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Julie Winter, City Council Candidate: ‘Redding is the Best Place in the World’

Julie Winter, Redding City Council candidate.

Welcome to A News Cafe.com, Julie. Thank you for taking the time to talk about your run for a seat on the Redding City Council in the November election. First, can you tell us a little bit about your background?

I grew up in Southern California.  My husband and I moved to Redding with two little boys in 1989 for my husband’s work as a Nuclear Med Tech at Mercy.  I have a BS in Genetics from UC Davis, a BS in Nursing from CSU, Sacramento, and a Masters in Nursing from the UCLA Nurse Practitioner program. I’ve worked as a nurse practitioner in several settings, including the under-served and at-risk populations.  For the last 15 years I’ve worked in private family practice with Andre Van Mol, MD.  I’ve been married to my husband Mike for 33 years and we have two sons, three grandchildren and another on the way.

How would your medical training affect your decision making on city council?

The critical thinking skills that go into the analysis of underlying root problems — as opposed to treating symptoms — triage of priorities, and value for evidenced-based decisions as opposed to emotional decision-making are of extreme value to our city.  Additionally, my training helps me to think big picture so that I look at the wholeness of an entire system.  These are some of my greatest strengths, and of extreme value to city council decision-making.  We have to continually ask the question why? until we get to the primary root of a problem.

I will give you an example of this principle. Why do we have an increase in crime?  Some people want to jump immediately to solutions that don’t address the root causes.  When a patient comes to see me with a fever, I don’t just give them Tylenol.  There are a variety of potential causes for fever, and my treatment needs to be oriented to the cause.  There are a variety of contributing factors to increased crime which include substance abuse, mental illness, lack of jail bed space, prison realignment, homelessness, Prop 47, etc., all of which are contributing to crime.

Again, we have to look at the big picture, and the wholeness of the system.  In an era of limited resources we need to work strategically with the county and all community organizations to formulate sustainable solutions, not band-aids.

How have you been involved in the city, and what is your leadership experience?

I am a founding member of my local nurse practitioner professional organization and have served on that board since its inception in 1994.  I’ve also served at the state level for the California Association of NP’s on the board of directors.

Locally, I serve on the board of Advance Redding as well as the City of Redding Community Development Advisory Committee.  I am a graduate of Leadership Redding and am a member of Redding Rotary, Turtle Bay, Friends of the Library, Shasta Living Streets, Women’s Fund, Shasta Historical Society, Shasta County Arts Council, League of Women Voters and the Redding Republican Women Federated.  I was very involved with Measure B from the beginning, speaking on behalf of Turtle Bay as well as heading up precinct walking with Rocky Slaughter for Yes on B.

What motivated you to run for city council?

Honestly, it was the furthest thing from my mind, until I was challenged to run by three people whom I deeply respect back in 2010.  It took me about a year to evaluate two things.  First, was I willing to personally pay the price, and second, could I make a difference for the future of our city?

The underlying reason that drives the core of why I want to run is the future of my children and grandchildren.  My oldest son and his wife live in Portland because of the lack of employment opportunities in Redding.  My youngest son is a Nuclear Med Tech like his father, but works four different jobs that require him to travel to Mt. Shasta, Susanville, Chico and Yuba City – all this so he can stay in Redding.  I want my children and grandchildren to have a future in Redding and I believe that this is possible.

If you are elected to a seat on the city council, what would be your priorities?

The priority of city council — and in fact, every city department — should be jobs.  James Clifton, the CEO of Gallup, said that city leaders who do not make jobs their number one priority put their cities at risk.  We should all ask ourselves: Does this decision ultimately produce good jobs in our city?  Secondly, and very much related to jobs, is public safety and its intersection with issues like mental health, substance abuse, homelessness, restorative justice and poverty that require a community-wide collective impact approach with the county, NPOs, and other community organizations.

I will ask these questions: Does this decision help move the 18% of our population who live below the poverty level out of dependency?  Is this decision sustainable long term and does it reward desired behaviors?  Does this decision create a community that is desirable for young entrepreneurs, and does it help or hinder job growth?  Does this decision bring a solution the root cause of a problem or it just treating a symptom?  Does this decision promote overall community health and wholeness?

