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Chico City Council Election Guide: Meet the eight candidates running for three council seats

The+eight+Chico+City+Council+candidates+spoke+on+various+issues+including+but+not+limited+to+local+businesses%2C+homelessness+and+public+safety%2C+local+environmental+preservation+and+the+regulation+of+cannabis+in+Chico.+Be+sure+to+review+the+candidates%27+platform+points+before+election+day+on+Tuesday.+Photo+credit%3A+Chris+Godbout
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Chico City Council Election Guide: Meet the eight candidates running for three council seats

The eight Chico City Council candidates spoke on various issues including but not limited to local businesses, homelessness and public safety, local environmental preservation and the regulation of cannabis in Chico. Be sure to review the candidates' platform points before election day on Tuesday. Photo credit: Chris Godbout

The eight Chico City Council candidates spoke on various issues including but not limited to local businesses, homelessness and public safety, local environmental preservation and the regulation of cannabis in Chico. Be sure to review the candidates' platform points before election day on Tuesday. Photo credit: Chris Godbout

The eight Chico City Council candidates spoke on various issues including but not limited to local businesses, homelessness and public safety, local environmental preservation and the regulation of cannabis in Chico. Be sure to review the candidates' platform points before election day on Tuesday. Photo credit: Chris Godbout

The eight Chico City Council candidates spoke on various issues including but not limited to local businesses, homelessness and public safety, local environmental preservation and the regulation of cannabis in Chico. Be sure to review the candidates' platform points before election day on Tuesday. Photo credit: Chris Godbout

Josh Cozine

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The Chico City Council consists of seven council members each elected for four-year terms. Three of these council seats will be up for grabs this Tuesday, during the City of Chico’s General Municipal Election. Voters will get the opportunity to choose between these eight candidates.

*The candidates below are arranged alphabetical order (first name) in the efforts to remove bias from coverage. This order will be reversed each day until election day on Tuesday.*

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Alex Brown is the youngest candidate running for city council. Photo courtesy of Alex Brown.

Alex Brown’s desire to run for city council stems from the results of the last presidential election and her longing to represent a younger generation of people.

Additionally, she understands how policy plays in increasing social change. “It’s time for a new generation of leadership at the council level,” Brown said. Brown moved to Chico 10 years ago to attain two bachelors’ degrees, one in multicultural and gender studies and the other in psychology. She credits her prior work experience as preparation for the city council seat.

Brown is prioritizing public safety, housing, homelessness, behavioral health, cannabis and supporting the arts on her platform. Brown hopes to address the issue of homelessness through housing and emergency shelters. She considers the sit-lie ordinance a, “criminalizing act of living.” She also cited a collaborative local study that was created by Chico State professors as a source that proved the original passing of a sit-lie ordinance in 2013 was ineffective for Chico.

Brown believes the, “definition of public safety needs to be expanded,” to not just include police forces and first responders, but also service providers. In her opinion, service providers play a key role in intervening in issues that can lead to crime and help in preventing crime. Brown hopes to implement a, “strong, smart, strategic and responsible policy,” regulating cannabis in the community. Although she admitted there’s general fear around opening the city to cannabis commerce, she believes the public needs to understand that cannabis use and sale is already operating locally via the black market.

Ultimately, whether or not she’s elected to city council, Brown hopes to continue making politics more accessible to younger generations. “I want that young person who’s thought about running for political office to feel like they have somebody to ask,” Brown said.

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Andrew Coolidge, first elected in 2014, is the only incumbent running. Photo courtesy of Andrew Coolidge

Andrew Coolidge, the only incumbent running in the election, hopes to be reelected to further improve the city he loves.

“I’m doing it because I want to see a better Chico for my kids,” Coolidge said. The small business owner of over 25 years prioritizes safety, citing the fact he supported cameras being installed into the bicycle trail behind the university stadium, due to those being high areas of crime.

Furthermore, Coolidge stressed the importance of the sit-lie ordinance, which recently passed on Oct. 16. The city-wide rule, “stops people from overtaking our sidewalks and blocking our businesses,” Coolidge said. However, he did clarify the two populations of people that the ordinance will affect. “One we need to help and the other we need to police,” Coolidge said.

He also describes himself as a huge supporter of the arts and history in Chico. He’s fought to keep the historic water towers standing, led the charge against allowing roundabouts to be built on Esplanade Ave. and ensured the arts commission would still be a viable group within Chico.

Since being elected in 2014, the former Chico State student has worked toward ensuring the financial stability of Chico. According to Coolidge, four years ago Chico was reported as the 8th most likely city in the state of California to go bankrupt. However, Coolidge says that due to the plans the current city council and himself have put forward, the city should be out of a 20-million-dollar deficit, “within the next two to three years.” The council did so by negotiating with employee unions to ensure costs did not increase.

