The Redding City Council candidates’ campaign race is so hot, heavy and jam-packed with public forums that it feels as if the election is two-and-a-half weeks away, rather than its actual two-and-a-half months.
As grueling as it must be for the candidates to participate in so many forums, voters are the winners. We’re provided with myriad opportunities to meet the candidates, hear their philosophies and see how they perform under fire. A bonus is a glimpse of their communication and working styles, and examples of how effectively they might interact with, say, a collection of diverse-minded people at the same table with whom they may or may not agree.
In fact, it’s possible that some council members may even downright dislike each other, as anyone who’s attended a Redding City Council meeting lately can attest.
I finally attended my first Redding City Council candidates forum at the Redding Library Monday evening, which was hosted by the Garden Tract neighborhood. I live in the Garden Tract, and knew many of the people in attendance.
Among the previous forums I’d missed included those held at the offices of the United Public Employees of California, the Shasta Builder’s Exchange and Destiny Fellowship Church.
The most recent was Friday’s forum at the Cascade Theatre. You may watch the video-taped forum held at the Cascade Theatre here. Many of the candidate’s statements on this video were repeated Monday night, so it’s a good overview of the candidates and their positions, if you’ve been unable to attend any forums.
Come Nov. 4, Redding voters will choose three of the five Redding City Council seats.
All attended Monday’s forum, where a few dozen people, primarily Garden Tract residents (and some candidates’ campaign team members), showed up in the community room to submit questions and hear candidates’ answers.
I snapped one extremely poor-quality photo with my cell phone, after which we were all asked to turn off our phones, and told that recording the event was not allowed. That’s too bad, IMHO, because video can show so much. But oh well.
The night’s questions ran the gamut from asking if any of the candidates had income-producing contracts (Quinn and Weaver sort of, more about that later) with the city, to the expected topics of crime, homelessness and the proposed sales tax increase, as well as Garden-Tract-neighborhood specific questions about candidates’ commitments to older neighborhoods, and thoughts about complaints against the noisy-neighbor Aramark (a giant laundry facility) and the proposed cell phone towers.
I had a number of take-away observations from the evening, in no particular order.
Right out of the gate, I was intrigued by how each candidate approached his or her golden opportunity to simply tell about themselves.
Schreder, Weaver and Dacquisto all nailed this opening softball statement with no problem. They easily told about themselves, their backgrounds, their families, their occupations, community work and accomplishments.
Jones did a lite version of self-disclosure, before launching into his talking points.
But Quinn and Sullivan, who bookended the above candidates at the table, went rogue on this seemingly simple question.
Quinn went first, and tackled the “tell about yourself” topic pretty much as he had at the Cascade, by not so much telling about himself, but by wading into a seemingly unfocused rambling about The People, and the importance of listening to them, and the Garden Tract, and old neighborhoods, and crime, and the importance of police support, but most of all, the fact that he’s The Numbers Guy (when he’s not managing his radio station, KLXR, he’s an accountant).
He spoke with intensity throughout the evening, and was not bashful about blasting the city of Redding for what he labeled its “mishandling” of everything from utility rate increases and unreasonably high permit fees to messed-up reserve accounts and the missed horse-park opportunity.
Sullivan was last on the introductory question, but said that rather than answer that question and tell about herself (as was requested) people could just find out all about her at her website, FrancieSullivan.com.
Now, I could be wrong about this, but I am guessing that the odds of someone from the audience actually going home after a forum just to log onto FrancieSullivan.com and read about her there are pretty much zero.
However, Sullivan did use that spare time to jump right into her reasons for running for another term on the city council. One of the first statements from Sullivan was about her wish to be on a city council that doesn’t point fingers, a council that just “gets on with it and gets things done”.
Even so, she appeared to have forgotten the finger-pointing statement later, when she ripped into Dacquisto for his “insulting” statements about his claims of $12.5 million dollars of available money in the city of Redding. “It makes me mad!”
That aside, Sullivan was an exuberant idea-machine, and she talked excitedly about her visions for Redding’s untapped potential (some of which Sullivan said she shares with Schreder). For example, a completely revamped downtown Redding, that might even mean the entire parking structures are razed to make room for mixed use projects. Oh, and btw, the city will soon be approving a new downtown specific plan. (Lord give us strength. Have you noticed how well the previous downtown specific plans were implemented? Not.)
