In the spirit of civic participation, here are five possible questions for the Council's consideration:
1. If the Sonoma County Economic Development Board weighs in favorably regarding the economic effect of Russian River Brewing Co.’s Pliny the Younger on downtown Santa Rosa, would you be willing to replace the water in every public fountain with beer?
2. If Guy Fieri offered the City of Santa Rosa $1 million to erect a 50-foot, blazing yellow statue of himself cooking up a batch of Rockin’ Lava Shrimp underneath a banner that says “WELCOME TO FLAVOR TOWN" in middle of Courtyard Square, would you vote "aye" faster than Fieri can chow down an order of PBR Pig Stix, or would you tell the man to go jump in a vat of Donkey Sauce?
3. When passing by the mall, what makes your sadder? That ill-sighted city planning allowed the creation of a brick behemoth cutting off one part of downtown from the other without an easy thoroughfare for pedestrians and bicyclists, or the fact that never again will you be able to pile food on your plate from the Fresh Choice buffet and wash it all down with an old-school Orange Julius?
4. If you had to choose to see one of these items blown up for the sake of raising city tax dollars, which would it be? a) Every Peanuts statue between Fourth Street and Steele Lane. b) The Cyclisk crushed bicycle obelisk on Santa Rosa Ave. c) The Measure O baseline funding levels. d) The hand statue in front of the mall.
5. Walmart Neighborhood Market—a terrific solution to the food desert issue on Santa Rosa Ave., or the worst idea to come along since the Press Democrat begin allowing unmoderated online comments?
Interested in submitting your own questions? The deadline to submit questions is 5:30pm on Tuesday, January 22, 2013. Questions may be submitted in person to the City Clerk’s Office located at 100 Santa Rosa Ave. Room 10, or by emailing them to email@example.com.
For more information, contact the City Clerk’s office at 707.543.3015 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Instead, the council has opened applications to all residents who are registered voters in Santa Rosa. This means you! For anyone who's ever dreamed of having a little power in their hometown, or maybe yearns to become Santa Rosa's answer to Leslie Knope, now's the time. Applicants are required to fill out a nine-part questionnaire, which will be used as part of an interview process to take place on Jan. 28 and possibly Jan. 29, depending on the number of applicants.
Questions include: Why are you interested in this position? What particular skills do you bring to the Council? What are the top two pressing issues facing the City of Santa Rosa? How have you remained current and informed on City issues?
Be prepared to list personal involvement in community activities and potential economic conflicts of interest.
The new council member will tentatively be appointed at the Feb. 5 council meeting.
Along with the questionnaire, applicants must turn in a nomination form with the signatures of 20 registered voters.
For an application packet and more information contact:
Santa Rosa City Clerk
Santa Rosa City Hall, Room 10
100 Santa Rosa Avenue, Santa Rosa CA
Applicants must be residents and registered voters of Santa Rosa and must file a Statement of Economic Interests, among other requirements.
Applications will be available starting Thursday, January 10.
The application deadline is Tuesday, January 22, 2013, at 5:30 p.m.
Are the actual numbers of innocent civilians killed by drones actually higher than what has been admitted by the Obama Administration?
Oh, totally. What we’ve been told by the Obama administration is that there are a handful of people that have been killed. Or, at the most, we were told by the ambassador in Pakistan that it’s in the low digits—and that is just not true. Even the most conservative estimates are in the hundreds. The one that’s considered to be the most reliable is the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, and the numbers are in the thousands. There’s a big question about what actually is an innocent person, given the definition of what is a militant by the administration being any male of military age that lives in the strike zone. For Pakistan, they say somewhere between 500-900 for civilians. For total people killed, 2500-3500, so the question really is, who’s a civilian and who’s a militant, but there’s no question that the numbers given out by the administration are just not true. They’re ridiculously low.
And military age in Pakistan is what exactly?
It doesn’t make any sense. It’s basically somebody who has facial hair on them. In that part of the world, it’s not like there’s a draft. People can sometimes barely even tell you their ages.
Now that Obama has been re-elected, what’s the next step when it comes to drone warfare?
First, we have to do massive education. That’s why it’s so important for people like Barbara Briggs-Letson, to be out there. She can reach into the faith-based community, to students and the 34 people who went on the trip are all doing that. The education and writing campaign that turns around the numbers. The fact that the majority of Americans think that drone strikes are okay means that we have a lot of work to do.
