A Santa Rosa City Council candidate has retained a key Democratic endorsement after apologizing for years-old online posts that reveal frustration with Democrats and use of vulgar language that has been called out as transphobic and unprofessional.
Eddie Alvarez is endorsed by the Sonoma County Democratic Party in the District 1 race to represent the Roseland and South Park areas. The endorsement gives him access to the local Democrats’ slate mailers and helps Alvarez, a dispensary owner, stand out from his two competitors, electrical engineer Jorge Inocencio and neighborhood advocate Duane De Witt.
But there was a time — June 2016, to be specific — when Alvarez was feeling less than charitable toward the Democratic Party, which was then trying unsuccessfully to push former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton into the White House, only to be foiled by Donald Trump, who ran as a Republican.
He shared on Facebook an image of a middle finger featuring, in block letters: “This lifelong Democrat says bye bye Democratic Party.”
“#F—Dem and the horse they rode in on,” he added in a caption to the post.
That sort of comment stands in stark contrast to Alvarez’s current campaign. He recently touted a campaign event in Roseland that included a walking tour of the district with Pat Sabo, the local party chairwoman.
“It was pretty much the frustration of being ignored,” Alvarez said of his post from four years ago, calling it “a poor choice of words. Thankfully, we moved beyond them.“
A second post from February 2018 criticized the #MeToo movement, in which Alvarez commented that he was calling “bullsh–” on the movement “because you’re walking the same path as every other disenfranchised group” and lamented that activists were “falling for the tired trick of getting you to invest your energy in protests” instead of trying to influence the world in other ways.
A third, apparently posted regarding the brief federal government shutdown of January 2018 likened vocal support for Trump at that time to “buying a hooker that’s walking around with his thing hanging out … yes, somebody is gonna get screwed, but you might be surprised on whose (sic) doing the screwing, and most importantly who is getting screwed.”
After two straight nights of destructive and sometimes violent street protests, Santa Rosa is set to enter a state of local emergency, laying the groundwork for City Manager Sean McGlynn to impose a curfew beginning tonight at 8 p.m., according to a city spokeswoman Monday morning.
Santa Rosa spokeswoman Adriane Mertens said the city will move on the emergency option Monday, following violence downtown overnight that included looting and thousands of dollars of property damage. Downtown buildings were also hit on Saturday night, with windows broken at businesses and churches and anti-police graffiti scrawled across various structures.
The recent protests are a response to the death of George Floyd on Memorial Day, after a white Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee into the neck of Floyd, a black man, for nearly nine minutes, leading to murder and manslaughter charges for one officer involved. His death, which was caught on video, is the latest instance of an unarmed person of color dying at the hands of American law enforcement, and his name has become a rallying cry for protesters demanding justice and change.
Santa Rosa police arrested one person suspected of looting at the downtown Plaza mall early Monday and said thousands of dollars of damage had been done to city and private property overnight in continuing unrest stemming from demonstrations against police brutality.
The curfew is intended to aid law enforcement by clearly delineating a time by which any peaceful protests Monday must conclude, said Mayor Tom Schwedhelm, a former Santa Rosa police chief. He noted that the recent demonstrations — a collective response mirroring nationwide unrest stemming
“Due to the last two nights’ events, we feel for the safety of this community that we have to do this curfew,” Schwedhelm said. “Not an enviable position to be in.”
Schwedhelm noted that response times for calls for service elsewhere in the city could be longer due to the heavy use of police resources downtown when monitoring large demonstrations by peaceful protesters and subsequent acts of violence and vandalism.
“We are doing everything we can to make it was safe as possible for everyone,” he said, “and we are relying on the professionalism of the Santa Rosa Police Department to do that in the best way possible.”
Protests began peacefully around 5 p.m. Sunday, police Lt. Jeneane Kucker said. But three hours later, groups of people began blocking the intersection of Third Street and Santa Rosa Avenue.
Several subjects were using spray paint on the street and objects on Old Courthouse Square, she said.
By 9 p.m., some in the crowd moved west to the Third Street onramp to Highway 101.
“Protesters engaged with officers, but remained peaceful and did not get onto the freeway,” Kucker said. “Eventually, a few protesters began throwing water bottles at officers, who were blocking the off-ramp to northbound Highway 101.”
When Rocio Marquez lost her job cleaning offices about two years ago, she took a leap of faith and started her own business.
A former Monterey County strawberry picker who moved to Sonoma County six years ago, Marquez had always dreamed of being her own boss and wanted to see if her entrepreneurial skills could mean a boost in income, she said.
