Sheriff Candidate Ernesto Olivares Speaks to Club

Ernesto Olivares, currently a Santa Rosa City Council member and a former Santa Rosa Police Department lieutenant, spoke to the Windsor/North County Democratic Club on Thursday, January 25th. Olivares main point of emphasis was that 21st century policing requires excellent community engagement, hence his slogan “Olivares for Our Sheriff.”

Olivares was the second of the three declared candidates for sheriff to speak to the club. Mark Essick spoke on October 26th; John Mutz will speak on February 22nd.

Olivares began his career as a police cadet at Yuba College in the Sacramento Valley. From there, after a few years, he moved to Santa Rosa in 1979 to take a police job. In his career, he moved up in the ranks to eventually become a lieutenant. He served in a number of special assignments including detective, crisis negotiator, and field training officer.

After being promoted to Sergeant, Olivares supervised a number of units, among them Sex Crime and Family Violence, Internal Affairs, and the police Public Information Office. He also served as an Acting Commander in the Special Services Division.

In 2004, Olivares was promoted to Police Lieutenant and served as Watch Commander overseeing the deployment of officers in the Field Services Division. In 2006 he became the head of Santa Rosa’s new gang prevention and intervention services, where he established and built partnerships with a number of community-based organizations.

Olivares retired from the police department in 2008 and was elected to Santa Rosa City Council that same year, the council’s first Latino member. He served as the city’s mayor from 2010 to 2012. In keeping with his work with the police department, he was the chair of the Santa Rosa Violence Prevention Partnership for six years.

As well as being a councilmember, Olivares is currently the Executive Director of the California Cities Violence Prevention Network.

If elected, Olivares would focus on several areas in the sheriff’s department:

First, each of the more than 28 separate communities in Sonoma County should be in continual interaction with the sheriff to determine what is currently working or not working, through focus groups and community meetings.

Second, hiring and promotion practices should be revamped to recruit a more diverse group of sheriff’s deputies. Olivares thinks this can be done by reaching out to other areas of the state, going to schools and conferences, and encouraging local youth to become police officers. After applications have been winnowed, there should be a group of community members as well as the usual committee of sheriff’s department personnel, who should hold parallel interviews to give their input before the final decision is made on hiring or promotion.

A third area of emphasis would be the total commitment of all members of the sheriff’s department to community policing, rather than having a small separate unit specializing in this.

For more information on Olivares, go to

— Rick Massell

Remaining Two Sheriff Candidates to Speak in January and February

By the end of February, all three of the declared candidates for Sonoma County Sheriff will have spoken, individually, at a Sonoma/North County Democratic club meeting.

  • Captain Mark Essick was first, in October.
  • On January 25, Santa Rosa City Councilman and retired Santa Rosa Police Lieutenant Ernesto Olivares will speak at the club’s 7 p.m. meeting.
  • On February 22, retired Los Angeles Police Captain John Mutz will speak at the club’s 7 p.m. meeting.

These are great opportunities to hear the remaining two candidates speak at length, and answer questions. The January and February meetings are at the usual place, the Round Table Pizza restaurant in Windsor, on Old Redwood Highway.

The primary election for Sonoma County Sheriff is in June 2018, with any runoff in November. The current Sheriff, Rob Giordano, will retire in January 2019, when his appointed term ends.

Mark Essick Makes His Case for Sheriff to the Windsor Democratic Club

Mark Essick, one of four candidates running for Sonoma County Sheriff, says that his experience and goals for the Sheriff’s department make him the best choice. In his presentation to the Windsor Democratic Club on Thursday, October 26th, he made the case for his election .

Captain Essick, whose appearance was first in a series of conversations that the club plans to have with all the candidates for sheriff, said that one of his major goals was changing the composition of the department to look more like the community. Currently, 95% of the deputies are white males. Essick believes that the department should resemble the population of Sonoma County, with its minorities of blacks, Asians, and LGBTQ individuals, ans which is 26% Latino and 50% female. That requires changes to the departments culture, including promotions up to positions of leadership.

Homelessness and related mental health problems are a top issue for Essick. He explained the fiscal and ethical implications of the ways in which we currently deal with the homeless. Arresting them costs $153 per day at the jail. Sending them to the emergency room costs $1500 for the ambulance and $3500 per day for treatment at the ER.

Essick agrees that the currently active program of Housing First (putting the homeless in their own apartments) is the best solution but believes that it has to be accompanied by counseling and treatment. He would wholeheartedly agree to a reduction of $153 per day in the Sheriff’s Department budget for every inmate diverted to treatment and housing. This would free up funding from the county and cities for such programs.

