The Morning After

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Kamala Harris is an inspiration. She gives me hope. Last night (Aug. 19), her passion was contagious. Authenticity shone through her smile and in her words. She embodied love. 

Justice, fortitude, dignity, resilience, strength, stamina, hope, commitment; these are all words we need to hear and expect to hear, but love? Only the bravest can voice this word and mean it, a word of such strength and tenderness that it sits like a shy bird on the palm.

We need that word and we need that sensibility in our leaders now more than ever. We need them to care deeply: to love what they do and to love us, the people they represent, enough to do the hard work that is required. I think Kamala Harris has what it takes. The guts to use the word and the sincerity to mean it.

I hope Joe Biden wins and surrounds himself with more strong, capable women who hold love as their sword and their shield. The collective strength of women is what makes us extraordinary. Ours is not a solitary power, based on personal striving and achievement; ours is the power of sisterhood, compassion, mutual service and caring. It is the power of love. Fierce love when called for, tender love when needed. 

Now is our time to take back and to heal this nation and the world. Our time to offer what we have as a group: the strength to endure, the vision to inspire and the guts to lead.  I saw that possibility revealed in Kamala Harris. I wish her Godspeed.   

Laura Bachman

San Anselmo

North Bay Cities Discuss Offering Alternative to Calling the Cops

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By Chelsea Kurnick

In the wake of nationwide police-reform protests, North Bay activists are pushing governments to move funding from law enforcement agencies to other social programs, including increased investments in mental healthcare in an effort to offset law enforcement agencies’ workload and keep residents safe.

Partly inspired by activists’ pleas to reallocate funding from law enforcement budgets to preventative social services, two Sonoma County public meetings focused on mental health services last week. Similar discussions took place in Marin County in recent months, but, as in Sonoma County, politicians have not yet found extra funding and seem largely hesitant to take it from law enforcement agencies as some activists have suggested.

On Friday, Aug. 7, Santa Rosa’s recently-formed Public Safety Subcommittee met to discuss crisis response alternatives to armed police dispatch for calls concerning mental health and homeless people. On Tuesday, Aug. 4, the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to put a measure on November ballots that would create a quarter-cent sales tax to fund local mental health, addiction and homeless services. 

At their Aug. 7 meeting, the three members of Santa Rosa’s Public Safety Subcommittee—including Mayor Tom Schwedhelm—were enthusiastic about launching a program like Eugene, Oregon’s Crisis Assistance Helping Out On The Streets (CAHOOTS). 

CAHOOTS dispatches teams of two, consisting of an EMT or nurse and a crisis worker with a mental health specialization—both unarmed—to calls for mental health support and other non-violent situations. 

Santa Rosa Police Captain John Cregan gave a detailed presentation about CAHOOTS alongside other models of crisis response, including dispatching police officers in polo shirts and jeans, which Cregan says happens in San Antonio, TX. Cregan is also on the Board of Directors of National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Sonoma County. 

CAHOOTS, which launched in 1989 through the nonprofit organization White Bird Clinic, is now a 24-hour service in Eugene and Springfield, Oregon, dispatched through the Eugene police-fire-ambulance communications center and Springfield’s non-emergency police number. 

Cregan noted in his presentation that Eugene, which has a population of about 171,000, is a similarly-sized city to Santa Rosa. Eugene Police Department (EPD) received almost the same number of calls for service as Santa Rosa did in 2019, according to Cregan. 

In 2018, CAHOOTS responded to nearly 23,000 calls, which accounted for almost 20 percent of EPD’s public safety call volume. Among other things, these calls might have included people experiencing psychosis, suicidal ideation and substance addiction, or people in need of shelter.

Not only does CAHOOTS offer an alternative to police response in these cases, the scope of CAHOOTS work goes beyond that which law enforcement officers provide. 

