Organizers who worked for years to pass police oversight are optimistic that it will start the process of reforming one of the more violent police departments in the country.
The Vallejo Sun spoke with several members of Common Ground, a non-partisan group of religious and non-profit organizations in Solano and Napa counties, about their thoughts on the ordinance aimed at holding accountable a police department which has killed 19 people since 2010.
“When you listen to the residents, you hear people say they started this process 20 years ago,” said Renee Sykes, a member of Common Ground. “If you look at 20 years ago, and if you look at now, we now have something in writing, we have something concrete.”
....The city council is expected to officially establish the three-prong oversight approach, including outside investigations of serious police incidents, a Community Police Oversight Accountability Commission, and a police auditor.
While no formal vote was held, the council said it wanted to see more of a model presented by Common Ground, a non-partisan group of religious and non-profit organizations in Solano and Napa counties, which is advocating for a three-prong approach: a civilian police commission, inspector general, and community police review agency.
The commission made up of Vallejo residents would be tasked with overseeing a review agency, which would investigate officer use of force, including fatal shootings by officers, any in-custody deaths, and allegations of racial profiling by officers....
“We believe the above components provide the transparency and the community involvement needed to establish police oversight and are a critical step in restoring trust between law enforcement and the community,” said Renee Sykes, a member of Common Ground’s public safety committee. “The national spotlight is still on Vallejo, and it will not be shut off until there is a concerted effort on everyone’s part to make a change.”
On June 16, Common Ground held a civic academy with over 80 leaders, who learned together about strategies to strengthen testing, tracing, and supportive isolation efforts to contain COVID-19. In the research leading up to their academy, they learned that the county would receive $46.5 million in CARES Act funding throughout the state.
When leaders approached county officials about how these funds would be spent, they were met with surprise — no one seemed to know about the funds.
Common Ground leaders immediately initiated meetings with state legislators, county supervisors, and other officials. They organized house meetings and developed a budget of investments needed to support the needs of Solano county families and workers — including funding for TTSI as well as funds for rental assistance and a promotores outreach program to Spanish-speaking families.
When the budget passed, thanks to the urging of Common Ground leaders, it included double the original proposed amount for rental assistance.
California IAF Leverages Covid-19 Relief for Undocumented Immigrants Using Old-School Practices on New Technologies
When politics, like most other activities, was forced to migrate online, the IAF didn’t seem an obvious winner. For 80 years, the group has embraced one-on-one conversations and “house meetings” to create organized communities whose strong bonds endure beyond a single campaign. These relationships, forged in person, smoothed the transition to digital organizing.
After the virus hit, a flurry of texts, calls and social media outreach followed as California’s IAF groups scrambled to get their people on Zoom calls. The news was grim: Budgets were tight and layoffs widespread. Undocumented people, often the hardest-hit population, were excluded from most forms of aid. The Cal-EITC push emerged from these digital house meetings. “It came from the lament of the people,” said the Rev. Arturo Corral of Our Lady Queen of Angels / La Placita Catholic Church in Los Angeles, a One LA leader.
In late April, local leaders began gathering Zoom participants from their local networks. Meanwhile, organizers sought out influential lawmakers, focusing on three Budget Committee members: State Assembly members David Chiu and Eloise Gómez Reyes and State Sen. Maria Elena Durazo. All three pledged to work to expand the tax credit.
The IAF groups were “not at all” confident that the tax credit expansion would end up in the governor’s budget. “Most people told us this was not going to happen,” [One LA Lead Organizer Robert] Hoo said. But after weeks of further organizing, it was included in Gov. Newsom’s June 30 budget.
[Photo Credit: Brent Stirton/Getty Images]
Gov. Gavin Newsom announced plans on April 15 to make $75 million available to help undocumented workers left out of unemployment relief programs like the CARES Act, but California Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF) organizations say this is not enough. One LA-IAF leaders, with the rest of the state network, are calling on Governor Newsom to do more for undocumented immigrants.
"Our immigrants make California a beautiful state," said Father Arturo Corral of Our Lady Queen of Angels / La Placita. "We need to always ask [the governor] to do his best."
Leaders with [COPA-IAF, One LA-IAF, Inland Communities Organizing Network (ICON), Bay Area IAF, and Common Ground are calling] for several initiatives to help undocumented workers including: expanding the eligibility of State Disability Insurance to workers unemployed because of Covid-19 but ineligible for unemployment insurance; sending $1,200 to any Californian who qualified for the California Earned Income Tax Credit last year or this year; expanding no-cost to low-cost hotel options to agricultural workers; making more money available to food banks and school districts feeding students.
[Photo by Chava Sanchez, LAist]
Newsom Announces Covid-19 Relief For Undocumented Workers; Advocates Say It's Inadequate, Monterey County Weekly [pdf]
California Bishops Ask Governor to Increase Aid to Undocumented and Low-Wage Workers During Pandemic, California Catholic Conference of Bishops [pdf]
Letter to Governor Newsom, California IAF
Common Ground Bursts Onto the Political Scene in Vallejo, Engaging County, City Officials and Police
It wasn’t a phone call left for a city or county official that may or may not be returned. Or a call to police dispatch that said there are 15 calls for service already on hold.
Tuesday night’s gathering at St. Basil’s gymnasium gave the community — at least 250 individuals, anyway — a chance to voice their concerns face-to-face with the Vallejo City Council, Solano County Supervisors, and law enforcement.
The... event, [organized by the seven year old IAF affiliate] Common Ground went well, with topics including homelessness, rising rents, and school safety.
“We were thrilled with the success of the evening,” said Common Ground member Cheryl Gewing.
“I think it was impactful to hear people’s personal stories and troubles they’re facing and trying to understand the process available to them,” said Councilmember Pippin Dew.
“I liked the sharing of the stories … that the community is involved and wants to work with us,” added Councilmember Rozzana Verder-Aliga.
Mayor Bob Sampayan said city officials were already aware of most of the issues presented, but it was positive to sit at a table “and hear the personalized stories.”
“I think it was awesome to have such a wide representation of people of the faith community, schools system, law enforcement, city and county leaders,” added Solano County Supervisor Erin Hannigan, calling the event “anything but warm and fuzzy. It was the cold, hard truth about what’s happening in the community.”
Co-host Tazamisha Alexander said the packed room was indicative that the community and officials are willing to work together....
[Note: Common Ground is part of the Bay Area IAF. In collaboration with the Bay Area IAF, an interfaith delegation of clergy and seminarians from the Church Divinity School of the Pacific participated in the action as part of an intensive course on community organizing.]
Common Ground leaders are in a two-pronged fight to block the use of taxpayer funds for the construction of a (privately-owned) Bucks stadium AND to secure upwards of $30 million from Nationstar to rehabilitate foreclosed houses and prevent further foreclosures. When Common Ground asked Dallas Area Interfaith for assistance, DAI leaders gladly joined the fight (see photo above).Read more