Essick represented the former Sheriff, Steve Freitas, on the CALLE task force, created after the Andy Lopez shooting. He explained to the audience how the process of oversight now works. Incidents are reviewed by IOLERO, headed by Jerry Threet. Essick likened this process and recommendations that follow to that of a grand jury. There is no legal necessity to follow the recommendations but the sheriff’s office would be neglectful and subject to public and press criticism if they ignored them.

In the question period that followed, Essick was asked about immigration. He stated that it is “none of my business” in reference to knowing the immigration status of residents of our county or those arrested or in the jail. He feels that the trust and cooperation of everyone in our community is essential to good law enforcement and the feeling of security of all residents.

Mark Essick was born and raised in Novato. He now lives in Cloverdale and has close connections to Sonoma County with all of his near relatives living in the region.

— Rick Massell and Val Hinshaw

Note: The Windsor Democratic Club will hold a business meeting from 1 to 3 pm on Saturday, November 11, at the Windsor Round Table restaurant. Regular meetings, on the fourth Thursday of the month, will start again in January 2018.

Sheriff Candidate Mark Essick to Speak at October Meeting

Captain Mark Essick, a candidate in the upcoming election for Sheriff of Sonoma County, will speak to the club at the meeting on Thursday, October 26th, at 7 p.m. at the Windsor Round Table restaurant. The club will also elect four voters and two alternates for the regional pre-endorsement conference in January 2018. This allows the club to have input into the California Democratic Party endorsements for our representatives in Congress and in the state legislature.

Captain Mark Essick grew up in Marin County. He attended California State University, Sacramento where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice in 1993.  He began his career with the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office in 1994. Starting in the Detention Division as a Correctional Deputy, he joined the Law Enforcement Division in 1996 as a Deputy Sheriff, where he worked a variety of assignments, including main office patrol, Roseland substation, the contract Town of Windsor, Field Training Officer, and Property Crimes Detective. In 2002, he earned a Master’s of Business Administration from Golden Gate University, San Francisco.

In 2007, he was promoted to Sergeant, working as a main office patrol supervisor, Windsor Police Department supervisor, and Bomb Squad supervisor. In 2014 he was promoted to Lieutenant. In addition to working as Patrol Watch Commander, he managed a variety of specialized units, including the Helicopter Unit, the Bomb Squad, and the Marine Unit. In 2015 he moved to the Administrative Division, managing the Sheriff’s Office Personnel and Internal Affairs units. In 2016, after being promoted to Captain, he returned to Field Services Division, where he is responsible for overseeing and managing the Patrol Bureau, Dispatch Bureau, Court Security / Transportation Bureau, and the contract cities of Windsor and Sonoma.

Tenant’s Rights Attorney Speaks at Windsor Democratic Club

Making the case that substandard housing is a public health issue, long-time tenant’s rights attorney Edie Sussman advocated for rent control and just cause eviction in her presentation to the Windsor Democratic Club on September 28. She noted that substandard living conditions can often lead to respiratory conditions, including asthma, and other health issues, which impact the level of health in our communities.

Ms. Sussman represented thirty- six former tenants of the Bennett Valley Townhomes in a lawsuit against the current and former owners of the property. The renters were low income, primarily Latino, some of whom were undocumented. The plaintiffs recently agreed to a Sonoma County record $2.7 million settlement. Frequent complaints by the tenants of mold and rodent infestation, as well as leaking roofs and defective plumbing and heating systems, were not addressed by the property managers.

The renters complained to the City of Santa Rosa Code Enforcement department, who after inspecting the property directed the owners to remediate the conditions in which the tenants were being forced to live. On the follow-up visit, the Code Enforcement officer signed off on the complaints without physically inspecting the property after the managers told him that the problems had been corrected. This proved to be untrue and the tenants joined together in seeking legal assistance from Ms. Sussman, who has been involved in this aspect of legal practice since the mid- 1980’s. She applauded the courage of the tenant group who persevered through the hardships of the long process.

In addition to the financial award to the tenants, Ms. Sussman noted several other positive outcomes to the case. The city of Santa Rosa, which had reduced the number of code enforcement personnel because of budget reductions caused by the 2008 recession, has significantly increased those numbers. The city is now working to create a program of yearly inspections to all rental properties to ensure that adequate standards are being met. A rental inspection program, if implemented in Santa Rosa, may become a model for the entire county.

Ms. Sussan feels that the city of Santa Rosa is way out in front of other county municipalities and the county itself on the issue of substandard housing. She is optimistic that a rent control measure and a just cause eviction proposition will be on the 2018 ballot in Santa Rosa. With the very tight county housing market driving rent increases, low-income renters are forced to accept substandard, fringe housing because the alternative is seen as eviction and inability to find another living place.

