Why did Measure A get trounced?

This pundit, for one, didn’t see it coming

I admit I was surprised by the thrashing Measure A took last week. I thought it would do better than it did—even win, if the tendency of conservatives to turn out for June elections held true. And when I learned about a week before the election that more than 8,000 mail-in ballots had been turned in, I started to worry.

So much for my nose for news. Measure A stank up the place, and I didn’t smell it coming.

Now I’m wondering why it lost so handily. I wish the CN&R could have afforded to do an exit poll. Was it the added cost of June elections that turned off voters? The affront to students’ democratic rights? The use of professional signature-gatherers paid by a local business owner? Or simply voters’ sense that a clique of right-wingers was trying to game the system in order to elect more people like them to the City Council?

And let’s give credit to Jessica Allen and the Stop Measure A folks. With funding help primarily from local activist Kelly Meagher, they ran a solid grassroots campaign focused on getting out the vote—and succeeded.

The problem Chico conservatives face is that they can’t mount such a campaign. They’ve got money and can buy ads and air time, but they don’t have the people willing to get up at 5 a.m. and walk neighborhoods putting hangers on doors. And those people make a big difference in Chico elections.

Don’t get me wrong: Conservatives can win in November, as last year’s election showed. Mark Sorensen lost twice previously but kept showing up, and by the third time he’d gained name recognition and the endorsement of both local newspapers and became the top vote-getter. And his fellow conservative, Bob Evans, who came in fourth, wasn’t far behind liberal Mary Flynn.

Maybe that’s what the people who voted against Measure A understood: City elections today are competitive and lively and anybody can win. And that’s how it should be.

Speaking of the City Council: I came away from last week’s regular council meeting bothered by something I’d seen.

It had to do with the public hearing on the medical-marijuana ordinance governing dispensaries. Ultimately the council voted, 4-3, to limit the number of dispensaries to two, but not before a half-dozen supporters and representatives of Citizen Collective, a group that wants to set up a dispensary in Chico, had spoken in favor of that limit.

Citizen Collective has been lobbying council members heavily, even taking some of them on a field trip to Sacramento to view a dispensary there with which it is affiliated. Obviously, the group is confident that it will be one of the two anointed businesses to receive dispensary permits. But its favor-currying is starting to seem a little, well, unseemly.

That’s the problem with the two-site limit. The council has set up a contest in which it will decide the winners. That leaves its members vulnerable to charges of favoritism. Andy Holcombe’s idea that strict land-use designations should determine who wins avoids that pitfall.