Cregan said that some of CAHOOTS’ work is “out of the scope of the work of the police department or the fire department, but definitely provides a service to their community. So they’ll transport people to get their prescription drugs refilled. They’ll transport people to doctor’s appointments, they’ll even transport people, like, to Social Security.” 

Calling these types of support an “upstream approach” to crises, Cregan echoed a sentiment expressed by NAMI Sonoma County Executive Director Mary-Frances Walsh. 

“Crisis care is the most expensive form of care,” said Walsh. “We’re spending so much money at the most expensive levels of service, because people need it, obviously. But it’s taking away from the programs that could help avoid crises in the first place.”  

Live public comments during the meeting were nearly all in support of Santa Rosa establishing a CAHOOTS-type program, many calling for it to be created by reallocating funds currently within the SRPD budget. 

A community member named Jolie called for a more compassionate response to mental health crises, addiction and homelessness. 

“I feel very emotional about this topic,” Jolie said. “I was a youth that struggled with drug addiction and was in programs and was a ward of the court. And now I’m sitting in city council meetings and trying to get you guys to see that … adding more money to the police and having them respond to mental health crisis calls and homelessness is not the way of our future.”  

An educator named Melissa said, “We need to be supporting the folks in our communities, rather than punishing them—which is essentially what we are doing now. You are punished for being homeless, you are punished for having a mental health crisis.”

Although the current proposals in Sonoma County wouldn’t remove funding from law enforcement agencies—in the case of Santa Rosa, it seems that funding for a CAHOOTS-like program would go through the police department, possibly leading to a budget increase—the council’s discussion indicates renewed thought about a question raised by activists around the country. The core question: Are law enforcement officers best equipped to respond to calls related to a mental health crisis?

Activists who support defunding law enforcement tend to say no.

“Defunding the police moves in the direction of eliminating roles that police have taken on—like crisis mental health support—for which they are not experts and which could be done by trained people for less. So it is making budget decisions that reallocate funds to services like mental health and education instead of policing, and in that sense it certainly eliminates some of the work that police are doing,” Lisa Bennett, a representative of Showing up for Racial Justice’s Marin chapter, told the Marin Independent Journal in June.

Current Alternatives

Kelley Payne, a Santa Rosa resident, recently created a mini-zine called Who to call instead of 911: Sonoma County Resources for when you don’t want to call the cops. Payne was inspired by an image she saw in local activist groups online listing mostly national numbers to call instead of the police. 

Who to call instead of 911 is my offering to the community to not only help folks on the ground right now, but also to encourage the public to begin envisioning a world where calling the police is not the first course of action for non-emergency situations,” Payne said.

Payne’s zine presents dozens of wide-ranging resources, from mental health support phone lines to local food banks to domestic violence shelters. However, when it comes to critical mental health care needs, Payne finds that Sonoma County falls short of offering resources that don’t involve police. The zine notes, “Some police jurisdictions have something called the Mobile Support Team (MST) that is available certain hours to respond alongside police. They are clinicians who are much more skilled and trained to respond to mental health crises.” 

Payne said, “Being able to receive help from a culturally competent agency or nonprofit, without the threat of arrest or (in some cases fatal) harm could be life changing for the Black, Brown and Indigenous communities in Sonoma County.”

The current annual budget for CAHOOTS is $1.16 million, which includes a fleet of vehicles that allows the team to transport clients. Santa Rosa Vice Mayor Victoria Fleming noted there is more demand for CAHOOTS’ services than their budget enables them to meet. 

“I would love this program to be robust and to meet as many of the community’s needs as possible so that we can work toward de-escalation, demilitarization and decriminalization of things that are not actually criminal behavior,” Fleming said. 

Mayor Schwedhelm said, “I’m at the point where we need to bring the CAHOOTS model to Santa Rosa. We don’t need to wait.” 

Santa Rosa is not alone in looking to implement a CAHOOTS-like program. Denver launched its own version in 2019, and cities across the nation are considering similar pilot programs. 

