Mistress of the Mix: Dirty Laundry

Which do you want first, the good news or the bad news? You may have heard the bad news already. Redding’s dirty laundry was aired around the globe this week when USA Today ran a piece about the results of a Gallup Poll and accompanying Healthways report on the best (and worst) cities in the nation for its citizen’s overall well-being. Redding didn’t fare so well in the study of the State of American Well Being. The good news – which I admit, I’m reaching for – is that Redding didn’t come in dead last. That unfortunate ranking goes to the merged cities of Huntington, West Virginia & Ashland, Kentucky (which spills over into Ohio). But our somewhat less than fair city came in at 187 out of 189, and that’s pretty bad.

If you’re wondering what factors were involved in coming up with Redding’s lousy well-being rating, they took into account the following:

  • Job Satisfaction
  • Access to Services (Food, Housing, Healthcare)
  • Emotional Health
  • Physical Health
  • How Safe We Feel Walking At Night

When the poll was conducted, 500-thousand people were interviewed nationwide. Close to 500 of those were in Redding. I wasn’t one of them, but if I’d been asked, I would’ve said that:

  • I adore my job, although I’m paid about half of what most of my friends think I should be making. I tell them that the perks make up for it. They pretty much believe me. But still think I should be paid more. That’s why I love my friends!
  • If anyone thinks housing, food & healthcare is hard to find in Redding, they should try living in a village on an island in Alaska. I still recall the panic when the landlord raised the rent 50%, because with no other available houses on the island at the time, she could. And if you want a bottle of truffle oil, plan to mail order it and wait 6 weeks. With that said, I do have a lot of difficulty finding health specialists in Redding, but that’s because I’m employed by an Oregon institution, and have Oregon insurance. It’s my major complaint.
  • I’m a little crazy, doesn’t bother me.
  • I’m fat, hope it doesn’t bother you. I know who’s fault it is, and I’d be in this condition no matter where I lived. So Redding, it’s not your fault.
  • Do I feel safe walking at night? Hell no. I don’t even feel safe walking around during the day.

The one really good point this survey has made is how unsafe we feel in our own neighborhoods. I don’t even let my teenage daughter walk home from school alone. She’s been approached by hoodlums trying to sell or buy drugs, gotten very uncomfortable when men riding bicycles intended for 6 year olds ride by, and then go around the block for a second pass. I’ve had my car broken into twice in the past 6 months, gone to work to find the Christmas lights (and the entire electrical unit) ripped off the tree in front of my office by someone probably hoping to cash in on the cooper wiring, come home after work to find the fountain in my front yard pushed over and broken into pieces, and personally (with the help of a few neighbors) removed squatters from a vacant home next door who were running what looked to be an enterprising drug & sex business out of the place for a short time. I should’ve called the police, you say? We did. The 911 dispatcher said they didn’t have enough police on duty to bother showing up, so they purposefully left it in our hands. So the long and short of my personal feelings about my well-being in Redding is that there’s a lot of great things about Redding, but I’ve noticed a drastic change in how I feel about my own safety in this city. I notice that I’m more on edge just going to the grocery store, because I know there’s a good chance I’ll be accosted by someone who wants to relieve me of some of my money. Even at work I have to deal with people who randomly walk in off the street, with the telltale hurky jerky motions of a meth addict, looking around the lobby in the search for something to steal, trying quickly to think of some excuse for why they’re there. It’s why I bring my dog to work.

OK, so back to the lousy results of the poll for a minute, and then I’ll shut up and play the music.

The researchers who put the whole thing together say they’re not intentionally trying to make us feel bad about having shitty lives, but rather trying to get our “city leaders thinking about how they can enhance well-being” in the community. It’s a little ironic that the most recent newsworthy discussion our elected city leaders have had revolved around a councilman’s proposal to allow city employees to carry loaded guns to work.  I also recall slapping my forehead a few months ago when another council member suggested coming up with some standards of polite conduct during council meetings, only to be shot down by other councilors who couldn’t even have a polite discussion about the concept of having polite discussions. Because rudeness is, of course, the standard we should always be striving for. If we want to stay at the bottom of the list.