Another thing, is building up the protests, which are really blossoming now. A year ago, there was barely anything, except for a few up by Creech Air Force Base and in upstate New York, but now they’re happening all over. They’re happening on a weekly basis in San Diego, where General Atomics is located. They’re happening at the CIA headquarters in Virginia. They’re happening in Fort Benning, Georgia. In Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico. In Whiteman Air Force Base outside of Saint Louis.
These are all places where drones are constructed, or where people are trained to fly them?
Or they’re actually being piloted from there. So the upstate New York group is a broad coalition of people from places like Buffalo and Albany. They’ve organized because Hancock Air Force Base is in their community and is flying drones in Afghanistan and, they think, Pakistan. So it’s not only the training, it’s the actual pressing of the kill button.
That seems so far away.
That’s what’s happening at Creech Air Force Base in Nevada where many of us have protested. Code Pink people. Veterans for Peace. Catholic Workers. People at that base are killing people thousands of miles away. They’re doing it from the comfort of an air-conditioned room, in a comfortable chair, and going home to their families at the end of the day.
It sounds like there is a huge disconnect in terms of the American consciousness about drones. It seems almost like science fiction, even though it’s very real and people are dying. We have such a set concept of what ‘warfare’ is, but this seems like a whole new form of ‘warfare’ that we almost can’t wrap our minds around.
That’s right. It’s really hard to imagine what would appear to be like a video game with consoles, PlayStations and joysticks. It’s a new form of warfare where one side doesn’t put their lives at risk at all. The question being asked by everyone from folks in the United Nations to faith-based communities, they’re saying, if we’re so removed from the human consequences of these actions how can this generation of fighters really value the right to life?
What about the idea that there is a ‘surgical precision’ to the drone strikes?
That’s false. These are much more precise weapons than those they’ve had in the past, but they’re not surgically precise. There all kinds of issues related to them including, what information are the pilots given as to whom is on the kill list? Who is being attacked? A lot of the time, it’s faulty information. They think they’re trying to get the person they’ve put on the kill-list because they’re a high value target related to Al Qaeda, and it turns out they’ve killed a bunch of poor Pakistanis that had nothing to do with the target.
So one instance is faulty information and the issues about the collateral damage. I hate to use that term. So many people who have been killed in are in the homes of the person that’s been targeted. So the wife, or the kids, and then they also have follow-up strikes, where they send in another drone, another missile after the first one, that kills rescuers and humanitarian aid workers who try to rescue the people. There have been drones that have hit funerals because they figure that if they killed someone from Al Qaeda or the Taliban, then the people at the funeral are going to be part of that as well. These are all things that can be considered, in the case of killing humanitarian aid workers, war crimes, and in the other cases, certainly violating basic rules of war. And there’s all kind of other issues that come up around how precise these actually are. There’s the shrapnel and debris that goes flying after these drones strikes. There’s all kinds of ways that you could say that we’re being sold a bill of goods about precision weapons which really leave a lot of death and destruction in their wake to innocent people.
I hope Barbara talked about the question of how this is terrorizing whole populations. There are 800,000 people that live in Wazharistan and with these drones, sometimes 24 hours a day non-stop over their heads, how they live in a constant state of fear. The people we met with talked to us about the tremendous state of depression that people are in, trying to self-medicate with anti-depressants, suicide happening and how it really has changed the life of the community. They said to us, “You’re waging a war on terror by terrorizing our population.”
In a country that we’re not actually at war with.
That’s right. And that’s really paying the price for the spillover of our war with Afghanistan.
Is there anything else that you want the American public to know regarding the use of drones?
I mainly wanted to say how amazed I was at this delegation. The 32 people who had signed up to go to a very dangerous part of the world, knowing that they were putting their own lives at risk. And then getting two warnings from the US embassy while we were there, saying you shouldn’t go, the Taliban is going to try to kill you, we have credible information saying you’re going to be attacked. All but one decided to go on the caravan anyway. It was pretty remarkable, and somebody like Barbara, who’s from a very comfortable family and lifestyle and has no reason to be putting herself in harm’s way like that, to choose to do that out of a sense of conviction, and a sense of purpose, and a sense of valuing all lives, is quite remarkable. I was just in awe looking around at these delegates; At their commitment to showing the positive face of the American people, to being the citizen ambassadors, to showing that we so disagree with our government’s policies that we’re going to put our lives at risk to come and tell you that. It was very profound.
