Where’s Joe?

A would-be City Council candidate we won’t see in November’s race

Last spring, after writing about the likely candidates in this year’s elections, the June primary and the upcoming general election, I got wind of an early candidate for Chico City Council named Joe Montes. I checked out his website, but never wrote anything about him, since it would be another eight months until November’s election, and thus several months prior to the start of the campaign season for council contenders.

Montes piqued my interest. He’s the first person in his family to graduate from high school, and he went on to become a state administrative law judge up in Washington. He put down roots in Chico last year, but has a great affection for the town, having spent summers here while growing up.

A close friend of his made an appointment with me several months ago to sing his praises, and, from the sound of it, Joe Montes could do no wrong. The friend, a local businessman, told me Montes is a conservative, but that he’s a good communicator and mediator. Montes would work to bridge the chasm that’s grown between the council’s current progressive and conservative members, he said.

I told the businessman I’d look forward to seeing Montes in action during the candidates’ forums. But as we now know, that’s not going to happen. He’s not running after all (see page 8 to read about the full cast of candidates). I met up with Montes recently, anyway, and one of the first things I asked him was who talked him out of running. Montes acknowledged that he was indeed urged to back out of the race. He wouldn’t give me the name of the person, or perhaps people, though he basically described an ambush scenario—he was invited to a meeting under false pretenses by someone whose true motive was convincing him to make a quiet exit.

Welcome to politics in Chico, Joe. That’s pretty much what I told him. See, Joe Montes may be a well-qualified candidate. He may be a guy who can rise above the partisanship in our so-called nonpartisan city government. But he has a number of things working against him. For starters, he’s new to town and thus is not among the chosen ones, in this case the chosen three conservatives (Mark Sorensen, Andrew Coolidge and Reanette Fillmer).

I probably don’t see eye to eye with Joe Montes on a lot of things. I’d say we’re fairly politically divergent. However, he seemed sincere about wanting to move the city forward.

A while back, Montes pulled down his campaign page, www.joemontes4chico.com, but I did some Internet sleuthing this week and found a backdoor way to view the site. One of the things that impressed me the most was seeing his pledge to not take campaign contributions from any of the city’s unions. He noted that those special-interest groups often benefit at the expense of the taxpayer. At the very least, taking such donations creates the perception of favoritism.

He’s right, and I’ll be taking a close look at each candidate’s financial disclosures. Any true fiscal conservative would be wise to follow his lead.