How did our city leaders respond to the news of this poll? Mayor Rick Bosetti sent a letter to the heads of Gallup & Healthways and invited them to come see Redding for themselves! Seriously, I’m not kidding. Even invited to pay for their lodging, and introduce them to the other 99,506 people that weren’t interviewed in the poll. He told them about all the wonderful things our city has to offer that makes the quality of life here in Shasta County so wonderful, even if it means making a little less money (so the mayor knows about my paycheck?). I like his spunky attitude. Maybe if we make some good choices at the polling place later this year, we might find ourselves with a city council that can play well with others, and they can roll up their shirtsleeves and get to work helping us all fall in love with Redding again.

Anyway, it’ll be interesting to see how, or if, the pollsters respond.

In the meantime, I have been thinking a lot about how to enhance my own well being. When I go to the supermarket, I’ve started trying to engage in polite conversation with some of the people that previously I was pretty sure were waiting for me to turn around for a moment in the produce aisle so they could steal my purse. So far, so good. I figure that if we’re communicating, smiling, having a little conversation, that we can exist on the same level for a few minutes instead of sizing each other up.

The other thing I’ve been working on is a major backyard renovation project with my husband. He demolished the deck, and over the past month, with the help of my incredible sister and brother-in-law, we built a new one. Got the hot tub working again. Found a new fountain, and it’s making beautiful gurgling sounds just a few feet away from where I currently sit. I got my herb & veggie garden going again. Basil, oregano, tomatoes, cucumber, and 4 different kinds of peppers. Replaced every single plant that died over the winter and added a few hundred dollars worth of lavender, pansies, lilies and an azalea bush. Pressure washed the bricks on my back porch. Painted the back door a deep cabernet. Got a new barbecue, filled up all my tiki torches, and cut down some branches that really needed to go.

I may not feel safe enough to walk around my neighborhood, but we’ve worked really hard to make our own backyard a beautiful sanctuary. And lemme tell ya, it’s already improving my personal well being. It’s like falling a love a little bit with Redding all over again, through my backyard.

I haven’t forgotten about the music. I was actually working on today’s playlist long before I started writing today’s column. It may start off by airing some dirty laundry, but then I get out the hammer and start building a testament to all the hard work that went into creating the beautiful backyard sanctuary that makes me smile every time I look out my sliding glass door, right down to the tiki torches. I hope our city is ready for the hard work that it’s gonna take to move Redding a few notches up that list.

Listen to today’s streaming Backyard Playlist, or just click on the play arrow below.

  1. Dirty Laundry – Don Henley
  2. Dirty Laundry – Bitter:Sweet
  3. Adventures In Your Own Backyard – Patrick Watson
  4. If I Were A Carpenter – Sheryl Crow & Willie Nelson
  5. If I Had A Hammer – Nicky Thomas
  6. New Coat of Paint – Southside JOhnny & THe Jukes
  7. The First Garden – Stevie Wonder
  8. Big Backyard – Soulhat
  9. Flower – Moby
  10. Herbs In My Garden – Langfinger
  11. Back Porch – Sister Hazel
  12. Pretty Flowers In Your Backyard – Lead Belly
  13. Backyard Lovin’ Man – Edwin Starr
  14. Back Porch – Dierks Bentley
  15. Flower – Eels
  16. Reel Around The Fountain – The Smiths
  17. Lavender Blue – The Fleetwoods
  18. 3 Coins In The Fountain – Frank Sinatra
  19. Tiki Torches At Twilight – David Lindley & El Rayo-X
  20. Struttin’ With Some Barbecue – Louis Armstrong
  21. Backyard Lovin’ – Donna & The Pool Cleaners

Valerie Ing-Miller has been the Northern California Program Coordinator for Jefferson Public Radio in Redding for nine years and can often be found serving as Mistress of Ceremonies at the Cascade Theatre. For her, ultimate satisfaction comes from a perfect segue. She’s the mother of a teenage daughter and a 7-year-old West Highland Terrier, and can’t imagine life without them or music. Valerie wakes up with a song in her head, she sings in the shower and at the top of her lungs in the car.

