Speak Your Piece: ‘Our Citizens Need Hope That They Can Get a Job With a Living Wage’

As a nurse practitioner in family practice, one of my foremost goals is to prevent disease.  In the medical community we know that if we can get a patient to lose weight, exercise and in some cases take medication, we can prevent a patient from a needlessly expensive hospital stay and costly surgical procedure at best, or heart attack and death at worse.  A few dollars of prevention not only makes for a healthier patient, but prevents thousands and thousands of dollars later.

If our response to a rising incidence of heart attacks in our community is to hire more cardiac surgeons to perform more bypass surgeries and stents in the hospital, we will not only have a very expensive solution, we will have poorer outcomes from not preventing the original disease in the first place.

Redding has a long history of economic and social malaise, certainly aggravated by the Great Recession.  Though other cities our size have recovered, Redding still suffers from a higher unemployment rate and lower median income than the rest of the nation.  Almost one in five residents in our city lives below the poverty level.  This malaise creates an atmosphere of hopelessness, resulting in substance abuse, domestic violence, crime, homelessness and mental illness.

If an individual has no hope for a better future, then what’s the point in striving to pull oneself out of poverty?  Why get treatment for substance abuse if you have no hope for a future?

Our community has currently focused much of its attention on the troubling social issues in our community, but we must understand that the rising rates of crime, substance abuse, mental illness and homelessness are symptoms of long-term hopelessness.  Until our community can create hope for a better future, we will only treat symptoms, not root causes.  Our citizens need hope that they can get a job with a living wage to support themselves and their families.  A prosperous economy will not only increase hope and move people out of poverty, but will provide a tax base to increase funding for needed social services.  Trying to divide the current pie into smaller pieces is not the answer.  We need to make a bigger pie and we do that through creating jobs.

Currently, the majority of our best and brightest students move out of our community to make their dreams come true.  My oldest son is a college graduate and although he’d love to move back to Redding, he lives in Portland because there is no work for him here.  My other son is also a college graduate and he chose to stay in Redding, but the price is quite dear.  He works three part-time jobs with no benefits, two of which are in Yuba City and Chico, just to make ends meet.  I want my children and grandchildren to have a future in Redding.

We certainly should support community programs that address substance abuse, homelessness and much needed mental health care, but the reality is that if we want to change and prevent those conditions we need to pour our energies and resources into a long-term plan for a vibrant local economy that gives our citizens hope for a better future. Otherwise, we will exhaust ourselves and our resources trying to address symptoms while the underlying disease rages on.

Julie Winter is an NP who works in family practice with Andre Van Mol,MD.  Julie is a graduate of Leadership Redding and currently serves on the Community Development Advisory Committee for the city of Redding, as well as the board of directors for Advance Redding and the Redding Area PA/NP Alliance.  She has lived in Redding since 1989 and is married with 2 children and 3 grandchildren.

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14 Responses

  1. Avatar Ken Williams says:

    Great article. I agree!!

  2. Avatar mimi moseley says:

    Such great words, Julie!

  3. Avatar Sadie says:

    Very true! I appreciate the focus on the positive and the underlying causes not just the symptoms. Well said.

  4. Avatar david kerr says:

    Capitalism never invested much in places like Eureka, Chico, Redding, Yuba and it is certainly not going to in the future. The best young people should be looking elsewhere. I applaud Doni’s son the expatriate.

    Tech is increasingly concentrated in places like the Bay Area (because of Stanford and Lawrence Livermore), Reno, Scottsdale, Tucson and Tempe. Central California has very few young college graduates, and it will be facing fewer. Above average young people should be looking at places with a growing economy and many young college graduates.

  5. Avatar Kellie hamilton says:

    Great read. Thanks Julie, you never fail to inpart words of wisdom to me.

  6. Avatar david kerr says:

    Stillwater could have worked twenty years ago. Now, Redding, Chico, Eureka, Stockton, Yuba, etc are simply not competitive.

