Monday, March 20, 2006

Reelect ‘HotFix’ Blanchard

Mexican gang kids are shooting other kids on the street, so the Mayor and Vice Mayor called a meeting. The Press Democrat reported Sunday,

Mayor Jane Bender and Vice Mayor Bob Blanchard plan to meet with Police Chief Ed Flint and City Manager Jeff Kolin to determine what immediate actions should be taken and to discuss existing gang prevention programs, Blanchard said Saturday.”

Martin Espinoza’s story quoted Blanchard:

‘If kids aren't safe at a school bus stop, where are you safe?’ Blanchard said. ‘We're just getting hit by a whole series of these things.’”

“What happened ‘is totally unacceptable,’ he said. ‘There could be retaliation. Right now we need a hot fix of enforcement in this area.’

(PD, 3/19/06, “SR official urges ‘hot fix’ after shooting/gang attack spurs city leaders to meet, tighter security at school”

What’s a “hot fix”? “A hotfix is code (sometimes called a patch) that fixes a bug in a product.” (

Blanchard is a dour middle-aged man, with the sober demeanor of an undertaker. His background is military/police and teaching, but he apparently fancies himself a trendy, systems kind of guy.

Last Saturday, he seemed to think he and Bender could handle Santa Rosa’s violent street gangs the way Microsoft fixes Windows software bugs. They meet with CM Kolin and Chief Flint, and email the community a patch.

Blanchard is the only Council incumbent who wants to be reelected in November. Three seats are up for grabs, and Janet Condron and Steve Rabinowitsh are retiring.

I can see the fall campaign signs now: “Put a patch on crime! Reelect Bob ‘HotFix’ Blanchard.”

Just three days later, a follow-up story in today's PD reported,

"City leaders also met Monday about gang issues and struck several different notes.

They said the violence concerns them but does not signal a new explosion of gang crime. They also said only a community-wide response can effectively address both the gang violence and the reasons young people join gangs, and they urged residents to take advantage of gang intervention, counseling and education resources."
(PD, 3/21/06, "SR police suspect 2 gang shootings related/school tightens security after attack at bus stop; city officials say violence not a new explosion of gang crime")

And a neighbor of the site of the most recent shooting had a letter in today's PD. She wrote,

"Who has to die before the city of Santa Rosa takes action to resolve what is clearly an out-of-control situation? In fact, Airway Community School is not a school but a juvenile detention center without security...

The failure of the City Council to take immediate action to rectify this explosive situation immediately can only be described as negligent behavior. Any further injuries or deaths will be blood on the City Council's hands.
" (PD, 3/21/06, "Out of control")

In the meantime, Blanchard backed off. Mike McCoy's story today said,

"City Councilman Bob Blanchard, who Saturday called the violence 'unacceptable' and sought a 'hot fix of enforcement in this area,' said he was speaking specifically about the police response.

On Monday, he said that with more information available, he was satisfied the police response had been on target and he was reassured 'we are doing everything we can to address this on every front.' "

Thursday, March 16, 2006

PD spins accident story to push for trains and planes

Yesterday’s front page picture story headline was, “101 shut again: 12-car pileup near Cloverdale points up vulnerability of area’s main road”. (Press Democrat, 3/15/06) A northbound driver lost control of his SUV in heavy hail and rain, crossed the divider, and hit a southbound van, resulting in minor injuries to the other driver.

The second half of the story was about the traffic accident. The first half was mostly propaganda.

Randi Rossman’s story began, “Highway 101's brittle status as regional lifeline took another blow Tuesday when a 12-car accident south of Cloverdale closed southbound lanes.

It was the third time in six days that the North Bay's main artery has been crippled and was further evidence to some of the vulnerability of a transportation system built on a single main option. There is no train or scheduled airline service.

Cloverdale Mayor Bob Jehn, and Sonoma County Supervisor Paul Kelley, delivered the message:

Bob Jehn, chairman of the Sonoma County Transportation Authority and Cloverdale's mayor, said the week's tragedies and mishaps point again to the need for rail service.

’It's the main corridor and for some people the only road that they take to get anywhere,’ Jehn said. ‘To have an alternative such as rail that parallels the corridor, it's just all that more important to have that alternative and have it now.’

County Supervisor Paul Kelley, a member of the Transit Authority, said Tuesday's incident ‘shows again why we need to widen the highway and bring the highway into the 21st century.’”

Insurance man/politician Bob Jehn chairs the County’s Transportation Authority this year. Last year he chaired the Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit (SMART) board of directors.

Scheduled airline service wouldn’t have much effect on people who drive too fast in bad weather; and it’s hard to say whether building the SMART railway, and widening Highway 101 all the way to Cloverdale, would make the freeway safer.

But the story was about growth, not traffic safety. The proposed SMART railway would carry commuters between Larkspur in Marin, and Mayor Jehn’s fast-growing Cloverdale. A commute train and a wider freeway would certainly encourage and support much more urban growth in north Sonoma County.

The PD story had one pertinent quote about that: “Caltrans spokesman Jeff Weiss said the highway has served its purpose well for many years but just can't keep up with the area's growth.”

The obvious solution is less growth.