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Debriefer: September 27, 2016 

Winter relief for the homeless, and Brown signs McGuire bills on SDC and whale protection

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SLEEPLESS IN SANTA ROSA

The Sonoma County chapter of Organizing for Action (COFA) gave us the heads-up that the Santa Rosa City Council would soon vote on a proposal to stem the city's growing homeless problem. OFA's Linda Hemenway went to city hall yesterday (Sept. 27) to lobby the council on a Safe Camping proposal that would extend options to the homeless-in-cars local population by allowing homeless people in the city limits to occupy new campsites—and perhaps cook on propane barbecues or camp stoves.

The organization Homeless Action! proposed the Safe Camping initiative that was taken up by the council's Homeless Policy Sub-Committee, which unanimously approved the plan on Sept. 19. Homeless advocate Adrienne Lauby expects it will be taken up by the full council in October. One of the key aspects of the plan would be to allow homeowners to participate by "opening the door for people with private property to set up campsites," Lauby says. The guidelines passed by the committee, she says, set "a legal framework so that nonprofits, churches and private property owners can allow encampments on their properties this winter."

Still on the Homeless Action! agenda is a push to get the city itself to set aside some land for camping, and to fund portable bathrooms and trash pickups wherever the campsites are ultimately located. Public education efforts are meanwhile ongoing. There's a Homeless Talk kick-off event on Sept. 29, 5:30–7:30pm at Santa Rosa Christian Church, 1315 Pacific Ave., Santa Rosa. Lauby asks that attendees RSVP at homelesstalk@gmail.com

MCGUIRE THE MONITOR

On Sept. 24, Healdsburg state senator Mike McGuire got the good news that Gov. Jerry Brown had signed his bill designed to monitor the transition of patients out of the Sonoma Developmental Center as it heads toward a planned closure next year. The SDC currently houses "nearly 400 of the most medically fragile patients in the state system," says McGuire in a statement, and until Brown signed his bill, there was no way for authorities to monitor and evaluate the transition from the development center to the community.

SAVING THE WHALES

McGuire cares about whales, too, and Gov. Brown signed another of his bills last week—SB 1287, which aims to reduce incidents of whales entangled in lost or abandoned crabbing gear. The Whale Protection and Crab Gear Retrieval Act builds on a voluntary pilot program enacted two years ago which McGuire says has led to the recovery of 1,500 crab pots. The entanglements are "skyrocketing" off the California coast, McGuire says, and 2015 was the worst year since the National Marine Fisheries Service started tracking the problem in 1982: last year, 57 whales were entangled in line attached to crab pots, even as the Dungeness crab season was shut down because of domoic-acid-related health risks.

The whales are getting entangled in crab pots that have been on the ocean floor for years. Dungeness crabbers will now be issued a retrieval permit at the end of every crab season and will be paid a "recovery bounty" through industry fees for every pot they salvage. The bill also establishes a fee to be paid by owners who lose or abandon their crab trap. The new law also has claws to it: any crab fisherman who "doesn't buy back their lost or abandoned crab traps will not be able to get their vessel permit the next season."

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