The coronavirus and limits on mass gatherings forced Redding to move its biggest feel-good party online, a first-time event in the State of the City luncheon's 33 years.
Despite some technical hiccups, including the lack of a sign language interpreter for a Facebook Live audience and picture freezing, Tuesday's live event felt familiar — and by design. Organizers livestreamed it from the stage at the Redding Civic Auditorium, school children sang the national anthem, and Redding Chamber of Commerce CEO Jake Mangas returned, among things, to give his enthusiastic in-ring introduction, this time for Mayor Adam McElvain.
"For many, the last few months have been the longest year of their lives in business," said Mangas as he began his remarks on how his organization has mobilized to assist business owners struggling to survive the pandemic.
In a time of uncertainty and change, both he and McElvain used the stage to inject optimism and point to signs of the community's resilience.
"Our city is no stranger to adversity and every time we are faced with a new challenge, we are able to overcome," McElvain said.
Here is a list of almost everything the mayor mentioned in his "Redding 2.0" speech of what's happened in the city and what's still to come:
Redding passed a historic $39 million economic relief plan to blunt the financial toll of the pandemic. Some motels and hotels were able to defer paying their transient occupancy tax until August.
Nearly a third of the $9 million to $10 million in Greenhouse Gas funding that infused the recovery package has been awarded to pay for energy-saving projects and deferred maintenance needs for city infrastructure.
Restaurants moved their tables outside to serve their customers in the open air after the city relaxed its permit rules for setting up outdoor dining. And the city has deferred lease payments for businesses that are facing hardship.
Grants from the $750,000 in Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act): Aid is available and is starting to be distributed to companies that apply for grants.
More people were working in Shasta County in August as the unemployment rate fell to 8.3% from a revised 10.4% in July. Meanwhile, California’s unemployment rate last month was 11.4%, down from 13.5% in July.
"All of this is a testament to our collective success of facing the pandemic head on," McElvain said.
Various stores and restaurants opened this year, and there's been movement of businesses to the downtown, including Fusion Lounge and Westside Wines.
Dirt is turning at Stillwater Business Park now that PACE Engineering has started to build its new headquarters.
The revitalization of downtown continues, and there are some more parking spaces. A new lot with 75 spaces has opened at the south end of the former California Street parking garage. Meanwhile, an electric shuttle also is in service.
A "renewed focus of artistic expressions" is taking hold in the downtown, McElvain pointed out with the development of Electric Alley and Umbrella Alley, two projects that came out of the Redding City Identity Project.
Four affordable housing projects — phase two of the Woodlands, Placer Heights, Kennett Court and Market Center — are due to be completed at the end of the year and will add 148 new units.
On the public safety front, the police department has built up its community service officer program to staffing levels not seen in a decade. The CSOs have freed up sworn officers, which in turn has reduced the response time to service calls. Crimes across the board dropped for the third straight year, McElvain said. The fire department, meanwhile, rolled out its apprentice firefighter program and areas with overgrown brush are being cleared.
Regarding parks and recreation, the California Soccer Park has new turf and stadium lighting and Caldwell Park is using its $6.7 million grant toward the construction of several projects, including a bike park and a climbing and bouldering area. Still to come is a new trail that will connect the east side of the city with the Sacramento River Trail.
And finally, the Fiber Broadband Project: McElvain said the council approved in June the first two phases of the master plan. And REU will soon begin construction on a 26-mile fiber optic ring across the city, which will connect critical municipal infrastructure. More to come in the weeks ahead.
Redding Chamber of Commerce's Mangas viewed the event as being positive, albeit the glitches that sometimes froze the livestreaming.
He also spoke of "Redding's 2.0" mantra, which is to push for digital modernization within the economy, housing market and local transportation projects.
Mangas noted no one who registered for the event had requested a sign language interpreter. But there will be an interpreter in future livestreamed events.
Watch a replay of the State of the City below.
Ethan Hanson started working for the Redding Record Searchlight after four years with the Los Angeles Daily News as a freelancer. His coverage includes working the NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament in South Bend, Indiana, and writing about the St. Louis Rams' move to Los Angeles with the Ventura County Star. He began his career as a play-by-play broadcaster for LA Pierce College from 2011-2017. Follow him on Twitter at @EthanAHanson_RS.
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