After visiting White Bird Clinic, Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden introduced a national CAHOOTS Act on Aug. 4, which would grant enhanced Medicaid funding to “help states adopt their own mobile crisis response models….”

Critically, the CAHOOTS Act stipulates, “Mobile crisis teams must not be operated by or affiliated with state or local law enforcement agencies, though teams may coordinate with law enforcement if appropriate.”

This is distinct from the model of Sonoma County’s current MST, mentioned in Payne’s zine. MST is a small team of mental health professionals whom law enforcement officers may call, if they choose, to a scene once the officers have deemed it secure. 

Since its inception in 2012, MST has gradually expanded the geographical areas it serves and the police departments it partners with, yet budget cuts have also shortened its hours. 

In Marin County, the Health and Human Services department operates the Mobile Crisis Team (MCT) which offers similar services to Sonoma’s MST. However, historically, Marin County’s crisis response program has not had much funding either. 

According to the Point Reyes Light, staff at Marin’s MCT received an average of 35 calls and responded 18 times each week this May. And, although the county received a one-year state grant to boost the program, MCT will still only have a minute fraction of the capacity of local law enforcement agencies. 

Today, Sonoma’s MST has offices in Petaluma, Santa Rosa and Guerneville. Its coverage boundaries extend from Petaluma in the south to Windsor in the north and Sonoma in the east to much of West County. Though it does not have an official partnership with Healdsburg or Cloverdale Police, MST Director Karin Sellite says the team has occasionally been called upon for support in these jurisdictions. 

When asked if there is a plan to make MST available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, Sellite said, “We would love to. There’s a desire for it in the community, certainly. We don’t have the budget to be 24/7. We could certainly be, if we had the funding.”

Sellite explained that MST used to be in Santa Rosa and Windsor seven days a week from 2pm until midnight. Then, around 2015, a shift in funding required them to cut their hours back. Presently, MST works from 1–9pm Monday through Friday, but their phones are only on between 1:30pm and 8:30pm, and with no overtime budget, a request toward the end of the shift may not allow time for MST to respond to the call. 

In his presentation to Santa Rosa City Council subcommittee, Cregan noted that SRPD utilized MST on 137 calls in the 2018 fiscal year and 101 calls in the 2019 fiscal year, 0.07 percent of the 137,690 calls for service the department says it responded to in calendar year 2019.

While someone calling 911 may request that they would like MST to be dispatched right then, police go to the scene first and decide whether they feel MST will be helpful.

In the worst situations, the difference between dispatching a mental health professional and a law enforcement officer can have lethal consequences if an officer responds to a person’s mental breakdown with force, instead of successfully deescalating the situation.

“Although we have really excellent working relationships with all of the law enforcement entities that we work with, there are individual officers who just love us and they call us all the time—and there are probably officers who don’t really get it and just don’t call us,” Sellite says. 

Sellite says that, just before Covid-19 began, MST was starting to pilot with West County Community Health Center to allow the health centers to call them directly rather than going through law enforcement first.

If the quarter-cent Sonoma County tax passes in November, it will generate an estimated $25 million dollars annually, some of which will support the chronically underfunded MST, according to Leah Benz, Sonoma County Program Planning & Evaluation Analyst.

County polling indicates strong support for the measure—greater than 70 percent support in a recent survey of 615 likely voters throughout the county. That said, it will need two-thirds support to pass, which is a substantial hurdle. 

Three groups of North Bay business leaders—North Bay Leadership Council, North Coast Builders Exchange and Sonoma County Farm Bureau—have voiced opposition to all proposed tax increases until 2022, citing economic concerns amidst the pandemic. 

Supervisor Lynda Hopkins expressed concerns about funded opposition to the measure and said that the county should be thinking about a Plan B to ensure the county’s Behavioral Health programs can be secured and expanded. 

How the money would be used is already largely determined. 

“The goal of the expenditure plan is to protect programs that are in jeopardy and expand needed services,” Benz said.

