Posted by: Gordon on 1/28/2016
NBOP protest in Sonoma County

Life for the wealthiest is looking rosy in Sonoma County, but skyrocketing rentals on sub-standard apartments, failure to support students, and increasing poverty are also part of the picture there according to a new report by North Bay Organizing Project. Photo by Gerry La Londe-Berg

The news from Sonoma County reads literally like a tale of two cities: airplane traffic is on the rise from Sonoma County airport (which benefited from a $55 million runway lengthening), but the county can't afford to subsidize buses to school for K-12 kids. Unemployment is decreasing, but low-wage jobs are on the rise and salaries are nowhere near matching the increases in the costs to rent a home.

Yesterday the contrasting pictures came to a head as Inside the Doubletree Hotel, the Sonoma County Economic Development Board state of the county address painted a picture of a vibrant economy. Outside, North Bay Organizing Project leaders protested that the county is ignoring families.

North Bay released their own report contrasting the challenges that people in the county face with the rosy picture painted for the 1% in the county. Among their findings:

  • Over a third of Sonoma County families live in poverty
  • Rents in Sonoma County are so high it is now becoming difficult to recruit and retain teachers for local  K-12 schools
  • Almost half (45.9%) of Sonoma County households with children have incomes below the self- sufficiency standard
  • Between 2009 and 2014, poverty increased for both Latinos and Whites; an average of 19.6% of Latinos in Sonoma County live at or below the poverty line, compared to 9.3% of white residents
Posted by: Gordon on 1/26/2016

PIIN Public Safety Task Force
Top, PIIN kicked off its public safety task force campaign "From Marches to Measurables" in February 2015; bottom, Police Chief Cameron McLay reported back at the group's public meeting in November on progress made in restoring police-community trust. 

Leaders of Pennsylvania Interfaith Impact Network, PIIN, began planning their campaign to improve public safety in Pittsburgh more than a year ago.
Posted by: Gordon on 1/11/2016

graphic of shootings from KC Star
Since the Kansas City Star published a report showing Missouri's second largest city has one of the worst per capita records of officer-involved shootings of any city in the country, MORE2 leaders and allies have begun organizing to win police reforms. 

On New Year’s Eve, the Kansas City Star published an investigative report that showed the city had 47 police-involved shootings since 2005, in which 60% of the victims were black.

MORE2 leaders and partners held a news conference the day the article ran in the paper and rallied at police headquarters in favor of police reforms for their city a few days later.

Because reporters had reached out to MORE2 to get a reaction before publishing the results of their investigation, leaders were able to organize and reach out to allies ahead of time. Kansas City police chief Darryl Forte shrugged off any need for change, but the protest is pushing the city’s state-appointed board of Police Commissioners to react.

The city’s Office of Community Complaints “never has examined an officer-involved shooting…it doesn’t have the power,” the Star reported. The information came from the paper’s own in-house data gathered over the years.

“There hasn’t been enough tension created around this,” says Kiku Brooks, a member of MORE2’s executive committee. “For us to be as close as we are Ferguson, that’s shameful to me.”

One of the 47 killed, Ryan Stokes, was a member of Brooks' church, Zion Grove Missionary Baptist Church. Like other cases, testimony in Stokes’ case was contradictory, Brooks recalled. She said that although the officer said Stokes had a gun, no gun was found near the body, and the autopsy suggested he was running away, not toward the police when he was shot.

Brooks said the city has multiple issues to work through. For one, the Office of Community Complaints does not allow anonymous complaints. Also, only victims can file complaints, which means no-one has standing to complain after a victim has been killed by police.

Even more fundamentally, Kansas City is the last city in the nation with a state-appointed board of police commissioners, she said. This relic of Depression-era criminology (St. Louis, another holdout, re-took local control in 2012) means the governor, rather than locally-elected officials appoints the city’s police commissioners. 

MORE2 will continue to mobilize the city, Brooks said--the organization has previously advocated successfully to make it easier for people with felony convictions on their record to get hired and other issues. “By the end of the year, I hope we would be in a place where Kansas City is working toward local control.”

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