After 20 years on city council Stearns is ‘ready to do it again’
Editor’s note: This story is one in a series of profiles about the five candidates for three seats on the Mount Shasta City Council in the Nov. 3 election. Other candidates include retired legal assistant Betty Kreeger, CPA Tessa Montgomery and incumbents John Stackfleth and Barbara Wagner.
After serving 20 years on the Mount Shasta City Council and losing his seat in 2018, attorney Tim Stearns said he’s “ready to do it again.” He’s one of five candidates on the Nov. 3 ballot for three seats on the council he’s quite familiar with.
“This is a very challenging time for our city and I feel I can best serve it on the council,” said Stearns, who was a council member during the great recession and helped at that time in the community’s recovery.
When his term ended two years ago, Stearns immediately joined the Active Transportation Committee and the Downtown Enhancement Advisory Committee to continue his involvement with the city.
Stearns said he has “a sense of what our town wants and how to make it happen. I understand our city’s budgets, municipal codes, and the history of where our city has come from.”
Stearns pointed out that city council members represent the entire community. “This is a diverse town and all perspectives on any issue must be respectfully listened to and considered,” he said. “Consensus solutions should include as many perspectives as possible.”
Stearns pointed out that the city council “acts as one body.” and no one person can achieve goals on their own. “It takes the cooperation, collaboration, and the collective common sense of council members working together. A wagon cannot move forward when horses are pulling it in opposite directions.”
Stearns has a degree in business administration and served in the U.S. Navy aboard two aircraft carriers – as the Legal Officer on the U.S.S. Kearsarge, and as the Public Relations Officer on the U.S.S. Lexington.
While in law school, Stearns was a member of the Board of Trustees of Golden Gate University, and was president of the law school student body.
“I’ve received extensive training through the League of California Cities on matters specific to local government that will help me be an effective representative of our community,” Stearns said. “Experience matters, especially in these challenging times.”
A California native, Stearns comes from a Navy family.
“I have one older brother, Ted, who went to the Naval Academy, and is now in the software business. He and I have climbed Mt. Whitney and Mt. Shasta together. Last year, we swam together across San Diego Bay in the San Diego Sharkfest; we survived. Also, to a very real extent, my family is the community of friends, neighbors and acquaintances who live in Mt. Shasta.”
Stearns discovered Mount Shasta while he was driving “on the way to somewhere else” and decided he wanted to live here. “I still feel blessed to live in Mt. Shasta,” he said.
Q&A with the candidate
Stearns answered the following questions via email.
Q: What are your main goals if elected?
A: As a public representative of the entire town, “my” goals are the town’s goals. Living here for 30 years and being on the Council for 20, I believe the town wants to foster and sustain a strong local economy so that people can afford to live and prosper here. That means:
Supporting our business community with business-friendly policies and programs; facilitating new housing opportunities in Mt. Shasta; supporting our youth with high quality school curriculums and youth activities; and supporting our elders with safe streets and sidewalks, health and nutrition programs, transportation and social activities. And, of course, providing police and fire protection, and public works infrastructure, that are so essential to making our town the place where we want to live.
Supporting expansion and development of cultural and entertainment opportunities; and expansion of Mt. Shasta’s trails system. Our investment in bike trails has attracted one of the premier bike races on the planet, Grinduro. Further development of bike and pedestrian trails and paths, including development of the Midtown bike, extension of the Gateway Trail, construction of the Downtown to City Park trail, creation of trails between downtown and Lake Siskiyou, to McCloud, and elsewhere, will attract outdoor biking and hiking enthusiasts, and will have a positive economic impact on our community.
Finally make the development of The Landing (the former Roseburg mill site) a reality – a multi-use reality. Such development must be done in a manner that connects it to downtown, that strengthens the economic well-being of downtown businesses, and that integrates it into our community as a whole.
Q: Do you have any ideas to increase economic development in the City of Mount Shasta?
A: Yes. First, we need to acknowledge that COVID-19 has changed the landscape. People are working from home much more. 30% of people currently living in big cities said they want to move to a rural setting. Consequently, internet services are more critical infrastructure than ever before. We need to ensure high speed access and affordability for everyone in this town.
After years spent on cleaning the old Roseburg mill site of toxic waste, it is finally time to develop the 100+ acres that we now call The Landing. This will create jobs, tax revenues, financial and non-financial benefits for Mt. Shasta. Depending on community vision, creative thinking and sustained efforts can transform this property into housing on the east side of Mt. Shasta Blvd., employment, cultural, entertainment, commercial, retail and tourist-based facilities along Mt. Shasta Blvd., light industrial facilities adjacent to Interstate 5, and open recreational park space running along the edge of the property. This must be accomplished in ways to compliment and strengthen our historic downtown business district. Shuttles might provide transportation to and from downtown Mt. Shasta.