By Chelsea Kurnick

Open Mic: PG&E erects unsightly monster

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Once again, PG&E is up to its dirty tricks. Without specific prior notice or a public review process, PG&E erected a gargantuan power pole with banks of unsightly transformers and a high voltage electric switch in a densely packed residential street across from a public park in Sausalito. We have been told by PG&E officials that these same power poles will be appearing in residential neighborhoods all over Marin, as a means of combating wildfires by shutting off power with specificity. Who’s next?

Because this neighborhood and our city officials were taken by surprise—PG&E had simply informed us they were doing “routine maintenance”—this pole is obstructing views for many in this middle-class neighborhood occupied by tiny homes with big views. As a result of PG&E’s negligence, many homes in the area now have unsightly views of power transformers where pristine views of the city and the bay once were.

In fact, with this power pole planted in front of it, a recently listed house has had to reduce its sale price substantially as its once pristine view is now obstructed. But aside from obstructed views and impacted home prices, there is a concern about the inherent dangers and possible health hazards from the EMFs this contraption emits so close to homes and directly across from a public park where children play. Lastly, the area of town where this pole was installed is known for its heavy winds—many have already witnessed the transformers swaying in winds that are not considered heavy for this neighborhood.

In order to safeguard our views, Sausalito is known for its tight permit process, yet we have been told by city officials that there is “very little” they can do to help residents combat PG&E’s reckless placement of this monster in our midst. It is indicative of an era of corporate dominance that PG&E has more authority over the quality of our lives than our elected officials do.

Ariel B. keeps busy during pandemic

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By j. poet

San Francisco singer Ariel B. is facing the pandemic that has shut down the Bay Area with a heart full of song. 

Her video for “Keep On (Quarantine Style),” a song she recorded in San Rafael with Grammy winning producer Narada Michael Walden, opens with her walking down the deserted streets of the Mission district. The song’s rhythm suggests the beating of a distressed heart, one that’s soothed by Walden’s tranquil keyboard fills and B.’s stirring vocals. She gently sings, “Sometimes it’s hard to sleep at night, worried about some fears inside…” before sliding smoothly into the uplifting chorus: “I just keep, keep, keep on.”

“Keep On” is one of the songs B. and Walden have been recording together over the past year. Although she’s well known on the local club scene for her dynamic performances, her work with Walden was poised to catapult her onto the national stage. Then everything shut down. “We have a lot of things we’ve been working on, in various stages of completion,” B. says, “but we have to abide by social distancing guidelines, so it’s harder to get things done.” 

B. grew up in San Francisco’s Bayview neighborhood and studied classical music and opera at the Ruth Asawa School of the Arts, but was more moved by popular music artists like Whitney Houston. 

“I remember seeing Narada Michael Walden’s production credits on her records. I always dreamed about working with him,” she says.

Through her connections to music producer Kenny Allen, B. suddenly found herself driving to Walden’s Tarpan Studio in San Rafael last year. 

“I still get chills remembering it. Whenever I thought of the magic behind my favorite songs, it was always a Narada production,” she says. “After I got home from our first meeting, I opened my email one day. He’d sent me the synthesizer track for ‘Keep On.’ It took me 10 minutes to write the words and create my own vocal melody over the changes.” The next day, she was back in Walden’s studio finishing a rough draft of the song.

B. kept working her day job, but spent every spare moment at Tarpan studios. The plan was to record and release a song a month onto the usual digital platforms, leading up to the release of an EP. Although things have slowed down, B. is keeping busy, working on a Christmas album with producer Jeff Weber and honing her songwriting skills. 

“I work from a place of pure emotion, based on heartbreak; something I have a lot of experience with,” she says. “I also write happier stuff. I write all the time, but sometimes I take a break, if I feel like I’m in my head too much. A lot of songs are just floating in space. You just need to get into a place where you can hear them, but I have to feel them deeply. If you want to evoke emotion in someone else, you have to feel it yourself.”

