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Chatting with a Conscience-Lacking Council
by Robert Norse (rnorse3 [at] hotmail.com)
Tuesday Jun 23rd, 2020 7:12 AM
The 'No Public, Please" City Council meeting today again has call-in access only, and likely Oral Communications limited to one minute and cut off at the whim of Mayor "I Kneel with the Police Chief" Cummings. I pass on suggested talking points. However, deaf politicians and staffers need large numbers showing up at workplace and home to be convinced. Obediently following do-nothing guidelines will...do nothing.
My thanks to Sarah of the Defund SCPD Coalition for this listing. I have corrected one date (Arlt was killed by police in 2016 not 2015).

Mayor Cummings and City Manager Bernal should be throwing this meeting in the Civic Auditorium. This would provide "social distancing" as well as a real opportunity for the community to have its voice heard. The reactionary majority led by Cynthia Mathews has effectively resisted this opening to the public for years.

It's seems increasingly, the community needs to hold its own meetings outside the repressive and predetermined format of City Council. Hopefully that's what the large rallies on the street are leading to.

One might consider that the Civic Auditorium isn't being used today, so perhaps the Community could use it.

TALKING TO THE HIGH PRIESTS
In any case, to have your one minute say to a Council that has nothing meaningful on its agenda about defunding police violence, here are the official instructions:

Call any of the numbers below. If one is busy, try the next one.
· 1-888-788-0099 (toll free)
· 1-877-853-5247 (toll free)
· 1-833-548-0282 (toll free)
· 1-833-548-0276 (toll free)
· 1-312-626-6799
· 1-301-715-8592
· Enter the meeting ID number: 982 5063 5656
· When prompted for a Participant ID, press #.
· Press *9 on your phone to “raise your hand” when the Mayor calls for public comment.
o It will be your turn to speak when the Mayor unmutes you. You will hear an announcement that you have been unmuted. The timer will then be set to 2 minutes. You may hang up once you have commented on your item of interest.

THE COALITION'S SUGGESTIONS
Talking Points for 6/23 City Council Meeting

Here are some talking points you can use for public comment. It’s recommended that each speaker should be sure to mention problems and solutions, but not go over each bullet point. Be selective in how you piece your argument together. Personal examples and stories can make a strong impact when speaking, so if you have a particular incident you can refer to, that can help make a more lasting point.

Police officers are not social workers nor should they be. No amount of training will make police equipped to handle the vast majority of calls they get, because what is needed is a robust social safety net, not an armed response. We could afford to vastly expand these services if we stop spending a third of our general fund on an ineffective police response to social and economic problems.

Chief Mills’ latest op-ed for the Santa Cruz Sentinel seems to support defunding the police. Quoting one of his sergeants, he wrote: “If someone could take the homeless issues entirely from us and stop us from responding to mental health calls--please, take the money!” Let’s do that!

In a 2018 Police Department Operations Analysis, officers reported that “80 percent of all calls for service are homeless-related”.[1] That same report found that 43% of all calls for service were categorized as either “Check” or “Suspicious incident”, while only 15% were categorized as “Crime”.[2]

In 2016, city police shot and killed Sean Arlt because he was holding a rake, a man who was experiencing a mental illness. No police officer was charged for this. Sean Arlt is dead because the city sent in armed police officers instead of unarmed mental health professionals. Give that money to crisis counselors, community mediators, and other systems of care!

More training is not the answer. Studies show that implicit bias training does not significantly reduce incidences of brutality against people of color. Training police in de-escalation is always going to be in tension with the fact that a central part of any police training is always going to involve being ready to ESCALATE to deadly force at any moment.

More diverse hiring practices are not the answer. Studies have shown that more diverse police forces do not have significantly lower incidences of use of force.

As part of this budget, the Santa Cruz Police Department is asking for an 20% budget increase from 2020 spending, about $5.1 million.[3] At the same time, the City has announced it will be cutting $6 million from the 2021 budget due to COVID-19.

Despite homeless activists winning a federal court ruling which found that “camp sweeping” the houseless constituted “cruel & unusual punishment” unless alternative shelter options are offered, the SCPD shamelessly violates the spirit of this progressive landmark decision and continues to bully the houseless into constantly relocating. They destroy their survival gear and impound the vehicles they use for shelter-- even during a global pandemic, and even in spite of their explicit promises to not engage in this kind of policing.

