During the last election cycle I elected to exercise my right to share my opinion about the Chico City Council candidates by way of a narrative wherein I issued grades to each candidate…you know, an A through F kind of thing. I will likely do the same this cycle, but I have realized that there is a more pressing issue that cannot wait until I have fully considered my perspective on all of the candidates for purposes of expressing my opinion of their grades. Specifically, there are some pressing issues with our Mayor, Scott Gruendl that our public needs to be aware of.
In my 34+ years of public service, 18 as a manager/administrator I have had occasion to be exposed to a variety of individuals who held formal leadership positions….like mayor, chief of police, city manager, city council member, etc. I have observed a commonality between many of those to whom I have been exposed, and am experiencing the same commonality during this election cycle. The commonality is this: when their feet are being held to the fire….or when they are feeling threatened for whatever reason, they will openly expose their fear by lashing out at critics and they will misrepresent, mis-state or even lie about how things really are.
In relation to Chico’s current Mayor, Scott Gruendl, who is running for re-election this cycle, I have these concerns specifically:
1. It is frequently emphasized that Chico is a “non-partisan City Council. Yet, at a League of Women Voters Forum the other night, when asked why he would run for Council at this time, Mr Gruendl’s first and very emphasized response was to the effect of: “ I don’t want to give up my seat to a conservative.” Really? Not, “Because I want to serve our citizens,” or “Because I want to make a difference,” or “Because I want to make things better.” It’s all about my political affiliation. Holy crap!!!
2. In a number of recent published news stories, it is noted that Mr. Gruendl has been on the Council for a dozen years or so. Coincidentally, this is the same period of time during which the City of Chico’s finances absolutely fell into the gutter. Also during this time, Gruendl was the Mayor, a member of the Council Finance Committee and even the Chair of the Finance Committee. News reports indicate that Gruendl has indicated he wants another term on Council because (essentially) he was a part of the City’s demise, and now he wants a chance to help fix it. While his limited acceptance of responsibility is noble, it seems like allowing him to have another 4 years (as has been pointed out by at least 1 other citizen) is tantamount to re-hiring the captain of the Titanic!!! Do we really want to do that???
3. This one just kills me….Gruendl brags about how he is the department head of so many departments in another county, including the Public Health Department and the Behavioral Health Department (mental health)….yet, the other night at the previously mentioned Chico City Council Candidate’s Forum he declined to express an opinion about medical marijuana because he had not yet talked to the different factions advocating marijuana-related positions in our county. Really?! He is the head of Public Health and Behavioral Health, but he does not yet have a position on medical marijuana he can speak to publicly. I call BULLSHIT!!! This guy is a slick and slimy politico. He knows exactly how he feels about the marijuana issues….his professional position mandates it. The fact that he would be less that fully transparent on this on this front and center issue is at a minimum suspect. And I for one suspect that he is waiting to see which way the Dem/lib machine tells him to go on this issue. In the current election cycle, Butte County will decide if we want our identity to be based on marijuana and letting the stoners for profit decide our community culture, or if we are going to let the voice of reason prevail. I don’t believe we want our identity as county to be based on marijuana (like Mendocino County). If Gruendl doesn’t have the ‘nads to be clear about his position on this very public issue, that alone is sufficient to cause me concern about his suitability as a community leader.
4. In response to a question about the hiring of private security in Downtown Chico, Gruendl indicated very firmly and very assertively that effective 9-23-14 there would be “additional officers downtown, including bike officers.” Hmmm….how can I put this without being harsh….uh….well….Gruendl is wrong. In fact, based on the context, he’s a liar!!! In fact, public records will reveal that it was not until 9-26 that the City Manager communicated to Council a plan for diverting cops to downtown, and this was based on a memo that was submitted to him by the chief (also on 9-26). This issue has additional concerns that I consider very serious….
