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The four candidates seeking two seats on the Redding City Council are evenly divided over Measure D, the half-cent sales tax hike to fund more police officers, jail space and mental health services.
That rift was one of the differences between the council hopefuls to surface Thursday during a candidate forum at the Red Lion Hotel. The well-attended affair was sponsored by the Redding Chamber of Commerce, the Shasta Association of Realtors, Shasta Builders Exchange and Shasta Voices.
Julie Winter and Lea Tate offered their unequivocal support of Measure D and E (a companion advisory measure directing that all proceeds from the tax hike be spent on public safety programs) while Councilman Gary Cadd, the lone incumbent, stated his opposition and Adam McElvain said he was not personally supporting the tax increase.
Money for more police and community service officers is available in the city’s general fund reserve, Cadd said. It’s the city’s rainy day fund, Cadd noted, but the council should have dipped into it 18 months ago since “it’s raining bad guys.”
McElvain said there’s an excess of $5 million in the reserve fund that could be spent on public safety staffing that could allow the Redding Police Department to return to proactive police work and faster response times.
Winter said she supports Measures D and E since she is aware of “no other source” for the estimated $11 million a year the tax hike will generate during its 10-year lifespan. “I don’t think anyone is satisfied with the level of safety now,” she said, noting that economic development and public safety go hand in hand. “We’re talking about half of one penny. For me, that amounts to about one Starbucks drink a month. I’m willing to pay it. We need to pony up.”
Tate said she stands “100 percent” behind D and E. “Is it perfect? No. Is it better than the status quo? Absolutely. This landscape is unacceptable,” Tate said, referring to the community’s growing frustration with property crimes, vagrancy and overcrowded jails. “People are afraid to go into their own parks. That is unacceptable.”
The candidates were provided with seven questions (in advance) and given two minutes each for their answers. Each candidate also had a minute each for opening and closing statements. Jake Mangas, president and CEO of the chamber, moderated the forum.
Cadd sidestepped the first question—what type of industry would bolster Shasta County’s economy and how the candidate would attract it—and instead chose to talk about Redding’s mounting unfunded pension obligations. He said he was bothered that none of the questions dealt with the pension issue.
McElvain said he’d work to attract high-tech businesses, healthcare providers, clean energy and manufacturing. “We can easily double the number of jobs in the next five years through the proper industry,” McElvain said.
Technology and advanced manufacturing were Winter’s targeted industries. She cited a study that says over the next 10 years, some 70 percent of new jobs will be in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields. Redding also needs to continue capitalizing on its quality of life assets and the tourism businesses it supports.
Tate, a clinical psychologist with the Veterans Administration, also advocated for the high-tech industry and expanding healthcare facilities, including the Dignity Health wellness campus recently approved for riverfront land off of Hartnell Avenue. Redding, she said, needs to exploit its status as a north state hub for healthcare.
Other questions and answers considered Thursday:
How will you ensure the council will comply with Measure E if the advisory measure is successful?
Winter said she was confident the measure provides adequate accountability and that Redding would enjoy the success Anderson and Corning have experienced with their public safety-related tax hikes.
Tate said she understood the distrust some voters have but expressed confidence in the citizens committee appointed to monitor the council’s public safety spending and the provision calling for an annual audit.
Cadd said language mandating an audit is not included in Measure E and he warned that there is “no lock on where that money will be spent.” He predicted the Measure D proceeds, which will be maintained in the city’s general fund, would ultimately be used to pay some of the city’s pension obligations.
McElvain said he would always vote to spend Measure D monies on public safety but he would insist on a performance-based contract with Shasta County for money spent on delivering mental health services.
Expedited building permit process and affordable impact fees
Cadd said he’d like the city to outsource its building permit functions “to get a new mindset” and change a culture that has proven to be frustrating for big developers and ordinary citizens alike. Tate said she would use her experience at Patients Hospital to improve the building department’s performance and that she would be “open” to conversations about reducing impact fees and speeding up the permit process.
McElvain said his experience with the Active 20-30 Club and building playgrounds in Redding gave him a ground-level view of the challenges many face when dealing with the city. He said he’d like to see the return of an ombudsman position to serve as a mediator.
Winter said the city needs a clear, standardized process for handling permits and suggested a fast-track system that has worked well in other cities. “Let’s set the goal of being the easiest city to work with. Wouldn’t that be something?”
McElvain said he supports the concept of revenue sharing with the county. “It helps generate more revenue for public safety and it’s a chance for good governance,” he said. Winter said she supports it “when it makes good sense and it’s a win-win … we are a region and we need to think holistically.”
Tate noted that if Measures D and E are approved, the city will have to hammer out revenue sharing agreements with the county for increasing jail space and bolstering mental health services. Cadd cautioned that with the new courthouse on hold, courtrooms will continue to use space earmarked for jail beds. “We’ll be giving money to the county for something that will be off in the future,” Cadd said.
The League of Women Voters will hold a candidate forum from 6 to 8 p.m. Monday, Sept. 19, at the Cascade Theatre in downtown Redding.
The election is Nov. 8.