There’s a movement in Chico to elect Silly Council members by district, instead of at-large. Chico’s mayor would be elected at-large by all eligible voters, rather than by council members, which is completely silly. As it is, being mayor of Chico just means it’s your turn, not that voters wanted you in the job. By-district council members and an at-large mayor. Two good ideas.
I’ve complained before that the way we do things now gets us mostly bland people, not at all who we need. There are good reasons to change our system of doing things, including giving minorities a better chance to be elected and enabling an independent candidate to run a viable campaign without sucking up to a major party so as to be part of its slate.
The meeting I attended at the Butte County Library on First Avenue got a good turnout, and I learned a few things. The presenters said that Chico is about 70 percent white, only three people who aren’t white have run for the council, and only Dan Nguyen Tan won. Randall Stone, currently a Silly Council member, announced that he counts as a minority too, because he’s 50 percent Hispanic. I say “announced” because I had no idea that he was anything other than plain white, although I don’t suppose it had been a secret.
The presenters also expect such a change in process to make elections cheaper for candidates, which I think will help people who aren’t affluent to run for the council, and at the same time likely piss off the hardcore capitalists, since expensive elections are great if you can raise the cash, and they can.
There was some talk about ethnic diversity and Chico government’s lack of it. It seems that the California Voting Rights Act of 2002 requires rather more diversity than we’ve got, and if the city is called on the carpet for being too homogeneous it’ll be expensive, if not especially embarrassing. One old woman was incensed at the implication that Chico could be racist, but I think she’s often incensed about something or other, and of course Chico is as racist as a lot of places in the U.S. and far more than many others.
I’d like to see more ethnic diversity on the council, mostly on principle, since ethnic origin doesn’t mean all that much to me, and thinking that ethnicity is a person’s most important characteristic is the essence of racism. I’ve not tracked any Silly Council member’s voting record, but I bet Stone’s decisions haven’t been particularly Hispanic, whatever the hell that might look like.
There are a lot of things deplorable about Chicago’s voting by ward for its city council, although the awfulness is not so much because of the system as because of the greedy lowlifes who run it. Nonetheless, when something’s off in your neighborhood you know whom to call, you know who’s at least pretending to represent you. When the giant pothole appears in front of your house, you call the precinct captain, who reports to the ward committeeman, who reports to the alderman. Simple and effective. If you live in Chico, every council member represents all voters, which is the same as nobody representing anybody.
I’m much more concerned about the complete lack of economic diversity in city government. I want people on the council who care about poor people because they are poor and know what it’s like, not just because they feel sorry for us.