By Shepherd Bliss
February 3, 2012
The Press Democrat's Feb. 1 editorial “Occupy Movement in Ashes” is wishful thinking. Our phoenix will rise during this month. You wait. You watch. You see.
Occupy is still an infant, having been born in New York Sept. 17 with Occupy Wall Street. It is not even five months old and already the local daily tries to editorialize it into ashes. Rumors of our death are premature. We have made mistakes, including in Oakland. We’re learning and experiencing what one activist calls “growing pains.” Provoked by police violence in Oakland, a few cornered occupiers among the 2000 present reacted. That has not happened here. The Sonoma County Occupy Town Hall Affinity Group--of which I am a member--opposes violence, as do the overwhelming majority of Occupy groups and individuals.
I do, however, respect the right of self-defense by those cornered by the police. As Martin Luther King, Jr. said, "Violence is the voice of the unheard." And as President John F. Kennedy said at a 1962 speech at the White House, “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.”
What would you do when surrounded by a large group of armed, masked, threatening, charging, and rioting armored men? I praise the brave souls willing to face such police violence. As one occupier wondered, “What’s next? Live ammunition?”
Punishing people in a democracy should be the job of the courts, not the police, which Oakland police are notorious for doing. They fan the flames.
by Shepherd Bliss
January 11, 2012
Like the grapevines collecting energy for a spring bloom, Occupy groups in Northern California are preparing this winter to extend their reach into the Latino, business and other local communities.
Sonoma County Occupy opened 2012 with two well-attended events -- one in the streets and another inside. Around 140 people attended a county-wide Town Hall on Occupy at Sebastopol's United Methodist church on Jan. 8. Two days earlier, over 400 protestors temporarily shut down two Wells Fargo Bank branches in Santa Rosa.
On Jan. 6 Occupy Santa Rosa joined forces with various Latino and immigration rights groups to march on the local branches of Wells Fargo. They targeted the bank because of its investments in two private prison corporations, foreclosure of local homes, and for receiving $25 billion in taxpayer bail-out dollars, while paying CEO John Stumpf $19 million in 2010. Seven protestors were arrested but have since been cited and released.
The dramatic day included the colorful arrival of dozens of cyclists on a 13.5-mile "Pedal for Justice" ride.
By Doug Foote
December 14, 2011
When police forces have cracked down on local Occupy encampments, TV cameras have swarmed to cover it. But what’s not being covered as closely are the numerous actions, symbolic and otherwise, on the part of local elected officials to endorse or otherwise support the protests of the 99 Percent going on in their cities.
On October 12 in Los Angeles, California, the second largest city in the United States, the City Council resolved that the body “stands in support for the continuation of the peaceful and vibrant exercise in First Amendment Rights carried out by ‘Occupy Los Angeles.’” The resolution included in its justification that 1 in 5 foreclosures in the U.S. have taken place in California, and that an investigation of the financial crisis and holding those accountable are particularly in the interest of Angelenos. The cities of Sebastopol and Santa Anna, California have also formally endorsed Occupy Wall Street.
On November 14 in Seattle, Washington, the nine-member City Council resolved to support the Occupy Seattle protest. They stressed that they condemn violence and any action taken that interferes with the police, but also that they would actively take steps to address the Occupiers concerns. “The City will review its banking and investment practices to ensure that public funds are invested in responsible financial institutions that support our community,” the resolution states.
by Shepherd Bliss
December 11, 2011
The uniformed police chief of the small California town of Sebastopol walked toward Occupy Sebastopol's decision-making General Assembly (GA). It was Veteran's Day, and many veterans, some of them homeless, had integrated with Occupy gatherings around the nation. Occupiers in larger cities might have been nervous. But the Chief carried a plate of brownies in his hand.
"These are from the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW)," Chief Jeff Weaver said to the group. Praise followed him as he left.