I guess about the drones themselves, I’ve been studying the proliferation of these drones and it’s really shocking to see that know 76 countries have some kind of drones and not just countries, but non-state entities have drones, like Hezbollah, that just flew drones to Israel. We’re setting this horrible example of going anywhere we want, killing anyone we want on the basis of secret information, and somehow thinking that this is not going to blowback, and that other countries are not going to do the same thing is crazy. That’s why it’s so important to get people aware of this. I think it’s hard for people to think of President Obama, whom many of them like and think of as a constitutional lawyer and a Nobel Peace Prize winner, to think well, he wouldn’t be doing something like this. The more they learn about it, the more shocked and horrified they are. We have to really build up this heartfelt opposition that’s going to be able to be effective in getting more allies in Congress. Right now there have only been 26 Congress people that signed onto a letter calling for transparency and accountability regarding these drones, but we need a lot more than that.
Last week on KSRO's 'The Drive,' Steve Jaxon hosted a lively debate between John Sawyer and Susan Gorin, both candidates for Sonoma County First District Supervisor. You can listen to the full debate below, which covers a lot of ground on candidates' histories, key votes on Santa Rosa City Council and positions on pension reform.
Note a particularly testy exchange at about 27:03, after Sawyer opts not to support Prop. 30 because of his distrust of Gov. Brown:
Gorin: "Well, maybe that's why you're recommended by the Republicans and I'm endorsed by the Democrats."
Sawyer: "Well I'm not recommended by... you make it sound like I'm endorsed by them, and I know that your campaign has made a point of making me sound like a Republican, and it's a very interesting... another scare tactic on the part of your campaign to try to make people think that I'm not a Democrat. I think that's just..."
Gorin: "Hey—they're handing out voter cards!"
Sawyer: "You know what? I can't control the Republican party."
Who's right? A quick check over at the Republican Party of Sonoma County's website finds that indeed, John Sawyer is recommended by the party in their list of endorsements, but because he is not a registered Republican, falls under a technical exemption from the specific word "endorsement":
So in a sense, both candidates are correct—note Sawyer starts to say he isn't recommended by the Republican party, but cuts himself off. Sawyer is, in fact, recommended by the Republican Party, along with endorsements of Mitt Romney, Dan Roberts, and, in the Santa Rosa City Council race, Don Taylor.
In all likelihood, Sawyer must be aware that being a Republican is the kiss of death in Sonoma County politics, and that candidates who'd clearly be Republican in other counties simply call themselves "conservative Democrats" here in order to survive at the ballot box. On a related note, those campaigning for Sawyer evidently know the tried-and-true Republican technique of taking an accusation leveled against themselves and throwing it right back at their opponent, no matter how unwarranted. Here's the latest anti-Gorin mailer out by the "Sonoma Jobs Action League," an IE largely funded by the Sonoma County Alliance:
If you ask me, that looks a hell of a lot like the work by Steve Rustad, the political cartoonist for the Argus-Courier who was suspended by the newspaper for the breach of ethics in anonymously illustrating hit-piece mailers in support of David Rabbitt in 2010. (Rustad and the Argus-Courier parted ways in June of this year, so he's free to design political mailers again.)
But... "masquerading as a Democrat"? Really?
At 2:04am last night, I had just watched "Mother Jones’" astounding video of Mitt Romney at Marc Leder’s home and I couldn’t sleep. This is surprising because I have a two-month-old and can usually pass out on command whenever the opportunity presents itself. But after listening to the GOP candidate lampoon that “47 percent” of Americans who believe they are “entitled to health care, to food, to housing,” the people who allegedly should “take personal responsibility and care for their lives,” I lay under our hand-me-down comforter shaking while I held my sleeping daughter.
Almost a year ago, I unexpectedly found out that I was pregnant. I had just quit a job with health insurance for my current part-time position, which I love, but which is 30 hours a week and does not offer benefits. After making the Esurance rounds and a dozen phone calls and realizing that, no, pre-existing conditions are not a myth, my husband and I discussed Medi-Cal.