Valerie Ing
Valerie Ing has been the Northern California Program Coordinator for Jefferson Public Radio in Redding for 14 years and can often be found serving as Mistress of Ceremonies at the Cascade Theatre. For her, ultimate satisfaction comes from a perfect segue. She and her husband are parents to a couple of college students and a pair of West Highland Terriers, and Valerie can’t imagine life without them or music. The Mistress of the Mix wakes up every day with a song in her head, she sings in the shower and at the top of her lungs in the car.
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15 Responses

  1. Avatar EasternCounty says:

    Parsley, Sage, Rosemary, and Thyme — Simon and Garfunkel

  2. Avatar Sandy Tincher says:

    I love living in Redding. I know we have a few problems, but my brother lives in Modesto and they have more crime than us. But here, we have beautiful views on three sides of town. We go for rides in those three directions often. We also do quite a bit of hiking as there are so many beautiful areas to hike in. I am an artist so I love painting the beauty that is around us. When my two grandaughters come to town the first thing they want to do is go to Turtle Bay. Also, they love that we can go to Movies 8 for $1. We have two dogs so we are hoping that they will keep any bad guys away. We always make sure we lock all windows and doors when we leave. We have been living in our present house for 13 years and haven’t had a problem. I hope the Gallup Poll people do come to Redding as I think theywill see we have a lot of offer.

    • Steven Towers Steven Towers says:

      I actually think we have beautiful views on all four sides of town, which is why I believe preserving the relatively bucolic open agricultural space between Redding and Anderson is important. The space between Sacramento and Roseville used to look like Churn Creek Bottom. Look at it now.

  3. Steven Towers Steven Towers says:

    I applaud Rick Bosetti for turning away from the dark side lately, but everyone has to remember that this was a random survey of Redding residents — it’s how Reddingites feel about where they live. There is absolutely no point in attempting to change the minds of the pollsters — they’re not the ones who did the subjective grading. Redding certainly isn’t as desirable as San Luis Obispo in many ways, but there’s no way that Redding is objectively less livable than half dozen cities in the San Joaquin Valley and another half dozen in the Inland Empire. (You don’t feel safe in downtown Redding? I spent a night in downtown San Bernardino once, and let me tell you…)

    Reddingites have victim mentality/self-esteem/anger issues, like no place I’ve ever lived. That’s what’s reflected in the poll results.

    What do you do about a culture of negativity? Ensconcing ourselves in our homes and backyards is a reasonable reaction to Redding’s problems, but one that ultimately doesn’t address the problems. (I say that with all due respect to Valerie, who maybe does more to make Redding livable for me than I do myself.) We really need young people who aren’t so damned ornery to take this town away from us old grouches. The reactionary farts who didn’t pursue a UC campus in Redding because it would have changed the community and possibly threatened their positions of privilege in the fiefdom — those old boys need be put in their rocking chairs for good.

    If that doesn’t happen in the next few years, I’m tacking “Buttholeville” by Drive-By Truckers to the end Val’s list.

    • Valerie Ing Valerie Ing says:

      You’re hilarious! But preachin’ it, for sure. Thanks for the reality check for the old fart club and your kind words reminding me about the things I didn’t talk about in this piece…the activities I’ve been involved with to help make Redding a better place for all of us. In today’s column I was just focusing on what I’ve been doing to improve my own personal sanctuary, and not the external things outside of my personal domain.

  4. Avatar `AJacoby says:

    Well, you missed the song that is probably the very most appropriate to your column: Back in Your Own Backyard, by Al Jolson. Read the lyrics . . . I think they were thinking about you!

    The bird with feathers of blue, is waiting for you,
    Back in your own back yard,
    You’ll see your castle in Spain, through your window pane,
    Back in your own back yard.
    Oh you can go to the East go to the West,
    But someday you’ll come weary at heart back where you started from,
    You’ll find your happiness lies, right under your eyes,
    Back in your own backyard.

  5. Avatar Cheri Davis says:

    Perception is in the eye of the beholder.

    I love living in Redding..so beautiful here…!