Watch the music video for “Keep On” at arielbofficial.com/latest. 

Letters: News Talk

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People need to continue to speak out against the toxins in our food (“Roundup Row,” News, Aug 5). The only thing I don’t agree with in this article is that people can’t afford to buy organic. I have eaten almost 95 percent organic for the past 4 or 5 years. I can buy an entire box of tomatoes at the organic market near me for 5 dollars. I spend about 50 dollars a week there.

I think people buy too much junk. Our country needs to ban all glyphosate and toxic products. In Europe and Russia they are already banned. Russia is the first country to go completely organic. What’s wrong with our government? It seems to me they care more about money than people’s health.

Patricia Dougherty

Via Pacificsun.com

Thank you for this wonderful article (“Roundup Row,” News, Aug 5). In terms of the history of grapes and wine, glyphosate is a newcomer. We have made wine for centuries without it and I look forward to a time when all grape growers recognize that they don’t need to use it.

Barbara Sattler

Via bohemian.com

Yay for Nikki Berrocal (“Roundup Row,” News, Aug 5). She’s doing great work. We need all the help we can get to help make Sonoma County and Cannabis Growers create a better relationship. It will be a ‘win-win’ for all.

Nancy Birnbaum

Via bohemian.com

“Organic” wineries are among the worst point-source water polluters in American agriculture (“Roundup Row,” News, Aug 5). Their use of copper sulfate—an approved organic pesticide—is the reason. As to “organic” food production—it is more of a contributor to climate problems than modern farming practices. It also results in less food per unit area. Just what a starving World needs.

Ben Thomas

Via Pacificsun.com

Defending Dreamers

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Thank you for this explanation of what DACAs face in our court system. (“Dreams Deferred,” News, July 29)

I’m surprised and angry that our (Sonoma County) DA is being so brutal in this case. It seems they are not only ignoring, but violating the Penal Code Sections 1016.2 and 1016.3 mentioned. This was a first time offence (I assume), and the Dreamer had a job and was in school!

Leslie Ronald 

Via bohemian.com

Sad to See

Poignant prose … (“Sadness in His Madness,” Open Mic, July 29). They tug at my heartstrings at the traffic light. I always give them a few bucks; but for the grace of God it could be me on that curb.

JD Compian

Via Bohemian.com

Live Online

I enjoy the online theater (“Out of the Dark,” Feature, July 22) from BroadwayHD, Broadway on demand and National Theater in London. If there were mostly online productions that would be fine with me. 

Since it is difficult to get to Broadway or the West End from Sonoma County, online is the perfect alternative. I would like local companies to do more virtual performances. The time has come to embrace virtual technology.

Larry Loebig

Via Bohemian.com

Waive It 

A working nurse at a Petaluma hospital that cares for Covid-19 patients, emailed me, “How about having the Covid waiver include waiving all rights to medical treatment if you get the virus!” (“Pandemic Fuel,” News, July 22). That is a good point. 

Peter Byrne

Via Bohemian.com

A call for reform

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This is a plea for any reform-minded citizens to run for the open seats on the Marin Municipal Water District board currently held by Larry Russell, District 5 (Corte Madera, Tiburon, Belvedere) and Armando Quintero, District 2 (San Rafael). We need someone new who will look out for the best interests of the ratepayers.

For years now the Board has turned a blind eye to the corruption at MMWD. The district suffers from excessive management salaries, nepotism and cronyism, financial mismanagement, inefficiency and incompetence. Both Russell and Quintero have approved salary and pension spiking. Russell rarely attends meetings in person. Quintero basically lives and works in Merced. Each one gets $200 per meeting and paid medical insurance.

