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Jason Walsh: Sheriff’s transparency, little library woes and the quote of the week

Sonoma notes:

Sonoma County Sheriff Rob Giordano reported to the Board of Supervisors on April10 that his office has recently received some “interesting” inmate-record requests from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials in what could be an attempt to gauge Sonoma County’s willingness to bow to ICE demands.

Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office has apparently come under scrutiny of federal authorities following the Sheriff’s Office adoption of new state policy enacted last summer which allows for cooperation with ICE requests for information only in cases involving inmates convicted of certain serious crimes.

Following the October fires, ICE acting director Thomas Homan blasted the Sonoma County Sheriff for following sanctuary policies that had left the “community vulnerable to dangerous individuals,” in an erroneous supposition that the fires had been caused by an undocumented-immigrant arsonist. Giordano responded by describing Homan’s remark as “misleading and inflammatory” which, in hindsight, was probably an understatement given that no evidence has surfaced since to support such an allegation.

That Giordano reported the disturbing uptick in ICE requests in a public forum before the Supes is a testament to the value of the Truth Act, the new state law which requires public updates about ICE’s access to local immigrants. This was Sonoma County’s first annual forum since the law passed in 2016, and also its first since Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf warned residents of impending ICE operations after receiving a tip from “multiple credible sources” — a possible turning point in local jurisdictions’ efforts to protect their law-abiding residents’ welfare, documented or not.

Giordano’s transparency is welcoming; his message, however, is alarming.

“The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Warfare.” That’s the title of the most recent book I selected from a local Little Free Library, the company that sets people up with their own curb-front “library,” where neighbors borrow and replace books from their personal collections. The only thing that should be more eyebrow-raising to Sonomans than the fact that the editor of their newspaper is borrowing titles that may have been on the Unabomber’s reading list, is that the Little Free Library on West MacArthur at the Fryer Creek walking path may have bookmarked its final page.

According to neighbor Michelle Momsen, the city last week slapped a public notice on the side of the makeshift library stand, saying it’s in violation of a city ordinance and requiring its removal with 48 hours.

“Does our city really have nothing better to do than monitor a well-maintained, well-used, beautiful library that encourages reading of real books?” asks Momsen.

Sounds to us like another blow to all things sacred: neighborhood quirkiness, reverence to the written word and, in my case, the availability of books about 13th century Mongol atrocities.

“If the ‘owners’ of the library need help in changing this site to meet some minute ordinance, please reach out to the community to help,” advises Momsen. “Maybe our city can be more encouraging to a site that causes no harm, but brings pleasure to people of all ages.”

File under: “I’m sorry, officer, I was unaware that was a federal crime.” When local marijuana-availability researchers close to the Index-Tribune last week purchased a delivery envelope of securely sealed cannabis — or, as one onlooker eloquently put it, “that’s one classy dime bag!” — on the corner of West Napa and Second, they had been told by an industry source that it was perfectly legal.

However, all parties seemed to overlook the fact that the City of Sonoma’s “urgency ordinance,” set in place while city officials work out more long-term cannabis guidelines, firmly establishes that delivering dispensaries need a City of Sonoma business license; and the deliveries must be for medical use only — not “recreational.”

On that note, the medical/recreational distinction may be vanishing quicker than an extra-dry roll of Afghan Kush. With the passage of Proposition 64, it’s no longer a case of “medical” or “recreational” — it’s “adult use.” And it’s unclear on what grounds municipalities may have in any distinctions in policy.

Quote of the week: At the March 9 meeting when the Sonoma City Council considered an appeal of a proposal to build three homes on Schocken Hill, resident Joe Aaron silenced the packed Council Chambers when he alleged members of the City Council and Planning Commission were working behind the scenes in support of project opponents.

That’s when Mayor Madolyn Agrimonti cut him short, saying, “Mr. Aaron, I can’t allow you to continue.”

Then the next commenter, resident Sheila O’Neil, made a well-timed observation, when she said:

“Isn’t our community fabulous?... We are a strong community; we are a solid community. We can have public discourse, we can support our democracy — and we can walk out of here and we can go to the farmers market on Tuesday night and we can be friends.”

And we’ll leave it at that.

Email Jason at jason.walsh@sonomanews.com.