Although Coolidge has helped the police department increase their number of officers from 65 to 95 over his time on city council, he has proposed an additional of four more officers to help deal with street crimes, such as bike and car theft.

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Jon Scott hopes to extend security, allowed at the Thursday Night Market, into the weekend. (This photo is an archive from an Oct. 16 article.) Photo credit: Ricardo Tovar

Jon Scott does not mince his words.

On the issue of the local declaration of a shelter crisis, he doesn’t disagree with the idea in general, but disagrees with the wording. “(A) real shelter crisis,” he said, “is what happened with the Carr Fire over the summer, when 2000 homes burned down, instantly making thousands homeless.”

Nor does he care about petty partisan politicians squabbling over the small things. He refuses to identify with a political party or ideology. Instead, he keeps his focus on the one issue he sees as the real crisis: out of control pension promises. “Even if Chico doubled its budget overnight, in 10 years,” he said, “we’ll still be drowning in pension payments.”

As far as Chico’s safety goes, Scott has his own unique ideas. “Let’s block off the streets on the weekends, and bring back caddy-wagons.” Scott hopes to bring back a safer marketplace to the downtown area by extending the security allowed during the Thursday Night Market into the weekends. He also hopes to discourage bad behavior by throwing people in the back of a police van to sleep the night off, instead of fining people money they can’t afford and gumming up the court systems.

On the issue of housing costs, Scott, as an entrepreneur who owns multiple dwellings across the city, believes more is better. Rather than endorsing rent controls, as per California Proposition 10, Scott wants to see more dwellings built, which he said would bring down the market cost for all housing.

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Kasey Reynolds explains how her ownership of her local family business, Shubert’s Ice Cream and Candy, has prepared her to serve as a Chico city council member. (This photo is an archive from a Sept. 6 article.) Photo credit: Alex Grant

Kasey Reynolds is a fourth generation Chico resident who decided it was time to step up for Chico’s small business owners.

Reynolds is the owner of Shubert’s Ice Cream & Candy which she inherited down through the generations. She also has taken a major role in the Downtown Chico Business Association for years, and she’s raised two daughters in the area, both of which attended Butte College, and one who currently studies at Chico State.

Reynolds has gone to bat in District of Columbia to support of small businesses, and has regularly attended city council meetings. She is a strong supporter of the Police Department and keeping Chico city streets safe. For her, it’s not about, “criminalizing the homeless,” but rather about prosecuting, “criminal vagrancy.”

Born into the family business, Reynolds has been a part of her small business ice cream parlor for nearly all her life. She said she never planned to get this deep into politics. But after seeing the state of Chico change into a less family and business friendly atmosphere over the course of her lifetime she decided it was time to get involved.

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Kasey Reynolds talks to locals during her #StompOutHate ice cream social. Photo credit: Keelie Lewis

Reynolds also feels for college students. Both of her daughters attended local colleges and Reynolds hires mostly college students to work her parlor, so she sees the drive and motivation of students every day. She implores the university to keep costs down as much as possible, while doing what she can—employing mostly students and helping them through their college career as the owner of a small business.

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Ken Rensink has taught special education at Williams Junior/Senior High School for 17 years. Photo courtesy of Ken Rensink

Ken Rensink truly believes there is no place better than Chico. Though he has traveled far and wide, he has never found another place quite like it. That’s why, for over 30 years now, Rensink has been proud to call Chico his home.

At the age of 19, Rensink died. Actually, he died twice. It was only one day after he had completed his training for the U.S. Army Reserves when Rensink fell asleep at the wheel of his car and collided with a telephone pole. Rensink was able to walk away though severely injured. Rensink technically died during open heart surgery, twice, leaving him paralyzed from the waist down. In spite of having experienced death first hand, twice, Rensink has a passion for life.

For the last 17 years, Rensink has taught special education at Williams Junior Senior High School but now he believes it’s the Chico City Council members who need to be taught a lesson. After serving six years on the Planning Commission, Rensink has become all too familiar with the intense, binary rhetoric and subsequent disintegration of political discourse. Running as an independent, Rensink is trying to avoid the divisive partisanship he believes led to the disintegration of political discourse in Chico. “It’s not only ‘we’re right, you’re wrong’ but ‘you‘re evil for thinking so,’” he said.

Rensink wants to bring respect to the council with an emphasis on clear and open dialogue. He believes that leaders should be the one setting the example. “Right now they are doing a poor job,” Rensink said. He promises to be a true man of the people. He will not engage in partisan politics. He will not be swayed by special interest groups.