We didn’t want to apply—and we almost didn’t. We had the best intentions, or at least we thought we did. We both work. We have two cars, even if they are both older than people who can reproduce. After visiting the county office and waiting in line with pregnant teens and a guy talking to his own toes, we felt like we didn’t have any right to use the state’s scant resources, when so many other people obviously needed dollars from this dwindling money pool more. Our line of reasoning was also, of course, a naïve and sort of pompous way of setting ourselves apart, but we didn’t see that at the time.
We decided to have our baby at a birth center, largely because it cost roughly a fourth of the hospital’s out-of-pocket estimate. Still, we didn’t want to apply for Medi-Cal. We knew that we could be transferred during labor, but I’m 26 and healthy, and our growing baby seemed to be doing fine. We would take care of our own expenses, we reasoned, because although the “entitlements” Romney talks about were probably necessary for plenty of people in plenty of circumstances, we were responsible Americans, dammit, and we would foot our own bills.
When my water broke, yellow and thick with meconium, and I had to be transferred from the Birth Center to Memorial, I was glad my mom had insisted we apply. When my beautiful, fat baby burst into the world covered in the greenish tar; when she started wheezing and choking and had to be whisked off to the NICU; when she developed pneumonia on her first day in this world and had to be hooked up to oxygen; when it was the only thing giving her tiny, heaving chest any relief, I was glad we had applied. When we got the bill for her ten-day stay and it was enough to keep us from ever paying off our student loans or buying a house or sending our daughter to college, I was glad we had applied.
Angry and jotting down incoherent notes about how this whole experience did NOT make us entitled victims despite the words of this presidential candidate last night, I realized, sadly, that on some level I still believe it does. Every time I pull out my little Edith’s Medi-Cal card and read the numbers aloud, I feel guilty. Even though I know this experience was purely circumstantial, that we work very hard and pay state taxes and just happened to fall through the lower-middle gap, I still feel like it was my fault, like we’re no longer worthy of the title “responsible.” Probably not unlike the millions of others in our situation, I’ve internalized the myth that Romney laid out in chilling language while seeking donations from a private-equity manager in Boca Raton last May.
But then I look at my 12-pound daughter breathing easily and the guilt melts away.
Two days before the election, the man behind the 'Who Is Stacey Lawson' website has come forward.
'Who Is Stacey Lawson' uncovered details about Lawson's upbringing, her history in Silicon Valley, her move to Marin, her spiritual guru Dattreya Siva Baba, her large campaign donations, her writings on Huffington Post and more. In his words:
This whole endeavor started because I was interested in how someone who’s a complete unknown could raise so much money — which in today’s day and age makes her an instant contender among a group of candidates that actually have significant governmental experience.
Stacey Lawson has barely lived in this district for three years. She has no public service experience in our community. She doesn’t even own a house, instead renting a mansion in her current location of San Rafael. Who had even heard of Stacey Lawson before last fall?
With a strong political research background I took it upon myself to do some digging. This is actually the type of research journalists used to do, but unfortunately there aren’t any journalists that do this at the Santa Rosa Press Democrat (unless you’re declared an enemy of the editorial board, like Michael Allen).
Andersen insists the whole project has only cost $205, circumventing the requirement for an FEC filing, and says the site has been "purely voluntary." However, expect feathers to be ruffled by the fact that Andersen was Susan Adams' campaign manager from August 2011 to the beginning of April 2012. "I left for a variety of personal and political reasons," he says in the post. "I want to state clearly that the Adams campaign had no knowledge of my activities with the 'Who Is Stacey Lawson?' website."
Adams, a Lawson opponent, is not considered a frontrunner.
Andersen previously ran a site called RiggsWatch in the mid-'90s to monitor Frank Riggs' actions in Congress. Over the years, he has worked for Dan Hamburg, the SEIU and served as councilmember in Ukiah.
It was Lawson's status as a wealthy, well-connected newcomer that caused Anderson to start digging:
As it turned out, Stacey Lawson has her own personal fortune from her well-timed sale of a failing company during the heyday of Silicon Valley in the late 1990′s when a company losing money was actually considered a winning proposition. This also allowed her to ingratiate herself with wealthy benefactors such as investment bankers and venture capitalists. She also has significant ties to the well-funded new-age community through her guru.