People are relocating from big cities so we need to attract young families to live, work and play in Mt. Shasta. This can be accomplished through a sustained social media and print media campaign. Permanent residents have a greater positive economic impact on a community than short-term residents. Three hundred new residents who are financially secure, at least some of whom may bring their businesses with them, would aid in Mt. Shasta’s economic health. That would be more people shopping locally, eating locally, using local services, and creating jobs locally.
Q: What is your take on industrial cannabis businesses, and are they a benefit or detriment to the Mount Shasta community?
A: I do not support the use of marijuana, alcohol or tobacco by teens. To protect our kids, our town and the environment, you have to eliminate the illegal market in cannabis. To get rid of the illegal market, you have to provide legal, regulated, and limited market access for adults – without overwhelming the town.
After two years of having commercial/industrial cannabis licenses available in this town, we have three new industrial locations that grow indoor and process cannabis. They added about 35 new jobs with annual salaries averaging over $40,000 a year. The city collected about $125,000 in taxes from cannabis facilities for the past year.
62% of the voters in our town approved legalizing cannabis. Having a balanced and legally-regulated approach for a limited number of cannabis businesses can both provide protection for our youth, and provide adult access – without turning Mt. Shasta into “a marijuana mecca.”
Q: In what ways could the city council support businesses through the COVID-19 pandemic?
A: City revenues have dramatically declined this year, but not as much as originally feared. It is time to restore funding for the Mt. Shasta Visitor Center. I also suggest we prioritize creation of a matching fund program to enable downtown businesses to improve their facades and premises. Work with the Chamber of Commerce to identify business needs and ways to fulfill those needs. Support creation or continuation of local events that will bring people to Mt. Shasta or downtown in ways that observe safe distances and personal health. Collaborate with owners of vacant store fronts to see how those spaces may be filled or otherwise productively put to use. Identify ways to make opening a business in Mt. Shasta easier, faster, and less expensive.
Q: What is your opinion on water bottling companies in south Siskiyou County, particularly Crystal Geyser?
A: Much to the surprise of many in our community – including me, in 2013, Crystal Geyser quietly bought the closed-down plant located outside city limits to the north of town, after Coca-Cola decided to get out of the spring water bottling business. The plant expected to employ 40 or more workers at pay rates higher than the average community wage, and to extract less water annually than its predecessors Dannon and Coca-Cola did during their 10 years of operation.
An extensive environment impact study was completed by Siskiyou County pursuant to CEQA. The study concluded the plant’s proposed operations would not have significant impacts on the environment. Thereafter, the County authorized Crystal Geyser to operate its plant. The group that had been objecting to the plant appealed the County’s decision, disagreeing that the CEQA review was adequate. The Siskiyou County Superior Court upheld the County’s decision. The objectors again appealed, this time to the California appellate court. In February 2020, the case was ordered to mediation. The parties concerned are still awaiting an outcome. I support any business that has as followed the law, that has gone through an extensive environmental review, and that has received the necessary approvals. That includes Crystal Geyser. Unless the Court of Appeal finds that the CEQA review was flawed or inadequate, Crystal Geyser will have the right to operate the plant – within the limits and restrictions the county and city imposed on it.
Q: The city’s homeless population has been a source of contention, especially in recent years. Do you think the issue is being properly addressed and do you have any ideas to curtail homelessness in Mount Shasta?
A: Mt. Shasta has a relatively small number of local homeless persons that ranges between a high of about 24 and a low of 13, depending on weather and circumstances. Most, but not all, of our homeless population have alcohol, drug, and/or mental health issues. Some prefer to live outdoors. Others have difficulty finding suitable housing and support services.
Studies show that greater outcomes occur when there is a combination of housing and on-site or nearby social services for these persons. As a result of coordinated City-County efforts that commenced about 4 years ago, the County is expected to move forward with the development of housing units with on-site social services in the South County. For many homeless persons, once they have a roof over their heads temporarily and gain comfort with that situation, they gain greater desire and ability to continue living with a roof over their heads and to obtain some form of employment. I support this approach.
Q: In your opinion, what is the most pressing issue that is currently facing the City of Mount Shasta?
A: Economic stability and development, coupled with greater housing availability. The population of Mt. Shasta has decreased in the past 30 years and student populations have dramatically decreased as parents move away to find better jobs. The current Covid pandemic has further created economic challenges with businesses closing and workers being laid off. We need to diversify our economic base so that our community’s fiscal health is not solely reliant on tourism, lack of smoke, fires, or pandemics. Attracting and fostering businesses in Mt. Shasta that make things, i.e., light manufacturing such as outdoor equipment, can create higher paying jobs and a better economy while fitting into the existing character of our community.
Q: What is your favorite thing about living in Mount Shasta?
A: The opportunity to live in a small, friendly four seasons community with clean air, clean water, natural beauty and outdoor recreational opportunities within minutes of home. This is a town where people care for and about each other, meet you with smiles, and collectively make this a wonderful place to live. We are a community with a wide breadth of religious and spiritual practices – willing to accept, tolerate, and explore one another’s experiences. I am very grateful to have the opportunity to call Mt. Shasta my home.