It was a spring-like Friday afternoon with crisp blue skies overhead and shamrock-green grass under the feet of about 100 people who gathered for Brent Weaver's latest Redding City Council campaign rally, this one in the Parkview Riverfront Park.
This area is known as the location of the historic Free Bridge entrance, which once spanned the Sacramento River.
It's also the site of the vintage stone pumphouse, now surrounded by chain-link fencing, installed for the public's safety.
But more than those historic markers, this Parkview Riverfront Park is probably best know in the last few years as a place where drug deals take place in the open, and where street people and homeless set up camp in the nearby brush along the Sacramento River.
Friday, it was the site of Brent Weaver's latest Redding City Council campaign rally. Weaver, who kicked off his campaign in South City Park, dotted with street people who'd spent the night there, again chose a public outdoor place to make his point about reclaiming the city of his childhood, a place that didn't have the crime concerns of today's Redding.
The park had a festive feel, with red-and-blue balloons that surrounded the wooden portable stage, and a table filled with campaign materials beside boxes of Brent Weaver T-shirts.
Food trucks and picnic-table vendors were on site to serve the lunch-time crowd. Children played on the lawn as adults listened, chatted with each other, ate lunch and pointed cell phones and cameras toward the stage.
A number of people spoke before Weaver, including citizens sharing their journeys to improving their neighborhoods and making the city of Redding a better place.
Below is a full transcript of his speech.
By Brent Weaver, March 14 at the Parkview Riverview Park.
We are gathered today in a very significant location: Free Bridge and the Free Bridge Substation.
Free Bridge was built across the Sacramento River in 1884. It was washed out in 1906 and immediately rebuilt. The 320 ft. bridge was designed by Robert Reading, son of Pierson B. Reading, one of the first permanent settlers in Shasta County. It was built mainly of steel, and was at the time the largest steel span in California. In 1948 the Cypress Street Bridge was built. The Free Bridge was closed in 1951, declared unsafe after the 1955 flood and dismantled the same year. The Free Bridge Substation just behind us was built in 1897.
This location was once a proud thoroughfare into our community but unfortunately it fell into decay for decades and was used sparingly until the people of this neighborhood with the partnership of their local government reclaimed it. Just across the river we have the Henderson open space that has beautiful walking trails along the river, which is once again “open space” thanks to the diligent efforts of concerned citizens (Randy Smith, Redding Rotary, Bethel, and Community Services are just a few of the groups that have pitched in). You need to visit it if you haven’t yet.
We are living in extraordinary times in our City. Like this location there are many things to be proud of in our community, we have great schools for our children, incredible sporting facilities, a world class museum and arboretum, and of course our mountains, lakes, and rivers.
With that said, I’m here to talk with you about what I believe is the defining issue of our city and of my campaign. We know it. We see it everyday. You may have even experienced it personally. Because of the increase in crime in our city we no longer feel as safe as we once did. While we are certainly better off than other places in California, we must not let this situation get further out of hand. I join my voice with yours and say, “What we are experiencing is unacceptable and it’s time to push back!!”
We are living in a different time than our childhoods; more is expected of us as citizens. Here are some positive steps I believe we can take to push back:
Neighborhood watch programs should be encouraged and streamlined with RPD leading the way. Elected officials and city staff should aggressively promote Neighborhood Watch programs as a form of community involvement and collaboration during this era of financial constraints.
Businesses struggling with crime should join Business Watch Groups such as Merchants Crime Watch and/or the Downtown Redding Business Association to work with other business owners to prevent crime. Resources and talents can be pooled together to meet shared safety concerns. Collaboration breeds hope, something our small business owners need more of.
Because of funding constraints and AB 109 prisoner realignment our jails are maxed out, our police force is operating 25% - 30% below normal staffing standards, mental health services have been ravaged, and increasing levels of drug activity are wreaking havoc on our way of life. These are just a few of the major issues affecting our area.
We know we do not have the necessary funding today to meet all of these issues, but, what we needed years ago and what I am calling for today is a strategic plan or blueprint that acknowledges our issues, defines solutions for them and identifies then solves the roadblocks to putting those solutions in place.
Many of our issues will overlap with the county and state, which will require coordination. After the plan is created, the key points should be communicated at our State of the City address and other appropriate venues so that citizens know what has been achieved and what remains to be done.
While more is expected of us as citizens, it is also fair to expect more from our elected leaders. If you remember nothing else from what I say today, remember that without a strategic plan we are simply task oriented not solution oriented. We need solutions. Accountability for how this strategic plan is carried out will be paramount.
Most people know my wife Leanne and I have 4 young children. Like all of the parents and grandparents out there, we love them more than anything. Our hope is that they will grow up in a safe community. One that is far safer than the one we live in today. I make you this promise, I will win this election and I will work with other elected leaders and city staff to create the blueprint for how we will reclaim our community, just like these neighborhood leaders took action and restored the historic ground we stand on today. With your help we can and will restore safety and order in our community. Thank you."