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OPINION: What's in Your Mind? July, 2020

Jul 1, 2020

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OPINION: Evelyn Cheatham Effective IOLERO Ordinance

By the Committee for an Effective IOLERO Statement on Board of Supervisors’ Proposed Process to Consider Amendments to the IOLERO Ordinance.

Please contact your supervisor and let them know that you don’t want an ad hoc committee; you want the Evelyn Cheatham Effective IOLERO Ordinance. (contact information at the end of this message - Sonoma County residents only, please - you do not need to be registered to vote).

Why We Remain Insistent That Our County Supervisors Place the Evelyn Cheatham Effective IOLERO Ordinance on the November Ballot.

We are pleased that the Board of Supervisors is finally responding to the numerous calls from the community to strengthen the IOLERO ordinance and provide effective oversight of our Sheriff’s Office. We are very concerned that the process being proposed will paper over the real needs for reform and is designed to avoid the real transformation that is needed around law enforcement accountability and out Sheriff’s Office.

IOLERO was established in 2015 following an unprecedented public process held by a task force of 21 community members meeting weekly for more than a year. Even then, the county government worked hard to limit the proposals that resulted from that process. IOLERO as enacted in 2015 by the Board of Supervisors was a compromise with the Sheriff that limited both its effectiveness and independence.

After more than 3 years of experience with IOLERO, it is clear that the initial model of civilian oversight of our Sheriff is inadequate. It lacks real independence and is not equipped to be effective in meeting its missions. These deficiencies were clearly identified in the 2017-18 IOLERO Annual Report, which proposed strengthening the IOLERO ordinance.

Consequently, IOLERO currently cannot effectively monitor uses of force, including deadly force, by Sheriff’s deputies in the jail and on patrol. It cannot effectively suggest needed changes to Sheriff’s policies, practices and training. And it cannot effectively provide the transparency around these matters that was envisioned.

The Evelyn Cheatham Effective IOLERO Ordinance proposes revising the IOLERO ordinance so that IOLERO can realize the Principles of Effective Oversight that are considered necessary to the task by the National Association for Civilian Oversight of Law Enforcement (“NACOLE”). That is why the NACOLE Board of Directors, and many county public officials, have endorsed these needed amendments to the IOLERO Ordinance. It also is endorsed by the ACLU, the North Bay Labor Council, the Sonoma County NAACP, and the Sonoma County Democratic Party, among others. https://socoeffectiveoversight.org/endorsers

The Committee for an Effective IOLERO collected thousands of voters signatures to put this measure on the November 2020 ballot before the COVID-19 pandemic halted signature gathering. Consequently, the committee shifted its efforts to convincing our Supervisors to put the measure on the ballot directly. They ignored these requests.

6,000 community members have signed an electronic petition urging our Board of Supervisors to put these amendments on the November ballot. At the same time, local protests have brought even greater attention to the need for independent, effective oversight of local law enforcement, and especially our Sheriff.

In this context, our Supervisors have now announced they plan to study the Evelyn Cheatham ordinance and will work with the Sheriff to decide what changes should be made to strengthen the IOLERO Ordinance. The chosen advisors have a demonstrated history of not supporting effective, independent and transparent oversight of law enforcement.

This is the same process that led in the past to a compromise that prevented IOLERO from being independent and effective. Our committee is very concerned that this process will have the same result and a unique opportunity to implement effective oversight will be lost. This is one reason we sought a ballot measure to enact these amendments. The process of direct democracy is threatened unless our community is given an opportunity to vote on the proposed amendments on the November ballot.

The Committee for an Effective IOLERO therefore calls on our county supervisors to place the Evelyn Cheatham Ordinance on the November ballot for a vote of the people. Should the supervisor wish to make changes to this proposal and enact it legislatively, our committee demands that this happen only after robust imputes from the public, oversight experts, and only if those changes make improvements to the proposal consistent with the NACOLE Principles of Effective Oversight.

District 1 - Susan Gorin (Board Chair) - susan.gorin@sonoma-county.org

District 2 - David Rabbitt - david.rabbitt@sonoma-county.org

District 3 - Shirlee Zane - shirlee.zane@sonoma-county.org

District 4 - James Gore - district4@sonoma-county.org

District 5 - Lynda Hopkins - lynda.hopkins@sonoma-county.org

To find your district - https://sonomacounty.ca.gov/Board-of-Supervisors/District-Lookup/

https://socoeffectiveoversight.org/



OPINION: Reform Police

By Will Shonbrun

“Reform Police! Defund Police! Abolish Police!” All these signs at protests are being carried, demanded, by angry, fed up people across the country for weeks now. Almost all of these sizable demonstrations are mixed races and genders, young and old. That is new and that is different. Will this last? That is what we don’t know yet.

