A proposal ordering nightly curfews in Chico should electricity be cut by Pacific Gas and Electric Company due to fire danger will undergo further study after receiving a chilly reception at a council meeting Tuesday night.
After a combative reception from some members of the public, and only lukewarm support on the dais, Chico Mayor Randall Stone sent the emergency ordinance back to the drawing board.
“I absolutely agree with a lot of these speakers,” Stone said. “You know who gets targeted in these things? People who are going to work, people of color, people of lower incomes. Unintentional.”
The curfew idea, and other preparations for planned so-called ‘Public Safety Power Shutoffs’ by PG&E was shunted off for further discussion. Stone said an ad hoc committee, along with the fire and police chiefs and county representatives, should develop ideas that will be weighed by a council subcommittee before returning to the full council for a vote.
Police Chief Michael O’Brien, in introducing the measure, tried to ease some of the concerns in the room. He described the nation’s civil liberties as “sacred” but said PG&E has put the city in an untenable position.
“Cutting power to 112,000 people for up to a week causes me significant concern as to how we protect and serve our community,” he said.
O’Brien said he was not wedded to the proposal, but said the city must be prepared.
Chico resident Kathleen Steeves was among more than a dozen speakers uncomfortable with curfews.
“This sounds like something like martial law,” Steeves said. “Are we being run by law enforcement? And people that do go out, are they reprimanded? Are they arrested? Are they, what?”
Councilman Scott Huber suggested organizing neighborhood groups that would check on the elderly and the ill during such an emergency. Several California cities near fault lines have integrated neighborhood volunteers into earthquake response.