Unscripted moments

Council meeting enlivened by passionate expressions

It’s lonely out on this limb: Ann Schwab is the only council member critical of City Manager Brian Nakamura’s methods.

It’s lonely out on this limb: Ann Schwab is the only council member critical of City Manager Brian Nakamura’s methods.

CN&R file photo

This week’s meeting of the Chico City Council, on Tuesday, April 16, was notable more for its unscripted moments than for anything the panel did with the items on its agenda.

One of those moments occurred right away, when Councilwoman Ann Schwab asked that an item—final approval of the restructuring of city government—be pulled from the consent agenda for discussion.

Schwab consistently has been the lone council member who has objected to City Manager Brian Nakamura’s handling of the changes, and she registered that objection again Tuesday.

“I feel that the method in which the reorganization has played out … has not been ideal,” she said, adding she’d been reminded of it when talking with a member of a city commission recently. He told her he was leaving his position when his term was up because “it’s very difficult to work … with employees who are frightened of losing their jobs and the lack of communication within the city.”

The measure passed without further discussion, 6-1.

The meeting otherwise featured Nakamura’s happy introduction of Chris Constantin, the new city finance director, whom the city manager touted for his skills and experience as an auditor and financial manager in San Diego as well as a one-time dance instructor.

With Constantin at the table next to new Assistant City Manager Mark Orme and Nakamura, it was clear that a new team was in charge at City Hall. With Constantin tentatively slated to head the new Administrative Services Department, Nakamura has just two department-head positions yet to fill: public works and community development. Whether he’ll select existing city employees or turn to outsiders, as he has done thus far, remains to be seen.

Another unscripted moment occurred toward the end of the meeting, when Stephanie Taber, the genteel but fierce Tea Party member who attends every council meeting, excoriated the panel for its handling of Toby Schindelbeck’s Second Amendment resolution at its April 2 meeting.

Her particular target was Vice Mayor Scott Gruendl, whom she angrily accused of sabotaging a motion on the floor to approve the resolution by spinning a rambling verbal web that ended up moving that the council members reaffirm their oaths to uphold the entire Constitution, not just the Second Amendment.

“I believe the council still has a motion on the floor supporting the Second Amendment resolution,” she insisted. She accused Mayor Mary Goloff of letting Gruendl violate Roberts’ Rules, and gave her a free copy of that rule book, as well as one of the Constitution.

Gruendl angrily responded by chiding those who make charges without reading the appropriate documents, in this case the agenda listing for the resolution. I later checked that listing, and, sure enough, it stated that the council was legally unable to approve the resolution without first having the city attorney put it in proper form. The motion to approve Schindelbeck’s resolution, in other words, was improper.

Otherwise, Tuesday evening produced some minor but interesting outcomes. For one, the council tabled for a month its proposed ordinance banning carry-out plastic bags at certain stores. City Attorney Lori Barker requested the delay so she could review some 800 pages of documents submitted by the attorney for a group called Save the Plastic Bag.

Go figure: A group that wants to save a notorious pollutant insists the city must do an environmental review of an ordinance banning that pollutant.

The council also reversed a decision by the Bidwell Park and Playground Commission not to allow a local man, Jarred Fisher, to hold a 5K obstacle race in Lower Park. They did order Fisher to meet with city staff to make some improvements to his plan, however.

Finally, the council provided direction to City Clerk Debbie Presson as she sets up a reconstituted Sustainability Task Force. The new STF will have seven members with staggered terms, and at least three members will have particular expertise in sustainability-related areas.