Thursday, December 22, 2011

2011-12-14 "Vallejo's proposed public safety review panel sparks protest, debate; Council delays decision" by Jessica A. York from "Vallejo Times-Herald"
Editor's note:This article updates an earlier version of the story
 Vallejo city leaders elected late Tuesday to defer until next month a controversial vote on creating a citizens public safety oversight committee as a swarm of angry protesters filled City Council Chambers.
Instead, the Vallejo City Council unanimously voted to appoint two council members, to be chosen next week, to oversee public safety related issues. Those council members are expected to come back to the full Council in mid-January with a more fleshed-out proposal on the citizen review panel.
Earlier in the evening, several dozen public safety members and their supporters protested outside City Hall while the Vallejo City Council enacted a change of the guard inside.
New Councilmen Bob Sampayan and Robert McConnell as well as re-elected Councilwoman Erin Hannigan and Mayor Osby Davis were sworn in for four year terms at the meeting's start. Sampayan and McConnell are replacing outgoing members Joanne Schivley and Michael Wilson.
While the resolution, backed by Councilwomen Stephanie Gomes and Marti Brown, was modified late Tuesday with seemingly toned-down provisions, union officials continued to question the issue's timing. Vallejo Police Officers Association President Mat Mustard said Monday the public safety review proposals should have come later, with the Nov. 17 shooting death of Officer Jim Capoot still fresh in the minds of his fellow officers.
Gomes and Brown said last week that it was time to get down to business, and noted the likely support the initiative would have with the election of two new council members.
The modified resolution called for the creation of a permanent seven-member public safety committee, rather than a temporary fact-finding group. The committee would be charged with "exploring," "reviewing" and "compiling" information and making recommendations to the council. Committee duties remained similar to the previous resolution, with a focus on fire and police consolidation, police training and standards, cost cutting, citizen safety improvement and address of citizen complaints.
One item, however, was shown as being deleted: A review of public safety contracts.
Gomes addressed the item's removal, saying that new Councilman Sampayan and her own potential for conflict of interest was questioned by the VPOA.
Sampayan retired as a Vallejo police sergeant while a member of the VPOA, in 2006. Gomes is married to Tony Pearsall, also a retired member of the Vallejo Police Department. But Gomes said his last position was with a middle-management union, rather than the public safety union -- removing any conflict.
 "I see this as an attempt to silence elected members of the City Council," Gomes said. "We agreed to strike this for now because we want to make sure we're following the law to the letter."

Vallejo police and fire personnel and their family members picket Tuesday night outside of City Hall, protesting the proposed public safety review panel. (Irma Widjojo/Times-Herald)

2012-01-07 "It's about free speech" letter by Helena Kulmus of Vallejo to the editor of "Vallejo Times Herald"
I attended the Dec. 13 Vallejo's City Council meeting -- with my main reason being to witness the swearing in of the new council candidates. I continued to stay throughout the entire six-hour meeting and was extremely disappointed at the hostility, catcalls, derisive hoots, boos, sarcasm and mockery that came from the audience, filled with mostly police officers, their wives and supporters.
The attacks came from the back of the room and were toward individual speakers who wished to express a different opinion than the majority of the audience, but mainly the hostility was directed at the city council members themselves, with Mayor Davis threatening "to have the room cleared if there was another outburst." This did NOT happen!
Sam Kurshan, sitting in the front row, was told over and over again by Mayor Davis that he would have the room cleared if people could not be respectful. Still, Mr. Kurshan continued to threaten, incite others, interrupt and refuse to follow the rules. He actually loudly left and then pushed his way back into the room, shouting obscenities. He was allowed to stay!
Members of the audience repeatedly attacked Councilmember Gomes, her husband and the newly elected members of the council by making fun of them with rude remarks from the back of the room, even after the newly appointed Mr. McConnell said a couple of times that he would not tolerate this disrespectful behavior. He then received mocking murmurs from the back of the room. Mayor Davis did not stand up for him, or ask the room to be cleared. Unbelievable!
I get that this was a hot subject, but why the mean-spirited bullying? Why not let others speak? Why is brainstorming not a good idea? What is there to be afraid of? If everything is handled, let each side be heard. That is what free speech is all about.
Free speech is a right. People need to be heard -- whether you agree with them or not. Leadership is a way to protect a person's right to be heard. Both are needed to create a positive outcome for the city of Vallejo.