Over the course of several months, she and her husband scraped together enough money to open Pupusas y Tacos “Marquez,” a green food cart parked on the Whiskey Tip lot at the edge of Santa Rosa’s Roseland neighborhood. Marquez put in long hours to keep it running, slowly building her business with the patronage of hungry workers who stopped at her Stony Point Road location for a bite to eat before work or for lunch.
But the coronavirus pandemic and county and state orders for people to stay at home have upended her business, depleting the steady stream of customers that once frequented her cart as more are out of work and strapped for cash, Marquez said.
“I’m going to wait to see what happens but right now I’m not making enough to pay rent, to cover the cost of food,” Marquez said, though she remained hopeful. “Really, there’s nothing to do. We’re just in the hands of God.”
The slowdown has meant one or two customers every few hours, spoiled meat that she’s had to throw away and lingering fears about how she’ll pay for the small group of employees that help run her business.
Marquez is not alone. Latino entrepreneurs across Sonoma County are struggling to keep their businesses afloat as a local order for residents to stay at home that went into effect March 18 has curtailed or halted most economic activity for the sake of minimizing the virus’ spread, said Herman J. Hernandez, the president of the Sonoma County Latino leadership group Los Cien.
The order has sent shock waves throughout the local Latino community, particularly among undocumented workers and low-income families — two groups who are more likely to be living paycheck to paycheck and who can have a hard time recovering from financial and psychological blows, he said.
“It’s kind of a shock and unbelievable that you’re in a situation like that,” Hernandez said. “When you look at the Latino community, at times at the top of the list is ‘How am I going to continue to support my family?’ ”
Answers to those immediate concerns were a primary focus for Sonoma County Supervisor James Gore, who volunteered to work as the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors’ liaison to the Latino community during the pandemic because of his ability to speak Spanish and his prior collaboration with the community during the Tubbs and Kincade fires, he said.
Conversations with dozens of local Latino-serving nonprofits and organizations made it clear that basic necessities like food, housing and cash, as well as accurate information about the virus, was in high demand, he said.
To address that information gap, Sonoma County supervisors have set aside over $25,000 to boost the public awareness of the coronavirus within Spanish-speaking communities, a strategy intended to make sure the community understands the threat of the virus and local stay-at-home orders, Gore said. The campaign includes paid radio public service announcements that launched Monday and Tuesday across six local stations after starting on one station last week. How frequently the radio station plays the announcements, and during which hours, varies from station to station, county spokeswoman Melissa Valle said.
Supermarkets across Sonoma County last week began playing informational video or audio messages about the virus as part of the outreach plan. Gore and a team of Spanish-speaking county officials on Tuesday also went live on KBBF, a local bilingual radio station, to take questions from Sonoma County residents about the virus. The radio station hosted a similar segment with Gore last week.
“It requires an intentional effort,” Gore said of the county’s outreach to Spanish-speaking residents. “You can’t just put out translated documents and expect it’s going to hit folks in a targeted way.”
The timing of the county’s efforts received some criticism among some local Latino group leaders, who said the county waited too long to actively inform the community about the virus. That included Zeke Guzman, president of the nonprofit group Latinos Unidos del Condado de Sonoma County, who last weekend spoke to a handful of farmworkers who described the virus as nothing more than a cough, Guzman said. He and another community organizer also witnessed several Latino families at local parks who weren’t following social-distancing guidelines required by the county’s order.
“I don’t want to knock on anyone, this is a crisis,” said Guzman, who hopes to secure grants that will allow KBBF to launch more in-depth announcements about the coronavirus. “But we also want to look at how effective what we’re doing is and who it’s going to reach.” Gore acknowledged the frustration over the timing of the county’s effort, but added that county staff members are tasked with dealing with solutions to both short and long-term problems that will arise from the pandemic.
“We have to attend to the present, but we also have to reach into the future to think about how we’re going to get ahead of this,” Gore said.
At the Graton Day Labor Center, recent phone check-ins with the center’s roughly 200 members show only about 10% are working, most of them farmworkers whose employers aren’t covered by the shelter-in-place order that restricts or bans all but nonessential businesses including agriculture, said the center’s executive director, Christy Lubin
The rest of the members, whose jobs range from day laborers to domestic workers and nannies, are struggling to find work. Some are single parents who can’t leave their homes because schools stopped classroom instruction and there’s no one else to care for their childen, Lubin said.