Jail Space, Public Safety and Confidence are Key Issues at District 1 Supes’ Candidate Forum

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Shasta County’s rejection of a $20 million grant to build a 64-bed jail became a focal point during Tuesday’s District 1 supervisorial candidates’ forum at the Sheraton Hotel in Redding.

Sponsored by the Redding Chamber of Commerce, the forum featured incumbent District 1 Supervisor David Kehoe and challengers Missy McArthur and Joe Chimenti.

David Kehoe, left, Missy McArthur and Joe Chimenti at Tuesday’s candidate forum. Photos by Jon Lewis.

The Shasta County Board of Supervisors voted to cancel the jail expansion in January 2017, a mere three months before the scheduled groundbreaking, when Sheriff Tom Bosenko informed supervisors that the new jail would cost nearly $4 million a year to operate, a huge jump from the $1.2 million estimate he had given them earlier.

Kehoe defended the board’s action, telling the ballroom audience that as a custodian of the public’s money, “you can’t make frivolous decisions. The money wasn’t there.” Kehoe added that the county will soon be adding 60 more jail beds and even more once the new courthouse is completed.

Turning away the state grant “was not a good business decision,” said Chimenti, the executive director of the Shasta Builders Exchange. Noting the incessant demand for more jail space, Chimenti said it appears “that the county is more interested in protecting its budget than protecting the community.” His comment prompted an enthusiastic round of applause.

“I was heartbroken when the supervisors sent that money back,” said McArthur, who served on the Redding City Council for two terms. “There’s no money to staff it? You build it and figure it out.” Not unlike when Redding built and opened a library, “you roll up your sleeves and make it happen,” McArthur said.

Missy McArthur.

During introductory comments, Chimenti said he grew up in a law enforcement-oriented family in New York and began his career as a cop in Colorado. The father of four said he spent 25 years in business development, working with entrepreneurs throughout the country, and has held his current position for the past four years.

A native of Redding, McArthur said she is motivated to continue her public service as Redding’s representative on the county board out of a love for her community. She said she wants to work toward revitalizing downtown Redding, fix the jail, deal with homelessness, reduce drug addiction and return the community to the safe one she enjoyed as a child.

Kehoe, who has served on the Board of Supervisors for the past 20 years, also professed a deep-seated love of Redding, where his family has been for the past 80 years. He said he’s seeking re-election to “continue a pattern of excellence in county government” highlighted by sound judgment, accountability and a track record of increasing public participation in government.

Forum moderator Jake Mangas, the chamber’s president and chief executive officer, gave each candidate two minutes to answer a series of five questions, along with time for rebuttals and closing statements.

Vision for the community and downtown Redding?

McArthur said she supports the recently approved Downtown Specific Plan and was proud to have been a part of the effort to raze the Dicker’s department store building and have it replaced with a four-story mixed-use building. “We need to work collaboratively to make things happen, and they’re already starting to happen so let’s keep it going.”

Kehoe said a safe community is essential. “I believe in a strong educational system and a diverse and thriving business environment,” he said, while emphasizing the need to take risks and be tolerant of new ideas. “We need to think of ourselves as winners,” Kehoe said before adding, in an apparent rejoinder to McArthur, that “the city and county have been cooperating for years.”

“Public safety is a must,” Chimenti said, “and entrepreneurism is the key.” When that attitude is instilled in the younger generation, others will want to come to Redding “and that’s where the economic base comes from.”

The county’s role in economic development?

Kehoe noted with pride that the board on Tuesday voted to move forward with revamping the Resource Management Department with the goal of “refreshing our leadership with a pro-development attitude.” As part of that process, Kehoe said he will form an ad hoc committee of building and development expert to provide advice and counsel.

Chimenti said it’s important for county planning staff to serve as facilitators and guide the business community through the process. California’s labyrinth of rules and regulations can’t be ignored, but they can be worked around, he said. Chimenti said he’d like to no longer hear developers talk of “dreading” the prospect of obtaining permits from the county.

