Redding City Councilman Gary Cadd’s taxpayer-funded wanderlust came under scrutiny Tuesday from a fellow council member who questioned the wisdom of traveling to Southern California conferences when his attendance was neither required or under the purview of his liaison assignments.
The freshman councilor spent $7,313 on city-funded travels during a 15-month period, compared with $3,090 for Mayor Rick Bosetti—about $1,000 of that figure will be reimbursed by the Northern California Power Agency—and $429 and $475 for council members Missy McArthur and Francie Sullivan, respectively.
Councilman Patrick Jones did not bill the city for any travel expenses during that period.
Collectively, the council’s annual travel budget is $5,000, City Manager Kurt Starman said.
“Neither Mr. Cadd or I are running for election this year, so it’s a good time to bring it up,” McArthur said, before consulting her notes to list her concerns. Chief among them was Cadd’s decision to attend the fifth annual Investing in California’s Water conference in Century City, at a cost of $932, and the Integrated Regional Water Management conference in Sacramento at a cost of $375.
Cadd is not the council’s liaison on water issues; McArthur is. Given the city’s ongoing budget concerns, McArthur said it’s incumbent on council members to be prudent with travel expenses and to trust the city’s professional staff, including Public Works Director Brian Crane, to attend conferences, gather information and report back to the council.
Cadd said he campaigned on the promise that he’d be a full-time council member and even if he lacks liaison responsibilities on issues like water and energy, he can still be involved. Water issues have been an interest of his for years, he added.
On his trips to Southern California, Cadd said he learned officials there are not anticipating any reductions in water usage over the next two years and plan on continued deliveries from the north.
He said Redding, by comparison, is looking at a 60 percent reduction in deliveries from the Bureau of Reclamation.
“Do we have to watch out for our water? You’re darn right we do,” Cadd said.
“I know it’s a large amount (of travel expenses), but I’ve spent it on learning to better serve the people of Redding,” he added.
McArthur said she had no qualms about Cadd’s travels as the council liaison to the League of California Cities but suggested if he wants to attend out-of-town conferences simply because he’s interested, he should pay his own travel expenses.
“Should the city pay if I have an interest in gold digging on the moon?” McArthur asked, somewhat tongue-in-cheek. Cadd replied that he can’t afford to fund his own travel, but emphasized that he received approval from Starman and Crane in advance of all of his trips.
Jones said commitments to his gun shop business don’t allow him enough time to travel, but he fully supported Cadd’s efforts and said he was disappointed to see him criticized.
“I’ve never seen somebody chastised for going to meetings. He’s the hardest-working council member I’ve ever seen. He seeks knowledge.”
Bosetti said the council’s travel budget probably needs to be bumped up, but even then, “there’s no way we can go to all the meetings available to us, even if they are in liaison area.”
Council members need to trust city staff to gather information from those meetings, Bosetti added.
In lieu of having Starman draft a formal policy on council travel, the council agreed that the liaison responsibilities be spelled out for new council members. If council members want to attend functions outside of their liaison assignments, they should first seek approval from the council member who has that particular liaison assignment. Barring that approval, the council member should bring their request before the full council.
In other action Tuesday, the council voted 5-0 to approve an $85,000 lighting retrofit for the Sundial Bridge. Community Services Director Kim Niemer said the switch to LED lights is in response to Department of Fish and Wildlife concerns over the current lights to interfere with migrating salmon.
Not only can the LED lights be easily dimmed when required, Niemer said they are expected to pay for themselves within six years by using less energy and lasting longer than the current sodium lights. As a bonus, the LED lights can be programmed to produce different colors for community events like Think Pink and the upcoming Celebrate 10 events to celebrate the Sundial Bridge’s 10th anniversary.
Jon Lewis is a freelance writer living in Redding. He has more than 30 years experience writing for newspapers and magazines. Contact him at email@example.com.