Occupy Wall Street-events in big cities like New York, Oakland and Los Angeles receive considerable coverage in the mainstream media, especially when police react. Less known is the fact that the 'Occupy' movement has reached into small towns and mid-size cities around the country, engaging people in new conversations and moving into the local political sphere.
In semi-agrarian Sonoma County, just north of San Francisco, Occupy Sebastopol (OS) is creating a beehive of activity from the public square of Sebastopol, an apple-growing, environmentally conscious town that describes itself as "Peacetown, USA."
Best known for its fine wines, Sonoma County has the most lucrative wine industry in the U.S. The first wine billionaire, Jess Jackson, has his wineries and vineyards here, as does the giant Gallo Corporation. Most of the nearly 8,000 locals, however, still tend to think of this region as the nature-based Redwood Empire, in contrast to the commercial wine country of next-door Napa County.
On Dec. 6, Sebastopol's City Council unanimously passed a detailed resolution to support OS, proposed by former mayor and current City Council member Sarah Gurney. Another Councilmember, Kathleen Shaffer, has an occupy sign in her front yard.
By MARTIN ESPINOZA
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
December 10, 2011
On a projection screen inside a Sonoma State University classroom, economics professor Steven Cuellar illustrates the nation’s income trends for the past 35 years — a story told in wildly diverging lines.
The American economy has rewarded its upper-income earners with dramatic income gains that seem to climb off the chart, while real wages for everyone else have been stagnant or fallen.
Cuellar outlined the national story during a recent labor and economics lecture. And federal and state data for Sonoma County tell a similar story.
The county’s median household income inched up to $59,055 in 2010 from $57,321 in 2002, according to census figures. But the increase did not even make up for the moderate inflation of the past decade — a household would have had to bring in $69,479 in 2010 to have the same purchasing power of the $57,321 in 2002.
Thus, real buying power for the mid-income household in Sonoma County has dropped sharply.
Meanwhile, the top 1 percent of earners in Sonoma County increased their share of the county’s total income by more than 12 percent from 2002 through 2008, according to the latest tax statistics from the California Franchise Tax Board. Tax statistics for 2009, the latest data available, could not be readily used because of specified income brackets do not yield that year’s top 1 percent of taxpayers.
In 2008, that group collected about 15.5 percent of the county’s $13 billion gross income. Eight years earlier, they collected 13.8 percent of a total income of $10.7 billion.
By Shepherd Bliss
December 9, 2011
Good things can come in small packages. Sebastopol in semi-agrarian Sonoma County, Northern California, has a population under 8000. Occupy Sebastopol (OS) recently has been home to a bee-hive of activity in this town’s square that describes itself as “Peacetown, USA.”
Sonoma County is best known for its fine wines. It has the most lucrative wine industry in the U.S. The first wine billionaire, Jess Jackson, has his wineries and vineyards here, as does the giant Gallo Corporation. Most locals, however, still tend to think of this region as the nature-based Redwood Empire, rather than the commercial Wine Country.
Occupy events in big cities like New York, Oakland, and Portland receive considerable coverage in the corporate media, especially when police react. Yet in small towns and mid-size cities, peaceful occupations occur that engage people in conversations in public spaces and beyond.
On Veteran’s Day, for example, the uniformed police chief Jeff Weaver walked toward OS’s decision-making General Assembly (GA). Occupiers in larger cities might have been nervous. But the Chief carried a plate of brownies and said, “These are from the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW).” Praise followed him as he left. Many vets, some of them homeless, have been on the frontlines of Occupy gatherings around the nation.
Sebastopol’s City Council unanimously passed a detailed resolution with ten whereas clauses on Dec. 6, proposed by former mayor and current City Council member Sarah Gurney to support OS. She noted, “Many cities have passed resolutions to support the Occupy movement.” Mayor Guy Wilson added, “It seems clear that the community supports this resolution.” Councilmember Kathleen Shaffer has an occupy sign in her front yard.