The Police Department is authorized 84 sworn personnel (down from 102 at the peak level 4-5 years ago). Of the 84 authorized, they are down another 16 due to vacancies, personnel in field training, personnel in the academy and personnel off on injuries. That means that effectively there are a total of 72 officers to police this City 24/7. Believe me, you don’t want to know the truth about what this translates to in cuts to services (30% staffing decrease from the previously understaffed police department). My point is not what the numbers mean, but what is really happening. There are simply not enough officers to assign people downtown right now!!!!
There is in fact an effort underway to assign officers downtown. It DID NOT happen 9-23 as the Mayor said (he’s a liar, and he is desperately trying to cover his tail). In order to make this happen, officers who have already covered their 40+ hours per week are going to have to be ORDERED to come in for extra time to cover downtown, and because they are already so burned out trying to keep up with minimum shift coverage there is a proposal to pay them, not time and a half overtime, but double time!!! Hello!!??!! What is wrong when you have to entice burned out employees to come in on double time? By the way, the double time proposal is based in part on the fact that minimum shift coverage is not occurring…..folks: That means they can’t get the cops to cover enough shifts to provide the basic services….THAT is why you don’t often get a cop when you call one in Chico!!!
The bottom line is this: There are not enough cops to staff basic shifts in Chico. The heat is on, and the Council is feeling pressure to get cops downtown on a dedicated basis….so much pressure, in fact that the Mayor is willing to lie about what is actually happening. I’m not saying the sky is actually falling (but it is close) but if it was, do we want one of our leaders to be a guy who stands out in front and misrepresents or lies about whether or not it is? I think not!
5. Now, here’s a biggie: At the League forum the other night, it was apparent to the whole room that Gruendl walked into the room with a chip on his shoulder. He was angry, and initially it was not clear why. But soon, it became apparent that a bit of his ire, if not all of it, was directed toward another candidate. Based on my experience, his attitude and demeanor were based on the fact that he perceived a significant threat in the room….he was afraid! At every given chance, without mentioning her name, he snidely alluded to things candidate Reanette Fillmer has posited or said during this campaign. My read? He sees her as a threat, and he should, and he is afraid she will beat him. She is a solid, no nonsense contender with real public and private sector experience. And she has voter appeal. His conduct, his demeanor, his attitude?…hardly what I believe we want to see in this city in the way of leadership!
6. Oh gawd….here’s another on this guy! It clearly illustrates one of the concerns that I have had for years. While the rest of us experience the real world on a daily basis, he lives in some fairytale utopia where people don’t have to acknowledge or deal with the very real stuff that is going on. In a published news story tonight regarding the opening of the Democratic Headquarters in Chico, Gruendl is quoted as saying,” We are re-hiring employees that were once laid off, and we are getting back to work.” Really? Who are we re-hiring? Do you really have a clue? I think not!!! If you actually check, you will find that his assertions are not true. He may like them to be….I mean, after all, the City did come in with record sales tax revenue this year….but hiring back laid off employees? Uh no. Nor is the City hiring back the dozens of critically necessary employees whose positions were eliminated due to mismanagement. It’s true that things are looking better for the City, but this guy’s perception is clearly skewed. Perhaps if he were to remove his rose colored glasses….but until then, my clear sense is that he is wrong, off base, and no longer what this City needs.
Here’s the bottom line with Scott Gruendl. He tried for years and years to get elected to a position where he could make a difference. Eventually, he was elected. He actually did a fairly good job as a leader in his first term as Mayor. But, alas, reality set in. Things got dicey for the City, and the City’s circumstances exceeded the capacity of his capabilities. Now, as the City digs out from the mess his acts and omissions helped us get into, he dares to ask for one more chance…to fix what he helped screw up!? I think not. His public positions and reactions to other candidates during this campaign clearly illustrate that he feels threatened….and rightfully so. His shit is weak, and he knows it. He’s grasping at straws, hoping that he can get another term. But here’s the dealio: Do we want to reward one of the “leaders” who led us into the mess we will be digging out from for the next several years? I think not!
Time for Scott to go……