Here is just one of many examples of corruption at MMWD: Their former general counsel, Mary Casey, whose 2018 total compensation was $376,742, used $35,000 in ratepayer funds to fly out a psychiatrist named Robert Weisman from Rochester, NY. Among Mr. Weisman’s many expenses: $9,468 for travel time; $206 for taxis; $773 for hotels; $56 for parking and $217 for meals. But the most glaring example of corruption is his $2,347 airfare. An online search will show that a roundtrip from Rochester to San Francisco is only $600. It’s no wonder that we pay some of the highest water rates in the country.

So, why didn’t Mary Casey just hire a local doctor and save us all a few thousand dollars? It’s because Mr. Weisman is a friend of one of the members of Mary Casey’s goon squad, Bobbi Lambert, who runs a company called “Confidante” from her home in Novato. Ms. Lambert pulled in nearly $30,000 on this same scam. This is an absolute abuse of power and a waste of ratepayer resources.

If Russell and Quintero succeed in staying in power you can be sure that right after the November election our water rates will go up again so they can continue to finance their wasteful spending. Let’s show both of them the door so we can have a water district that serves the people instead of self-serving bureaucrats.

Eric Morey lives in Woodacre.

Attorney fights for immigration-neutral ruling

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After leaving a Petaluma bar one night in February 2019, Miguel Rodriguez was arrested for drinking and driving. Rodriguez, who grew up in Sonoma County, is an undocumented immigrant and a participant in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

The DACA program, established in 2012, does not entail a path toward citizenship for participants but does provide some stability to participants, commonly known as Dreamers. Participants admit that they are deportable, but are protected from deportation during their enrollment, which is renewable every two years. While enrolled, they are also eligible for a work permit. 

About 200,000 DACA recipients live in California. In 2017, Trump tried to end the DACA program, though it was upheld in the Supreme Court in June 2020. On Tuesday, July 28, Trump announced new plans to limit the scope of the program. 

Rodriguez asked to use a pseudonym in order to protect his family.

Because DUI convictions make a person ineligible for DACA, the legal proceedings which kicked off that night—and are still ongoing—set off a series of changes in Rodriguez’s life that a U.S. citizen facing the same charges would not experience.

Rodriguez’s lawyer Heather Wise says that the Sonoma County District Attorney’s office ignored their legal responsibility to consider her client’s immigration status and to avoid immigration consequences while bringing him to justice.

Because Rodriguez’s experience is not especially unique among immigrants navigating the justice system in California, his story sheds light on the challenges created when one’s legal status in the U.S. is insecure.

“We think of immigration as solely controlled by the federal government, but really, local players have a lot of power over deciding who gets deported and who doesn’t,” Rose Cahn, a senior staff attorney at the Immigration Legal Resource Center (ILRC) explains. “Prosecutors in their charging and plea bargaining posture really are the gatekeepers to the deportation pipeline.”

At the time of his arrest, Rodriguez was enrolled in college, working and living away from home. He had two drinks at a Petaluma bar and left near closing time. At a stop light, he came to a complete stop part-way into an empty crosswalk. When Petaluma police arrested Rodriguez, his blood alcohol content (BAC) was 0.127 percent, over the legal limit of 0.08 percent, according to court documents.

If a U.S. citizen is convicted of a first DUI offense, common consequences may include three to five years of probation, DUI school, fines, six months of driver’s license suspension, installation of an interlock breathalyzer device in one’s car, and more. Upon completion of DUI probation, those convicted are eligible to petition for expungement, which allows a plea to be withdrawn and the case dismissed.

The consequences are more serious for DACA recipients. A DUI is considered a significant misdemeanor offense and makes Rodriguez exempt from DACA eligibility, which could subject him to ICE detention, among other ramifications.

Wise and Rodriguez asked the district attorney for a plea to an alternate charge colloquially known as a “wet reckless,” which would have allowed for Rodriguez to be sentenced to all of the same possible consequences as a DUI without making him ineligible to renew his DACA.

Wet reckless is a charge of reckless driving that carries a note referencing that alcohol or drugs were involved. No one can be initially cited for a wet reckless—it’s a reduced sentence that someone charged with a DUI may plead guilty to in a plea bargaining.

