Close to Home: When will Santa Rosa City Hall listen to us?

  • Dionne Smith-Downs, left, lights candles over the Santa Rosa Police Department sign to protest the death of Andy Lopez on Tuesday night, December 3, 2013. (Conner Jay/The Press Democrat)

If you live in the northeast quadrant of Santa Rosa, or if you live anywhere in Santa Rosa except for Southwest Santa Rosa, you may be wondering why the shooting of a young teen has triggered so much pathos in our community.

Or maybe you don't think about it much unless you read a letter to the editor or an article about the recent turmoil at Santa Rosa City Hall.

For those of us who live in Southwest Santa Rosa, we haven't forgotten about what happened on Oct. 22 when a young teen was shot dead by a sheriff's deputy. "R.I.P. Andy Lopez" is written on cars traveling through neighborhoods. Conversations about the incident can still be heard at local gyms and in grocery lines.

Why? I believe it's because the death of Andy Lopez has galvanized the southwest community in a way no other issue has. The issue is about Andy Lopez, and it's about more than the shooting that took place that day.

Southwest Santa Rosa is the neglected stepchild of the city. This is where Burbank Housing pours tons of concrete for its many subsidized housing projects, jamming the poor together in some of the most neglected parts of our county.

This is where Elsie Allen High School student Patrick Scott was struck by a car and killed while walking along the shoulder of Bellevue near the entrance to his school in 1998 simply because no one thought to build a sidewalk leading to a high school.

What happened after that incident? A memorial rock was erected, and a local service club subsidized a pathway of asphalt that today is cracked and has weeds growing through it.

Meanwhile, Meadow View Elementary School, less than a mile away, has children walking along dangerously narrow shoulders along Dutton Meadow, darting cars as they try to safely make their way to and from school.

Southwest Santa Rosa is also the section of town that is heavily Latino and where immigration raids are more common, another injustice we must face.

In light of all these factors, it is inconceivable to me that our city attorney would forbid council members to talk with a very distraught citizenry about the injustices that occur on a daily basis in Southwest Santa Rosa, including the killing of Andy Lopez. City Hall exercised poor judgment when it locked its doors and refused to face the distraught members of Southwest Santa Rosa who had bravely marched to its doors.

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