Call it nitpicking, but I couldn't let this one slip by.
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.
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.
Every year since 1990, St. Seraphim Orthodox Church on Mountain View Road in Santa Rosa has drawn hundreds of ethnic food enthusiasts to its hallowed grounds for Glendi, a multicultural food and music extravaganza. But this year a multitude of factors has combined to force the cancellation of the festival.
There will be no latkas, dolmas, baklava or Balkan folk dancing this year. And there will be no children making the discovery that weird-looking gloopy stuff from another country actually tastes good, or finding out that not all music includes half-naked, died-haired woman singing in autotune—at least not at St. Seraphim.
Why, you ask? Construction of a Parish Hall and storage area has been considered for quite some time by church leaders, and last year it was decided to take on the project. But an extended rainy season and “many levels of bureaucracy conceived to keep us all safe and healthy in this modern world,” according to the church, delayed the project. The concrete had not even cured until Independence Day.
A letter of explanation[.pdf] posted on the church’s website almost feels like it has tears leaking out. Words like “disappointment” and “sad realization” combined with “bureaucracy” and “construction” pepper the one-page announcement.
But never fear, for the party will go on: Glendi will return in September 2012 as “the Best Glendi Ever,” says the church.—Nicolas Grizzle
" We lived outside of Forestville, in a trailer attached to an old fire house. We had moved up from Los Angeles a few months before, and wasted no time becoming obsessed with Bay Area music—Green Day, Blatz, Mr. T Experience, Nuisance, Spitboy, and Victims Family. By this time, VF had put out a few albums. They played a hybrid of punk, funk, and metal that we loved—remember, the Red Hot Chili Peppers were good back then too.Victims Family played at the Arlene Francis Center this past weekend—their first show in Santa Rosa in nearly 20 years. I made to the Sunday matinee show, but supposedly the Saturday night show turned into an epic, drunken, humid, mosh-fest. Sunday’s show was decidedly more mellow, but still had the contingent of old drunk Natty Light-drinking skater dudes in the front row. Sometimes these reunion shows are the closest thing we will experience to a high school reunion.All members of the band were in fine form. Ralph Spight can still yelp, and growl, and wail on the guitar with as much intensity as ever. Larry Boothroyd still dominates on the bass—playing it with the smoothness and confidence of someone who has been digging into the strings for thirty years. Tim Solyan still plays like a fantastical drum beast. In an April 2010 interview with the Bohemian, Spight said, "It's always been a kind of challenge to stay in touch with how passionate we feel about the music that we play and all the things that you get into a band for. It's nice to get back to a point of remembering why we got into it and what we love about it." And this attitude was reflected in the energy and power of the show. It was also rad just to see the crowd reaction—the pure delight of long-time fans seeing the band back in action.Of course, I had to engage in a bit of navel-gazing, and about halfway through their long set I started thinking about whether I really still truly loved the music of Victims Family, or whether my enjoyment was purely nostalgic. And in the end, I had to admit that I probably wouldn’t even listen to Victims Family now, if I came across them without all the historical baggage. This is just one of the realities of aging—music doesn’t retain the same potency for everyone. I think my love of Victims Family was tied up with discovering punk rock, and learning how to play guitar, and being high on politics, and moving to a new place.
I mean, I still feel high on life most times—but I have a different soundtrack. Which is fine. And seeing Victims Family, grey-hairs and all, still ruled.
Thomas is leaving Video Droid this Saturday, and yes, everyone else who works there is fantastic. But Thomas has truly been the face of the place on the late-night: drumming up conversation with customers, playing Camp Lo on the stereo and recommending the best experimental underground Samurai movies you've never seen. I caught up with him while he bumped Kid Cudi's "Day n Nite" played over Flash Gordon on his next-to-last-ever shift.
When did you start working here?
I started working here about six and a half years ago, I believe. Before here, I worked briefly at something called Calico Corners, which was, like, an upholstery type thing. But my main job before that had been Hot Topic, where I'd been assistant manager for a few years.
What was the first movie you ever put on your 'Employee Picks' rack?