This is all reflected in the fact that fully 80% of her money comes from outside the 2nd Congressional District and nearly half from out of state. 70% of her money comes from people who have contributed the maximum $2500 to her primary election. Nearly 60 people have actually contributed the maximum of $5000 for her primary and potential general election campaigns.
Because she is such an unknown, we really don’t know what to expect from her which makes her funding sources so important. We don’t know what she has pledged to the high-tech and investment banking industries that are funding her campaign. The Stacey Lawson campaign is unfortunately a prime example of the power of money in politics, which I think most people would agree is one of the prime reasons we’re in the mess we’re in.
Read the whole thing here.
What can't be found are the posts themselves, because Lawson had all of them deleted. And judging from her post "What it Means to Delete Everything and Start Over," dug up last night by Empire Report, it was probably a wise thing to do. An excerpt:
And while perhaps it sounds like a liberating process to face ones demons and invite them back into the heart, each step has been death. My idealized identity, the safe picture of “self” which has shielded me from these shameful aspects, is crumbling into nothingness. There is nothing to hold onto. There is no ground to stand upon. I am DYING. And it is terrifying.
Despite the pain and despair, I have tried to stay alert, watchful. I want to find out what this dying is. I have discovered an enormous burden of sorrow and suffering within me. I want to know if I can be free from this false self and from this sorrow.
As I have hurtled toward oblivion, it has felt like my skin is being pealed off, followed by muscle and tendon and bone until there is nothing left. Everything must die this inevitable death. What is Truth? How can one know the answer unless everything is stripped away? Every veil, every gauze of perception, every conditioned belief.
“Delete everything and start over,” suggested a good friend. All my well worn beliefs? Piles of crap. Delete. Everything I thought I knew? Bullshit. Delete. My personality? A bunch of absurd story lines. I have slowly been deleting everything and starting over.
This is a person running for U.S. Congress?
Read the whole thing here.
UPDATE: Empire Report has reprinted all of Stacey Lawson's Huffington Post writings here.
Tonight's city council meeting had it all: grandstanding, fireworks, hyperbole, backtracking and bickering.
What it didn't have, unfortunately, was any substantial clarification on gang-related crime.
Some may remember what started this discussion: Robert Edmonds' Bohemian cover story on the admitted inability of the Santa Rosa Police Department to report accurate gang crime statistics—even as the department was receiving millions of taxpayer dollars for gang prevention from Measure O, which required a "standard statistical reporting format" for "gang-related criminal data."
As editor, I was proud to run the story. I was also glad to see Kevin McCallum bring it to a wide audience on the front page of the Press Democrat this past Sunday. But what I really looked forward to was SRPD Chief Tom Schwedhelm's report on the matter to the city council tonight.
I like Schwedhelm. The fact that he agreed to sit down and answer tough questions from Edmonds, who's worked on police accountability issues for years, speaks volumes. As he himself said tonight, "We're being very transparent about this. There are other communities where this would never see the light of day."
As such, Schwedhelm has openly admitted that the department doesn't have accurate gang crime data, and for this he cites budget cuts and lack of officer training. Mostly, though, he's chalked it up to a change in the "reporting and methodology" for gang-related crime. That's the key reason, according to the department, that in documents supplied to Edmonds (and later, to city council members), gang crimes in Santa Rosa appear to have jumped a whopping 346 percent in the past five years.
Despite repeated requests from Edmonds, Schwedhelm didn't supply details. After the story ran in the Bohemian, however, this item popped up on tonight's council agenda: "GANG CRIME STATISTICS AND REPORTING METHODOLOGY UPDATE."
Here's the update, then. I went to tonight's meeting, and in his presentation, Schwedhelm reported that the department had "broadened" their statistical reporting, thus causing the alarming jump in reported gang statistics. But how broad was "broad," I wondered? When it came time for Schwedhelm's grand reveal on the overhead projector, the department's much-touted "new" definition of a "gang-related incident"—instead of a gang-related crime—read as follows:
“A gang-related incident is defined as an incident where there is a reasonable suspicion that the individual who is involved with the incident has been or is currently associated with criminal gang activity, or where the totality of the circumstances indicates that the incident is consistent with criminal street gang activity.”
Now, call me crazy, but to me that sounds a lot like saying "A gang-related incident is what we say is a gang-related incident." Which is not really saying anything at all.
So there are a few things I'd like to see.