The prosecutors on Rodriguez’s case refused the bargain, stating in an email that they considered the collateral consequences and, “given the [defendant’s] BAC and public safety risk, a wet is not appropriate.”

Rodriguez says, “We spent nine months urging the DA to consider the immigration consequences in my case, essentially reminding them of their own responsibility. I completed a six-month DUI Program—part of the sentencing conditions—before I was convicted of the crime to show the court I take this matter very seriously. A misdemeanor conviction that comes more than six months after the arrest date represents a gross failing of the justice system.”

During the plea bargaining process, Rodriguez and Wise proactively offered that the defendant could, in exchange for the reduced charge, face harsher consequences than the proposed three years of probation the prosecution sought. In exchange for an immigration-neutral sentence, Rodriguez offered to serve additional jail time, complete community service hours, install an interlock device, or wear a continuous alcohol monitoring device to prohibit drinking entirely.

The deputy district attorney prosecuting the case rejected every offer, according to emails and court documents reviewed by the Bohemian. The prosecutor’s supervisor also stated that he did not believe a wet reckless was in the interest of justice.

“It’s just plain false to assert that consideration of immigration consequences requires giving some lesser punishment to non-citizen defendants; it doesn’t,” Cahn says. 

With no option for a wet reckless, Rodriguez was ineligible to renew his DACA status, which requires renewal every two years. It expired in August 2019. Without DACA, Rodriguez lost his job, which meant that he could not afford to keep living on his own. He quit the college classes he was taking in the South Bay and moved back home with his parents.

In December 2019, Rodriguez entered a “no contest” plea to the DUI charges and was sentenced to three years of probation.

On Wednesday, July 29, he will return to court and a judge will rule on his petition for an early termination of probation and expungement. If Rodriguez’s case is expunged then, he will have until August 30, 2020—one year from its expiration—to renew his DACA status.

So, why do prosecutors need to care about a defendant’s immigration status?

In 2016 and 2017, California Legislature passed Penal Code Sections 1016.2 and 1016.3, respectively. Co-authored by the ILRC, the first law states that defense attorneys have a constitutional obligation to advise and defend noncitizen clients from the immigration consequences of offenses. The second law places a parallel requirement on prosecutors to always consider the avoidance of the immigration consequences when engaging in plea bargaining.

Functionally, these penal codes mean that the district attorney is asked to recognize that loss of eligibility for DACA is a punishment that may be more severe than is warranted by a defendant’s charges.

Cahn explains that, for years, prosecutors would often say that to consider immigration consequences of crimes would violate equal protection or somehow give benefit to non-citizens.

“[This legislature] gives us a very powerful tool to say, ‘No, in fact, you must consider those consequences, and you must consider the avoidance of those consequences because the legislature directs you to do so.’” 

The Bohemian emailed to Sonoma County Chief Deputy District Attorney Brian Staebell with general questions about his office’s understanding and application of the 2016–17 state laws governing the treatment of immigration consequences.

Staebell told the Bohemian, “California Legislature placed a responsibility on the prosecution to consider adverse immigration consequences as one factor during plea negotiations. We, as an office, are very aware of our responsibilities in this regard, and we have held training on the subject on more than one occasion.”

However, Wise argues that the Sonoma County’s District Attorney’s office is not truly considering Rodriguez’s immigration status in the proceedings, from their lack of urgency to their lack of acknowledgement of the inequitable impact that the punishment they sought for him carries.

Cahn says that California lawmakers wrote the recent laws because they recognized the value of the state’s immigrants and the impacts of deportation.

“California has the highest immigrant population of any state in the country—one out of every four of us was born outside the country,” she says. “One out of every two children goes to bed at night with a parent born outside the U.S. We as a state understand that deportations wreak havoc on our communities. These laws require that all the key stakeholders in the criminal legal system understand the immigration consequences of crimes and, in effect, take pains to mitigate or eliminate those consequences.”