Regarding the topic of the sales tax proposal, Sullivan held up a quarter to illustrate how just 25 cents of every $100 could buy a lot of advantages for the city. Plus, she pointed out that not all those sales taxes would come from citizens, but tourists and visitors, especially if the hotel at Turtle Bay is built, which would attract more people who’d spend yet more money.
One red flag about Sullivan that came later in the evening arrived in the form of two references she made to gaining added insight into issues (like the Aramark situation and the proposed cell phone towers) by “listening outside” doors on city hall’s third floor.
This could leave the impression that either she’s A. eavesdropping, or B. being privy to inside information to which other city council members lack access. Either scenario isn’t good. Or maybe she’s joking, in which case I vote she find some new material.
But back to the forum, where the first real question asked if the candidates had income-producing “contracts” with the city.
Quinn stated – in an answer that still has my head spinning – that as a radio station owner, he gets about $12,000 each year from the city to publicize various city-related information over his airwaves.
And Weaver replied that he’d partnered with the city of Redding’s Redevelopment Agencies for a pair of below-market interest-only loans for the residential housing portion of some downtown construction projects on Market and Pine streets. Weaver pointed out that he is making payments on these loans.
Dacquisto joked that he has a “reverse arrangement” with the city, where he pays utilities. But seriously, he told how he improved the area of his downtown business by remodeling and improving not just his law office on Court Street, but two other buildings around the corner on South Street, which are income-producing rentals.
Jones said his only “contract” with the city is as a paid member of the Redding City Council to the tune of about $500 a month. He noted that it would be vastly higher, were it not for his voluntary decline of the other city benefits available to council members.
Sullivan, like Jones, said she is paid as a Redding City Council member.
Schreder said she had no contracts with the city.
Weaver and Schreder shared similar storylines about moving away from Redding for college, only to return later to raise a family, and to pursue their hearts’ desires to make their hometown a better place.
Though Schreder’s style is low-key and understated, the content of her statements were rich in examples of her ability to successfully run a company and deal with complex finances and state budget processes.
On a lighter note, she used to her advantage the fact that as a little girl she actually lived on Lincoln Street in the Garden Tract. She also talked about the deep community involvement manifested by herself and her husband, which included mentions of her family’s ties to the Schreder Planatarium, and the couple’s business that has brought literally millions of dollars of education-related grant dollars to the area.
Weaver told a funny story about how, as a kid, he rode his bike from west Redding to Sequoia Middle School in the pre-soda-on-campus days, and he’d stop by a gas station and buy a six pack of soda. Once at school, he sold the sodas to fellow students for a profit, until he was chastised and threatened with suspension.
On a more serious note, he talked about his missions to foreign countries, which only made him appreciate all the more his country and city. If there was a theme to Weaver’s words, it could be summed up in “family” — whether it was as a father, son, employer, or community change-maker. He shared his young daughter’s advice for him that night: Smile and be nice.
Dacquisto talked, with a bit of humor and a fair amount of self-deprecation, about how he was an Indiana guy who “somehow” made his way to Stanford University, after which he was “lucky” enough to pass the bar on the first try. He joked how, to this day, he wasn’t exactly sure how he got into Stanford, so he figured it might have had something to do with Stanford needing to choose a couple of kids from Indiana, to be geographically balanced, so he was picked.
While he didn’t have the other candidates’ history of north state longevity, in some ways his story about choosing Redding was a bit like hearing a loving parent telling an adopted child that they were the most special, because that child was chosen.
Dacquisto shared how, for two years he searched California (the state in which he was then a newly licensed lawyer) until he finally found Redding, the perfect place in which to raise his family. He said his decision to leave Southern California for Redding in 1994 was the best he’d ever made, one he wished he’d made 20 years sooner.
Jones didn’t wax too long about his background, but did say he grew up in Redding, and he mentioned a family business (didn’t name it) in which he worked – and continues to work – long hours. But before all that, Jones said he was “going at it” for a seat on the city council one more time.
He admitted that he would have liked to have gotten more done as a council member (which made me wonder why someone should vote for him again if he was unable to get things done before). Jones somewhat proudly said he’d voted “no” more times on the city council than anyone else; perhaps more than all combined.
