Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Partners for Peace: Vallejo Police Department (VPD), and the Vallejo Times-Herald (VTH)

VPD is secure with an understanding of complete solidarity with the local monopolized newspaper, and with local churches and military organizations. A recent "Vallejo Peace Rally" was organized for the night of December 15th to rally support for VPD, and the majority of participants are from local churches which are hostile to the news of Human Rights abuse in Vallejo, and which are, incidentally, filled with retired and on-duty soldiers and police personnel, who altogether are supportive of military adventures against civilians around the world (Re: New Apostolic Reformation Movement). However, the organizers "allowed" 3 people speaking out against Human Rights abuse by VPD to take the mic and take a stand for Peace with Justice. However, an organizer and member of the "Emmanuel Temple Apostolic Church" (?) was given the last word, and he denounced the memory of the murder victims of VPD, saying the victims are "at Peace" and should not be a focus of the Peace rally...
Worse, yet, is the article written up for the VTH, which censors everything mentioned at the Vallejo Peace Rally concerning Justice against Human Rights abuse in Vallejo. The censorship is indicative of the hostility on behalf of the VTH's editors against Human Rights, and about the purpose of the rally, to raise public support for VPD during a time that the Vallejo City Council is voting to cut their paychecks down to market value (comparable to salaries of PD Officers at Richmond, or Fairfield)... the description of the pro-VPD "Vallejo Peace Rally" was prominently placed above the article about the decision by the Vallejo City Council:

"Vallejo residents seek ways to end spate of violence"
2013-12-16 by Irma Widjojo "Vallejo Times-Herald" [http://www.timesheraldonline.com/news/ci_24731688/vallejo-residents-seek-ways-end-spate-violence]:
In various settings, Vallejo residents are wrestling with what to do about a recent spate of violent crime in the city.
Some took their voices to the street, while some gathered in a smaller group to brainstorm ideas.
About 20 people came together Friday night at a business on Springs Road to vent their frustrations.The hour-long meeting was attended by concerned residents, who said they are focused on one main goal: citizen safety.
On Sunday night about 100 gathered at the waterfront to decry the violence, and offer suggestions to respond to it. Both groups indicated they would hold future meetings about the issue.
On Friday night nearly two dozen met in an informal session open to anyone concerned about the recent violence.
"I have heard the cries of so many customers in my business ... They are so frustrated and disappointed with the city," said Jon Connelly, host of Friday's meeting. "Too many good people are being subjected to this kind of behavior."
Connelly and others said something must change because the violence is driving out residents and businesses.
"It's the every day problem," he said. "The police are so overworked, they have to respond to this every day. ... The mugging, the burglaries."
A manager of the 99 cents store on Springs Road said sometimes she has to call police three times in a day due to shoplifting, robbery and other issues.
Another resident said she feels imprisoned in her own home because she doesn't feel safe walking around in Vallejo.
At the meeting, the group shared ideas about what can be done, and plans were made to meet again before the year ends.
"We're not going to stand out and protest, we're going to dive in and do the hard work," Connelly said. "We're going to find an answer, and we're not going to take 'no' for an answer
"We're going to start small, but we're going to grow and assemble an army," he vowed.
Those interested in joining Connelly's effort can call him at (707) 644-0755.
At Sunday night's waterfront vigil, more than 100 people trickled in at about 8 p.m. at the invitation of a young Vallejo resident.
Akilah Jones, 20, said she decided to rally people for the "Stop the Violence" vigil because she was tired of people saying that nothing can be done to change Vallejo.
"The community as a whole can make the decision to say that we're supporting anti violence," said Jones, a California Maritime Academy student and mother of a young child.
She, other speakers, and a few others agreed there needs to be more activities and mentorship for children, like opening a youth center.
"We're going to stand together for this generation, and the future generation," Jones told the crowd. "We're not going to allow the people who are killing people to set the standard anymore."
The speakers included artists reading spoken words and a poem, and other concerned citizens. Some were also making signs that read "It's not snitching, it's saving lives" and "Peace happens when a community takes a stand."
Eric Jones came with about 15 other people to represent the Victory Outreach Church of Vallejo.
"I'm here to support anyone who's grieving," said Eric Jones, who is not related to Akilah Jones.
The 40-year-old man said he was born and raised in Vallejo, and had lived the "street life" himself, but was saved by his faith.
"I hope people will seek the comfort of the Lord, I used to be in the street life, but they can be helped also," Jones said. "As long as you have a breath in you, then you can always change as long as you're willing."
Another attendee, Ricky Nut, Jr. said he sees hope in the city.
The Vallejo school teacher said he is a product of the city and chose to come back to his hometown after graduating college in 2006.
"This is home to me, I feel like I'm supposed to be here and I feel like there are people out here that feel the same way too," Nut said.
He said he knows the family of one of the most recent Vallejo homicide victims. Frank Gore, 27, was killed in a shooting Tuesday night behind a recording studio in the 700 block of Tuolumne Street. His death came hours after another 27-year-old, Anthony Young, was gunned down in another part of the city. No one has been arrested in either case.
Nut said the solution is not to abandon the city.
"We all have the responsibility to respond to this," he said. He said his responsibility is to teach the future generation respect and other life skills.
Like Akilah Jones, Nut said there needs to be more positive activities for the youth.
"We're not doing enough, but we need to buckle down and find a solution," he said.
Akilah Jones said those who want to be involved in her future meetings and events, can email her at AJones@csum.edu.
The anti-violence efforts came after a particularly violent week in Vallejo. Four people were killed and another wounded in a shooting within a five-day period. There have been 26 homicides in Vallejo in 2013, including three fatal officer-involved shootings.
Hours before Sunday's vigil two people were wounded in separate shootings in Vallejo.
"Anti-violence vigil planned in response to Vallejo deaths", 2013-12-13 by Jessica A. York from "Vallejo Times-Herald [http://www.timesheraldonline.com/news/ci_24716091/anti-violence-vigil-planned-response-vallejo-deaths]:
When it comes to violence in Vallejo, Akilah Jones felt like she had to step up -- in fact, she had little other option. After all, Jones, a California Maritime Academy student and 20-year-resident, is raising her young son here.
And so, for Sunday night, Jones has begun planning the Stop the Violence Vigil. The event is open to anyone and everyone who wishes to honor the memories of those killed this year or in past years in Vallejo -- and better yet, to those who want to do something about it.
"This is my city," Jones said earlier this week. "I want things to change. If my son grows up here, he cannot be the next victim. It's not just the fact that I know what to do to get people active, but it's also the fact that I'm from here and I have a heart for the people ... who are hurting because of it."
Jones said she is particularly hoping to draw together community members 18 to 35 years of age -- a group disproportionally struck by Vallejo's latest violence.
"We're trying to mobilize Vallejo citizens for change in Vallejo," Jones said. "I want to educate people that change is possible. Other communities have ... gone against (violence) and have been successful in their endeavors."
Jones said a local rap artist plans to donate the use of a speaker and microphone, and will read an original poem. She is asking attendees to bring their thoughts, memories and candles to the waterfront, near the Vallejo Ferry Building, around 8 p.m. Sunday.
A positive outcome from the event, Jones said, would be organizing community members to continue working against violence and attending Vallejo City Council meetings to share their concerns with city leaders.
"We're just going to figure things out while everyone who cares about (violence) is there," Jones said.

