In the end, City of Redding public officials simply ignored the public.
The Redding City Council voted by a 4-1 margin on Aug. 1 to outsource the city’s convention center to the Bethel Church. The jobs of three full-time IBEW Local 1245 members who worked at the center are now on the chopping block.
IBEW Local 1245 has fought long and hard to prevent the outsourcing of Redding city jobs.
Local 1245 Assistant Business Manager Ray Thomas and shop steward Gary Moeckli attended meetings where the convention outsourcing plan was discussed. The union’s Solidarity Action Network helped generate more than 2,200 e-mails from citizens opposed to outsourcing. And on Aug. 1, in a last-ditch stand, 200 union members and allied citizens–including Local 1245 Advisory Council member Stu Neblett–showed up at the city council meeting to urge that Convention Center operations be kept within the city, and not contract it out to Bethel Church or any other organization.
In all, the council listened to 35 speakers during a three-hour hearing. Almost all spoke strongly against leasing the civic to Bethel, noting the city is giving a public building to a private business.
One of the speakers was John Ritrovato, a Marine who had recently left Redding for San Diego. Ritrovato drove 12 hours to attend the meeting.
“Federal and local government does not seem to remember it represents the people,” he said, according to the Record Searchlight. “I attended Bethel, and I love that church. But I do not believe people here want the city to take a publicly-owned building their tax dollars paid for and turn it over to a church.”
Other speakers worried a civic auditorium run by a church would exclude the public and present a narrow range of shows reflecting its religious preferences.
Thomas and Moeckli, who works in the Redding Maintenance Unit, had participated in the Save the Redding Convention Center Committee,” which met several times over the last two months and unanimously recommended that the Council not contract to Bethel, but instead to give all of the Total Occupancy Tax (TOT) to the City of Redding to fund the operations at the Convention Center.
“The undisputed purpose of that tax, which commenced in the early 1980s, was to fund the Convention Center,” said Thomas. “But the Council decided it needed all of the nearly $800,000 annual TOT for the general fund.”
The union has scheduled a “meet and confer” with the City on Aug. 9 to discuss the impact of the outsourcing on IBEW members working at the Convention Center.
“We will do all we can to fill vacancies within the City to keep them employed,” Thomas said.