Red Bluff Leaves Tehama County In The Dust

The 600 block of Main St. in Red Bluff. Photo courtesy redbluff.com

It ain’t Dead Bluff anymore, although it’s been known as such since long before Mr. Standish and I were born. When we opened Wild Oak in 1994, we had considered calling it Dead Bluff in homage to the past and The Grateful Dead. It was a hippie shop so that made sense, but we realized calling it Dead Bluff might offend some folks. Then we came up with Rad Bluff, rad (short for radical) being the adjective for all things cool in the mid-90s. That name would have aged out way before the store, so we’re glad we decided on Wild Oak.

The Merry Standishes in front of Wild Oak’s original location – 340 Oak St.

And immediately I go off-topic for an entire paragraph. Sheesh. Back to Red Bluff not being dead. Thought of by surrounding bigger towns as a primitive backwater, it has stepped up its game recently, taking positive action on numerous issues.

The City Council saw two incumbents defeated and replaced in 2022, just like the County Supervisors. How it happened was very different, however. Red Bluff voters were allowed to vote for three candidates from a field of six on the November ballot. 7,006 votes were cast and there were 3,821 undervotes. That means many people only voted for one or two candidates.

Red Bluff City Hall – photo KRCR

Newbie Patrick Hurton received the most votes – 1,786, voice of reason Mayor Kris Deiters came in second with 1,500, and fly-in-the-ointment Cody Strock came in third with 1,019 – edging out incumbent Daniele Eyestone by 42 votes. That’s where those undervotes mattered. One wonders whether people didn’t know they could vote for multiple candidates or if they disliked the others so much they couldn’t bring themselves to pull the lever for them?

Patrick Hutton – photo tcso.org


Red Bluff Mayor Kris Deiters

Cody Strock – cityofredbluff.org

No matter, that’s the way the cookie crumbled, for better or worse. The City of Red Bluff is not my usual beat, but they have gotten so much done over the past couple of years it deserves to be applauded. This is not a complete list, of course – just a few things I have noticed.

First, they wrote and adopted a reasonable cannabis ordinance with input of citizens and businesses. Tip of the cap to former Councilwoman Johnna Jones who took over that process after Councilman Clay Parker resigned from the committee in a huff. Parker had insisted that consulting firm HDL be used to write the ordinance, and when they were not contracted, Parker took his ball and went home.

It was a long and arduous process, every word scrutinized, local and external experts weighing in, draft after draft sent back to the Council to be discussed, amended, looked over by lawyer types, and finally approved. It allows a variety of business license types and the city coffers will be reaping financial benefits from all of them. Tehama County, on the other hand, still has the same draconian ordinance they’ve had since 2015. No commercial enterprise of any sort and not one plant to be grown outdoors – for medicinal or personal use. That means all products sold in the Red Bluff dispensaries will make money for people living elsewhere. So much for Economic Development. Red Bluff 1 – Tehama County 0.

Next, let’s look at public participation for City Council meetings. Citizens can attend and participate in person, over the phone, or on Zoom with video. Deputy City Clerk Anita Rice hooked up Zoom conferencing with an inexpensive OWL camera system. OWLs automatically turn toward the speaker, so no need for a camera person. Zoom participants are muted but can “raise their hands” to speak at the appropriate times. They can see the meeting and can choose to have their own camera on or off. I have been suggesting this to our board of supervisors for years now. Crickets.

Instead, new Chairman of the Board Bill Moule has tried to exclude the public from being heard. Each meeting starts with the Public Comments portion, after the pledge and Chairman Moule’s quote of the week. He recited two a few weeks ago, but who’s counting? Oh, that would be me, I guess.

Chairman Moule – appeal-democrat.com

During PC, citizens have three minutes each to address the board on any subject within its jurisdiction. Some folks go a little far afield, speaking about national or global issues, but the chair usually lets them blab – it’s only 3 minutes fergawdsakes.

There is a handheld timer that looks like a mini upside-down traffic light that keeps the speaker on track for time. Green is on top and runs for most of the 3 minutes. When there are around 20-30 seconds left, the light goes to the yellow midsection. With about 5-10 seconds left, the red starts flashing. At exactly three minutes, the red remains solid and a loud buzzer goes off. The chair has always waited until the buzzer sounds and the current sentence is finished by the speaker before inserting, “Your time is up.”

