Record Searchlight Endorsement of YES on D&E

Sales tax a small price for safety
October 9, 2016
Cast your vote for public safety
October 9, 2016

Record Searchlight Endorsement of YES on D&E

By: Record Searchlight

From: Record Searchlight – http://www.redding.com/opinion/editorials/vote-yes-for-sales-tax-move-community-forward-3e37b63f-c0c5-5500-e053-0100007faa25-396366651.html

Vote ‘yes’ for sales tax, move community forward

Our community will be better off if Measures D and E pass than if they fail.

That’s the bottom line for the public safety proposals, and it’s the reason we recommend strongly and unequivocally that Redding voters mark “yes” on both. The half-cent sales tax, estimated to generate $11 million a year for 10 years, will probably not do everything its proponents say it will. But it will help keep our community safer and its passage will signal a sense of unity and progress that is desperately needed right now.

We’ll be honest: It has been hard to come around to supporting this. The critics and naysayers have valid points.

City and county leaders stage-managed the process of crafting this plan in a way that excluded the public and undermined trust. The guarantee that the money will be spent as promised is only as good as the word of three council members on any given Tuesday night — and the reality that they could be tarred and feathered by the voting public. Even if spent as planned, the funds are nearly all earmarked for reactive measures — not addressing root problems.

People can mock Councilman Gary Cadd for being obsessed with pensions, but he’s not delusional — we’ve made massive promises to public employees and there’s a real possibility the bill for those will rise more rapidly than city management has projected. Would that suck up part or all of this new money sometime down the road? It certainly could.

But our strongest objection is one we haven’t heard widely discussed — we don’t believe the city is asking voters for enough. If we’re going to do this, we should have done it right and gone for a full cent increase, $22 million a year. The problems are at least that big, and probably bigger.

Not one of those is a good enough reason to vote “no” and risk allowing our community to keep treading water and pointing fingers. We need to work together here. This isn’t the exact plan we wish we had. It’s the plan we do have:

Funding for Redding police: Protects the four officers in the Neighborhood Police Unit (their funding expires in 2017). Adds 16 new officers, 13 community service officers, two records technicians and extra crime analyst time.

Slowing the revolving door: Sets aside money for out-of-county jail space immediately, and puts $3 million into a jail renovation that would add 64 beds in the basement. If the Superior Court ever moves, allocates money for installing another 64 beds in what’s now a courtroom.

Building a sobering center. This is just a small down payment, but the tax allocates $375,000 toward the project. The city is counting on selling its vacant and decrepit old police station to fund the rest.

Funding mental health crisis services. Again, this is anemic — but $1 million a year would go toward a mental health crisis unit, matched by another $1 million from Shasta County.

Funding for Redding’s fire department. Adds enough firefighters to field 3-person crews at all stations. With proper staffing like this, firefighters can actually go into your home when it’s burning.

Vice Mayor Brent Weaver, who initiated the Blueprint for Public Safety and speaks for the “yes” campaign on Measures D and E, rightly says the plan’s elements support each other. You have to have accountability (cops and jail cells) in order to get people to take rehabilitation programs seriously. A sobering center can intervene in a downward spiral. Mental health? Well, if it was funded in a serious way it would provide a truly significant piece of this puzzle.

And don’t buy the idea that the city could just use its $3 million to $4 million “surplus” to solve this. The tax would raise $110 million over 10 years. The surplus won’t come close.

You may not trust the City Council. Fine — call their bluff. Vote for this thing and then hold them accountable. For a few more bucks a month, you can say, “We did our part. We gave you what you asked for. What have you done for us?”

We believe they will keep the commitment. But if not? You’d better believe we’ll be leading the charge to kick the bums out, and their appointed executives with them.

This vote is not the final step in raising Redding to its potential. It’s important, but more important work lies ahead.

We still must address the non-criminal homeless, the drug problem, our weak economy and the achievement of students beyond high school. So let’s do this, and then let’s get back to work.

Vote “yes” on Measures D and E.