Council to Consider Redding’s Cash-Strapped Public Safety Paradox This Week

Redding officials have been asking residents how they feel about public safety, and the responses shouldn’t come as a big surprise: people are tired of getting ripped off and they want to see more cops on the job.

City Manager Barry Tippin would love to hire more officers, but there’s just one problem: there’s no money. From his report to the City Council: “The city’s General Fund, 80 percent of which is used for public safety, can only be stretched so far, and there is simply not funding available to make the necessary improvements to the city’s public safety system to meet the community’s expectations.”

City Manager Barry Tippin. Photo by Jon Lewis.

Not only are the coffers empty, but some of the existing troops, including the popular (and effective) Neighborhood Policing Unit, are only funded through next year thanks to an ambitious fundraising program spearheaded by Bethel Church. Additionally, three firefighter positions are being funded through reserves and only through next year.

Sales and property taxes, the two principal revenue streams for the city’s General Fund, have not been keeping pace with inflation, Tippin says. In the fiscal year ending in 2007, Redding collected $23.5 million in sales tax and $14.9 million in property tax. Ten years later, those totals were $22.9 million and $18.2 million.

“Assuming a conservative 1.5 percent annual inflation rate, the City remains roughly $4 million below revenue expectations while costs continue to climb, and CalPERS continues to be the most difficult to absorb,” the report says. “A long-term solution for the public safety of the community is elusive,” Tippin concedes.

Under that ominous cloud, the City Council will hold a special meeting at 5 p.m. Thursday to consider its options and provide direction to Tippin and his staff.

Going forward, Tippin has suggested three scenarios:

— Maintain the status quo: “In this scenario the City would continue to seek marginal improvements through use of grants, technology and deployment of resources to address the most pressing needs. This direction will not lead to increased accountability for criminals and will ultimately lead to lower levels of police and fire services due to expenses outpacing revenue streams. Any increases in staffing will need to be funded through the decrease of other services and, even then, the increases will be marginal.”

— Move toward a “self-help” system that relies on more self-reporting for less-serious incidents and other streamlining measures. “Similar to the first scenario, this will not lead to increased accountability for the criminal element, though it may provide some sense of increased safety if, for instance, neighborhoods or business districts band together to provide increased patrols through private security. Additionally, the level of police and fire services from the City will be reduced both due to the increased expenses and perhaps by design.”

— Increase revenue, with the most likely sources being a parcel or local sales tax. “Many cities across California have utilized a local sales tax as a mechanism for increasing funding and improving levels of service. In the north state alone, Anderson, Red Bluff, and Woodland all have local sales taxes providing their communities the opportunity to enhance local services.”

Redding voters have twice rejected measures to raise taxes to bolster public safety and most recently, in 2016, they failed to pass Measures D and E that proposed a half-cent sales tax hike and an advisory measure directing the council to spend the estimated $11 million a year only on public safety.

“In 2016, it was largely reported that lack of trust contributed to the failure of the ballot measure. Since that time, the City Council has taken many measures to increase transparency and build community trust,” Tippin writes in his report.

Tippin wants to hear from the community; Thursday evening will be a good opportunity to speak up.

Micro-grants awarded

Some $50,000 in micro-grants was awarded for a variety of concerts, plays, festivals, murals and other projects within the recently designated Redding Cultural District.

The awards were recently announced by Debra Lucero, executive director of the Shasta County Arts Council. (The council is the lead agency for the cultural district; other official partners are the city of Redding, VIVA Downtown, the Shasta Historical Society, the McConnell Foundation and Turtle Bay Exploration Park.)

There were 33 applicants vying for up to $5,000 each; 19 were selected. “It was an overwhelming response by the creative community of Redding,” Lucero said. The McConnell Foundation funded the grants and the Redding Cultural District originally planned to award $30,000 in 2018 and $20,000 in 2019, but the decision was made to hand out all $50,000 “and get the creative juices flowing,” Lucero said.

Winning applications included a Shakespeare in the Park production at Riverfront Park, downtown walking tours, a selfie pop-up booth in the Market Street Promenade and a children’s theater workshop.

Keep an eye on www.reddingculturaldistrict.org for details on all the projects.

Parkland massacre fallout

Redding Fire Chief Gerry Gray reached out online to discuss the Valentine’s Day school shooting in Parkland, Fla., that claimed the lives of 14 students and three adults:

“Hello Redding residents, The sad and tragic reality of an ‘active shooter’ incident struck our nation’s heart once again. I will detour from all of the social and political discourse on solutions to this matter, but wanted to inform you that our City police and fire departments, along with all of our Shasta County public safety departments, continue to meet, discuss, and refine our on-scene operations, in the event of such an incident at home.

“Each new incident provides us with additional information on how we might better-coordinate our response in order to deliver the most efficient and effective services at neutralizing all threats and quickly treating/extracting the wounded. I pray we never see such horror in our community, but Police Chief Moore and I will continue to work together to ensure that our response is as robust and effective as possible.

“In November, all county agencies, including RPD and RFD, will engage in a full-scale exercise to continue to test our skills and inter-agency coordination on such an event. Thank you.”

Film commission rocks

Some 24 film productions—a record—were produced in Shasta County in 2017, according to the Redding Convention and Visitors Bureau. Those 106 film days generated $677,897 in economic impact for Shasta County, a dramatic increase from the $159,284 generated from five projects in 2016.

“Momentum is increasing with incoming productions and the growing local film community,” said Sabrina Jurisich, the Shasta County Film Commissioner. “Having a wide range of great locations and skilled crew available makes the conversation easier when meeting with location managers and key industry decision-makers and they’re noticing all that Shasta County has to offer.”

The Film Shasta web site has been overhauled, making it easier for location scouts to review the more than 300 film-friendly locations at their disposal, according to the bureau.

Sing it out!

A band of local musicians, with special guest Scott Joss on fiddle, will lead an audience sing-along from 7 to 10 p.m. Saturday at the Pilgrim Congregational Church. The evening of merriment is a benefit for One Future at a Time, a Redding-based nonprofit that is changing lives in Africa by creating opportunities for education, health and personal empowerment.

On the program are hits by the Beatles, Rolling Stones, Donovan, the Mamas & Papas, Bob Dylan, Elvis Presley, the Drifters and the Beach Boys. A $20 ticket includes refreshments, a custom songbook and a drawing for door prizes.

For more, visit www.facebook.com/events/175897109848674

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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