All good questions. You’ve already partially answer this, but why is economic development your top priority?

As I look at our community systemically, again, I have to ask the question why.

Crime, substance abuse, and homelessness are symptoms of the underlying diseases of poverty, hopelessness and untreated mental health problems.  Our unemployment rates are higher than the national average.  Our median income is $44,000, and almost 1 in 5 people live below the poverty level.  This not only causes hopelessness and mental health issues, but reduces the stream of revenue that helps the city bring solutions to these issues.

If our community can increase jobs, then we provide hope and a ladder out of poverty.  If our citizens have good jobs they are less likely to substance abuse and commit crimes.  If our city has good jobs, we increase sales tax and property tax revenue to provide services and solutions for the problems we face as a community.  Public safety is also a top priority, and one of the core responsibilities of government.  It’s not just one or the other.  We must do both, but while we’re at it, let’s start looking for solutions that focus on changing the underlying disease.

Speaking of solutions, what is your plan to increase jobs?

Currently Redding’s main employment sectors are in government, healthcare, education and retail.  There are many good jobs in these sectors, and I am grateful for each one, but our economy needs diversification and growth in areas that have a higher economic output so that we can break our long history of boom and bust cycles.

The role of government is not to create jobs, but to remove barriers that hinder growth, create needed infrastructure for businesses to prosper, and create a desirable community that has a vision for the future.  Here are some practical steps we can take:

  • Establish quarterly town hall meetings and survey business owners to find out what they need to grow their business.
  • Continue to update zoning ordinances to meet the changing needs of our community, increasing mixed use and eliminating outdated codes.
  • Enhance the culture of the building and planning department so that it becomes known as collaborative, helpful and business friendly.
  • Increase community connection with safe bike lanes.  Support activities that promote the historical buildings downtown, pop-up businesses and a revitalized downtown with a regular farmers market that draws pedestrians on a regular basis.
  • Increase vendor and community access to the riverfront areas.
  • Redding will continue to be strong in the service and retail industries, particularly healthcare.  Beyond this, we need to brand and market the areas where Redding has distinctive assets.  The incredible natural beauty of our area in our mountains, lakes, rivers and trails make Redding distinctive and gives us the potential to become a destination city.  Our relatively low cost of living, quality of life, educational system, proximity to I-5 and the Bay Area make Redding an excellent place for niche tech and advanced manufacturing.  Another great asset are the talented and creative people who’ve made Redding home.  We have an increasing number of inventors, innovators and entrepreneurs who are starting businesses here.  I also see creative arts as another huge potential area for growth.  Our location in the north state, natural inspiration and the creative people who are drawn to our location make Redding a natural place to become the hub for creative arts in the north state.

As we look at the areas where Redding can prosper and create jobs, I would:

  1. Gather data to identify the barriers from those in the business community.
  2. Where the COR has authority, remove barriers and create needed infrastructure.  An example would be to look at the feasibility of expanding fiber to help businesses prosper.
  3. Continue to make air flight service a priority
  4. Dedicate resources to branding and marketing our community.  This will not only attract businesses and investors to our area, but bring in needed highly skilled workers and professionals for the areas we are expanding.
  5. View economic development strategically, similarly to what is happening with the Homeless Coalition Project.  We need an assessment of our current services, strengths and gaps and then we need to develop a community wide strategic plan that targets identified areas of good job growth for the future.

Earlier you mentioned crime. What can the city council do about issues related to crime?

Public safety is one of the primary responsibilities of city government and is of serious concern to everyone in our community and rightfully so.  There are several factors that play into the increase in crime, including the economy, the loss of police officers, AB109 – which has increased the number of felons on our streets, many of whom do not have needed job skills – Prop 47, which has reduced felonies to misdemeanors and hampered the ability of the justice system to leverage offenders into rehabilitation, lack of jail space which allows offenders to continue to commit crime without consequences, an increase in heroin, and lack of mental health services, and a rise in homelessness.