The first movie I wanted to put on it was The Way of the Gun, but unfortunately it was already taken! So I can't remember what the first one was. It might have been The Warriors, I'm sure.
Who was the worst customer ever?
You get some people who cuss you out, you catch some people urinating on the building. A lot of the worst people aren't customers at all, just transients. I've had people pull out full-size jugs of vodka and start chugging it in the middle of the store, just wasted, and then not remember why they're not allowed in the building! Every two months, you'd be like, "Nah. You're still kicked out of here."Who was the best customer?
Just the whole community of customers. There's a lot of teachers and whatnot around here. I can't think of any single best customer, but the whole community—a lot of them know each other. A lot of them are from the educator field, as well, which is why I don't mind extending the teacher discount to more than films just for class, because teachers have to pay so much out of their own money.
Have you ever saved any movies from the dollar sales where you were like, "We can't sell that shit! We have to keep it in stock?"
They're all right here! [Motions to gigantic pile of movies he's saved from tomorrow's sale, including Joe Golds' Secret, Dance With the Devil, Lords of Flatbush, Punisher: War Zone, Uzumaki (Spiral), The Hills Have Eyes Pt. II, Hostel Pt. II, Psycho II and III, Air Guitar Nation, Best of the Power Rangers, and Samurai Jack]What's your all-time favorite terrible movie?
Oh, so many. Gymkata might win out. It stars 1984 Olympic gymnastics Gold Medal winner Kurt Thomas, traveling around Eastern Europe fighting ninjas. It's so bad, I love it. I watch it all the time. That might be my all-time favorite bad movie.
Which movie that you've shown on the in-store TVs has received the most complaints?
Well, I mean, I've shown Oldboy and Battle Royale in here. I watched The Thing for Halloween one year. I just watched Prince of Darkness. I watch a lot of John Carpenter movies that I really shouldn't in here. Then there's that scene from Mean Girls where they talk about the Burn Book, that drew a big complaint. But usually it's just parents with their kids in the store, goin' like, "Hey guys." I try to be on top of that. You gotta pick the night well. Some nights I can totally show Oldboy, and other nights Mean Girls will get complaints. Or Bring It On.
What's your favorite story about tracking down a movie that someone hasn't returned yet?
Usually someone will just be like, "I know who that person is." I've never broken into anyone's house or stalked someone of Facebook. Three Criterion movies, two years ago, for your second rental? I'll just charge the card. I'll always make a call first, but I enjoy charging the cards. It's like, "Let's decide however many late fees we're gonna charge you on top of that." If it's just some whatever movie, I'll give 'em a deal, but sometimes I'll be like, "That movie?! Oooooooooohhhhh!"What has been the most-stolen movie at Video Droid?
Blow, Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas, American Me, Blood In, Blood Out (Bound by Honor). I've had some of those stolen out of my picks before. Some movies we just stopped ordering for a while, like Fear & Loathing, because the Criterion edition was the only edition available for a long time. A lot of David Lynch stuff. Wild at Heart. David Lynch fans are shifty people. Cheech & Chong is kind of hard to keep track of, but usually with those people they just forget.
Have you ever been offered anything other than money to pay for late fees?
Food. Food's easy to get me with. People have brought me enchiladas, brownies. Regular amounts of wine, alcohol, beer. It's easy to get me with beer. Dave has a story about a girl offering to flash him if he would rent her a new release before the official date. Unfortunately that's never happened to me, I woulda been all hell yeah.
Didn't you have a death metal band that played one show in the parking lot here?
Uh, yeah. Shitstorm. Shitstorm played a show here once. Heironymous played here a couple times, that was my band. We had a few people coming in off the street going "Yeah, brother! Yeah, brother!"What is your proudest contribution to the decór around here?
A lot of little touches, but I think the one I'm most proud of hung above the adult section. It's the Italian passage that hangs over the entrance to hell in Dante's inferno, and it ends with the "Abandon hope all ye who enter." That I'm going to be taking with me.
What are you gonna miss the most about working here?
