We’ve got some pretty serious problems happening here in Chico. We have a massive budget crisis (we can’t even get a payday loan right now because our finances are so massively screwed up), our beloved kiddie park is experiencing closures, we don’t have any tree gardeners, our police force is understaffed, our fire department is overpaid (depending on who you talk to), our City Manager might be Lord Voldemort, and Chief Trostle is trying to take the fun out of our fundamental right to party. I know that many of you are outraged, and for good reason; it’s serious stuff. I’m only making jokes because that’s how I cope. And since the Synthesis doesn’t really have a political correspondent, you’re stuck with me.
So if you’re planning to head down to the city council meeting on Tuesday to make your voice heard, maybe I can help you out a little. As an inactive observer from my sofa in my underpants with a beer and a bowl of popcorn, I have witnessed—even live-tweeted—many a city council meeting, and I suppose I have some advice.
1. Know what you’re talking about.
Read up on the issue; be informed. Many a rambling dumbass has gone before the council with misdirected outrage. Hone your outrage like a laser beam of knowledge directed straight into Mary Goloff’s brain. Chief Trostle’s recommendations for regulations are just that, recommendations. They are not city law. Yet. Explain why those recommendations are good or bad for Chico in terms of our economy and our culture. Speak to the reason why Trostle is involving himself in policymaking discussions—he is the head of an understaffed police department charged with the safety of our town, but are his efforts better used elsewhere? The public outcry over alcohol-related deaths in our town last fall called for immediate action—is this an appropriate response, or is Chico State punting their responsibility? Understand the nuances and articulate your point of view.
2. Practice what you’re going to say.
You only get 2-3 minutes to speak, so if your only plan is to rant your face off like a nutball until they tell you that your minutes are up, then you have wasted everybody’s time. The city council wants to hear what you have to say; if you are giving them tasty food for thought, then they will interact with you and ask questions. If they just sit there, confused and blinking at you, then you have failed. Everybody wants intelligent discourse on the issues facing our town. We are all in this together—this town is depending on you to be a part of the solution. Local government is our best option when it comes to improving the quality of our lives on a palpable level, and our local government is in crisis. Be prepared. Two to three minutes can seem like an eternity, or it can go by in a blink. Practice while you’re riding your bike downtown. Also, you might want to bring along a sandwich and one of those neck pillows, because hot-button issues draw big crowds and you could be there awhile. You may also want to make a sign and join a rally. Please spell everything on your sign correctly. I volunteer to proofread all your signs, because good spelling = maximum impact.
I don’t know if getting there early really matters; everybody gets a chance to speak. But if it’s 11 o’clock at night, you might not get the kind of engagement from the council that you’re hoping for, because they’ve been at it all day. The Mayor gets confused, Morgan drops F-bombs, Ritter will make you repeat something over and over again, and the rest of them might be napping with their eyes open. Which makes it even more important that you drop a finely tuned public-comment-bomb right into their laps.
3. Respect the situation.
You are not at a beer pong tournament—you’re meeting with our elected leaders. Don’t tell them off (although it’s hilarious for the home watchers, you don’t actually earn any respect points) or personally attack a councilmember. Think of it like the Round Table of Camelot (not the Round Table where you get pizza), and the theory behind why that was a revolutionary concept. Collaboration between elected officials and the people they’re serving is essential for a healthy community. You have the opportunity for your voice to be heard—and no, you don’t live in Nazi Germany, so knock it off with the Nazi shit. This in no way compares to anything close to that kind of genocidal racial-cleansing blight on the face of humanity. The second you loosely drop the nazi-word into your speech, you have already lost all credibility and are wasting everybody’s time, and quite possibly making people dumber for having listened to you. I cannot stress this enough: what is happening to the Winchester Goose is not reminiscent of the Third Reich, and Chief Trostle is not Hitler.
4. Offer solutions.
If you have a revolutionary idea that you think might be a possible solution, put it on the table. I, for one, want to hear all of your ideas for potential ways to solve our problems. For example, I think we should begin a real discussion about putting a half-cent local sales tax on the ballot. I know that might not be a popular solution, but at least we’re talking like a mature bunch of problem solvers, right? Once you get up to the podium, gently lay down your pitchfork (or a have friend hold your flaming torch) and say, “Hey, I propose that perhaps we could form a committee. I would be willing to be on said committee to discuss the viability of all these ideas. I am qualified to be on this committee because I am smart and dedicated to wading through a lot of baloney to find answers.” I don’t know; something like that, only more mature. Remember that I will be listening, and I will appreciate the effort that you put into being a rational voice among the cacophony of broken records all playing the crybaby song.
5. Follow through.
After you’ve gone through all of the effort to become an informed, articulate, problem-solving citizen, don’t just abandon your cause. If you feel like the only reason you went to the council meeting was to make sure the Goose got their liquor license, and now your contribution to the betterment of your town is complete, we thank you for your service—but please, stay awhile. Right now our town is in for a rocky ride. Before Chico becomes an unrecognizable cesspool of urban nomads, stabbing victims, strip-malls, and live-music-less patios, you should stay involved and be the road block that stops all these things from destroying what is quite possibly one of the friendliest, most welcoming towns in America.
Your reluctant political correspondent will be live-tweeting the city council meeting from the safety and comfort of her throne of slacktivism. Feel free to follow @scalvosa.