CHICO, Calif. — Nine former Chico Mayors have thrown their support behind the referendum against Butte County's newly redrawn district lines.
The handful of past leaders represents 80 years of council service within the city. In a press release to the media, the former mayors are listed as:
These former leaders join the current progressive minority on the Butte County Board of Supervisors who say the chosen map was gerrymandered to benefit the Republican party at the expense of the more democratic areas of the county. They believe dividing Chico into four separate districts will dilute the democratic votes of the county and ensure further republican representation at the supervisor level until at least the next time district lines are redrawn.
"Once the districts are in place, they're not changed again until 2030, the next time that we have a census. It does mean that Chico and Oroville, who's also being split three ways, and cities generally will have less influence in the county, less services. I guess more importantly it shows that three folks who thought that they could get away with it are in power and will probably see other efforts to take on partisan approaches to issues facing us," says Ory in a phone interview with KRCR.
The divide is seemingly between city dwellers and rural residents. The board majority says the map chosen gives appropriate representation to those living in agricultural communities or rural areas that do not have city councils of their own, as Chico and Oroville have. Ory believes that is a false premise.
“They could care less if they're splitting ag or cities or people's front yards. They are just looking at gerrymandering, they're looking at ways to split other districts in order to maintain their power. That's what it's all about. I have not known any county supervisor of either party in the last 40 years who is not all for our vibrant agricultural community. You don't have to live in Chico or Durham or Gridley to be pro-ag. To me, it's kind of the shame of this process that they're setting up these false divisions."
The 30-day process has a deadline of this Thursday, January 13. 8,900 signatures are required, an amount referendum organizers tell KRCR they are at least halfway to, but still have a ways to go in the remaining days.