  6. Avatar Grammy says:

    I love Shasta County. Can not imagine living anywhere else. But I am not blind. When I leave my sanctuary I enter the real world. Homeless out everywhere. The begging for money is mainly at intersections but some wander the parking lots asking for money for bus fare or just money. I see the drug deals go down all over town (look for people on bikes going between one person to another. Men hanging around street corners.
    One more big problem is the backward way women are treated here in the North State. Not offered the same promotions as men, jobs or pay. Only in the government jobs is equality the norm.
    We want our children to go to college but if they do, they will not be coming back to Redding. Jobs are offered to them in their senior year that they just can not turn down. Hired with great pay, they never come home again. NS just can not compete with that.
    You have to know someone. If you want a great job with equal pay, you have to know someone.
    Businesses offer less money to future employees saying that it is cheaper to live here in Redding. It isn’t cheaper. Houses (if equal in size and quality) are the same as Sacramento where the job market is better. Fuel is more expensive.
    Our county has slow Internet. Bad cell phone reception. To many cars with load music, poorly maintained, no mufflers (loud), with owners not caring if they dent your car when they park next to you. Motor-cycles are all over with no respect to lanes, loud exhaust but the owners are nice and friendly at least.
    The law is so thin for traffic violations because officers are to busy on drug control or couple abuse calls.
    Drug usage is out of control. If drug testing was happening more maybe people would be more included to just say no.
    Smoking among the young is higher here. Where are they getting the cigarettes? So sad to see minimum wage workers smoking outside a fast food place.
    To many minimum wage jobs. At minimum wage they are never going to leave home!
    It would be nice to blame everything on Wal-Mart but why are they different than Sears, Kmart, Target, fast food, banks, coffer shops, Dollar stores…the list goes on and on. If you take out government jobs or union (because they are hard to maintain the work hours month in and month out) it is easier to say the ones that pay above minimum wage (Costco, Winco, Food Max among those that pay higher wage.)
    Except for the heat at times Shasta County is the PREFECT place to retire.
    My home is my sanctuary where wild life is a normal day. Unbelievable sunrises and sunsets.
    Once you have figured out what plants thrive here, lawn care is easy. Just took thirty years to figure out.

  7. Avatar Steve Fischer says:

    My parents moved to Redding in 1963, when I was a college kid. After school and the Air Force, I came back and have resisted several strong forces trying to get me out of here several times. I’ve gone from very well paid to unemployed, to barely employed, to paid OK, to retired. I’ve been single, married, divorced, and remarried. I’ve never been happier. Never once have we regretted staying right here in Redding. Growing up, I lived in Salinas, Hollister, Merced, Napa Sacramento, Redwood City, Stockton, and a few other places in & out of California. With the possible exception of San Luis Obispo (where I was born), none of those other places ever held near enough appeal for me to even think about moving out of Redding. It’s not perfect, but it never has been. So we’re planning to stay here. I hope it’s a long stay until I move out by Igo with my parents, and I hope we can do something positive now and then to make Redding a little bit better place.
    Just because I’m weird, I’d add Sammy Hagar’s tune “Dick In the Dirt” to your playlist. Keep up the good work, Val.

  8. Avatar pmarshall says:

    Keep smiling, Valerie. No, Redding isn’t perfect (have lived here since 1962). I do think drugs have changed many communities. No room at the jail, no room at the prisons (some judge thought we ought to release thousands (poor souls, why were they there in the first place). In spite of all this, we have to remain vigilant; there are still some good qualities here. Let’s enjoy all those.

  9. Avatar `AJacoby says:

    ‘Twas Just A Garden in the Rain – it’s a really old song, 20’s or 30’s I’d say, but Diana Krall does a killer version.

  10. Avatar Joanne Lobeski-Snyder says:

    Stupendous article Valarie! My short story; I came to Redding with about $400 and what would fit in my car. My wallet which had $40 in it was stolen at the first yard sale I visited, That’s another side story in which I recovered my wallet without the money, and the woman who stole it said she’d give me $40 not to press charges. I digress.
    The death and violence that happened in the barrio where I lived when I went to college was pretty random. In Redding, it’s fairly predictable. And I like that. Doni taught us about leaving a purse visible in a car. I know how to be tall and formidable and assertive and aware when I park in any parking lot and see someone who is loitering (same plan you would use when you see a bear or a mountain lion on a walk)
    I love the trails and the parks and the geocaching, I love the art community, I love the views and clouds water ways. I love that you can have little money but enjoy these features of this community.

  11. Avatar `AJacoby says:

    As I said in column #7 (anewscafe 1/20/12), in many, MANY ways Redding is JUUUUUST RIGHT! Shhhhh . . . don’t tell the rest of the world. Let them believe the pollsters!