Meet James Crockett for Redding City Council

There are three seats open for this November’s election for Redding City Council. Candidate James Crockett says he’s running to ensure that Bethel Church won’t hold a majority on the Council.

This story is part of Shasta Scout’s citizen-powered election coverage. For the November 8, 2022 general election, we’re focusing on three races: the Redding City Council, the Shasta County Board of Supervisors and the Shasta County Board of Education.

Ten candidates, including one incumbent, are running for three open seats on the Redding Council this fall. Our elections reporting flips the script by asking candidates to answer questions from the community. We’re conducting long-form, in person interviews that last about an hour each and utilize questions drawn from you, via our Scout reader survey. Candidate responses have been curated and paraphrased for this format. 

9/20/2022 3:44 pm: A previous version of the article incorrectly referenced the number of years this candidate has been attending city council meetings. We have updated the article to correct our mistake.

What should we know about you?

I was born and raised in Casper, Wyoming. Ten years ago I visited Shasta County and fell in love with the beauty and with the woman who I would marry. We now have four kids. I’m a teacher at Shasta College in the Gateway to College program where I teach politics, government and economics. The program is award-winning and is for kids who are at risk. I love my job and am excited to go work every day. I know that my students might never remember what I taught, but they’ll remember how I made them feel. That’s what I focus on, making sure my students leave my class feeling valued. 

Why did you decide to run for city council?

It’s my students who got me into politics. I was always telling them “this is your community, get involved!” I started attending council meetings in 2016. I also ran for City Council in 2018, and almost won.

I decided to run again this year after I realized how many of the current candidates are connected to Bethel Church. I have nothing against Bethel, I actually used to attend there. But I don’t want any organization that might be more committed to itself than to the citizens of Redding to have a majority on the council. 

I don’t take donations for my campaign because I don’t want to have that weighing on my mind when I make decisions as a council member.  I want to be there to serve the people. 

How would you help local government become more open and honest with the community? Do you think this is a problem right now?

I think there have been a lot of closed meetings that maybe shouldn’t have been closed meetings. If possible I’d like to see us discuss as much as we can in front of the public, especially with land deals. I’m not really that interested in respecting everyone’s dignity and reputation. I’m much more interested in having transparency.

If you are affiliated with a religious community how would that affect your role on the City Council?

In terms of making decisions that would benefit a business or any sort of religious entity, I’m not interested in doing that. I would have no problem being fair and careful on anything having to do with a  special interest or any church or business in town.

I used to attend Bethel so I’m familiar with their Seven Mountains Mandate and it kind of makes me chuckle because I teach government and economics for a living and I can tell you everything is about power and control. Everyone wants to control the “seven mountains” in some way. I believe that the country was on the right track when we had a separation of church and state. I might not agree with a personal decision that you’re making but I believe you have the right to make that decision. 

In 2018, when I was still going to Bethel, I wrote an article for A News Cafe about Bethel’s views on the LGBTQ community. I have a lot of students that are LGBTQ and when someone calls them detestable sinners I have a huge problem with it. I don’t want to see people shoving their worldview down other people’s throats, that’s not moral and it’s not what Jesus would do. I’m in the classroom with these kids everyday, I see their hurt, and these kinds of comments aren’t helping them in any way, shape or form. 

We have to make space for others perspectives and for nuance. It’s my job to protect other’s rights to think differently from me, at least that’s how I’d see my job on the Council. 

What is the Redding Police Department doing well and what can they do better?

Generally I support what the Council has been doing with police over the last six years, bringing on more cops and giving them pay raises. 

I think where we need movement is in the community’s perception and treatment of the police. If they feel valued they are going to do a better job. Cops are struggling with discouragement. These are people that are literally putting their life on the line every day and they are consistently put in impossible situations where there’s no outcome that allows them to be seen as a hero. Yet they keep going to work.

We do need accountability, so I’d also like to see the police use body cameras. We need to support the police but we also need to let them know that we’re watching and that if they do the wrong thing there will be consequences. Give cops the benefit of the doubt but watch them closely. And make policies in that regard.

What do you see as the most important issue or issues facing Redding right now?

