In the midst of production on this week’s issue Monday, we received information about accusations of sexual impropriety by Watsonville City Councilmember Oscar Rios. Our News Editor Jacob Pierce worked literally through the night on this story, speaking with the victims at length and corroborating their stories, as well as reaching out to Rios, to make sure that the piece about the allegations in this issue would not be some shallow rehashing of various press releases, but real first-hand accounts of these stories from the women who came forward with them. It also became an examination of how issues of sexual assault have affected women involved in progressive causes. Rios resigned a mere few hours later, and I don’t think this will be the end of this story, but having been in the room as the conversations around this story unfolded, I have to laud the courage of the women involved and the sensitivity of Pierce’s reporting on it. #MeToo has definitely come to Santa Cruz County, and I’m sure this is only the beginning.
Also in this issue is Andrea Patton’s look at Highway 17 one year after the devastating floods that affected thousands of Santa Cruz commuters. She examines not only what’s been done to Highway 17 in that time, but also the remarkable history of the infamous mountain road that connects Santa Cruz and Silicon Valley, and discovers it has long been a hot-button issue here. Anyone who drives Highway 17 every day will definitely want to give it a read.
STEVE PALOPOLI | EDITOR-IN-CHIEF
Letters to the Editor
Congratulations to Good Times and to Wallace Baine. I’ve been saddened by the recent changes at the Sentinel and while I certainly wish them well, I couldn’t be happier to learn of Wallace Baine’s newest adventure. I think Good Times will be a great outlet for his talents and perspectives. I’ve admired Wallace’s work and look forward to his continuing take on what’s happening in town and the broader environment, and I trust Good Times will be an environment in which he thrives. In these hard times we need the Good Times.
Matt Guerrieri | Santa Cruz
Local Law Enforcement Leaders on Guns
According to the Federal Bureau of Justice Statistics, there are more than 500,000 shootings per year. As law enforcement executives in Santa Cruz County, each of us individually may have different views of how best to reduce gun violence, but we are all committed to providing leadership to prevent and reduce gun violence and to keep our children and teachers safe in our schools. Here are just some of the practices we agree will make a difference.
First, police and prosecutors must proactively investigate and prosecute existing gun laws. The local police should faithfully examine tips from community members concerning violent or unstable people who possess guns and make threats.
Second, local courts must view gun crimes as serious crimes worthy of meaningful sentences and high control post-incarceration supervision. Emphasis should be placed on guns possessed by violent mentally ill offenders, domestic abusers, animal abusers and violent gang members.
Third, California has some of the most stringent laws on firearms; we applaud our legislature for their foresight. California should continue to place reasonable restrictions and limits on future sales or transfers of assault rifles and other firearms that have high-capacity magazines and fire high-velocity bullets. Gun lobbyists must be reasonable, working in good faith with government, to find real solutions.
We need laws that make sense. In our state, possession of a club is listed as a felony, but possession of an unpermitted and concealed firearm in a crowded movie theater is a misdemeanor. The legislature should also carve out exceptions to privacy laws to allow mental health care workers to provide information to law enforcement when lives may be saved.
Fourth, firearms dealers must be required to harden their facilities or store all firearms in a safe when closed. Gun stores have been the target of thieves searching for firearms in this county many times in the recent past.
Finally, each and every gun owner must do their part. When not using a firearm, lock it up! Leaving unattended firearms in a building or vehicle is reckless. And all of us have a responsibility to prevent a family member with a history of violent outbursts to have access to a firearm. We are here to help with those situations if you need us. Santa Cruz County, we can begin with meaningful and civil discourse that leads to action.
Every reasonable person, regardless of one’s position on the Second Amendment, grieves for the lives lost in senseless acts of gun violence. The question becomes, are we willing to make a personal sacrifice to save lives? Every law enforcement executive in this county is willing, ready and able. Are you?
The County Chiefs of Police and Sheriff