    Encourage your sons to settle elsewhere. If he fathers a child, the mother may want to stay near her mother for family celebrations, free childcare etc. One young person explained it to me this way: Redding is like a vortex, drawing you in. You need to be strong to escape.

  7. Avatar david kerr says:

    The Sacbee reported that 15% of Calpers pension recipients are in other states. http://t.co/FLt6qOoUxA
    “CalPERS sent $2.16 billion to roughly 81,000 beneficiaries living elsewhere in 2013.”

    Middle class and upper middle class retirees are also leaving for places with a growing economy and more opportunity. Capital flight, middle class flight and the best young people leaving for better places to make a living and raise a family are trends I expect to grow. Rural California increasingly is a place for poor retirees and poor people served by well paid and pensioned government employees.

  8. Avatar cheyenne says:

    As a CALPERS retiree living in another state I would have loved to stay in Shasta County where I lived for 40 years. I did not leave because of California’s taxes, high cost of living or increasing crime. I left for one reason only, my kids left because there was no opportunity for them in Shasta County even with college degrees.
    This article speaks volumes about the main problem facing Shasta County youth. Few opportunities.

  9. Avatar david kerr says:

    The worst is yet to come. As rural California becomes older, poorer and sicker, it will also become medically underserved. Retirees who might consider moving here will discover that the usual illnesses of aging will mean three hour trips to the Bay Area or Sac. Middle class retirees moving here to enjoy the lakes and trails were supposed to turn the area into Palm Springs. The physician shortage in rural California will do to middle class retirement what California’s business reputation did to Stillwater manufacturing.

  10. Avatar Debi says:

    Julie, well stated !!

  11. A. Jacoby A. Jacoby says:

    I, too, have a son living in another state who would dearly love to live in Redding and/or Chico but stays put in Virginia because of a healthier economic landscape. How sad, how sad!

  12. Avatar Bob Ferrari says:

    While I like your analogy of prevention vs cure I don’t necessarily agree that “the rising rates of crime, substance abuse, mental illness and homelessness are symptoms of long-term hopelessness.”

    The symptoms can just as easily, and more often than not, be the cause of hopelessness. The “hopeless” population are not going to get the jobs created to keep the “best and brightest students” close to home. A small town that is more or less distant from large urban centers has a limited number of jobs and, since, in general it costs less to live here, a higher number of low income people. So the best and brightest get to find their own path which might or might not bring them back here.

    I absolutely believe that good and well run businesses create positive and thriving communities. But businesses are not there to serve broken people by giving them a job. Businesses serve people who need or want their goods and services.

    Our company built a training program for new hires – but they can’t read. We can train them but they need to show up. They need to intrinsically enjoy treating other people well, and to enjoy the challenges for personal growth. But that’s only one side of the issue.

    The other side is – Our customers need to be happy to buy services from someone with a 4th grade vocabulary, some teeth in their mouth, and “Love – Hate” tattooed on the fingers, and to trust this person in their home. The services will cost more than another business which does not employ people, and the customer must be happy to spend more for the opportunity to spread hopefullness?

    In the end the customer subsidizes the training, the education, the hiring of 10 people to find one who is trainable, the (mandatory by law) up to 6 paid days off for any medical condition whether their own or someone else’s, and all the other costs associated with providing employment etc… Guess what? the majority of people don’t want to pay more for goods and services they can get for less elsewhere, and I don’t blame them.

    I have a pretty good challenge in running a business. The energy needed to free the “hopeless” needs to come from within themselves. Hope takes nurturing and practice. Once they are full of hope then come talk to me.

    To end with your analogy – your patient standing in front of you with a heart disease needs a heart doctor not an exercise program. Non entry level jobs are for, metaphorically speaking, healthy people who already exercise, and who don’t need a doctor.

    • Avatar Virginia says:

      Thank you for your insight and common sense.

      One time my husband took an employee home within minutes after she arrived for work. He had her take a bath and put clean clothes on!

      I remember telling one applicant who applied to our “mom & pop” business, “I only owe you for what you produce for me.” You give me a day’s work, and I will pay you for that day’s work.