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Michael Dacquisto retiring from Redding city council with two years left in term

Michael Dacquisto, left, is stepping down from his position on the Redding City Council.
Michael Dacquisto, left, is stepping down from his position on the Redding City Council at the end of June.

The former mayor will step down at the end of June. Lately, he has been critical of alleged Bethel Church influence on local government.

Michael Dacquisto said he’s stepping down due to a medical condition and so he can spend more time with family and friends.

The 70-year-old former mayor has spent over five years in Redding politics. He said he was proud of his work helping to expand the city’s fire and police departments during that time.

But he’s also been at the center of recently contentious council meetings where he’s claimed excessive influence of the Redding-based Bethel Church in local government. Currently three out of five members of the council have ties to the megachurch.

He has referred to that bloc as the “‘Bethel juggernaut.”

“When I use the phrase ‘Bethel juggernaut,’ it's not necessarily a slap at their religion. But they have 60% of the city council votes and they have about 10% of the population. Now they've earned it. They got elected. They followed all the rules. But I think that's an overbalance of power in one small group,” said Dacquisto.

Dacquisto’s remarks on Bethel’s influence have received strong rebukes from current Mayor Tenessa Audette who has taught a course on politics and religion at the Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry..

“Our [First] Amendment rights guarantee the freedom to practice religion. I am not intimidated by Dacquisto’s efforts to undermine and discourage my right to worship God wherever I see fit,” said Audette through email. She also questioned whether Dacquisto’s primary residence is in Redding.

Dacquisto said he prefers the council appoint a replacement for his seat rather than the city spending money on a special election. If a replacement is chosen, voters would then decide in November who would serve the remaining two years of his four-year term. Dacquisto noted that his replacement could have church connections.

“I think that they're power hungry. And the three that are on there have a majority vote and it will be three against one and they can appoint whoever they want to appoint. And I think it will be another Bethel person,” said Dacquisto.

He said he hopes the council chooses someone that shares his values as a replacement. Importantly, he explained, he hopes a resident is picked that would protect the Redding Rodeo Grounds from development with a long-term lease.

Three council seats, including Dacquisto’s, will be on the ballot in November. Audette is also running for the California Assembly which would require her to leave the council if she wins.

“Serving on the Redding City Council has been one of the highlights of my life. I wish all the best to all city employees and to my ultimate replacement,” said Dacquisto.

Justin Higginbottom is a regional reporter for Jefferson Public Radio. He's worked in print and radio journalism in Utah as well as abroad with stints in Southeast Asia and the Middle East. He spent a year reporting on the Myanmar civil war and has contributed to NPR, CNBC and Deutsche Welle (Germany’s public media organization).