After the presentation, and after Gary Wysocky and Ernesto Olivares traded some lively barbs ("I resent that," "I take offense to you," etc.), the public comment portion of the meeting finally included several mentions of what no one likes talking about: race. So with concern to racial profiling, I'd like to see some specific criteria on exactly how the department designates an incident as "gang-related," and what evidence the department uses to designate an individual as a gang member. Something like this, perhaps, which is a document showing how the department once identified gang members. Really, read it.
I'd like to know why the department has now decided to include "incidents" in gang statistics, which has sharply raised the statistics for gang activity in Santa Rosa, and I'd like to hear some concrete examples of situations that might constitute an "incident" as opposed to a crime.
I'd like to know more about Schwedhelm's twice-repeated statement tonight that "We don't track individuals, we track incidents." That seems to directly contradict the department's stated goal of identifying individuals that have been or are currently associated with criminal gang activity. Furthermore, I'd like to know if, like the majority of law enforcement agencies in the state, the SRPD works with CalGang, a statewide "intelligence database targeting specifically members of criminal street gangs, tracking their descriptions, tattoos, criminal associates, locations, vehicles, fi's, criminal histories and activities."
I'd like to know how often the police department and Mayor's Gang Prevention Task Force receive additional outside funding in the form of grants, and if their chances of receiving grants are increased by doing just this—demonstrating higher statistical gang activity in Santa Rosa.
Mostly, though, I'd like to know where this all leads.
We can talk about statistics and funding all we want, but here's where my cynical side kicks in. I hate my cynical side, but here's what it's telling me: no matter what the statistics say, the police department can always make a case for more funding. If gang-crime statistics are down, they can say "We're doing a great job, here's the proof, keep giving us money." If the gang-crime statistics are up, they can say "There's a huge problem here in Santa Rosa, we need more money."
Then my positive side kicks in and says that the Mayor's Gang Prevention Task Force is truly doing a lot of good work with after-school programs and community festivals, even though they allowed children in South Park to play with semiautomatic weapons as part of "Gang Awareness Week," which I think is deplorable. (They also publicly boasted about banning "Snitches Get Stitches" shirts from being sold at the Santa Rosa Plaza, which I think is just kind of funny, actually.)
Then I think about all the anecdotal evidence, which is what the SRPD and Olivares prefer to talk about in the absence of hard statistics. Except the anecdotes I hear are a little different. The former gang members who can't get off the gang database. The kids who commit misdemeanors, like writing graffiti, which then get unfairly upgraded to felonies because the police say it's "gang-related." The times my wife has called the police reporting gang fights at her work, only to wait 45 minutes for officers to arrive. The friends I have living in Roseland who say the gang problem is blown way out of proportion as a political fear tactic. The officer who disfigured a woman when he crashed into her truck driving 100mph in response to a call about some kids at the DMV wearing baggy clothes. The guy from South Park who talked at tonight's meeting, who said the only authority figure that ever helped him avoid gang life was a school counselor, and the only thing Measure O ever did was cycle a bunch of his friends through jail and juvenile hall. There are hundreds of other stories.
At any rate, Measure O doesn't expire until 2026, so there's going to be plenty more years of Santa Rosa taxpayer money going to gang prevention. But always remember: it's our sales tax increase that we voted for—it's our money, really—and because of that, we have a right to be able to ask questions and expect clear answers about its effectiveness. And we definitely have a say in how the money is spent.
Here's the problem with that.
Candidates for city council must be registered to vote at a Petaluma address, according to Sonoma County Assessor and Registrar of Voters Janice Atkinson. When I got in touch with her, she affirmed that “it is a requirement that a person register at the address that s/he considers to be her domicile.”
“Domicile” is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as the “place of a person’s permanent residence, which he or she leaves only temporarily.”
So is it kosher for Albertson to take a tax deduction for his “principal place of residence” in Santa Barbara while holding elective office in Petaluma? Can he have one domicile for tax purposes, and another domicile for voting?
Albertson rents a home in Petaluma. But public records show that he and his spouse, Marilyn Albertson, are joined in a living trust that owns 2211 Sycamore Canyon Road in Santa Barbara. They’ve owned the house for decades. In 2011, as in prior years, the Albertsons declared to the Santa Barbara County Assessor that they are eligible for the homeowner’s tax deduction because the house is their “principal place of residence.” The exemption knocks $7,000 off the assessed value of the home for property tax purposes. (Currently, Zillow estimates the house to be worth $1.22 million.)
