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Santa Cruz Mayor Lashes Out, Stonewalls on Public Meetings; Lethal SCPD Harassment Surges
In response to repeated requests for his Public Meeting schedule, a list of prior meetings with lobbyists, and a face-to-face meeting, Santa Cruz Mayor Ryan Coonerty responds with the following letter cutting off discussion, stonewalling on information required by the Public Records and Sunshine laws, and attacking the journalist. Meanwhile police are stepping up Xmas-time harassment downtown.
For the last year and half, Councilmember Coonerty (who was then appointed Vice-Mayor and recently Mayor) refusal to reveal the City's secret memo from City Attorney Barisone. Barisone has apparently advised City Council behind closed doors to spend money fighting a lawsuit requiring Santa Cruz to do what Los Angeles and San Diego have done--allow homeless people to sleep at night (somewhere--not anywhere and everywhere--but somewhere) without fear of camping tickets, given the ongoing shelter emergency.
In response to the City's unconstitutional and cruel anti-homeless policy, activists have picketed Coonerty's Bookshop Santa Cruz. Coonerty finally appeared on television, under condition I not be on the panel, in November on the Voices from the Village Live! show.
To view the entire Coonerty TV debate, go to
My commentary on the Sleeping Ban debate--from which I was excluded--can be heard at
Shortly before that, homeless activist Tim Rumford (whose blog humanitforhomeless.blogspot.com covers the Santa Cruz homeless scene) wrote an article for Street Spirit newspaper criticizing Coonerty.
See "Santa Cruz Sleeping Ban Struggle(for Street Spirit newspaper)" at
Mayor Coonerty responded to the protests at his store, the exclusionary tv debate, and the Street Spirit article
See "Mayor Coonerty's Reply" at http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2007/11/30/18464579.php?show_comments=1#18464658
I then requested a meeting (as is customary with each new Mayor) and other information he is required to reveal as a public official.
See "My Reply to Mayor Coonerty: Request for an Interview"
Street Spirit, the homeless newspaper that published Tim Rumford's critique of the Sleeping Ban and Mayor Coonerty, sent a response:
See "Street Spirit Editor Denounces Mayor Coonerty As 'Repulsive'"
After no response from the Mayor after 9 days, I sent another letter:
See "Mayor Still Silent After Two Requests for Meeting, Public Information"
SANTA CRUZ MAYOR RYAN COONERTY'S RECENT LETTER
On December 19th, I received the following letter from the Mayor:
December 14, 2007
This is in response to your email [sic] of December 12, 2007.
First I will be happy to give you any and all information to which you are legally entitled.
Second you are welcome to communicate your concerns to me via e-mail or phone messages. At this time, I will not meet with you in person as I have done in the past. My reasons for not meeting with you include the following:
1. Targeting the economic well being of my (non-elected) family members and friends as a means of influencing my public policy decisions.
2. Harassment and intimidation of city and Bookshop Santa Cruz staff.
3. Inappropriate comments to female members of City Commissions and my family members.
This is not meant to provoke a dialogue on this subject. For any future questions about arranging a meeting, please refer to this letter.
Mayor of Santa Cruz
MY PUBLIC RECORDS DEMAND OF MAYOR COONERTY
In response, I have e-mailed the Mayor the following Public Records Act request, asking for documentation of his serious charges of possible criminal conduct:
December 20, 2007
Thank you for your letter of December 14th.
In it you note “At this time I will not meet with you in person as I have done in the past. My reasons for not meeting with you include the following: ... Harassment and intimidation of city and Bookshop Santa Cruz staff.”
Please provide any record whatsoever including but not limited to notes, memos, journals, correspondence, complaints, requests for public assistance, records of 911 or interdepartmental calls, whether written, electronic, audio, videotaped, or anecdotal re: your claim of “harassment and intimidation of city staff”.
In order to assist me in identifying the appropriate records of the alleged harassment and intimidation, please state in each case whether the alleged incidents are considered civil or criminal in nature.
I would like the following information on each incident if it is not evident in the records sought:
1. date and time of the incident.
2. location (whether on public or private property)
3. alleged subjects of harassment or intimidation
As regards any alleged criminal incident, please provide the names of any witnesses.
Also specify to the best of your knowledge whether any criminal investigation has been initiated or completed.
Thanks in advance for your assistance.
SECOND LETTER RENEWS EARLIER PUBLIC RECORDS ACT REQUEST
Since the above letter was simply a demand that he document the most serious charges, I followed up with a second letter, reminding him he still hadn't answered the questions raised in my letters of December 2nd and 12th, renewing my information requests.
December 20, 2007
Thank you for your letter of December 14th (which I just received yesterday).
I am sending you under separate cover a Public Records Act request for specifics around your charges that I have harassed and intimidated city staff. I take it you will follow the law in forwarding the requisite documents within ten days.
I note that you have declined to answer the questions I put to you in my letters of December 2nd and December 9th. I repeat these questions:
1. What is your procedure for scheduling meetings with the public (specifically
for those outside without phones) who want to bring concerns to your attention?
2. Please supply a copy of your planned public appearances (or appearances before groups) between now and February 28th as far as you have scheduled them.
