Steve Morgan, Patrick Jones spar over opening Shasta County

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Steve Morgan, Patrick Jones spar over opening Shasta County

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People line up to speak at the Shasta County Board of Supervisors meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2020, which comes three days after an anti-mask protest at Sprouts Farmers Market on Saturday in Redding. (Photo: David Benda/Record Searchlight)

Shasta County Board of Supervisors District 4 challenger Patrick Jones agrees with residents who say it’s time to defy Gov. Gavin Newsom and open the county.

Jones, a former Redding city councilman, won the March primary, picking up 41.5% of the vote. Incumbent Steve Morgan finished a distant second with 22.1% of the vote to set the stage for next Tuesday’s runoff.

The primary came about two weeks before Newsom issued an executive order and shut down the state due to the global pandemic.

Jones has been running TV spots that say COVID-19 is serious. Those who are most vulnerable should stay home and precautions should be taken to protect them. But let the businesses that are being hurt by the pandemic, open, Jones says.

Morgan sees it differently.

He believes his challenger doesn’t understand the financial ramifications of defying Newsom.

“The county could not survive without the state funding for over 12 county departments, programs and services that serve all residents,” Morgan said in an email.

Steve Morgan (Photo: Contributed photo)

Shasta County also would lose the Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security Act money it gets to help it weather the pandemic, he said.

In mid-September, supervisors approved a $22.7 million CARES Act spending plan for the period from March 1, 2020 to Dec. 30, 2020. The county has already been allocated $18.15 million in CARES money.

In doing so, supervisors also allocated $3 million to businesses, money the Redding Chamber of Commerce will award to eligible businesses in the form of COVID relief grants.

Jones said declaring a local emergency due to the pandemic was a mistake.

“It should not be the governor telling us to wear a mask or not. … That should be your choice,” Jones said. “I agree that it should be the business making it a policy of whether to wear a mask or not.”

‘Just plain wrong’

If the state holds back money because Shasta County defies the governor, then Shasta County can do the same, Jones said.

“We could withhold property tax and sales tax money that goes to the state,” Jones said. “So, if they want to threaten in that manner, we could threaten, too.”

But Auditor-Controller Brian Muir said that wouldn’t be possible.

“The county does not remit any property taxes to the state, and sales tax is collected by businesses operating in Shasta County and remitted, by them, directly to the state. Therefore, the answer is that the county has nothing to withhold,” Muir said in an email.

Meanwhile, Public Health Officer Robin Schurig told supervisors at a special meeting last week to consider opting out of the state’s COVID-19 color-coded tier system, money would not be the only thing at stake for Shasta County.

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Bob Holsinger of Redding, right, and others listen to the Shasta County Board of Supervisors’ meeting from a loudspeaker on Thursday, Oct. 22, 2020, as the county held a meeting over whether to opt out of the state’s COVID-19 restrictions. Holsinger said he’s in favor of opening up the county. (Photo: Mike Chapman/Record Searchlight)

For the record, the county did not opt out, and on Saturday local health officials announced they convinced the state not to keep the county in its most restrictive COVID-19 purple tier.

Schurig said opting out could cost the county, among other things, lab supplies it gets from the state to fight the virus, the 12 state employees who work here to help battle the virus and the allotment of remdesivir that local hospitals get — the Food and Drug Administration has approved the antiviral drug as a COVID-19 treatment.

“The county and the current Board of Supervisors have not failed residents,” Morgan said. “He (Jones) is just plain wrong. We have been responsible, resourceful and fought for funding to support the North State.”

A shift on the board?

Jones believes a majority of the supervisors are “arrogant” and don’t respect residents, and that if he wins the District 4 seat, he will shake up the status quo.

His message has generated an unprecedented amount of money to his campaign. Jones has raised nearly $160,000, including $100,000 from former Shasta County winery owner Reverge Anselmo and $20,000 from Win-River Casino and the Redding Rancheria. The Anselmo contribution is believed to be the single largest campaign donation ever in local politics.

But Jones acknowledges that he alone can’t bring change to the Board of Supervisors.

Jones, however, would probably find an ally in District 5 Supervisor Les Baugh, who has also questioned the state’s executive COVID-19 order and has sympathized with residents who want to open Shasta County. It was at Baugh’s behest that last week’s special meeting to talk about opting out was held.

Jones and Baugh would still have to work with three supervisors who believe that defying the state would be a bad idea.

“No, we are not going to see an immediate shift in power. … But elections come every two years,” Jones said.

Jones notes that Districts 1, 3 and 4 have seen change in the most recent elections. Ironically, Morgan beat incumbent Bill Schappel in 2016. District 3 Supervisor Mary Rickert beat incumbent Pam Giacomini, also in 2016. District 1 Supervisor Joe Chimenti beat longtime incumbent David Kehoe in 2018.

“Only (District 2 Supervisor Leonard) Moty has made it, and he was lucky to have made it. If he had a candidate that was better financed, he wouldn’t have made it,” Jones said of Moty getting more than 50% of the vote in the March primary to retain his seat. “People are paying attention in these races, they are watching and they’re voting and change is coming to this county sooner or later.”

Morgan said this isn’t the time for change.

Despite the pandemic, the local economy is doing relatively well, Morgan said. Shasta County’s unemployment rate in September was 7.8%, 3 percentage points lower than the state’s 10.8% rate.

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Jake Hansen, an electrician with Horizon Electric, works on wiring a new house in the Stonesfair subdivision in Redding on Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020. (Photo: David Benda/Record Searchlight)

Morgan said residential construction, boosted in large part by rebuilding after the Carr Fire, is up and home values are higher. The median sales price of a home in Shasta County in September was $331,500, up from $280,000 a year ago, the California Association of Realtors said.

Commercial and government projects, like the new Shasta County Courthouse in downtown Redding, also are happening, Morgan said.

“A vote for Steve Morgan would mean solid, continued success for Shasta County,” he said.

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David Benda covers business, development and anything else that comes up for the USA TODAY Network in Redding. He also writes the weekly “Buzz on the Street” column. He’s part of a team of dedicated reporters that investigate wrongdoing, cover breaking news and tell other stories about your community. Reach him on Twitter @DavidBenda_RS or by phone at 1-530-225-8219. To support and sustain this work, please subscribe today.

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