that challenges governmental bodies. These are the actions that define an open democracy, and those who take part in them help to preserve it for us all.