Santa Cruz spent more than a third (35%) of its general fund in the 2020 fiscal year on police, which is more than the average police budget (28%) of other major cities across the country, according to a study by the Center for Popular Democracy.[4]

Santa Cruz is lagging behind other more progressive cities on this. Other places are talking about disbanding and defunding. We are talking about increasing the budget. Other places have tried reforms and realized that they don’t work. We need to catch up to places like Minneapolis, Seattle, LA and NY that are all taking concrete steps to rethink how public safety works.


What does defunding mean? Budget implications. Proposals for change. DEfunding the police means REfunding (or “investing in”) services for the community by putting resources and directly towards the root causes in “crime,” which are poverty and inequality. Instead of policing homelessness and property crimes, which has proven to be not only ineffective but also the most expensive way to address problems, we should be investing in services that help those in the greatest need, such as affordable housing, mental health, and housing for the houseless. Our public safety approach needs to be compassionate and restorative, NOT punitive and destructive.

Give that money to crisis counselors, community mediators, and other systems of care!

Tackling the extreme inequality in our city with social programs IS tackling structural racism. Investing in making our city a more economically equitable place IS investing in communities of color, which are disproportionately impacted by the current inequality of Santa Cruz.

The city’s affordable housing trust fund is an incredibly tiny amount of money. With a regular budget of $10 million a year (⅓ of the police budget), we could produce large amounts of both the supportive housing and affordable housing that our city so desperately requires.

Cities like Minneapolis, the city where George Floyd was murdered, have already tried police reforms (body cameras, sensitivity training, etc.) and they have proven ineffective. Now they are moving towards completely disbanding the police. We have an opportunity to follow suit and exemplify how progressive we say we are here in Santa Cruz.

Other cities across the country are responding to demands of defunding police: New York, Los Angeles, Seattle, and more locally, San Leandro. This is not impossible/unrealistic!

Sources:
https://www.cityofsantacruz.com/home/showdocument?id=70001 pg. 103
https://www.cityofsantacruz.com/home/showdocument?id=70001 pg. 129
http://www.cityofsantacruz.com/home/showdocument?id=80068
https://populardemocracy.org/news-and-publications/congress-must-divest-billion-dollar-police-budget-and-invest-public-education

§Mayor Cuts off my Council Communication...Again.
by Robert Norse (rnorse3 [at] hotmail.com)
Tuesday Jun 23rd, 2020 5:46 PM
This afternoon I punched in the long numbers and waiting in line for a chance to speak for two minutes on item #38 Surveillance Ordinance: Facial Recognition Technology and Predictive Policing (PD). I'd been unable to get through two weeks before to speak during Oral Communications.

Still no go.

Here are a few of the remarks I'd have made.

The current item is a joke. A sign of disdain for the urgent and pressing issues that have brought thousands to the street in this City (and hundreds of thousands across the country).

After weeks of local protest, this Council's response is...nothing.
To agenda-ize a weakened proposal to "continue the conversation" about surveillance policy. Nothing about holding local police responsible and transparent Nothing about shifting funds to the real needs of renters, students, elderly, disabled, and others. Nothing about curbing the weapons that threaten life and safety and promulgate police violence.

Both the audio and video of the proceeding was so haphazard and choppy that it could not be consistently followed. Hence, it really violated the right of the community to be present at the Council meeting, as guaranteed by the Brown Act.

In fact, demands from the community that this meeting be held publicly in the large Civic Auditorium were ignored. There it could be held with relatively safe spacing and people could actually hear and comment on what was being said.

The testimony given by the public was passionate, intelligent, and groundbreaking in tough hitherto taboo issues. The more basic issues regarding police violence in Santa Cruz were, of course, ignored.

Sweet words and reasonable arguments do not stop police violence or persuade police expansion supporters on the City Council to act fairly or sensibly. Folks need to vote with their voices and bodies in numbers that cannot be ignored. Only strong persistent loud angry numbers can challenge decades of entrenched police and staff power.

Without direct action, day by day and night by night, in front of the work places, businesses, and homes of those in power, we will see countless more study groups, delayed discussions, and subcommittees as lethal police business proceeds as usual.

As the guy next to me in the crowd of a thousand standing outside City Council courtyard at the Juneteenth rally said, "power concedes nothing without a demand." And, he might have added, power pays attention to power.

HUFF (Homeless United for Friendship & Freedom) will be meeting tomorrow at 11 AM at the Sub Rosa Cafe at 703 Pacific to consider ways of fighting policing abuses against unhoused folks and folks generally.
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Ableism isn’t necessaryE RTuesday Jun 23rd, 2020 10:07 AM
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