Citizens Committee to Oversee Potential ‘Safe Streets Now’ Tax-Hike Spending; Problem Hotel Update Delivered; Isaac Lowe Honored; and Massage Ordinance is Tweaked

A divided Redding City Council voted Tuesday to create a citizens watchdog committee to oversee how the city spends the extra $11 million that will be generated each year if Measure D, the “Safe Streets Now” half-cent sales tax hike, is approved by Redding voters in November.

In essence, the five-member committee will serve as an extra set of eyes to ensure the council follows the spirit of Measure E, the companion advisory measure that says money generated from the sales tax hike should be spent on bolstering Redding’s public safety and Shasta County’s jail and social support services.

Dale Ball, one of the organizers of Shasta Support Services, a volunteer group active in cleaning up homeless encampments, said he supports the tax hike but complained that the council will lose valuable transparency if it selects its own advisory committee.

“It’s like me picking my own jury,” Ball said, adding that there is no assurance that the council won’t disband the committee much in the same way it abolished the commission overseeing the Redding Electric Utility.

Measure D, which requires a simple majority of votes to pass, would increase the local sales tax by a half-cent to fund additional police officers and firefighters, more jail space, a mental health crisis stabilization unit and a sobering center.

The measure would generate an estimated $11 million a year during its 10-year lifespan with the money being funneled into a special account in the city’s general fund.

Since Measure D is a general tax hike (a special tax requires a two-thirds majority), the revenue is added to the city’s general fund and theoretically can be spent as the council chooses.

The key, Councilman Brent Weaver said, is establishing a sense of trust among voters that the council will dedicate all Measure D funds to improving public safety and providing mental health services to the homeless and others. The citizens advisory committee, in its role as an extra set of eyes, will help build that trust, he said.

Weaver noted that both measures were recently endorsed by the Redding Chamber of Commerce, an act he viewed as “a strong message” of support for the tax increase.

Councilwoman Francie Sullivan said she supports Measure D but does not see the need for another advisory committee. Council members are accessible and accountable, she said, and they are constantly receiving information and updates. “We’re elected to make decisions about this,” she said.

Staff members who are already stretched thin would have to explain things twice, she added. “I applaud you for trying,” she said to Weaver, “but I’m not convinced I support an advisory committee.”

Councilwoman Kristen Schreder said she favored the advisory committee. In her 16 years of experience as a school board trustee, she said such committees provided valuable service—especially when districts were appealing to voters to support bond measures.

Mayor Missy McArthur expressed confidence that the council could fairly select advisory committee members who represented different aspects of the community. Addressing the question of trust, she said, “Guess what? You elected us.”

The council voted 3-1 to create the committee, with Sullivan dissenting and Councilman Gary Cadd absent (Cadd was traveling to Sacramento as the council’s liaison to the League of California Cities.)

If Measure D is successful, the committee will review all revenue and expenditures associated with the sales tax increase and report its findings to the council and community each year. The five committee members will serve staggered four-year terms.

In other action Tuesday, the council:

Problem hotels

–Heard an update from Police Chief Robert Paoletti on the city’s crackdown on nuisance hotels. Since December, when the department posted the names of hotels that generated the most calls for service, Paoletti said two of the offending properties have closed (Hilltop Lodge and the Redding Inn) and five have seen significant reductions in calls for service.

Management at both the Capri and the Ponderosa has begun working with police and the Shasta County District Attorney to find ways to reduce calls for service, the chief said. Police received 3,129 calls during the first half of 2015, compared with 2,631 calls in the first half of 2016, Paoletti said.

“The biggest success story has been all three Motel 6 properties that were on the list,” Paoletti said. Corporate representatives flew in and replaced management teams, improved lighting and bolstered security. Calls were reduced by 57 percent at the Hilltop Drive location and 42 percent at the Bechelli Lane location. Paoletti said calls are expected to decrease at the Twin View Drive property soon, following management changes.

“Motel 6 has really stepped up its game,” Paoletti said.

MLK Center

–Voted 4-0 to adopt the 2016 MLK Center action plan, which includes accepting a $130,000 grant from Shasta County for enhanced services at the center. Highlights of the plan include developing more parent-based programs; increasing public access to MLK Center resources; and develop a greater awareness of the MLK Center, its achievements and its events.

The vote also renamed the MLK Library after the late Isaac Lowe, the woman who, with her husband Vernon, established the Redding chapter of the NAACP in 1950 and later spearheaded the drive to create the MLK Center in 1966.

Massage Parlors

–Voted 4-0 to amend the new ordinance regulating the operation of Redding’s legion of massage parlors. City Attorney Barry DeWalt, who drafted the ordinance, said further review revealed two problematic provisions.

The prohibition against the massaging of the buttocks without a physician’s referral “may be overly burdensome,” DeWalt said, and a ban on all alcohol could be better accomplished by requiring massage parlor operators to obtain a license through the state Alcoholic Beverage Control department.

The council adopted the original ordinance at its June 7 meeting. The issue came to light in January when Matt Moseley, the co-founder of the Northern California Anti-Trafficking Coalition, told the council that sex trafficking was occurring in hotels and massage parlors.

The council directed DeWalt to look into the matter and develop an ordinance. The attorney said a simple internet search revealed dozens of massage parlors that were not only advertising nude and/or exotic massages, but encouraging customers to rate the services provided. “It seems very evident that sexual services are being sold,” DeWalt said.

Jon Lewis

Jon Lewis is a freelance writer living in Redding. He has more than 30 years experience writing for newspapers and magazines. Contact him at jonpaullewis@gmail.com.

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