Redding Council Offers Land, But No Money, to Veterans Museum

Although a divided Redding City Council on Tuesday passed on the opportunity to financially support a non-profit veterans museum, the panel reiterated its willingness to offer it a home on 15 acres of city property.

Councilman Patrick Jones’ motion to provide $193,800 to the Northern California Veterans Museum and Heritage Center was defeated on a 3-2 vote, with Councilman Gary Cadd offering the other yes vote. Mayor Rick Bosetti and council members Missy McArthur and Francie Sullivan cast the dissenting votes.

The vote followed remarks by 15 speakers, all of whom encouraged the council to fund the museum with the money the city obtained from the recent sale of some Cypress Avenue frontage road property to Lithia Motors.

Bosetti, McArthur and Sullivan each expressed their support of the museum and their appreciation for the veterans the facility honors. However, with the city struggling financially, they said they couldn’t justify diverting close to $200,000 from the general fund.

“Our responsibilities as city council members are that we have a safe city, that we pave our streets and pay our police officers,” Sullivan said, noting that when the popular water feature at Kids Kingdom failed, the community had to raise $200,000 to replace it. “We are struggling to provide basic services,” Sullivan said.

“We need to start and we need to move forward,” countered Cadd, who recalled an inspirational visit to an Air Force museum near Eglin Air Force Base in Florida. That museum, like Redding’s veterans museum, surely started out as a modest-sized facility, he said. “I can’t see for the life of me how we can’t make this money available.”

The museum, with artifacts and exhibits from present-day conflicts to the Revolutionary War, had been located in a building on Meadow View Drive near the Redding Municipal Airport for the past three years. It relocated in September when a new landlord raised the rent and the artifacts are temporarily in storage.

Rob Burroughs, a U.S. Navy Seabees (retired) Senior Master Chief, founded the museum and serves as its director. At Tuesday’s meeting, he said his group is no longer interested in the soon-to-be vacant Redding Police Department building and has returned its focus to the airport area.

The $193,800 would be seed money for the museum, which has been “downsized” from its original $50 million vision to a much more modest $2 million facility designed to honor all branches of the military.

Desiree Clements, a volunteer docent at the museum, said it is a healing place for veterans and provides them with people and artifacts they can relate to. “Our veterans fought for our freedom,” said Chris McCandless. “Have some dignity and heart. We’re not asking for much, guys,” he added.

Councilwoman McArthur opened the discussion by showing off her father’s pea coat from World War II and talked about her brothers who served in Southeast Asia. “Anybody who thinks I’m against veterans is simply out to lunch,” she said.

Bosetti said he, too, supported the project on an emotional level but that the city simply can’t afford to support it financially. However, he said he would support a motion to extend a lease offer for 15 acres of city land at the airport.

With the secure offer of a home in hand, Bosetti said Burroughs and the museum volunteers would be better equipped to raise funds for the museum. That motion is expected to come before the council in January.

Jon Lewis is a freelance writer living in Redding. He has more than 30 years experience writing for newspapers and magazines. Contact him at jonpaullewis@gmail.com.

Jon Lewis
Jon Lewis is a freelance writer living in Redding. He has more than 30 years experience writing for newspapers and magazines. Contact him at jonpaullewis@gmail.com.
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2 Responses

  1. As a veteran myself, I feel the city council got this one right. Private initiatives, like the vet museum, need to rely on privately raised funds and be able to stand on their own merits. As chairman of the Air Force Memorial committee, we're raising all the money ourselves with no intention of calling on the county or other government agencies for a hand out. Veterans need to understand that, while their service is appreciated by all, there is a limit to what can be expected from or provided by taxpayers.

  2. Avatar Redding_Critic says:

    I have been to this museum, and I was impressed by the sheer number of artifacts and their presentation. However, even at that it was obviously an amateur endeavor, worthy in its own right, but not worthy of public funding.

    Museum directors today are a distinct profession requiring professional training and experience. The leadership of this museum, while sincere and dedicated to their task, are simply not up to today's demands for a successful museum. Public funding of this amateur museum would be inappropriate. If Turtle Bay cannot be successful without public funding, certainly our military museum cannot be either.

    And while our City Council is waking up to the realities involved, it is probably time for them to withdraw their offer of 15 acres of airport land as well. The 15 acres was offered when the proposal was for an unrealistic $50 million museum. Now that the proposal has been scaled back 96%, it is time to reconsider the gift of the 15 acres. Besides, giving away airport land is not a way to prepare for Redding's future, which is partly dependent upon expansion of the airport in the years to come.