It is not like Casey Steed is new to politics; he has had his own radio show for almost 10 years, and any topic goes on his show.
Now he has decided to get more involved in Merced’s local political scene as a candidate for the open District 4 seat on the City Council. The district is located east of G Street and extends north from the Bear Creek area all the way to Yosemite Avenue and beyond to include a residential neighborhood near Cruickshank School.
Councilman Kevin Blake is the current representative of the district, but his second term ends this year. Steed faces two other candidates in the race to be decided in the Nov. 8 election: Shane Smith and Javier Fuentes.
“I have the knowledge, the drive, and the love for this city,” Steed says. “No other candidate in District 4 has that.”
When Steed was asked what he felt were the most important factors on the City Council’s agenda, he listed public safety as the first.
Steed served as a reserve police officer for the San Diego Police Department, one of the largest agencies of its kind in the nation, for more than 20 years. He learned a lot about how important public safety is for the well-being of residents.
“Everything wheels around public safety,” he says. “If you don’t have public safety, people are not gong to invest money into businesses and job creation. They are not going feel safe, and so they are not going to want to live and work here.”
The candidate points out that the City Council faces the hiring of a new police chief for Merced. “It’s important that we pick a chief who is going to lead the department into the future, with public safety at the forefront,” Steed says.
No. 2 on his list of most important issues in Merced is the ongoing homeless crisis. Interestingly, Steed’s feeling on this issue is that the city’s homeless problem is intertwined with the issue of public safety.
Good, “reasonable” law enforcement should not allow homeless people and transients to take over the streets of the city, Steed says. He expresses concern that too many city and county resources are being spent poorly in an attempt to solve a homeless problem that continues to be a major detriment to the city’s growth.
“Homelessness can be a very lucrative business,” Steed points out. “Millions of dollars are going to services, but what about the businesses that are serving this community — like the ones on Main Street, and the ones in North Merced. These shops are getting hit with vandalism and theft. Why are we not concerned with those businesses who are actually paying the bills. These businesses deserve our attention too.”
Steed says he believes shelter is a right for all people living in the city; however, he does not believe housing is a right. The business community must be involved in creating housing solutions, the candidate insists.
“I also believe in the model of Habitat for Humanity — where people are given a hand up to achieve home ownership through sweat equity… If you keep people in the endless cycle of free rent and subsidized housing, they will never grow out of poverty.”
The candidate says he will work with the city manager, city departments heads, the district attorney and the sheriff to bring back responsibility and accountability in areas of Merced that are scarred by drug use, vandalism, personal belongings and trash, and unsightly living conditions.
“Merced City and Merced County need to work in unison to solve the homeless problem and provide more housing for the future,” Steed says.
In the past, Steed and other neighbors in North Merced have voiced concerns and taken action over housing projects that would bring too high of a density of apartments into one area of the city. He says he continues to actively watch the new housing proposals that are popping up for the development area around Lake Yosemite and the UC Merced campus.
“I’m an advocate for good growth in the community,” Steed says. “Specifically as it impacts my neighbors on the north side… We need to have good transportation elements, good circulation, utility services, parks and open spaces.”
While he feels unions have a place in California, he believes private contractors and independent workers are very important to Merced and the surrounding area, and they help to keep the cost of housing more affordable.
He is very supportive of City Manager Stephanie Dietz and her work to improve the city. He feels that if the City Council isn’t careful they will lose the very people who can do most to improve the city.
Regarding the future of Measure C, the half-cent sales tax that funds public safety personnel, Steed wants to see an extension placed on the ballot as soon as possible, and not wait until the very last minute to decide what future funding will be available to run the city.
He said a failure to act on Measure C would have a chilling effect on the city’s police department and efforts to retain qualified personnel. “If they don’t feel they have the support of the City Council and our residents, they are not gong to stay around. They will go on to other departments that have stability.”
Also, according to Steed, if the truth were known, the south of Merced has received more than its fair share of funding for improvements, and recent suggestions that all the city’s funds are directed toward north Merced are inaccurate. If elected to the City Council, Steed says he will try to change the misconception.
The 60-year-old Steed was born and raised in the Merced area. His parents were Lynn and Bonnie Steed, both deceased. His dad was a local teacher and a founding faculty member of Merced College. Steed graduated from Merced High School in 1980, and went to work for Ferrero Electric. He spent many of his younger years learning the Electric business, eventually starting his own business which he still runs called Steed’s Electric Service.
He was married and had two sons Bryan 40, and Ryan 23. Bryan lives in Merced and Ryan in San Diego.
In his later years, Steed was told he had a great voice for radio, and also the ability to analyze politics and government, which would interest local people. He was hired to do a radio talk show on KYOS, the longest running AM station in Merced since 1936. Today it’s a news and talk show station owned by Radio Merced.
During the next 10 years, Steed learned a lot about talk shows and happenings in the local community. His involvement in politics also grew in the region as he made two campaign attempts for a seat on the Merced County Board of Supervisors, in 2012 and 2016, but both times he came up short in the June primary vote.
Undeterred, Steed turned his attention to becoming a volunteer advocate for CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) in Merced County. For the past seven years, Steed has helped at-risk local young people who are in foster care and caught up in the legal system. He has also applied his career experience in the service of Merced by holding a position on the city’s Building and Housing Board of Appeals.
In recent times, Steed has felt that some members of Merced City Council have not been working for the betterment of the city.
He believes that people who serve on the City Council should put “public Service above yourself.”
Says Steed, “City Council races are traditionally non partisan. They have become anything but that in this election. Some candidates have personal agendas that conflict with the citizens they are supposed to represent. I will lead my district and the Council with common sense while building consensus to find the common ground that we all share representing all Mercedians…
“I think this council seat is important to the future of the City of Merced and has far-reaching consequences. In no way do I view or will treat this position as a ‘hobby.’ I will work tirelessly to improve resources for public safety and bring stability to a very dysfunctional council. I will put service to my community above self. I ask for your vote to be your Merced City Council District 4 representative.”