Joe Chimenti.

McArthur said supervisors need to engage more with the Shasta Economic Development Corporation. She also expressed her support for the changes proposed for the Resource Management Department.

How to re-establish trust with the public?

McArthur said transparency is paramount, along with listening to the public and exploring options like Facebook live sessions and moving board meetings to the evening so more working people can attend.

McArthur then addressed what she called “the elephant in the room.” Specifically, the much-maligned raises she spearheaded for two managers a mere two weeks after voters soundly defeated a half-cent sales tax measure to bolster public safety.

The raises for two female department heads were two of McArthur’s last actions as mayor. They were approved in November 2016 on a 3-2 vote. McArthur said she wanted to avoid a possible lawsuit based on gender-based wage disparity. “You have to look at the big picture as a leader … it was a hard choice but it was the right thing to do.” Those raises have often been cited as the main reason voters lost confidence in local officials to properly spend the tax proceeds.

David Kehoe.

Kehoe said there’s a “crisis of confidence in government across the United States.” As an elected official, he promised to continue upholding high ethical standards and providing “a welcome and hospitable environment” for people interested in learning how their tax dollars are spent.

Chimenti said it’s hard for people to trust local government when they’re contending day and night with property theft, vandalism and other public safety threats. “We need to recognize those issues and respond to them,” Chimenti said. “If we want trust, we have to do trustworthy things.”

You can watch a video of the forum here. 

Redding Chamber is LIVE at the Sheraton for District 1 Supervisorial Candidates Forum. Join us now!

Posted by Redding Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday, April 24, 2018

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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24 Responses

  1. Avatar Tim Nomdeplume says:

    Great coverage Jon. I hope jail capacity is priority #1 for whomever wins.

  2. Avatar Damon Miller says:

    All awful candidates.

  3. Avatar soundofreason says:

    In a month or so before the election, many candidates put out mailers which tell who endorsed them. Sometimes voters can find out contributors with a little more work.

  4. Avatar soundofreason says:

    Signs on lawns, on sticks by the side of the road are probably the worst way to influence a voter.

    • Avatar soundofreason says:

      Slogans like “we like Ike” “biodiesel now, vote for xxx” , campaign buttons, silly straw hats
      tell us nothing about how the candidate will vote. Stealing candidates signs is a lousy way to conduct a debate.

      • Barbara Rice Barbara Rice says:

        Soundofreason, your posts and choice of non-related subject matter sounds so … Conservative.

        • Avatar soundofreason says:

          Candidate fora are a good way to figure out how a candidate will vote on the big issues. Much better than the totally uninformative stuff we are barraged with.

          One can spend just a few minutes to find out who endorses a candidate and find out how they will vote on the important issues.

  5. I’m going to write ‘winner’ on my bathroom mirror so that when I wake up each morning, I’ll see it and think about all the good I can do for Redding.

    Like making a super tough decision to equalize pay among women in government so we don’t get sued.

    My values are all lined up like duckies in a shooting gallery, people! Honk!! (How’d a goose get in here?)

  6. Avatar barbara@barbaraharrison says:

    Great article Jon.

  7. Avatar Dick says:

    I also regret that the jail grant was turned down, but I wonder it it’s really fair for a long time city administrator to be pointing the finger exclusively at the county. I believe that the COR is a major user of the jail and pays the costs of “their” inmates. It would be interesting to know what percentage of County jail inmates are actually COR inmates, I suspect it’s quite high. Assuming that’s correct a large part of the additional cost of a larger jail would fall on the COR. Did Missy et al. step up and promise the extra funding?

  8. Avatar Cheryl says:

    “McArthur said she wanted to avoid a possible lawsuit based on gender-based wage disparity.” How about asking for a pay cut for the higher paid male employees instead of spending money that apparently is in short supply!

