Police Funding

Police funding in Santa Rosa CA is a complicated issueThe topic of police funding is a tricky one for a number of reasons. Most notably, it has been unfairly and politically transformed into the generic black or white question of whether one supports law enforcement and believes their funding should either go untouched (possibly even increased) or whether police departments should be shut down entirely and replaced with community policing programs. I believe, as I trust most people do, that we should land somewhere in the middle.

I wholeheartedly support our police department and do not believe the entire establishment should be shut down. At the same time, I believe our police are being asked to do too much. We as citizens have become accustomed to calling the police for every issue we don’t know how to handle. We have all seen reports of ridiculous calls to 911. Things like, a parking spot is too small, someone wants to complain about their neighbor vacuuming late at night, or is upset a fast food restaurant gave him or her the wrong change. Many people, when they are upset and want something fixed, call the police. Most of these types of calls are not actually responded to. However, some are, like ones related to homeless individuals or animals. The police are there to help so if they can, they will send someone out to talk with the homeless person shouting obscenities outside a downtown business. As a result, we have come to rely on them to do so. This was where we went wrong.

Police Funding in Santa Rosa CAAs police are expected to handle more of the types of cases that are not actually in their job description, they have requested more funds. And, because it is the police asking, more often than not, have received them. Finding this money means it often has to be taken from other services, ones that otherwise, with that funding, would have been able to handle some of these matters that the police are now dealing with. Handling these types of things also pulls the police from dealing with public safety issues and prevents them from having time to simply walk through neighborhoods, meeting and getting to know members of the community. They no longer have time to get to know people and build trust and respect with the communities in which they live and police. Instead, they are too busy getting a ladder out of the middle of the road or calming down a mentally unstable person yelling at passersby.

I believe some funding should be taken from the police departments and given to other services that would, in turn, handle some of the things that the police really shouldn’t be handling anyway. The biggest of these being mental health issues. The police are simply not sufficiently trained to deal with most of these types of issues. We need to have mental health services available to respond to urgent situations involving people with mental health issues. These people are trained to work with these people and would be more likely to be able to deescalate a situation. If things start to get out of hand or violent, the police can still be called. The police and these health care workers will have experience working together and, if need be, together, can handle an extreme situation.

There should also be mental health workers that have experience working with the homeless population. They should be walking through the homeless communities getting to know the people that live there. Know if there are individuals that want help obtaining services like housing or job training, and be able to direct them to those services. We also want these professionals to know if certain individuals are taking any medications and help them stay on those. These would be the people called if there is an incident with a homeless person that has mental health issues. This way, there may already be a relationship of trust between the individual being reported and the person that arrives on the scene. There also would not be the threat of jail, unless the situation escalates, and the person that arrives to help may be able to not only calm the situation, but hopefully be able to figure out what sparked it and take steps to prevent such an incident from happening again. These are the sorts of things that police are simply not in a position to do yet are expected to and have been given funding to do so.

By taking some funds from the police department and providing it to other support services, all areas of our community will improve including, importantly, trust and respect between police officers and those in their community.

Homelessness:

According to a Point-In-Time homeless count, as of June 2019, there were 2,951 homeless people in this county. A 3% drop from 2,996 in 2018. While the homeless population grew 4% from 2017 to 2019, it is 35% lower than in 2011. This, despite multiple wildfires. That’s because over the past two years, the County has been able to house 3,100 people.

 

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Wastewater:
Santa Rosa has been a leader in the use of recycled wastewater for over 40 years. We have one of the largest recycled water systems in the world! About 98% of the City’s recycled water is used to irrigate approximately 6,400 acres of agricultural lands and public and private urban landscaping, with more than 12.6 million gallons per day being recycled for the Geysers Recharge Project to generate enough electricity for 100,000 households.

The Laguna Treatment Plant is a wonderful and state-of-art facility here (with a fantastic tour!) that collects wastewater from Santa Rosa, as well as partnering cities and districts, through more than 500 miles of underground pipes. The wastewater goes through a three-step process of treatment prior to disinfection, storage, and reclamation.

I believe Santa Rosa Water Division has an excellent system in place for dealing with wastewater, and I support allowing its current model to continue in their efforts unhindered, with confidence that they will continue to excel and keep up with innovations in the industry.