What we do know is that all human societies, small or large since recorded history have had some kind of law enforcement even before there were such things as “laws.” Humans being, well … human, seem to intrinsically understand that in order for a society to function, preserve its ability to perpetuate the culture itself and to live with some degree of agreed structure and consistency rules of behavior are necessary. Systems of regulations – social, economic, political, cultural, etc., in other words, dos and don’ts, are what keeps the tribe, the community, the town or the nation from disintegrating into chaos. This much is obvious.

But now the question is, have we in this country gone too far in the law and order camp, in over-policing and over-regulating almost every facet of human intercourse and the answer is a resounding, Yes!

In our zeal to exercise control over human behavior in almost every respect we’ve developed policing systems that are virtually unaccountable to its citizens. Police forces have been endowed with the power to act with impunity by those legislators that make the laws at all levels.

This is not a situation of “a few bad apples” or anything remotely like that trope. The systems now in place, that have been in place for decades and longer, are at the heart of the racism, brutality, murder and mass incarceration of our people. And it’s now only coming more into light because of the technology and ubiquitous media now at out disposal.

And this system that grants such far-reaching and enveloping power and control over its citizenry doesn’t reside in a vacuum; it’s tied into the other systems that govern us and in which we are all intertwined. These systems include the vastly unequal and imbalanced economic one, the educational one, healthcare, housing and jobs. And racism and gender bias and ethnocentrism run through these systems like a deadly virus to which almost no one is immune.

Law enforcement in this county, from the police departments to the Sheriff’s office must undergo a complete re-education and restructuring if the movement to reform is to be successful. It must begin with transparency and accountability. This must be imposed by the state, the counties and the cities. Without it, police accountability at all levels is a sham.

As for the system of capitalism, which excludes the voice of the worker, the producers of wealth, and effectively makes them powerless, it is the wellspring from which most of the other systems are built. But I’ll leave that for another rant.



OPINION: Black Lives Matter.

By Jim Corbett

Yes! BLACK LIVES MATTER! It is a shame that we even have to say this phrase, since in truth, all lives matter. But when a group of lives with a certain dark skin pigmentation are systematically oppressed by the rest of society, we now must awaken and remind ourselves, and everyone, that indeed, BLACK LIVES MATTER!

This systemic racism has been going on for centuries in this and in other countries. The abolition of slavery did not end the nightmare for black people, it only made them free to endure the continued degrading of their Being through Jim Crow laws; separate schools, bathrooms and drinking fountains; sitting in the back of the bus; and being kept from contributing in the fields of sports and entertainment. This was done to them by OUR society. Dr. King said, “Evil exists where good men do nothing”. That is why this latest peaceful protest is so uplifting. It is a demonstration of men and women of all colors standing up and saying together this must change NOW!

We cannot bring back George Floyd, but we can all stand up and lift our ‘knee of oppression’ off the neck of our Black brothers and sisters.

We all must take responsibility for this systemic racism, because all of us, black and white, to one degree or another, have allowed this to exist in our society. When we point our finger and say, “It was the KKK, the White supremacists, the ultra right wing, the bad cops,” we dismiss our responsibility in allowing this to BE in our society. WE ARE ALL RESPONSIBLE FOR THE RACISM IN THIS COUNTRY. Period!!!

The good news is, that when we take responsibility for creating a racist society, we can then decide that we can create a society that is kinder and accepting of all lives of all colors, races, religions and opinions. During the upheaval brought on by the Covid epidemic, is a perfect time to make this and other changes. As we reorganize our society, post epidemic we can honestly begin to support these needed changes and build a more loving society. Will it happen over night? Yes it already has begun. If you can see that it was YOUR knee on the neck of George Floyd, and it was YOU who agreed to all the subtle forms of racism, then you have been changed over night. Your conscience has been awakened and you can change. And by standing up, hand in hand and heart to heart, with peaceful protestors on the front lines, we have awakened the consciousness of our entire society. From this point we can admit, ‘I have been complicit in our societal racism, I can change, and I can Be the change I want to see in our society.

Black Lives Matter. Blue Lives Matter, All Lives Matter. YOUR LIFE MATTERS.

Stand up NOW and help create the good, the holy and the beautiful. Let’s build a PEACETOWN together.



You Can Help Heal Racism

By Gail Raborn

The history of endemic racism towards Blacks in America is a sickening one of brutality, murder, torture, disenfranchisement of the most awful variety, rape, imprisonment (slavery) & then after slavery was abolished in 1865, Jim Crow laws (to promote segregation and discrimination).

Even with the Civil Rights Movement, endemic racism was never rooted out. It shows in dramatic housing, financial, health & education disparities between White and Black communities. It shows in the chronic police brutality so graphically revealed in recent weeks towards protesters, after the gruesome police murder of an unarmed man, George Floyd.

Why? Because racist attitudes, beliefs, policies & actions are built into our country, into the minds & hearts of the White culture in the USA. White people tend to be blind to this because they’re not affected by the discriminatory practices that Black people face. They usually have no idea it’s even happening. But it is. It’s been going on for 400 years since the first slave was brought to American shores.