The economy is our biggest concern in Redding and growing it will require taking risks. Stillwater Business Park was a big risk and it made the city look bad for years but now it’s filling up with businesses. We’ve got to make smart economic decisions to grow our economy, even though it’s gonna cause pain in some areas.

Crime and homelessness are definitely also concerns and addressing the economy will help both those things as well as the issue of access to affordable housing.

I also think it’s important to make sure that special interests in Redding aren’t being given preference and that citizens are being well represented on decisions.

How would you address the significant number of people living without housing in our community?

I have lots of students that have dealt with this. The first thing is empathy, seeking to understand. Then we have to put skin in the game. I think there are certainly members of the unsheltered community that belong in jail and should be in jail. However, when you do that, you’re spending about $90,000 a year to keep them there and if you house them that costs between $30,000 to $50,000. So when we can, we should figure out ways to help them get sheltered so they can start contributing.

The city is doing a lot to work on this problem but they aren’t always working with the private citizens who step up and try to help. And that’s partly because anytime anyone tries to help a lot of other people come down to the council and yell about it and say “don’t do this project in my neighborhood.” My responsibility is not to your neighborhood, my responsibility is to the community. 

How would you address concerns about our community’s access to water during a historic drought?

If you want to talk about global politics, water is a huge deal. But locally, we have a very good watershed. We have really great water rights in Redding, much better than in most places. When you have a really old deed to water, it gets honored. And I would fight very hard to keep all the water rights we have.

How would you address how we use and develop land in our community?

I was there at the presentation for riverfront development and I was really excited for it. I think the development would have been a game changer for us like the Sundial Bridge was. The Bridge was very unpopular and contested at the time but it worked out very well. So I would want to reach back out to them in the future, but I’d be sure to ask about a 50-year lease. It’s a big risk but it’s also a big opportunity. 

We definitely need to hear from the community on this though, like the folks at the rodeo down there. As a community, we need to hear them, we need to understand where they’re coming from, all their perspectives, and make sure that we really are able to balance those competing interests. 

As a teacher I want all my students to feel valued and I want community members to feel that too. I’m not always going to give you your way, but I’m always going to listen to you. People are okay hearing “no” as long as they’ve really felt listened to. That’s what creates a lot of the tension and the disillusionment with certain entities in town, they try to silence others, and that’s not in the spirit of the community or of democracy.

How would you address the need for housing in our community?

Housing is basically the lifeblood of our economy.  There are three main drivers for our economy here: the retirement community, Bethel, and the outdoors. All three of those rely heavily on housing, including short-term rentals. So we have to be smart about that and set policies that take that into consideration.

We also need to get housing cheaper because folks who are buying up housing for short-term rentals are pricing normal people out of the market. We can look at prefabricated houses, 3D-printed houses, accessory dwelling units . . . anything and everything I think should be on the table and discussed. We have to be aware of how the housing looks too, of course, so Redding doesn’t begin to look dilapidated. 

We have to be smart about policy. For example, we could create a rule that requires people to live in the county in order to operate a short-term rental here. That would keep millions of dollars inside our economy.

How would you address climate concern as a Redding leader?

I love trees and I think climate change is serious. But I also think that people are more important than trees, so if we have to cut down a tree to get someone off the street, I think we should do that.

Green energy is more expensive than traditional carbon-based energies and using it tends to hit poor people the hardest. So if we’re going to push green energy we need to be really mindful of that. I am all about making smart economic decisions. And climate concerns are super vital for our economy because we’re seen as a green area. But we need to do it in a way that makes sense for everyone.

How would you help our community prepare for and reduce the risk of wildfire?

I think we learned our lesson during the Carr Fire and I think the city is mostly doing a good job. But if there was a way to mitigate high home insurance costs since the Carr Fire I would want to do that. And I think we should make more defensible space around the city.  

Thank you for your time! How can people learn more about your campaign?

I don’t have a political machine behind me. I don’t have a big business or church or anything else behind me. And I don’t have a cool fancy website or any ads or signs up.  But you can find me on Facebook. And if you want to yell at me or say good job or ask me to clarify something you can email me at [email protected]

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