The Downtown Redding Business Association is gone but definitely not forgotten.
Fallout from the rancorous process of disbanding the group of downtown business owners was felt Tuesday when the Redding City Council voted unanimously to ask the Shasta County District Attorney to look into a potential violation of California’s open meeting law.
At issue is a charge by Redding attorney Walt McNeill that someone on the council, or one of three top city officials, let slip some confidential information about what transpired on March 30 when the council met in closed session to discuss the DRBA.
Specifically, at the March 30 meeting, McNeill said his informant told him the council, while behind closed doors, voted to disestablish the Business Improvement District (BID). Under provisions of the Ralph M. Brown Act, the council is required to disclose any specific actions taken in closed session; the council on March 30 reported that no reportable action was taken.
McNeill, who had been retained by the DRBA, declined to identify his source when addressing the council on May 5 but said of the information: “I feel very confident in it as being credible, as being accurate and indicating very clearly, as I said before, that the City Council in a closed session meeting took a vote to disestablish the BID.”
At the council’s May 19 meeting, Mayor Francie Sullivan said any such disclosure is a crime and she received agreement from the other council members to move forward with asking the DA to investigate.
On Tuesday night, Councilman Gary Cadd moved to expand the DA’s investigation to all closed-session meetings the council has convened in the past year, echoing a request made earlier in the meeting by Tim Pappas.
Sullivan said she was “not wild” about Cadd’s idea, saying her intent was to respond to McNeill’s specific allegation about the March 30 meeting. City Attorney Barry DeWalt said such an expansion would be “somewhat meaningless” since the DA’s investigator would have nothing specific to look for.
After Cadd’s motion died for lack of a second, he pointed out that he violated the Brown Act late last fall, presumably when the council met in closed session to negotiate the sale of public land to the McConnell Foundation to allow for construction of a Sheraton Hotel at Turtle Bay.
Councilman Brent Weaver said he also favored limiting the investigation to the March 30 meeting, and added that he was “very disappointed in how this is moving along.” Weaver said the issue was becoming a distraction that was taking the council’s attention away from more pressing matters.
Problems between the city and the DRBA surfaced in early March when Councilwoman Kristen Schreder said she had received complaints from downtown business owners about issues with the DRBA concerning transparency and accountability.
The BID comprises about 300 businesses that were collectively assessed about $35,000 a year. The DRBA was established in 1997 to administer the funds collected from the BID and fund various marketing and promotional efforts.
In other action Tuesday:
The council voted 4-1, with Councilwoman Missy McArthur dissenting, to extend an interim urgency ordinance limiting medical marijuana patients to six plants per residence. The city’s previous ordinance limited outdoor grows to 100 square feet of canopy per patient, with up to three patients per home.
Outdoor grows must be 1,000 feet or more from any library, school, park or other youth-oriented facility. The previous ordinance allowed gardens to within 300 feet.
The interim ordinance will remain in effect through Nov. 1. In the interim, the council is expected to consider a permanent ordinance currently being reviewed by the Redding Planning Commission.
The council heard a report from Schreder on the Redding Area Homelessness Coalition Project, a community initiative she is spearheading along with others. The project seeks to find solutions to homelessness by improving communication, collaboration and data collection.
Schreder expects the cost to implement the project’s three main components over the next four months will be $31,500. Project advocates are soliciting donations—Schreder said she has already received a $5,000 contribution from Shasta Regional Medical Center—and that donations are tax-deductible since United Way of Northern California has agreed to serve as the fiscal agent for the project.
The project is timed to deliver a set of recommendations and plans in conjunction with the Blueprint for Public Safety, a separate initiative funded by Redding and Shasta County to develop a comprehensive plan to address matters of crime and public safety.
Weaver, who has been an advocate for the Blueprint for Public Safety, congratulated Schreder on her “well timed” initiative. “And this won’t cost Redding a dollar,” Weaver said. “Quite frankly, that’s leadership and I appreciate that.”
McArthur also commended her colleague. “She puts her words into action,” McArthur said.
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.