What YOU can do to change this:

First: Learn the history of African Americans in the USA; there are many books, films, blogs & documentaries for you to explore.

Second: Get politically involved in your community to reform your local police and sheriff’s departments. See that some of their funding is shifted into social action programs such as community mental health, low-income housing & education. Help pass bills to change the laws that allow violent rather than peaceful means of restraining people.

Third: Speak out & protest whenever you hear racist talk! Don’t let it pass you by! Support our Black brothers & sisters!

Fourth: Get involved with local schools & insist that they TEACH the history of slavery & racism in America, starting in elementary school. Get rid of texts that whitewash racism. Kids will be colorblind, not aware of endemic racism, unless educated otherwise.

Fifth: Learn what White Privilege means, & how people (perhaps even you) manifest this without consciously wishing to do so.

Sixth: Write letters to your local papers, city supervisors, police & sheriff departments demanding real change in racist, discriminatory policies & actions.

Seventh: Realize that endemic racism affects not only Black people, but also Latinos and Native Americans. Not to mention other minorities worldwide.

Eighth: Donate money to STOP endemic racism! Support organizations fighting this plague.

Ninth: VOTE! Get rid of our racist President & his cohorts! Get involved changing voter suppression laws & tactics & making sure our ballot machines can’t be hacked - much less don’t work.

his is a global disease, a pandemic, that destroys lives & limits the future of millions of innocent people.

Open your heart! Get involved to help heal systemic racism! No matter your age or situation, there is work for you to do to build a fairer, more just world.

PLEASE: Take Action Now!



The Most Important Election of My Lifetime

By Tish Levee

It’s coming this November 3rd. I don’t remember any election more critical to our country’s (and the world’s) welfare. I’ve been voting since 1962, and this is the most important election of my lifetime. As a climate activist, I cannot think of a more critical time for us to elect leaders who will lead us during the ongoing Climate Crisis.

At the same time, we are faced with a pandemic and a global recession, if not a depression, for which we need competent and dedicated leadership.

And then, if that isn’t enough, our American “original sin” of racism finally must be dealt with—we need to have social, economic, political, and climate justice for all people, especially those who have been denied it for so long—Blacks, Latinos, Native Americans, and other people of color.

While those we elect to national office, including the Senate and the Congress, will make a real difference in how we deal with these problems, we must also be electing effective leadership at the local and state level. Many changes come from the local level and “trickle up.”

As this is a census year, state legislatures and the Congress must be redistricted by 2022. State officials will govern how fair that redistricting is.

This is why it is so critical that we all vote for the leaders we feel will best represent us in dealing with all these problems and in ensuring fair redistricting in the future.

Also, all of us need to do everything we can to make sure everyone who wants to vote CAN, and that they can do safely AND fairly. We who live in California aren’t as likely to run into problems doing that. But we all need to do what we can to help people in areas where voter suppression has been common or where people have had to stand in line—during a pandemic—for hours to vote OR have had their requests for absentee ballots denied or “lost.”

Right now, many of us have been reacting to the murder of George Floyd (and many other Black people in recent times) by protesting. However, in the face of COVID-19, many of us (including older people such as myself) don’t feel that we can safely go out to publicly protest, in the same way we haven’t felt safe to protest for the climate.

So what CAN we DO?

• Register AND vote for local, state, and federal officials. Check to make sure your registration is valid by checking athttps://tinyurl.com/yaugku89.

• Make sure NO one has to choose between voting and their health or lives; support vote-by-mail. Contact your Senators and Congressperson NOW to insist Congress allocate the funding to states for safe elections this year.

• There are many organizations working on funding for vote-by-mail elections. Google “safe and fair elections” to find some of them.

• Vote-by-mail is the safest and fairest way to hold an election. (As of May, California is an all-mail ballot election state.)

• However, for mail-in ballots to work, we must have a functioning Post Office. The pandemic reduced the Post Office’s income from first class mail and marketing mail by as much as 50%.The administration has opposed any bailout stimulus money for the Post Office. Buying stamps is a way you can help. Just half the Americans over age 18 buying a sheet of 20 Forever stamps would raise about $1.15 billion. Find nearly 50 different Forever stamps at https://tinyurl.com/ycvjzdjg. Why not get your holiday stamps early while they have them?

• Educate yourself. To make the social and economic changes our society needs to overcome institutional racism, we need to do more than just be non-racist; we must be actively anti-racist. Become a helpful ally by starting to educate yourself and listening to black people’s stories about their experiences.

• The June 9th issue of Time Magazine has several suggestions of other things to do besides physically protesting, including links to books and movies. Go tohttps://tinyurl.com/y7834hk5.

• Join the NAACP—https://tinyurl.com/ybrwyazt. The NAACP, founded in 1909, is the nation’s foremost, largest, and most widely recognized civil rights organization. Membership is only $30.

Tish Levee, a climate activist, writes the column, “For the Planet”, bi-monthly in the Sonoma County Gazette.

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