    • Avatar Anita L Brady says:

      Yeah- cutting the higher male salaries is the answer. That will create a wonderful work environment.

  9. Avatar Tim Nomdeplume says:

    It is remarkable that it took McArthur nearly 2 years (and 1 misogynistic presidential election) to come up with the excuse that they needed catch-up raises because they were underpaid as women. It certainly was not mentioned in any of the news accounts in 2016! ( https://anewscafe.com/2016/11/16/redding/redding-council-oks-controversial-raises-denounces-intolerance-is-updated-on-the-sherri-papini-disappearance-case-and-continues-a-hearing-on-utility-rate-hikes/ )

    Unfortunately for McArthur, it is also demonstrably false. These were the pre-raise compensation packages, which were already above the state medians for these positions:

    Community Services Director Kim Neimer made $200,000/year in total compensation in 2016 — the 11th highest paid Community Services Director in the state according to Transparent California. In fact, she was paid more than the Community Services Director for the entire State of California!

    Financial Director Dennice Maxwell made $205,000/year in total compensation in 2016. That was above the median Financial Director salary according to Transparent California — above Ceres, Modesto, Irwindale, Azusa, Manteca, Santa Maria, Palm Springs, Rancho Palos Verdes, Pittsburg, Santa Clara, Huntington Park, San Bernardino, Ojai, Riverside County, Santa Cruz, Marin, Alameda, Delano, Hayward, Alpine, Escondido, Oxnard, Apple Valley, Fairfax, Oroville, San Jose, Glenn County, Rio Vista, Blythe, Truckee, Newhall, Covina, Tustin – to name a few.

    • Avatar Tim Nomdeplume says:

      And didn’t Kim Niemer campaign for McArthur, Sullivan, & Schreder at a League of Women’s Voters event? I could have sworn I saw a photo, but google is failing me right now…

  10. Avatar cheyenne vojtecky says:

    Shasta County from 1932 to 1976 was Democrat, Jimmy Carter winning the county in 1976. Starting in 1980 the county changed to a Republican county, I saw this personally as the Labor Day picnics at ARP became smaller with less Democrats. This change shows that the long term families were not racist gun toting Trumpsters that some of the new comers post. It also dove tails with the rise and fall of the timber industry, the only true economic industry that has been in the county.

    • Avatar Anita L Brady says:

      Yes, I remember the good ol’ days as well. Seems so long ago.

    • “Turning away the state grant “was not a good business decision,” said Chimenti, the executive director of the Shasta Builders Exchange. Noting the incessant demand for more jail space, Chimenti said it appears “that the county is more interested in protecting its budget than protecting the community.”

      I completely agree with this statement. It’s true that CalPers is stressed, and there are funding shortfalls predicted in the future, put the political leadership of the county, which is profoundly Tea Party conservative, won’t sponsor any public projects because the pensions are too high, in their opinion. It’s time for Shasta County to stop electing public officials who DON”T BELIEVE IN GOVERNMENT.

  11. Avatar conservative says:

    RE: canceled plan to open jail in January 2017. I think Larry Less and county staff made the cost estimates and passed their numbers to the sheriff and supervisors. The county is a large organization with a complex budget which employs finance people who cost account programs. The analyst who raised the cost estimates probably had good reasons. I speculate that Larry Lees knows enough finance to check what the analyst recommends. I speculate that Larry Lees writes the board agenda and passes on staff recommendations for the important issues.

    Because of the Brown act, the supervisors cannot talk to each other about this kind of issue before the board meeting. There are no restrictions on the county staff and Larry Lees making decisions behind closed doors and making their recommendations to the Sheriff and BOS.

    The hospital where I worked before retiring did a large expansion, but only used part at first. The unused rooms were not furnished and the doors and hallways blocked off with temporary walls. It seems to me they could have built the shell of a 64 bed jail and only completed and staffed as many rooms as the budget would allow.