Cahn says that immigration consequences are often illogical and there is often nothing preferential about dispositions that do not trigger immigration consequences versus those that do.

The ILRC argues that a wet reckless is an appropriate alternative charge to a DUI for immigrant defendants, specifically because it allows for a judge to impose any of the same consequences in the interest of public safety.

“We’re not saying someone should escape accountability for their alleged conduct, and we understand prosecutors have a duty to protect public safety,” Cahn says. “We are saying that protecting public safety doesn’t require that the defendant also be deported at the end of their criminal case.”

In their article, “A View Through the Looking Glass: How Crimes Appear from the Immigration Court Perspective,” judges Dana Leigh Marks and Denise Noonan Slavin write, “The United States Supreme Court has called the effect of being ordered deported or removed to be the equivalent of banishment, a sentence to life in exile, loss of property, life or all that makes life worth living, and, in essence, a ‘punishment of the most drastic kind.’”

Cahn says, “Increasingly we are seeing prosecutors adopt immigration policies that govern their office’s practices—Alameda County, Marin County, Contra Costa County, all have newly revised or newly-adopted immigration policies that provide some direction to all of the line DAs.”

So far, Wise says that the Sonoma County District Attorney has not taken that step. 

Cahn says that she has worked closely with elected district attorneys in the aforementioned counties and led trainings for the California District Attorneys Association, but has never worked with the Sonoma County prosecutor office. 

Sadness in His Madness

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A Poem of Bearing Witness

By Paul E. Cheney

A beggar stands bored

Reaches for his pocket

Finds nothing restored

His cigarette hangs

As disgust plagues his ways

Remorse for him

A way of life

Slow death, without change

Paths to follow, or rearrange

I felt sorry, as often I do

When many a poor man

Enters my view

No other direction, nor inflection

Of an exit, for a prosper

Richer sight ahead

Many wishing, and knowing

They were better off dead

He shakes come morning

Worries without warning

Begs at passersby

Wonders not at questions why

Drinks ’til sunset

Considering tomorrow’s upset

Another day for the beggar man

Chalk one off for you and I

We can be there

Like him

Fate

Future

On a whim

Paul E. Cheney lives in Petaluma.

New Plan

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This is my third go around being homeless and flying under the radar. I am blind so I of course don’t have the luxury of being able to hide in a van, (“A Man, a Van, a Plan” Features, March 11) which means I have to be more creative. 

The safest thing for me to do before the pandemic was to hang out at one of the 24-hour restaurants near me. Since everything is closed now, pretty much the only way for me to sleep is on BART. I just ride around on the train for a couple hours unless the driver orders people to get off. 

Most of the time, they will just take a break for about five minutes and then turn the train right back around so if you go to San Francisco airport, it will just switch right back around and take you to Richmond. My number one fear is that a police officer will mistake me for someone who is loitering or on drugs. A more risky move for me is to sleep at the bus stop benches. The danger is that I never know if an officer might spot me while they are making their rounds.

People always say to me, why don’t you get a social worker or why don’t you go to one of the shelters that offer services? They will not treat me like a human being. Anytime I’ve tried to do that in the past, they automatically want me to attend counseling or take part in one of their job training programs. They assume that I became homeless because of poor choices that I made in my life. The truth is though that bad things do happen to good people. Along with everybody else, I did not ask for this pandemic to shut everything down. I think a lot of homeless people don’t want to come forward about their predicament for similar reasons as mine. They don’t want to be stereotyped. They don’t want to be labeled. A vast majority of us are decent people with loving hearts.

Hearn Stewart

Oakland

Via Bohemian.com

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New Plan

This is my third go around being homeless and flying under the radar. I am blind so I of course don’t have the luxury of being able to hide in a van, (“A Man, a Van, a Plan” Features, March 11) which means I have to be more creative.  The safest thing for me to do before the pandemic was...
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