Economic Recovery:
We need to draw more people to our downtown businesses by taking steps to support those businesses, especially during these truly unique and challenging times. Helping our homeless population is a big step towards accomplishing that. With that will come the public feeling safer using the public parking structures. We also need to promote small business creation throughout the City. We can encourage new, green jobs to come to the area by showing that we, as a city, support businesses trying to survive.

We have some unique areas that are often overlooked because they are not downtown. For example, the live/work complexes on Sebastopol Ave. in the seventh district. This is an area that has spaces for small businesses to open and housing all close to public transportation, yet this area struggles to actually draw businesses and customers. We need to support public transportation and bicycling, making it easier for people to get to the local stores they want to visit. Economic recovery is definitely a priority but it is important to understand that this is inextricably tied to protecting our environment. Tearing down one to try and build up the other will only cause both to fail sooner than we might expect Things like the Go Local campaign are good ideas but need to work to promote businesses in all areas of the City.

Measure Q:

Measure Q would eliminate two existing quarter cent sales taxes and replace them with a single half-cent sales tax. One of those quarter-cent taxes was passed in 2010 as Santa Rosa was coping with the Great Recession and is set to expire in 2027. The other was passed in 2018 and was pitched as necessary to deal with the fallout from the 2017 wildfires. That one is set to expire in 2025. If passed, the half-cent sales tax would be in effect until 2031.

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Alternative Transportation:

I think the city does a good job promoting bicycle use, with dedicated and newly painted bike lanes. However, the city’s bike renting program was not successful. There were too many hoops to jump through and the bikes were locked up in giant cages that were only accessible after people who wanted to use the bikes got a special card from the City and those were only available at certain times. It was so cumbersome, it did not make sense for people to participate in. It must be easier.

Our city has a strong bicycle coalition. I would reach out to them and get their thoughts on a bike rental program, maybe something they oversee, and is coordinated with local bike shops. We also need a better way to track down stolen bikes. Maybe some sort of embedded tracking device with a group dedicated to bicycle retrieval. My family has been hesitant to ride our bicycles to downtown because we are afraid they will be stolen. Promoting bicycle use is not just promoting riding bikes, but also giving people the confidence to trust their bike will be there when they exit the local business or restaurant.

 

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Police Funding:

I believe that the police are currently forced into areas that they are not properly trained for. Most significantly, this includes handling non violent issues with the homeless and mental health issues. Instead, funding should be taken from the police and funneled to mental health professionals who are tasked with working directly with the homeless, one on one, to ensure each person is getting the help and medication he or she needs. There should also be mental health professionals trained to handle situations involving mental health concerns of people who are not homeless. People who know how to safely interact with others who struggle with mental health.

This will free up the police to not only focus on what they are trained to do - public safety, but it will also give them time to walk the streets and get to know people in the community. This will help rebuild trust and real relationships with these people which will ultimately increase community building and trust in the police and in return, the police will have relationships with those in the community resulting in less aggressive responses.

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Public Pension System:

In the early 1900s, the concept of “retirement” was unknown to most. People essentially worked until they no longer could, due to illness, enfeeblement or death. In the first half of that century, retirement plans and public pensions began to surface as a light at the end of the tunnel. They provided a means to give workers a light at the end of the tunnel.

Initially, plans were simple and low-risk. They provided a steady accrual of low-interest earnings with very high reliability. As the years went by, people actually retired, leaving the active workforce and putting strains on reserves. This also coincided with a growing level of competency and innovations in the world of health care. People were retiring younger, and living longer. Investments into retirement plans had to become more aggressive, and created the need to take larger risks on those investments.

The maturation of public plans, growing public payrolls, and benefit enhancements have led to a meteoric rise in pension liabilities. The federal government maintains data on public-pension assets and liabilities going back to 1945. Comparing historical data on pension liabilities to the national gross domestic product gives a decent measure of the size of promised benefits relative to taxpayers' overall ability to pay. In 1960, state and local pension liabilities totaled approximately 12.6% of GDP. By 1990, the ratio had nearly doubled to 22.2% of GDP. Then between 1990 and 2017, the ratio nearly doubled again, growing to approximately 42% of GDP. The total value of retirement benefits already earned by public workers is higher today than it has ever been.

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