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Indybay FeatureRelated Categories: Santa Cruz Indymedia | Arts + Action | Government & Elections | Health, Housing, and Public Services | Police State and Prisons
No Public Records, More Public Lies
A Public Records Act to Mayor Coonerty seeking documentation of his escalating claims that he has received many complaints about the Drum Circle (noise, drug dealing, traffic problems, littering, piles of pee and poo) has come up dry. As with prior such requests (see below), Coonerty and the SCPD have stonewalled, instead using the kept media as a transmission belt for false fear stories and bigotry-baiting bullshit.
THE PUBLIC RECORDS ACT CORRESPONDENCE
Several weeks ago I sent the following letter to the Mayor:
From: Robert Norse [mailto:rnorse3 [at] hotmail.com]
Sent: Tuesday, September 09, 2008 9:40 AM
To: Ryan Coonerty
Subject: Public Records Act Request Re: Mayor Coonerty's Dispersing Public Assembly in Parking Lot 4
309 Cedar St. PMB #14B
Santa Cruz, CA 95060
Dear Mayor Coonerty:
I request to view copies of all correspondence, e-mails, memoranda, complaints, documents, journals, staff reports, meeting minutes regarding (a) the Parking Lots and Garages Trespass law, and (b) the weekly Wednesday afternoon Drum Circle held regularly for the last decade or more in Parking Lot #4 next to the Farmer's Market. You may limit this search to the last four months.
In an e-mail to Valerie Promise, you state, 'The city has had more than a dozen complaints from farmers and patrons about the drum circle.' Please include copies of those complaints, your response to the complainants and to any other members of the public in or out of city government on this issue. Again for the last four months.
Please also provide (for viewing) copies of all citations issued under the law for the last two years since your law was passed in 2006.
In addition, at your option, if you have made any written presentation or have an audio record of any presentation you made to students in your classes at UCSC or Cabrillo regarding the rationale, fitness, constitutionality, or value of this law and wish to make it available, I'd be happy to make your side of the debate available to the public.
Finally, you are again invited to speak publicly on Free Radio Santa Cruz defending this controversial law, of which you were the main sponsor.
The Mayor remained silent and provided no documents, but I received the following (timely) reply from the City Clerk:
From: LBrewer [at] ci.santa-cruz.ca.us
To: rnorse3 [at] hotmail.com
CC: tgraves [at] ci.santa-cruz.ca.us; MDettle [at] ci.santa-cruz.ca.us; THusome [at] ci.santa-cruz.ca.us
Date: Wed, 10 Sep 2008 12:55:05 -0700
Subject: FW: Public Records Act Request Re: Mayor Coonerty's Dispersing Public Assembly in Parking Lot 4
Attached are copies of documents from the Public Works Department in response to your Public Records request. The City Manager's office has nothing on this issue to provide. The Police Department will be responding under separate cover. The City Clerk's Department has six pieces of correspondence on this issue that are available for your review/purchase at the front desk.
If any other departments respond with documentation, I will advise at the earliest opportunity prior to September 19th.
Lorrie Brewer, CMC
WHAT LITTLE THE CITY CHOSE TO REVEAL
Only two of the six letters were critical of the drummers. They are still available presumably for public view at the new security-sensitive City Clerk's office. There was nothing from the Parks and Recreation, Public Works, or SCPD--who are likely responsible for shutting down the public space there with green mesh fences. Lorrie also followed up with a phone message she'd received criticizing the drummers.
DOWNTOWN COMMISSION DUCK-AND-COVER
Lorrie also included the agendas and minutes of several Downtown Commission meetings where the Parking Lot Panic law 6-month review was buried. This was nothing new. Some of the material can be found on-line Ironically at the Downtown Commission meetings last summer, Officer Zack Friend sonewalled on the crime stats requested by one of the Commissioners. [see "Cops Stonewall Commissioner Coonerty" at http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2008/07/20/18518034.php?show_comments=1#18520406 ]
Typically, the Downtown Commission has canceled its bi-monthly last-Thursday-of-the-month meeting today (scheduled at the ungawdly hour of 8:30 AM). Though the cops have now spent thousands of dollars with their latest costly round of police "reeducation/roust" constitution-clipping, the Downtown Commisssion isn't even bothering to meet to discuss ways of stopping the police seizure of public space through the Coonerty law.
THE POLICE DEPARTMENT REPLIES
I finally received an overdue response from the SCPD that wants to charge me to look at their records ($5.50).
I am hoping to organize a protest (perhaps with a little drumming?) to visit the SCPD and encourage them to follow the law and release access to their public records. We can then decide, once we've viewed them, which ones we want to pay exhorbitant copy costs for.
In the past, when I've showed up with a tape recorder trying to document what was going on, they've illegally refused to serve me. Even so far as refusing to release a document I've already paid for (they refused payment because of the tape recorder after agreeing by phone to serve me). Complaints about Records Manager Trisha Husome's misconduct here seems to be unavailing, so we need to go in with a video crew and some public support and encourage the SCPD to come clean or air their dirty laundry for all to see.
It would be nice payback for SCPD's obnoxious and ultimately brutal intrusions on the public space at the Drum Circle. But it would also set an important precedent that the SCPD needs to follow state law and will face public embarrassment and exposure if it doesn't. Up to now Husome and her boss (Deputy Chief Kevin Vogel) have ignored the law, presuming we don't have the resources, will, or energy to go to court. They're probably right about that--but there are more than one ways to get compliance from stonewalling bureaucrats.
I encourage folks to post here or contact me at rnorse3 [at] hotmail.com if they are interested in being part of a Truth Squad re: the SCPD and their locked-down records.
As for mayor Coonerty, I believe others have received e-mails (a boilerplate one, I believe) from His Majesty about the issue--e-mails which he should have divulged as part of the Public Records Act. Like his schedule of public meetings for the next month, or the appointment book revealing which lobbyists he's spoken with in the last month--Coonerty prefers to keep such matters secret. I encourage folks who have corresponded with Coonerty and gotten his lawyerly replies to post them. Since he won't follow the law and provide Public Records, we have to do it ourselves.
The bottom line here is that the current mythology about "problems at the Drum Circle" is just that--mythology. If there were real problems, we should have real meetings between real people in a public process. That, of course, is far beyond the current Coonerty council, the SCPD leadership, and City Manager-For-Life Dick Wilson's powerful behind-the-scenes bureaucrats.
Folks need to continue to enforce the right to use public spaces themselves. Otherwise drummers get frightened away, innocent people get arrested, and the rest of us suffer through a blanket of fear and a loss of public space. See you Wednesday October 1st at the Drum Circle.
Prior Public Records Requests and Brown Act demands ignored by the Coonerty regime:
Side walk chained off after 8pm in front of New Leaf downtown
Mayor Ignores Latest Brown Act Violations; Berkeley Councilman on Free Radio Sunday
Santa Cruz Mayor Lashes Out, Stonewalls on Public Meetings; Lethal SCPD Harassment Surges