The Year in Review 2012-2013

The Year in Review: 2012-2013

by Marty McReynolds, Chair
Sonoma Chapter’s Awards Celebration and Annual Dinner
May 17, 2013

Thank you for coming and sharing this event with us.  A lot has happened since our last celebration and annual dinner.
Our chapter’s major push during the past year involved helping the campaign to end the death penalty in California through adoption of Proposition 34, which would have replaced executions with life in prison without possibility of parole, and Proposition 36, which reformed California’s Three Strikes Law.
Chapter members were active in circulating petitions to get Proposition 34 on the ballot.  Board members Steve Fabian, Imam Ali Siddiqui and Jackie Leonard then worked hard to get it passed.  Thousands of leaflets were passed out at farmers’ markets and other locations.  Imam Ali Siddiqui participated in numerous community forums, debates and discussions.  The initiative won in Sonoma County by a strong margin, 56.5 percent to 43.5 percent, but it unfortunately lost statewide with 47 percent in favor and 53 percent against.  That battle is not over.
Board member Steve Fabian was also active in Proposition 36, debating proponent Mark Klass and in newspaper interviews.  In Sonoma County the measure passed by over 76% of the vote, statewide by over 68% of the vote.
In other activities…
Your chapter obtained assurances from the City of Santa Rosa that police will not interfere with music played in the streets as part of a free-speech protest.  This happened after members of the Occupy Santa Rosa Band said police warned them they were violating a city ordinance requiring a permit to perform.  In a meeting with City Attorney Caroline Fowler on October 16, Chapter Board Members Evan Livingstone, Marty McReynolds and Judith Volkart, along with Occupy Band musicians Jean Redus and Miles Atchison, explained that the music was part of a constitutionally protected protest and that the musicians were not violating the ordinance’s requirements.  On Nov. 29, the city attorney stated in a letter that police had been instructed not to interfere with the band’s performances, which have been a key part of Occupy protests in Santa Rosa and elsewhere.
Sonoma State University dedicated the Mario Savio Speakers’ Corner on the Rohnert Park campus on November 15 to honor the memory of the free speech activist and SSU teacher of math, philosophy and humanities.  Savio, a leader of the Free Speech Movement at U.C. Berkeley in 1964-65, taught at SSU from 1990 to 1996.  Our Chapter, which had worked closely with Savio during his time in Sonoma County, helped fund the memorial on the northwest corner of the Stevenson Quad.  It features benches and a tiled central area displaying some of Savio’s eloquent statements on free speech and resisting conformity.  It is a very busy spot on campus where students gather to speak daily.
Chapter Board Members Steve Fabian, Jackie Leonard, Marty McReynolds and Judith Volkart, and then-Board applicant Bonnie Madrid attended the annual ACLU Conference and Lobby Day in Sacramento April 4-6.  They attended a series of workshops that was followed by a day of calling on legislators at the State Capitol to push for bills promoting greater access to women’s reproductive health services, promoting the Trust Act to establish a state wide response to federal immigration requests for jail holds on undocumented immigrants who have not been convicted of serious crimes, to allow simple, non-violent possession of drugs (excluding marijuana which is an infraction) to be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony (some drugs can only be charged as a felony.)  It was an energizing experience for those who attended, observed state government in action and had a chance to make one-on-one contact with legislators.
Members of the Chapter Education Committee – Jackie Leonard, Marty McReynolds, Nancy Palandati, Dick van Aggelen and Judith Volkart played an active role in promoting a better approach to discipline in Sonoma County Schools, where a high rate of expulsions and suspensions has a particularly harsh effect on students of color and those with disabilities.  Committee members worked with the Education Task Force of the North Bay Organizing Project to plan a presentation to the Santa Rosa School Board on April 17, when it took up a report on the subject.  The school board appeared to respond favorably to the presentation but has not approved a plan of action yet.  If you are interested in helping with project, let us know.
The State of California  is undergoing  major changes to its criminal justice system after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the overcrowding of California’s prison system was so severe, that it amounted to cruel and unusual punishment.  As a result, the state must drastically lower the number of inmates in prisons.  This has forced the state to make major changes to its laws and send numerous inmates to counties.  The state has empowered the counties to create new programs to deal with this shift.  Board members Steve Fabian and Jackie Leonard have been monitoring and participating at Sonoma County’s Community Corrections Partnership meetings that determine the programs and policies to be adopted locally to advocate for more treatment programs to reduce recidivism.
The Chapter was once again active tabling at community events. Our board members Evan Livingstone, Nancy Palandati, Imam Ali Saddiqui, Marty McReynolds, Jackie Leonard, Dick van Aggelen, Raquel Lopez, Bonnie Madrid and Steve Fabian and literature made it to the Pride Day Celebration, Dia De Muertos Celebration, Petaluma Progressive Festival, Healdsburg Earth Day Celebration, and the May Day march and rally, which focused on worker and immigrant rights.
This year we launched our Facebook page!  Don’t forget to “Like us” on Facebook at www.facebook.com/ACLUsonoma.
A special thanks must be given to two former board members who continue to volunteer on a daily basis, Victor Chechanover, who answers our phone and Wayne Gibb, who answers our emails.  Their work is vital in keeping our chapter functioning.
Also thanks to Rhio Reigh and Juli Inman for designing the beautiful floral centerpieces.
Let’s not forget those who worked to make tonight’s dinner possible, led by Board Member Steve Fabian’s tireless efforts and organizational savvy, assisted by Board Members Raquel Gomez, Jackie Leonard, Marty McReynolds, Nancy Palandati, Dick van Aggelen and Judith Volkart and numerous volunteers.
The upcoming year presents new challenges as the ACLU and our chapter faces challenges involving education, privacy, immigration reform and more.  Come help us face these challenges.  Volunteer or consider joining the board.  Get friends to join.  Thank you for coming and helping keep your chapter strong.