I asked Atkinson to clarify the issue. She explained that a person could “accept employment in one county and to avoid commuting establish a residence in another county. However, this person considers the second residence to be temporary. S/he has every intention of returning to his or her original residence, and continues to consider it to be his or her domicile.”
It makes sense that Albertson might still consider Santa Barbara home—he served with the Santa Barbara Fire Department for 28 years. But in 2001, he was hired as the fire chief of Petaluma, where, according to his campaign biography, “Marilyn and I made many lasting friendships.” Albertson retired as chief in 2008 on a public pension, and he successfully ran for city council two years later.
(During Albertson’s campaign, supported by the Argus-Courier and the North Coast Builders Exchange, he favored making public employee retirement plans less cushy for public employees hired in the future, while safeguarding benefits for currently retired public employees. But we digress. Back to Atkinson.)
Atkinson says that although her office does not check the authenticity of voter registrations, “If there is sufficient evidence to cause concern that someone has registered to vote at an address that is not his or her domicile, the Registrar of Voters may forward information to the Secretary of State’s Voter Fraud Division for investigation.” Of course, while Albertson’s domicile for voter registration may be perfectly acceptable for holding elective office, there does remain the thorny question of domicile for the tax deduction. Or vice versa.
Atkinson says that in California statutes, “the concept of domicile is somewhat fuzzy, but it needs to be, as there are many different situations. I hope this clarifies the situation.”
Oxford defines clarity as “lack of ambiguity.” So, I called upon Albertson himself, hoping for some unambiguous clarification.
He acknowledged that his family does indeed take the tax deduction in Santa Barbara. “My wife and I have a long distance relationship,” he explained. “She lives in Santa Barbara, and I live in Petaluma, and it’s none of your business.”
Or is it?
On Friday, Jan. 6, Occupy Santa Rosa joined with the Committee for Immigrant Rights, the Graton Day Labor Center and other Sonoma County organizations in a rally and march against Wells Fargo's position as an institutional holder of stock in Geo Group, Inc. The for-profit corporation builds, maintains and runs private prisons, including immigration detention centers in Arizona and California. For more information, check out a news blast from the Dec. 28 issue of the Bohemian.
Maureen Purtill and Jesus Guzman of the Graton Labor Center speak to the crowd of about 200 in front of the old Albertson's on Sebastopol Road about Wells Fargo and the rally. Purtill translated everything into Spanish.
"It's wonderful to see the Occupy movement really out in embracing the immigration rights movement," said Richard Coshnear, an immigrant rights attorney from Santa Rosa. After discussing the profit motives and laundry list of offenses at immigration detention facilities in the United States, he said, "The treatment of prisoners in detention is bad, but it's worse in for-profit private institutions."
Juan Cuandon and an unidentified man portray people held in detention at a private prison during a theater performance just before the march to the downtown branch of Wells Fargo Bank.
David Ortega of Occupy Petaluma rode his bike to the march from Petaluma. He was joined by Wendy-O Matik who rode her bike from Sebastopol.
85-year-old Marjorie Golden came out to support the fight for immigrant rights and the Occupy movement.
Two people were arrested outside of Wells Fargo after they attempted to "mic check" inside of the downtown branch, according to Occupy Santa Rosa organizer Carl Patrick. The bank locked its doors just after the protestors arrived. Police did not allow anyone on the property, including press, claiming "private property." Wells Fargo representatives did not respond to a written request from the Bohemian to speak about the closing of the bank or the protest.
Jerry Camarata of Sonoma County said that the orange jumpsuits printed with Sonoma County Jail symbolize the connection between private detention centers and the Secure Communities program run by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). "They are allowing undocumented workers to open accounts while funding these private detention centers that profit off of the same workers," said Camarata.
As bank customers approached the doors of Wells Fargo and found it locked in the middle of the day, many walked away grumbling about the inconvenience of the protest. "I love my bank," said this woman, who refused to give her name. "You can kiss my ass!" Soon after, she nearly got into an altercation with a protestor while retrieving money from the ATM.
Not everyone found the rally and protest inconvenient. Here, the protestors cheer after one man, upon hearing about the possible connection between Wells Faro and immigration detention centers, said that he was going to move his money to another bank.