2011-12-22 "Vallejo councilwoman apologizes for timing of resolution calling for a public safety review panel" by Jessica A. York from "Vallejo Times-Herald"
A sparsely attended Vallejo City Council meeting Tuesday drew some audience reaction concerning oversight of public safety operations.
Mixed in the ongoing debate was one council member's apology.
In the end, the council unanimously appointed Mayor Osby Davis and Councilwoman Stephanie Gomes to a standing subcommittee to gather information on the city's police and fire departments, and report back to the full council next month.
The proposal was alternately scorned and supported by five public speakers Tuesday, echoes of last week's standing-room-only meeting that paired the proposal with creation of the subcommittee with a "Citizen's Public Safety Advisory Committee."
Criticism last week was significantly focused on the citizens committee, as it included a task for the panel to make recommendations on creating a citizens police oversight board. Generally, critics -- many city police officers and their supporters -- questioned the proposal's timing as "insensitive" following last month's fatal shooting of Vallejo Police Officer Jim Capoot.
 The citizens committee concept, originally described as tasking seven residents with providing public input and making recommendations on public safety service improvements, may be yet resurrected next month.
After retired Vallejo police officer Burky Worel and others questioned Gomes' timing in co-presenting last week's resolution with Councilwoman Marti Brown, Gomes apologized.
"I agree, it was a poor choice on timing and I regret that," Gomes said. "There's obviously a lot of pain in the community and a lot of pain that needs to be worked through."
Gomes stressed that the citizens committee would be fact-finding, and not immediately a citizens oversight board. Later, in response to further comments by Worel, Gomes stressed that she did not apologize for the resolution, only the timing.
Vallejo police Sgt. Sid DeJesus, who heads the department's Internal Affairs division, told the council that he neither agreed with a potential public safety review commission, nor did he fear it. Internal Affairs reviews citizen complaints against the police department, among other duties.
"If (my investigations) stand the test in federal court, they'll certainly stand the test of any other public review -- and they have," DeJesus said.
DeJesus also began to address concerns about something newly seated Councilman Robert McConnell said at last week's meeting, but ran out of time to speak. DeJesus could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
Former Council candidate Sam Kurshan was evicted from the meeting, following several outbursts from the audience. In earlier public comments, several residents asked the council to set a more stern policy on people who make threats and heckle speakers.

2011-12-21 "Nichelini owed an apology" letter by Michaela Dunkin of Vallejo to the editor of "Vallejo Times Herald"
I watched the Dec. 13 Vallejo City Council meeting with extreme disappointment, dismay and frankly, disgust. Some of the ignorance displayed could perhaps be overlooked in light of Councilman Robert McConnell's inexperience on the city council - his references to STOP instead of POST, his confusion about the mayor's proposed amendment, his comments regarding desk officers, etc.
However, one comment in particular cannot be overlooked: Mr. McConnell's malicious remark that "there have been two officers killed under this administration and that's unacceptable." Implying that the chief of police is to blame for the deaths of Officers Capoot and Azuar is appalling and most certainly "unacceptable."
Chief Nichelini is an extraordinary professional and a competent leader who has the respect, admiration and support of his employees, the people of Vallejo, and law enforcement officials throughout the state. Chief Nichelini did not initiate the drastic reductions in our police force, yet has done an outstanding job under these most difficult conditions. He has demonstrated his loyalty to the City of Vallejo, its citizens and its employees, and has stood by the department and the city while countless city managers, finance directors and other officials have bailed out. Chief Nichelini and all the members of the police department should be commended, honored and especially thanked for their service.
As a lifelong citizen of Vallejo, it saddens me that despite his outstanding service and loyalty to the city, Chief Nichelini should be subjected to the kind of remark Mr. McConnell made, particularly at this time when the department is in a period of deep grief and stress. Since Mr. McConnell made the remark in public, I believe he should make an apology to the chief in public, and I hope in the future he and the rest of the city council will better reflect the community's support for our police.