If elected, he promises to listen to all people and consider all positions. As a Chico State alum, Rensink recognizes how valuable the university is to the community. “I think this community is far stronger, more culturally enriched and more economically vibrant by having the University.” So what does Rensink have to offer the students of Chico State? “You’re going to have, if I’m elected, a councilor that is open to hearing what the students have to say.”

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Architect Matt Gallaway wants to make Chico safe and attractive for both locals and students. Photo credit: Alex Grant

Matt Gallaway has lived in Chico for 45 years where he’s raised two daughters alongside his wife, Jody. His platform is broad. As an architect, he feels he can bring the tools problem-solving skills he’s learned to the city council.

Gallaway says the core of his platform is to make a safe, affordable and attractive Chico, which all tie together into economic growth. “We’re not going to be able to attract businesses, families or college graduates who want to stay here unless we’re safe,” Gallaway said. “We don’t want a place where trees are falling on people or big potholes in the road.”

Gallaway believes the increase in crime has a direct relation with California Proposition 47 and 57. He plans to provide policies for the Chico Police Department, and supports efforts for residential awareness. He also believes reducing regulations and fees would help make Chico more affordable to live and do business in, and that reducing crime ties directly into affordability. “The amount of what they ‘shrink’ can affect what you, as a student, or, I, as a father, pay for a gallon of milk,” Gallaway said. “So we need a relatively crime-free city for those purposes.”

Gallaway wants Chico to be attractive, but not just when it comes to the way it looks. “I want to make it attractive for businesses to come, attractive for when parents come to see the university, and our parks as well,” Gallaway said. And, “that all ties into maintaining business.” As an architect, he’s also had to deal with land regulations, and says that they make it more difficult for businesses to come. He’s concerned about having an overwhelming government and plans to work toward limiting its scope.

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Rich Ober is one of the founding members of Mobilize Chico, a group focused on the preservation of democratic values. (This photo is an archive from an Oct. 16 article.) Photo credit: Ricardo Tovar

Rich Ober has been a Chico citizen for over 23 years and has been involved in multiple projects within the local community.

Ober’s extreme passion for civic engagement shows in his work. He is a founding member of Mobilize Chico, a member of the Torres Shelter Board of Directors and he has 10 years of experience working with the Chico Park Commission. Ober not only draws inspiration from the community through his public service, but from his experience as a father of two children. Ober wanted him and his wife to, “be the kind of role models for them so that (they) were engaged in doing important and good work in the community.”

Ober describes himself as an, “environmentalist at heart,” and wants to create a strong relationship with the Sustainability Task Force in order to protect Bidwell Park’s environment as well as local neighborhoods.

He also wants to continue to improve community safety, particularly with improving lighting among student walkways, something he notes is a high priority on his list of needed improvements.

On the issue of homelessness, Ober acknowledges that a shelter crisis declaration may be a short-term solution, but also hopes to implement long-term solutions as well. These solutions include day centers where people are able to get their basic needs such as showers, meals, help with mental health issues and a safe place to store medication. Ober’s wants to support day centers that provide more wraparound services like counseling and job training to those in need.

He also sees the need for more affordable housing for students, as he believes that, “the cost of an apartment shouldn’t be one more barrier to coming to Chico to go to school.” He wants to incentivize the developing community to provide a higher inventory of affordable housing that would be targeted specifically to students.

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Scott Huber wants body-cams to be put on all police officers. Photo courtesy Scott Huber

Scott Huber never planned to get involved in politics, but after seeing, “the loss of civility in the 2016 national election,” along with the same loss of civility in Chico city politics ever since, he decided he needed to get involved.

Huber has since engulfed himself in various issues. When he wanted to learn more about the crime issues in Chico, he went on a ride along with Chico Police. When marijuana became legal in California, the current city council held several discussions on it at the city level before deciding to mostly ban medical cannabis in Chico. Huber responded by going to Denver, Colorado where medical and recreational cannabis had been legal for years. He got the facts straight from their police force and came back to Chico to share these facts with the community. Huber even changed his own mind on the issue in the process.

As homelessness became an even larger problem throughout the community, Huber tried to learn about homelessness by living on the streets for two days. Through this experience, he realized that being homeless wasn’t a lifestyle, “anyone would choose for themselves.”

Huber sees city safety as a benchmark issue, but he also believes in police accountability, and calls for body-cams on all police officers. He also would like to see better crisis and de-escalation training for all officers, along with getting police out of their cars to patrol on foot or on bike.

Along with these issues, Huber has always been a strong proponent of environmental conservation. He served on the local Altacal Audubon Society and he’s worked as a park ranger.

Mathew Miranda, Josh Cozine, Dan Christian, Brian Luong and Justin Jackson can be reached at [email protected] or @theorion_news on Twitter.

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Chico City Council Election Guide: Meet the eight candidates running for three council seats