The Windsor club meets next on Thursday, October 26, at 7 p.m. The speaker will be Captain Mark Essick, a candidate for the office of Sonoma County Sheriff.

— Barry Hirsch

Speaker Rendon Calls on Assembly Committee to ‘Get to Yes’ on Health Care for All

Thursday, August 24, 2017

SACRAMENTO — Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-Lakewood) today announced that Dr. Joaquin Arambula (D-Fresno) and Dr. Jim Wood (D-Healdsburg), the chairs of the Assembly Select Committee on Health Care Delivery Systems and Universal Coverage, will hold ongoing hearings beginning in the legislative interim so the committee can develop plans for achieving universal health care in California.

“The fight to protect the Affordable Care Act helped galvanize the principle that health care is a basic right,” Rendon said. “There are several different approaches being proposed, including Medicare for all, single payer, hybrid systems and ACA expansion. I have called for these hearings to determine what approach best gets us there – what gets us to ‘yes’ when it comes to health care for all.”

Speaker Rendon stressed that the hearings would not simply go back over information covered in the past, but will provide a new opportunity to determine the best and quickest path forward toward universal health care. Overcoming potential federal and constitutional obstacles, ensuring delivery of care, and examining funding mechanisms will all be part of the committee’s purview.

“It’s not a question of debating whether we move toward health care for all – it’s a matter of choosing how best and how soon,” Rendon said. “The committee’s work will help fill the void of due diligence that should have been done on SB 562 or any universal health care bill that so profoundly affects so many Californians.”

“It is my direction that these hearings be focused and thorough, and produce real results,” Rendon said. “In addition to the oaths they took as legislators, Dr. Wood and Dr. Arambula have also taken oaths to protect and defend patients’ health, so I know they will take a vigorous approach to this challenge, and the committee will begin the heavy lifting needed to advance serious proposals for health care for all.”

Website of Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon:

Tenant’s Rights Attorney To Speak to Club

As rents increase, as a result of the county’s severe housing shortage, lower-income tenants are being forced into substandard housing. In her presentation, tenant’s rights attorney Edie Sussman, the featured speaker at the Windsor/North County Democratic Club meeting on September 28, will share her vast knowledge on this issue.

Ms. Sussman completed her undergraduate studies at Sonoma State before attending law school. She represented 36 former residents of the Bennett Valley Townhome apartments, primarily low income, Latino residents, who sued the owners in 2015 after complaints about mold and vermin infestation were not addressed. Ms. Sussman negotiated a record $2.7 million settlement on behalf of her clients. She commented after the award, “The lawsuit didn’t just help the clients. It helped the community. It reorganized Santa Rosa’s code enforcement and brought attention to the housing crisis in the county.”

The meeting, at the Windsor Round Table Pizza, 8499 Old Redwood Hwy, begins at 7 p.m. It is free and open to all. Pizza will be served.

— Barry Hirsch

August Presentation – Creating Public Banks

After hearing from district elected officials in the last several meetings, the club will host an issue-based presentation by public banking advocate Shelly Browning on Thursday, August 24, at 7 p.m. at the Windsor Round Table Pizza, 8499 Old Redwood Highway. Ms. Browning has been involved in the public banking movement for the past five years, working with the organization Friends of Public Banking Santa Rosa.

Public banks, banks owned by a government entity, have been around since at least 1408, when the first known institution was established in Genoa, Italy. In general, public banks are intended to operate for the public interest.

Currently, the only public bank in the U.S. is the Bank of North Dakota, which has operated since 1919. North Dakota’s assets are used to capitalize the bank, and state revenues are mandated to be deposited in the bank. Dividends are paid to the people.

Public banks are now being considered in several California cities, as well as in other states throughout the U.S. Shelly Browning will present the case for public banking. The meeting is free and open to all. Pizza will be served.

— Barry Hirsch



The club will also discuss, briefly:

  • The proposal by the developer of Vintage Oaks to pay the Town $750,000 in order to avoid having any moderate-rate housing units in the development. President Rick Massell would like to send a letter from the club, expressing the opinion of the club, if there is consensus on the matter.
  • Setting up tables for Tuesday, September 26, to help with National Voter Registration Day, and asking for volunteers.
  • Deep canvassing in one of Windsor’s precincts, and how people are interested in helping.

Supervisor James Gore Chats with the Club on July 27th

First-term District 4 Sonoma County Supervisor James Gore spoke at the Windsor/North County Democratic Club on July 27. Speaking informality, the 39-year-old Gore, who will become chair of the board of supervisors in January, offered insights to a broad range of issues he faces daily. Gore said that he enjoys the challenges of his position, whether those are complaints about potholes, meetings with constituents, passing the current county budget, or otherwise.