I have tremendous value for the recent public safety assessment done by Matrix.  I greatly appreciate their evaluation that looks at our issues in a systematic manner.  Crime is a community-wide problem and I am encouraged that we are starting to look at this strategically, realizing that it will take a community-wide approach involving law enforcement, the justice system, mental health, substance abuse treatment centers, churches, NPOs, businesses, community groups and neighborhoods.  We can have a safer, healthier community if we are willing to step up and get involved.

You serve on the board of Advance Redding, and are a member of Bethel Church.  How would those positions influence your decision-making on on the city council?

The greatest area of influence is on how to think.  The leadership of Bethel has created a culture that empowers people to have faith, take risks, be excellent, and serve people in every area of society.  An example of this principle is what founded Advance Redding originally.  In 2010, due to an annual loss of $700,000, the city was strongly considering closing the Civic Auditorium.  I was personally grieved by this thought and proposed the idea of leasing and managing the Civic to the Bethel leadership team.  This would not only keep the Civic Auditorium available to the community, but would provide the needed space for the Bethel school.  This became a win-win solution with the creation of Advance Redding, a separate 501c3.  Instead of costing the city $700,000 annually, or $7 million over 10 years, the city will make about $2 million in rent from the Civic Auditorium over the course of its 10 year lease.  In addition, Advance Redding has spent more than $500,000 to improve the Civic Auditorium.  What appeared to be an insoluble problem, was actually a brilliant opportunity, to quote John Gardiner.

As we look at the problems our city faces, we need to be looking for the disguised opportunities.  Perhaps as a city, we will discover a solution for homelessness that will not just benefit us, but other cities as well.  We need leaders who have vision and can see beyond the problem.  Because of my connection to Advance Redding and Bethel Church, I would abstain from voting on any decisions related to these organizations.

What do you see as Redding’s biggest untapped potential?

There is an ancient story of a businessman who gave varying amounts of money to three of his employees and asked them to invest the money.  He then then went away on  a long journey.  When he returned he required an accounting of the investments. Two of the employees doubled what they’ve been given. The third, out of fear, buried his money.  He was severely reprimanded, and what he’d been given was taken from him and given to those who had taken a risk.  We too, as a city need to multiply what we’ve been given.  Instead of grousing about what we don’t have, we need to be faithful with what we’ve been given.  Our greatest underutilized assets include our the Sacramento River and a lack of recognition of the incredibly creative and skilled people who’ve made Redding home.  Our riverfront property, along with the abundant natural beauty and outdoor activities in the area, could actually make Redding a destination city.  Other cities have done much more with much less.

Is there a city somewhere that you see as Redding’s possible role model, and why?

Depending on the issue, I can think of several cities as role models.  Bend, Oregon, has a similar economic history.  However, the leaders of Bend had a vision and created branding and marketing around mountain biking and tourism.  When you think of Bend, you immediately think of mountain activities.  Because Redding lacks vision, we can’t tell our story well and others tell it for us. Outside our community Redding is primarily known for being hot or a place to get gas while headed north.  We have some of the most spectacular riverfront property in the state, but this is unknown.  Another example is San Antonio, Texas.  When you think of San Antonio, you think of the Riverwalk.  The San Antonio city leaders took an ugly little waterway and turned into an attractive economic driver. The state of Utah has reduced their homelessness by 90 percent by implementing housing first with case management.  Each of these cities have successes from which Redding can learn.

On a related note, how do you describe Redding to a stranger?

Redding is a perfectly sized city, surrounded by mountains in every direction, with a wild and scenic river that runs through it.  Every kind of outdoor activity you can imagine is available, and sunshine and wildlife are plentiful. The trail system and fishing are world-class and the educational system is outstanding.  Most of all, the people are hard-working, and generous. There is something to grow in my garden all year long and my commute is a mere 10 minutes. I’ve been all over the world and when I return I breathe a sigh of pleasure as I drive over the grade in Anderson that gives you that first view of our city. Redding is the best place in the world to me.

Beautifully expressed, Julie. Thank you for this opportunity to get to know you better. Best of luck with your campaign.

(By the way, to those who had planned to attend Winter’s Jan. 13 campaign kick-off, it’s been cancelled because of weather forecasts. The event will be rescheduled for a later dater.)