Apparently Chairman Moule does not have the patience for that, because he interrupts certain speakers while the light is still yellow. First to take the hit was Kathy Nelson, whose long ranting ads in the Red Bluff Daily News are helping to keep it in the black. Moule said, “Can you wrap it up, Kathy? Your time is almost up.” Emphasis on the word “almost”. Unless she was becoming physically violent, he had no right to interrupt her or say a single word until after the buzzer sounded.

Kathy Nelson (l), cannabis patient John Prinz (c), and Chairman Bill Moule (r). Photobomb by disgraced former supe Bob Williams. Photo courtesy Red Bluff Daily News

During Kathy’s speech, she referred to the board as “you guys”. While she was walking back to her seat, Moule couldn’t resist reminding her that there were ladies on the dais, not just guys. Mr. Chair, the 1950s called. They want their feigned indignation back.

Board members never respond to public comments, except rarely when someone asks an urgent question or a board member can’t control himself. Moule, after interrupting Kathy during her Brown Act allotted time, decided to turn into Grammar Cop, belittling her as she walked away. How rude and condescending is that?

Two speakers later he did the same thing to me while my light was yellow. As a professional has-been comedian, I know three minutes like you know the way to your bathroom at pee o’clock in the morning. When I argued that my time was not yet up and he had just wasted 10 seconds of it, he offered to add it on to the end of my allotment. Talk about ruining a bit right before the punchline.

A couple of speakers later, my buddy Ed Baker stepped to the lectern to talk about a PG&E pole that was in an irrigation canal near his home.

Ed Baker – screen grab

He spoke for 5 ½ minutes, the buzzer went off, yet not a peep out of Moule. The chair has some discretion with Public Comment and I, for one, could listen to Eddy B. all day, especially if he’s singing.

The point is, Red Bluff encourages public participation, Tehama County, not so much. Red Bluff 2 – Tehama County 0.

Tehama County lacks an official written and adopted Policies and Procedures Manual. They just do things “the way they’ve always been done.” There is an Employee Manual, a Fraud and Debarment Policy, and a Vehicle Policy. Individual Departments have their own in some cases, but they contradict each other in some instances. Most counties and cities have an official P&P Manual, and Red Bluff approved one earlier this month. Way to go. Red Bluff 3 – Tehama 0.

Red Bluff also recently contracted with a grant writing service. With the 2021 $65 billion Bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act being passed into law, there are boatloads of grant money out there just waiting to be applied for. For example, the Safe Streets and Roads for All (SS4A) Program has $5 billion to hand out from 2022-2026 at a billion a year. Little Modoc County was awarded almost $13 million for road improvement in the 2022 round. Urban and rural jurisdictions were and are eligible. Neither Red Bluff nor Tehama County applied, but I bet at least the city will this year.

Of the $12 million plus Tehama County received in Rescue Act Funding, $50,000 was considered to be spent on a grant writer on the long list of potential recipients. Unfortunately, it didn’t make the cut, so we still have no one scouring the interwebs and federal publications for available grant funding. Red Bluff 4 – Tehama 0.

Folks who have been around awhile probably remember Susie Price’s tenure as Red Bluff City Manager. She was a win-win because she doubled as a grant writer for the city. She would attend our weekly Downtown Red Bluff Business Association meetings and tell us about funding she had secured for this or that project – and that was back in the days before decent internet. Her impressive resume lists over $43 million in grants prepared and funded between 1993 and 2022.

Susie Price – photo courtesy Ms. Price

Aside to supes – Susie might be a good prospect for your IT person, manager, coordinator, whichever path forward you choose. She has the know-how to analyze what the county needs and could work with CAO Hydrick to establish priorities, identify what staffing you would need, what would be best outsourced, and she could probably write a grant that would include enough to pay her what she would be worth.

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Liz Merry

Liz Merry was born in Brooklyn, raised in the Bronx, then transplanted to the Jersey Shore. She moved to Chico in 1984 and married her comedy partner, Aaron Standish, in 1990. They have lived in Manton since 1994.

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