"Vallejo Council imposes salary, benefit cuts on city police; Unanimous council rejects plea to await new council decision"
2013-12-17 by Jessica A. York from "Vallejo Times-Herald" [http://www.timesheraldonline.com/news/ci_24739069/vallejo-council-imposes-salary-benefit-cuts-city-police]:
The Vallejo City Council unanimously agreed Monday night to impose salary and benefit cuts on its police force following a heated public hearing centering on public safety.
The 6-0 vote, with retired officer-Council member Bob Sampayan abstaining, will impose the short-term conditions effective Jan. 1. City staff estimate savings of $2.7 million.
Before voting Mayor Osby Davis said he struggled with the decision because he knows how important public safety is to the city of Vallejo. He said he hopes a safer city will be part of his legacy as mayor.
However, Davis added, "I can't spend what I don't have and be fiscally responsible." Davis also said he believed that taking such steps will avert a return into fiscal insolvency.
Labor-backed incumbent Jess Malgapo also voted for the cuts, but said it disturbed him whenever fiscal problems were addressed on the backs of employees. He said he was casting a "reluctant" aye vote because the adopted contract will expire in six months and negotiations on a new one will address some of his concerns, particularly about retiree benefits.
More than 230 people crowded into the Council Chambers before the vote, and about 40 speakers - evenly divided on the issue - spoke out about it.
Assistant City Manager Craig Whittom told the council that staff recommendations offered to be imposed on police officers differed from a fact finder's report. He said that was necessary in order to strike a balance between needed cost savings and long-term employee retention and recruitment.
Opponents of a vote Monday said the new council, which takes office on Jan. 7, should decide the fate of the employee contract, which is now in an impasse.
Mayor Davis said waiting for the three new council members to take office before addressing the issue would be "unfair" to them because they lack the background of lengthy negotiations.
During the public hearing, retired teacher Tom Ovens urged the council to impose the cuts despite his empathy for officers who would find their retirement package has been changed. He described life in Vallejo as like "a war zone" where residents do not feel safe, and are in need of more officers.
Retired officer Kevin Kelley rejected the city's assumption that retirees who received an increased pension level after 2000 were all earning six figure incomes. Another former officer, retired in 2003, asked the council to allow retirees to maintain their full health care coverage.
"I'll have to stand in the street medians and beg for money," the retiree said.
Resident Doug Darling supported the contract imposition's adoption Monday.
"This is not about love or hate; This is about sustainability," Darling told the council.
Other speakers' comments ranged from suggesting further conversation on the issue to accusing police of being as bad as the criminals they chase.
The council took a break at the end of the comment period before proceeding to decide the issue.
Before the police contract discussion, the council took a moment to honor its firefighters for a life-saving rescue at the end of November. Little Alphonso, 2 years old, was rescued by fire engineer Dyhanne Stohmeyer and others from a drainage tunnel in Blue Rock Springs Creek at Fairgrounds Drive and Coach Lane. Alphonso and his family attended the recognition ceremony.

In other meeting agenda items, the council approved:
• Appointing Liat Meitzenheimer to a term on the Greater Vallejo Recreation District. She had previously served on the GVRD board and was recently a City Council candidate.
• A change to Vallejo parking garage pass hours - from 16 hours to a full 24.
• A $225,000 settlement to the family of 21-year-old Anthony Washington, who died in 2004 after being shot with a Taser by Vallejo police.
• Authorizing a city lobbyist to push legislation providing "victims' rights" for neighborhood associations wishing to take neighborhood nuisances to court.
The Council was also set to consider creating a Police Chief's Advisory Committee, per a recommendation from the former Ad Hoc Citizens Public Safety Advisory Committee.

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