2011-12-22 "He said what?" letter by J.T. Miller of Vallejo to the editor of "Vallejo Times Herald"
I was watching the Dec. 13 Vallejo City Council meeting and noted an interesting comment made by the new incoming city councilman, Robert McConnell. He stated that in the future the members of the police, fire and city workers unions were going to stop taking contract negotiations personal.
Now let's look at his comment/demand logically. As he and his cohorts on the council keep up the Wisconsin-style attacks to strip these employees of their pay, working conditions, health care coverage and pensions, they are not to take it as a personal assault on them. How obtuse can Councilman McConnell be?

2011-12-22 "Craving controversy" letter by Lisa Logoteta of Vallejo to the editor of "Vallejo Times Herald"
I watched the Dec. 13 Vallejo City Council meeting and saw councilmembers Gomes and Brown put on a resolution calling for police oversight and review of how the Vallejo Police Department is managed.
Members of the public and officers showed up and spoke about how insensitive the timing of the resolution was because of the recent murder of Officer Capoot.
I have watched as Gomes has lived off controversy for the last six years. She always seems to want to fight about something.
At the conclusion of the Dec. 13 meeting, the council unanimously agreed to put this matter over until next year.
I think that Gomes knew exactly what she was doing. She put this resolution on to again start a fight. She knew that the police employees had a tremendous amount of emotion following their loss, and that they would show up and call her out on what she was doing. Then she agreed to put the measure over.
Why not just do that in the first place? Because she wants controversy!

2011-12-23 "It's (not) all in the timing" letter by Gilbert Fleitas Luciano of Vallejo to the editor of "Vallejo Times Herald"
There is a popular saying that it is one thing to talk about the devil, and another to see him coming. I think that's what happened to the city's public safety unions at the Dec. 13 Vallejo City Council meeting.
Councilwoman Gomes co-sponsored and presented a resolution to create a safety oversight committee in Vallejo. The expected reaction of those present had nothing to do with the timing of the resolution or of the spurious arguments voiced by some. This resolution could have been offered last June or next June, and the programmed demonstration would have been the same. Public safety unions -- particularly police -- historically don't like and don't want ANY non-elected civilians or citizens overseeing them and second-guessing their official duties. The motive of the crowd was all about money, and nothing else. The only item deleted from the resolution of Ms. Gomes was: "A review of public safety contracts." This says it all. Our fire and police unions don't want non-elected citizens involved in next year's collective labor negotiations -- thus their vehement opposition to any public safety or whatever. They would rather deal with the politicians than with any citizens' oversight body.
Fire and police unions have given a lot during Vallejo's financial crisis. For them it is time, as expressed many times by their leadership, to get what they lost. Anything that might threaten their interest in future contract negotiations will be opposed.
The behavior by some present at the council meeting, interrupting council members when speaking, was regretful. I give credit to Councilman Robert McConnell for not being intimidated by the unruly crowd. If he characterizes his first meeting as a council member as a "bath of fire," wait what is coming to him if he gets involved in next collective bargaining. Ms Gomes doesn't need any advice. She has a hard hide. On the other hand, Councilmember Bob Sampayan, as a retired police officer, should have had the intestinal fortitude to at least ask the crowd for some civility. He kept his mouth shut. The mayor, Mr. Davis, should have had emptied the chamber after the second outburst.
As an afterthought, Councilmembers Hannigan and Sunga should name Mat Mustard and Sam Kurshan as their respectively appointees to any future oversight committee. This, I think, will make everybody happy.

No comments:

Post a Comment