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PD Editorial: Santa Rosa's response: Duck and cover mouths

  • Students protest the killing of Andy Lopez during a rally and march in Santa Rosa's Courthouse Square. (Beth Schlanker / The Press Democrat)

When 12 Cleveland police officers were involved in a deadly shooting following a high-speed chase in August, the mayor of East Cleveland quickly spoke out, calling it "horrific."

Last week, when the shooting of a mentally ill man by Dallas police touched off anger in Texas, the mayor spoke up calling a video of the shooting "disturbing," and pledged to have the issue investigated quickly.

History books are filled with the words of elected officials and leaders — Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill, FDR, etc. — who rose up in moments of crisis to galvanize nations and communities.

So where are Santa Rosa's elected city leaders in the wake of one of the most tragic shootings in Sonoma County's history? Nowhere to be seen or heard.

For reasons that defy common sense — and standard practice in most cities — the City Council is under strict orders by City Attorney Caroline Fowler and City Manager Kathy Millison to say nothing about the shooting of 13-year-old Andy Lopez and to refer all questions and requests for media interviews to the Police Department.

At a time when the city most needs a voice, it's been taken for dubious legal reasons.

To make matters worse, city officials made the rash decision to cancel Tuesday's City Council meeting and shut down City Hall because of a protest march that started two blocks away at Old Courthouse Square — and ended peacefully three miles away at the Sonoma County Sheriff's Office.

In doing so, they cited "hostile postings about the city on social media." Hostile postings? Given the quality of online commentary these days, one hopes this doesn't become the standard for determining when Santa Rosa holds office hours. Or it may be a while before residents see the insides of City Hall again.

What is going on with Santa Rosa's government leaders? Has nobody reminded them that they represent the public — and that the city manager and city attorney report to them?

In contrast, Sonoma County's supervisors have been highly visible in the nine days since the tragic shooting, participating in community vigils, funerals, meetings and the like. Board Chairman David Rabbitt joined Sheriff Steve Freitas in authoring a Close to Home piece that pushed for calm and pledged to work toward ensuring something similar doesn't happen again.


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