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There was a lot of talk about the glass being half full on Tuesday when the Redding Merchants Crime Watch met for the first time since Redding voters in November defeated Measure D, a proposed half-cent sales tax hike that would have paid for more cops, firefighters, jail cells, mental health services and treatment for drug and alcohol addicts.
“Unfortunately we couldn’t pass D, but that’s OK,” said Ed Rullman, the hotelier who founded the crime watch group six years ago. The question now, he said, is “where do we go from here?”
To help answer that question, Rullman invited to the meeting Redding Mayor Brent Weaver, Redding City Manager Kurt Starman, Shasta County Supervisor (and former Redding police chief) Leonard Moty and Shasta County Executive Officer Larry Lees.
A lot of the same obstacles remain, including a still-recovering economy and new laws that shift more of the public safety burden from the state to the county, “and now we need to find a way to get around those without the extra money or the extra manpower,” Rullman said.
A new obstacle emerged last week when the Board of Supervisors voted to cancel construction of the 64-bed Adult Rehabilitation Center. On Tuesday, Moty said he still supports the medium-security jail, but that in good conscience, he and his fellow board members could not sign off on a project the county simply can’t afford.
Four years ago, Moty said supervisors were looking at a $22.5 million jail, with Shasta County responsible for $2.5 million of that total. Operating costs were projected to be $2.1 million a year.
Not only did the projected operating costs increase to a whopping $3.95 million a year, Moty said supervisors learned only a month ago that the county would be on the hook for $1.1 million in equipment and a cost of $2.2 million for the hiring and training of deputies to staff the jail.
Magnifying those increased costs are flat sales and property tax revenues (exacerbated by the loss of potential developments like the 3M quarry at Moody Flats and the voter-rejected commercial development on Knighton Road), and increased expenses passed on by the state in the form of a higher minimum wage and in-home support services (IHSS) costs.
“It (the jail costs) went way beyond what we can afford,” Moty said. “We’re not going to spend money and put us in bankruptcy like some counties and cities have done.” The cost of building the jail would translate to 30 fewer deputies in the department, he said.
Weaver, who pushed hard for Measure D and made public safety a cornerstone of his campaign, said its passage would have been “close to a home run.”
Without Measure D’s projected revenue of $11 million a year, government leaders will need to switch their focus from home runs to base hits. Taking the glass-is-half-full approach, Weaver listed some positive developments on the public safety front:
–Two of downtown’s biggest problem hotels, the Americana Lodge and the Redding Inn, have been dealt with. The Redding Inn has been shuttered and the Americana is now slated to be transformed into student housing that will add some much-needed energy to downtown.
–Hilltop Lodge, long a magnet for police calls, has been torn down.
–A new ordinance aimed at limiting sex trafficking and cracking down on illicit massage parlors serving as brothels has resulted in the closure of three businesses.
–Carnegie Park (the former Library Park behind the Lorenz Hotel) is a “base hit in progress,” the mayor said. A proposed bike park (between the Aquatic Center and North Market Street) is expected to spruce up Caldwell Park.
–Tiger Field, thanks to the work put in by former Mayor Rick Bosetti and his Colt .45s baseball team, has helped make South City Park a safer place.
Weaver pointed to other projects, including Dignity Health’s wellness campus at the Henderson Open Space and Costco’s plans to expand, as more examples of positive progress. Redding’s future, he said, will require high energy, passion, intelligence and the ability to follow through.
Starman, who recently announced his plans to retire in May, said that he, too, was “bullish on Redding” and wondered aloud if too many residents are “fixated on the negativity” and fail to realize that “we live in a really beautiful place.”
The negatives shouldn’t be ignored, Starman said, but “I wish we’d have a little better self-appreciation.”
Starman’s Shasta County counterpart, Larry Lees, also extolled the positive developments in the county, including a pair of successful Superior Court programs that are reducing recidivism rates; mental health clinicians that are staffing emergency rooms; and a program that has taken 200 homeless veterans off the streets and placed them in permanent housing.
The programs don’t solve every ill “but we’re going after it and not just sitting back,” Lees said.
Jake Mangas, president and CEO of the Redding Chamber of Commerce, said his group recognizes Redding’s problems but also sees the need to get the city’s positive story out there. For its part, the Chamber is relocating downtown to the White Building (the former Greyhound bus depot on Pine Street).
The new location will be adjacent to College OPTIONS, the 13-year-old organization that helps prepare high school students for vocational school, community college and university educations. Mangas said the side-by-side relationship symbolizes the Chamber’s belief that education and workforce development lead to economic development.
The next Redding Merchants Crime Watch meeting will be held at 2 p.m. March 1 at the Red Lion Hotel.