Oh, a lot. I've spent a lot of time here. The co-workers. Some of the customers. The movies. Oh, the movies. I just love movies and film. I love everything about 'em.Thomas is off to tech-ier pastures, working for Sonic.net. If you're modem's acting up and you happen to get him as your customer service rep, make him feel at home and start asking about Jean-Luc Godard.Best of luck, holmes.
Steve Doty is a diehard Russian River Brewing Co. fan. Unfortunately, it turns out that he's not as diehard as those who started lining up outside the downtown brewpub early this morning. On the sidewalk today at 1pm, wearing a Pliny the Younger shirt, he surveyed the line ahead of him with his wife, Erin. "I didn't think it would be this crazy," he said, shaking his head. "Obviously, I was wrong."
Today's 11am release of Russian River Brewing Co.'s Pliny the Younger—a beer of the Gods that last year sold out instantly and was then traded on Criagslist and eBay for up to $160 per growler—caused such a havoc that a line stretched all the way down Fourth Street in Santa Rosa. Steve, sadly, stood at the very end. "Last year we got in pretty quick," he said. "There's a cult for it. I mean, it's a little bit of a gimmicky thing—you really would not want a pint of this every day after work. But you can't get a beer like this, with so many hops in one beer, anywhere else. It's more like a hop wine than a beer."
Mentioning that people used to put hops in their pillows to aid sleep, Steve, a home brewer himself, says a high-hop beer like Pliny the Younger has medicinal qualities. "Or," offered Erin, as the line didn't move at all, "you could have a reaction where it's too much. An overdose of hops."
Last year, Steve and Erin had no problem getting their beer fix, but obviously, word has gotten out about Pliny the Younger. This year, Russian River Brewing Co. took a different approach to their release: rather than sell truckloads of off-sale beer for opportunist collectors to trade and sell for exorbitant prices, angering the everyman beer drinker, they're meting out two weeks' worth of the beer from a select number of kegs each day—no one knows exactly how many. The only way to get it to go, as they say, is "in your tummy," but they'll be pouring it until Feb. 17 so everyone should be able to get a taste.
And how does it taste? We caught up with Imi Doktor, a Hungarian beer fan, coming out the brewery's back exit. "It's just as good as last year," he told us. "I would travel 5,000 miles just to get it."
As for Steve and Erin, we can only guess that they're looking up Pliny the Younger clone recipes on beer blogs right now.
Established as Santa Rosa's meager answer to downtown Portland's famous blocks-long street food carts, Munch Mondays so far is just a handful of trucks. That's bound to change. The crowd today wasn't just a bunch of food bloggers and culture vultures—it was made up of businesspeople on a lunch break, downtown residents and merchants out for a quick bite. In other words, exactly the people Munch Mondays had hoped to attract. "I just feel bad that we're out of so many things," quipped Jilly Dorman (above), co-owner of the Street-Eatz truck and unofficial spokesperson for food cart owners.I couldn't stay long, so I just grabbed a quick burrito from La Texanita, which had the shortest lines. (Dim Sum Charlie's and Fork seemed to be slammed, and the Chicago Hot Dog guy who usually sells in Anarchy Alley next to Ting Hao was doing brisk business too.) But in the short time I was there, I did run into Bob Coburn, of the original Bob's Fruit Truck. After selling food and wrangling with the law (and with the perception of competition from Petrini's Market) for 25 years on Highway 12, a case could be made that Bob was the original street food purveyor in Santa Rosa.But that's not true, actually, and brings to mind an important story.In his old age, while working as a low-paid janitor at the courthouse, Santa Rosa's native son Julio Carrillo—who essentially founded this city with his philanthropic gifts of land—sold tamales for a time on Fourth Street in Courthouse Square to make ends meet. Historically, that would make Julio Carrillo the original street food purveyor on Santa Rosa. No wonder we love street food so much! It's in our blood, people.A little more info. on Munch Mondays is here. Be there each Monday, from 11:30am-2:00pm, in what we still charmingly refer to as the "White House Parking Lot," even though the White House department store hasn't been there for over 30 years but damn if I don't remember watching cartoons in a little coin-op booth while my mom shopped there when I was 5. Bring an appetite, 'cause this burrito I just finished at my desk was outstanding.