If a majority of Redding voters agree to raise the city’s sales tax by a half-cent in order to bolster public safety, a five-member citizens committee will keep close tabs on how the estimated $11 million is spent each year.
With a unanimous vote, the Redding City Council on Wednesday appointed businessmen Shawn Bernardi and Ryan Denham, retired Shasta County Superior Court Judge Steven Jahr, retired Shasta County Undersheriff Larry Schaller and Shasta County Chief Probation Officer Tracie Neal to the committee. Jake Mangas, president and CEO of the Redding Chamber of Commerce, was appointed as an alternate.
The council in May voted to put Measures D and E on the Nov. 8 ballot. Measure D would increase the sales tax in Redding by half a percent. The $11 million a year generated during the tax hike’s 10-year lifespan would be funneled into a special account in the city’s general fund.
Measure E is a non-binding companion advisory stating that the money would be used to fund additional police officers and firefighters, more jail space, a mental health crisis stabilization unit and a sobering center.
The new citizens committee, whose members were selected from lists of names submitted by all five council members, is intended to add a level of transparency to assure voters that the Measure D money will, in fact, be spent on public safety improvements outlined in the “Blueprint for Public Safety.”
If Measures D and E are enacted, the citizens committee will be convened to audit all expenditures and issue an annual report; in essence, the committee will serve as an extra set of eyes to ensure the council follows the spirit of Measure E.
“I was pleasantly surprised with the appointees,” Councilman Brent Weaver said. “This is a strong list of individuals who are also concerned with where we’re going.” Jahr, who was selected by Mayor Missy McArthur, told the council he was looking forward to serving.
In other action Wednesday, the council:
Improved fire rating
–Received an upbeat report from Fire Chief Gerry Gray, who said that Redding’s fire protection rating, as determined by the Insurance Services Office (ISO), will be upgraded in October from “a respectable” Class 3 to a much more impressive Class 2.
A Class 2 rating puts Redding among the top 2 percent of communities in the country for structural fire protection. The lower rating is expected to result in lower insurance premiums and make Redding more attractive to commercial and industrial interests looking for new locations.
The ISO rating is typically determined once every 10 years and it factors in the operations and staffing levels of the fire department, the availability and distribution of water and the quality of the dispatch center.
Gray said Redding cleared the Class 2 threshold by a whisker and that any budget cuts or reductions in staffing would likely trigger a new ISO audit and a drop back to the Class 3 rating. The 2015 audit also reinforced the need for additional firefighters, Gray said, noting that Redding only received 64 percent of the points possible in the staffing category.
Gray has repeatedly stressed the need to staff engine companies with three firefighters—the industry standard—rather than the current practice of two-person engine companies.
Viva Downtown accolades
–Heard a report from John Truitt, executive director of Viva Downtown, that the all-volunteer organization has again been accredited as a Main Street America program.
The accreditation acknowledges Viva Downtown’s continuing success at helping to create sustainable revitalization efforts, fostering strong public-private partnerships and spurring preservation-based economic development, Truitt said.
Viva Downtown sprang to life 20 years ago as a volunteer group committed to drawing positive attention to downtown Redding. Its first venture, MarketFest, transformed Library Park into a popular venue for weekly concerts, art fairs and a farmers market.
MarketFest became the Market St. Faire and moved to the Market Street Promenade after the roof was removed from the Downtown Mall. Viva Downtown also produces the annual beer and wine festival, Hops & Shops, the annual State of Downtown celebration and a host of smaller events.
Thanks to the efforts of Viva Downtown and its many partners over the last 10 to 15 years, downtown Redding has welcomed dozens of new restaurants and nightclubs and the renovated Cascade Theatre. “Downtown is a great place to be, to hang out and enjoy,” Truitt said. “Downtown is getting better week by week and year by year.”