From Elizabeth Betancourt, to Redding City Council: Create fairer place for all businesses

Vehicles venture onto the newly reopened Market Street in downtown Redding. Photo by Jon Lewis.

To: Honorable Redding City Councilmembers and Redding City Staff:

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on the decision you’re making on Tuesday regarding the tourism, marketing, and promotion services for the City of Redding and – by default – the whole North State.

I am writing to remind you that you do not have to make a decision on April 6th.

The Visit Redding team has a proven track record of providing exceptional services to the City and entire region. The reason this was questioned is, in itself, questionable.

Government agencies of course are encouraged to make the highest and best use of the public trust and public funds for which they are responsible. To that end, creating a policy for evaluation and – if needed – rebidding, is a reasonable path for an elected body to ensure their responsibilities are being met.

The Redding City Council did no such thing. Rather than evaluating the state of the contract, completing a performance review, or otherwise creating a policy for City-wide contract evaluation, the City Council identified one contract in particular and simply decided to re-bid, rather than showing full transparency by creating a policy to guide the process equitably.

Why this sudden desire for change? And only on this one contract? What about rebidding other upcoming contracts? What is the City’s policy on contract renewals? This smacks of personal interest and conflict around spending our public funds.

The “finalists” you’re considering for this contract don’t have nearly the experience or marketing understanding of our region that the current contract holder does.

My bigger concern, however, is regarding fairness and inclusion when looking at our North State’s economic landscape. At least two of the entities you’re considering have constituencies they serve that are not inclusive of our entire community. Mayes Media very clearly serves Bethel Church and associated businesses, and has no experience whatsoever in tourism or the breadth of marketing that our region requires. The Redding Chamber of Commerce serves only their members, and has not shown a willingness to go beyond that circle. These businesses you’re considering to take on the promotion of our diverse North State (again: not just Redding) just don’t have the fairness quotient necessary to promote and foster an inclusive economy.

With my husband, I own a small farm in Shasta County. Despite our tiny size, we have interacted with the Visit Redding team several times over the last 5 years, and have benefitted from their marketing and promotional assistance. While I’d love to be proven wrong, I can’t imagine that happening with at least two of your finalists. Any region is defined by the diversity and culture of the small, unique businesses thriving in its bounds. Visit Redding has done a spectacular job of highlighting those of us dotting Shasta County’s most remote spaces, adding economic vitality and community structure to our region. They are a small, homegrown business themselves, and their sole pursuit is promoting our beautiful region. The same cannot be said of any of the proposals in front of you now.

I’m requesting that you reconsider your actions on the tourism contract April 6th. This process is of your making, and you can stop it. Create a fairer, more transparent space for tourism promotion in our region, and a fairer and more transparent space all around, for ALL of the City’s contracts and services.

Thank you for your consideration.

Elizabeth Betancourt

Guest Speaker

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