3. Please supply a copy of scheduled meetings with members of the public in the past month, in so far as those meetings were in your capacity as mayor or city councilmember.
Thank you for clarifying why you will not meet with me.
The criteria you are using, however, are not clear. Do they apply to others?
Does this mean you are also refusing to meet with other activists demonstrating in front of Bookshop Santa Cruz? They are also protesting your policy and that of your father--who is the author of the Downtown Ordinances. Neal is also another supporter of the City’s Sleeping Ban, and, as you have described him, the owner--along with your sister--of the Bookshop.
I have not received any complaints either from city staff, city commissioners, your family members, or members of the Bookshop Santa Cruz of “harassment and intimidation” or “inappropriate comments”. To the best of my knowledge, our protest has been careful not to single out individuals (other than responsible politicians like yourself and your father).
Please be more specific about these complaints and clarify whether they extend to other members of the protest. If you are accusing people of inappropriate or criminal behavior, you owe it to them (not to mention the community) to clarify exactly what you’re talking about.
I would also suggest there are more suitable avenues for addressing the basic issue than halting dialogue on the Sleeping Ban. That affects the health and well-being of over 1500 people outside.
I can understand your being upset that I am urging the community to vote with its dollars.
I think your refusal to engage in a healthy dialogue at a time of year when such a dialogue is most significant does little to endear you to potential customers and voters, and indeed may cut into your Christmas profits.
Your suggestion to me during the Community “Voices from the Village Live” show that activists should spend tens of thousands of dollars running for public office in a year or attempt the equally expensive task of putting an Initiative on the ballot is neither feasible nor timely. Homeless should not have to wait twelve months to be able to sleep legally somewhere tonight.
Your expanded police and ranger force has put increased pressure on homeless people outside (tents slashed, property seized, $95 citations issued). Destroying homeless tents in the dead of winter in a shelter emergency is a human rights violation that can’t wait on money and political caprice. I should think this would be obvious.
You have never been open to a dialogue on the Sleeping Ban or other homeless issues so it’s no surprise to find you explicitly closing the door to this possibility. But it’s disingenuous to suggest that the Bookshop protest is a significant factor.
Let’s be honest. Your refusal to address the “no shelter but tickets for sleeping” position goes back years to the beginning your term. It cruelly impacts poor and homeless people--many of them disabled vets. Our “Banish Bigotry” protest in front of your workplace was relatively recent and has actually been the only activity that seems to have attracted your attention. You might check out the homeless memorial for the dead coming up in a few days.
Your position is, in human rights terms, indefensible.
Targeting me rather than addressing the issue is neither good city policy nor intellectually honest.
Are homeless people and their advocates to be treated like pariahs until your business priorities (or those of your family) are satisfied? You have already banned peaceful activists from the bookshop, signing your ban letter “Vice-Mayor.” Now, as Mayor, you exclude a member of the public from meeting with you because of a legitimate First Amendment protest against your business.
Your harsh position will ultimately cost the city money from the General Fund. The federal courts have directed cities with far larger and more powerful city attorney offices than yours, i.e. those in San Diego and Los Angeles, to comply with the elementary constitutional guarantees which Santa Cruz rejects. The 9th Circuit Court found the Sleeping Bans their “cruel and unusual punishment”. Those cities are now paying financially for succumbing to pressure from conservative staffers and police officials. Can you not learn from their example?
Further, I believe your letter is not merely an attempt to avoid a public issue to the profound disadvantage of both homeless residents and taxpayers, who will end up paying for the lawsuit. It also seems an attempt to intimidate me through anonymous charges made by a powerful city official.
You may not choose to have a “dialogue” with me, but please make good on your stated willingness to “give...any and all information”--specifically answering the questions above--already raised in this and the two prior letters.
Please clarify the specific complaints of “intimidation and harassment” and “inappropriate behavior” have been made against me. Or withdraw those charges publicly.
WHAT THE COMMUNITY CAN DO
As of December 22nd, the Mayor has responded to none of these requests.
However his letter attacking me as "harassing and intimidating" has been placed in a public file in the Mayor's office.
Inquiries to the Mayor concerning these issues can be made at 831-423-8939 or rcoonerty [at] ci.santa-cruz.ca.us.
Members of the public have a right to know when and where the Mayor will be speaking, and who he has been meeting with. This is simply a matter of transparency, accountability, and good government.
Please contact the Mayor with your own requests on the subject, if you feel this is a matter of public concern.
HO-HO-HO! MORE HOLIDAY HARASSMENT DOWNTOWN
Even more vital during freezing winter temperatures is increased harassment of the homeless downtown. The Santa Cruz Police Downtown Unit and the Santa Cruz Police Street Crimes Unit have stepped up arrests and citations downtown. See http://www.ci.santa-cruz.ca.us/pd/pressrelease/PDF/Downtown%20Enforcement%20activities.pdf
The regular press police log (which does not appear to be complete) can be found at http://www.ci.santa-cruz.ca.us/pd/ .
It does not seem to include sleeping and camping tickets. Tonight I heard reports of people arrested for public intoxication, then released without bedding or survival gear in the dark and the cold. This comes one day after the reading of the names of the homeless dead this year.
If anyone learns anything, please post it.