The issues of crime and homelessness were the most weighty, and while the candidates differed on many topics (like the proposed tax increase), this one resulted in similar answers. Nearly all the candidates were careful to not lump everyone – criminals, AB-109ers, the mentally ill, creepy people – into the “homeless” category. Nearly all expressed compassion for the mentally ill, and, in Sullivan’s case, a special heart for homeless veterans and a desire to help.
Throughout the evening, Weaver stood out among the rest for his “as-if” demeanor and descriptions of his actions … “as if” he’s already on the Redding City Council. He spoke of his series of rallies in some of Redding’s most challenged areas, places frequented by not just the down-and-out, but criminals and the seriously addicted, to take on the topics of crime and transients, as if he were on the city council. He’s met with leaders of agencies that help the homeless, and worked with Redding neighborhood advocate Jason Schroeder for a “Stand Up Redding” workshop – as if he were already a city council member, charged with finding solutions.
In a similar vein, Schreder also held an informational meeting last month with a panel that addressed the topic of homelessness. Schreder said she visited homeless encampments as part of her research.
Weaver, like Schreder, demonstrated a cool, civilized head, gave measured answers throughout the evening, and behaved with respect toward the other candidates.
Case in point, Weaver was the only one of the candidates who opened by not just thanking the audience, but also thanking his fellow candidates for attending the forum, followed by speaking positively about them.
“We do have differences,” he said. “But they all care about this community.”
The greatest tension of the evening surrounded the hostility between Dacquisto and Sullivan. Dacquisto was adamant in his assertion that the city is sitting on a whopping $12.5 million of unassigned money. He balked at the idea of a tax increase, because he said there’s no need for it; the city has available money.
“I don’t think we should pass a tax,” he said. “Wait until we don’t have any money. Use that $12.5 million – use it first.”
Sullivan went nearly apoplectic over these statements, basically ridiculing him for not knowing how to decipher a city budget, despite his Stanford education.
“We are not dummies,” she said, motioning to herself and Jones seated to her right (a rare kumbaya moment between the two usual rivals that we may never see again). “If there were $12 million dollars we would have used it.”
At the evening’s end, when candidates were asked about Aramark and the proposed cell phone towers, Daquisto said he didn’t have an answer, because he pretty much agreed with what the other candidates said (basically, codes should be enforced, and any incoming projects cannot have a negative impact on a neighborhood).
But Dacquisto used that found time to address what he characterized as unfair jabs by Sullivan. He recalled how he’d earlier used the term “dysfunctional” during the forum to describe the current city council. Dacquisto said he wasn’t even on the city council, yet Sullivan was already going after him.
“I resent being attacked by Ms. Sullivan,” he said.
In closing, here are some random quotes from each candidate Monday night:
Mike Quinn, on homelessness: “We can’t call everyone homeless. We need to get help for the good people, the people from Redding who want help. The criminals, let’s get them out. It’s time to take back the city.”
Kristen Schreder, on the Aramark dispute and the proposed Garden Tract cell phone towers: “Whatever code needs to be enforced should be enforced. The towers, anything like that needs to go through the permit process.”
Brent Weaver on the concept of a homeless daycare center: “I’m concerned about location. We want to make sure it doesn’t negatively impact any area, and we don’t want it to be a magnet to attract more homeless. I’m compassionate, but I have no compassion for law-breakers.”
Michael Dacquisto on the city council: “What I see is lots of looking back and talking about now. We need to look forward to see where the city will be in five to 10 years, to things like the Sacramento riverfront along Park Marina Drive.”
Patrick Jones on the concept of a homeless daycare center: “I’m leaning against it. If you feed the bears you’ll have more bear problems.”
Francie Sullivan on Redding: “We were named the 5th best city for trails. We have the perfect place for the healthiest city. The future looks promising.”
Finally, at the end of the evening, as people filed from the room, I asked a neighbor if she felt any better after hearing the candidates.
She said no.
“Most of them gave some good answers,” she said. “But I guess I was looking for the one person who had good answers to every question, and I didn’t get that.”
Independent online journalist Doni Chamberlain founded what’s now known as anewscafe.com in 2007 with her son, Joe Domke of the Czech Republic. Prior to 2007 Chamberlain was an award-winning newspaper opinion columnist, feature and food writer recognized by the Associated Press, the California Newspaper Publishers Association and E.W. Scripps. She lives in Redding, CA.