Gore noted that the recently-passed county budget provides more funding for road improvements than any other county in the state. He expressed hope that the twelve-cent-per-gallon state gas tax increase, which takes effect on November 1st, will provide additional funding to accelerate the rebuilding of deteriorating county roads.

Gore is considering proposing a measure to require a six-month per year residency requirement for homes in the county, to counteract the increase in vacation homes. He sees such a measure as a possible partial solution to the housing dilemma facing the county and the entire state.

Gore discussed the development of the Chanate Road property in Santa Rosa, calling the project approved by the supervisors as “imperfect”, but noting that 69 of the 85 acre site will be preserved as green space. Lessons learned from the Chanate process will taken into account as the board begins the development process for the former Sonoma County Water Agency parcel on West College Avenue, which the county now owns. Fifth District Supervisor Lynda Hopkins is leading leads the exploration of uses for this property, which is within her district. Gore said that a workforce housing component, possibly for area teachers, is receiving serious consideration.

On the political front, Gore continues to encourage people to get involved and to consider running for elective office. He hopes to see more women and Latinos running for office, and is open to meeting and mentoring potential candidates. He hopes that the trend of younger candidates continues, though he noted the challenge of serving on city councils or school boards: the workload and involvement is great, with a very low salary, making it necessary to have other employment, unless someone is retired or is independently wealthy.

Supervisor Gore said that he hopes to bring together the many non-profit organizations who are doing great work on numerous significant county problems, notably homelessness and the environment, theme he has touched on in previous visits with the club. In particular, he hopes to facilitate increased communication and coordination between organizations working in parallel in these areas. He termed this an effort to move into a world of greater “collective impact.”

Barry Hirsch

Single-Payer Activists Confront Assemblymember Jim Wood at July 20th Meeting

District 2 Assemblymember Jim Wood (D-Healdsburg) was the featured speaker at the July 20th meeting of the Windsor Democratic Club, discussing his 2017 legislative activities. He covered the highlights of the recently passed $183 billion state budget, with expanded support for K-12 education and additional funding for preschools. Wood reported that gas taxes have been increased to pay for repairs to our highways, the condition of which is costing motorists approximately $700/year in repair costs to their individual vehicles. He touched on other legislation in which he is engaged, including Assembly Bill 1433, which proposes using funds from the recently passed Cap and Trade Extension for carbon sequestration through better management of our forests and natural and working lands.

After his initial remarks, it became very clear that the most people in the audience were interested in only one piece of legislation, Senate Bill 562, the Healthy California Act, a bill to create a single-payer health care system in California. The progressive flank of the Democratic Party has been electrified by this issue, and are vocal in support for the bill, authored by State Senators Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) and Toni Atkins (D-San Diego).

In late June, Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-Paramount) decided to hold the bill indefinitely in the Assembly Rules Committee, calling it, as written, “woefully incomplete.” Rendon said that the bill failed to adequately address “financing, delivery of care, cost controls, or the realities of needed action by the Trump Administration and voters.” Wood, the chair of the Assembly Health Committee and a career dentist, said he supported a single payer system as a goal, but supported Rendon’s decision to ask the bill’s authors to come up with some solutions to the areas that had not been covered in the current bill.

Numerous speakers in the audience expressed dissatisfaction with Wood for not working to move the bill forward. Wood patiently reiterated the difficulties of supporting such a major overhaul of our healthcare supply system without adequate details, particularly when funding for our current system is under attack by the Trump administration and GOP-controlled congress. Currently, the federal government supplies approximately $200 billion yearly to help fund the California health care. Given the attacks to President Obama’s signature legislative achievement, the Affordable Care Act, this federal funding is now very much in jeopardy.

Concerns about the federal situation were not expressed by the single-payer activists in attendance. Several activists said that Wood was an impediment to single payer legislation despite his seemingly logical objection to the current bill. The single-payer folks didn’t seem to want to accept Wood’s statement that the bill is alive, but requires more collaborative work to arrive at a final product that will address the real concerns raised by Speaker Rendon and others. Wood did commit to speak with Rendon to ask him to publicize the bill’s progress and status.

Assemblymember Wood was the first speaker in a three consecutive Thursday program sponsored by the club. Supervisor James Gore will speak to the club on July 27 at the Windsor Round Table Pizza and State Senator Mike McGuire will speak on August 3 at the Cloverdale Vets Building. All meetings are at 7 p.m. and are open to the public.

— Barry Hirsch