Jason Walsh: On cannabis, winter shelters and Dr. Seuss

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After a week of brutal national headlines – from the Trump-Putin ménage a deux to the heart-wrenching Missouri duck boat drownings to the fact that more than 2,000 children are reportedly still separated from their parents at the southern border – here’s three recent Sonoma stories to lend small reminders that sometimes the news is good.

After two years of watching the Sonoma City Council drag its feet on establishing a marijuana ordinance in a legalized adult-consumption world, local cannabis advocates gathered 767 now-officially verified signatures to place a measure on the Nov. 6 ballot asking voters if they’d like to allow pot dispensaries in the city and ease current restrictions on indoor cannabis grows.

The council has been narrowly divided in its temporarily placing of rigid restrictions on various cannabis activities, with some members seeming to base their votes on preconceived notions of pot, with not enough said about what the majority of the community wants. As noted cannabis connoisseur Bobby Brown might argue: That’s their prerogative. But this is a brave new whacky weed world -- and with the council split 3-2 against dispensaries, it literally means one person is making the decision for everybody. We certainly believe in representative democracy, but this is a case where it’s better to let the voters make the call. (Note: At press time, the council was considering three options in regard to the signatures: enact what the proposed initiative calls for -- i.e. allowing dispensaries, among other things; OK’ing it for the November ballot; or requesting a staff report for more information which could take 30 days to complete, likely nixing its timing for the next election. We wouldn’t want to be a councilmember up re-election this year who voted for the third option.)

Sonoma Overnight Support, the nonprofit which operates the 10-bed “Haven” on First Street West, the only homeless shelter in Sonoma Valley, finally received the full $60,000 it needs this year to run its December-through-March winter shelter at the Sonoma Alliance Church. In March, $30,000 of the funds, which had been granted in the past, were denied by the county Community Development Commission after SOS had sparred with county officials over whether the Haven should be allowed to deny access to its shelter to homeless people under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol. (The winter shelter doesn’t turn away such clients, making the loss of funds all the more puzzling to SOS officials.)

The County did the right thing in ultimately granting the $30,000 – made possible after the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development sent more funds than expected this year – but one gets the feeling this issue isn’t entirely resolved for the long term, as the fissure between county (read: federal) policy and the Haven remain unresolved.

“The Man in the High Tower” by Philip K. Dick and “Madeline and the Bad Hat” by Ludwig Bemelmans. Those are two titles the Walsh family recently borrowed from the Little Free Library that was relocated last month to the Maloney Memorial Garden at the Sonoma Community Center.

The library – part of the “Little Free Library” nonprofit which helps residential neighbors set up community book-exchange stands at the front of their homes near public sidewalks – had been without a home since the spring when the city put a call out to relocate one that a well-intentioned MacArthur Street resident had erected on public property near the Fryar Creek walking path.

After multiple residents championed that library as particularly popular in the neighborhood – and a bit of ink from this column space – the Sonoma Community got into the mix and offered suggestions for possible new locations. But then, according to SCC officials, “the Center’s staff thought more about it and came to the realization, why not here?” And the rest is history, or historical biography, as the case may be.

Hurry down; at press time there were several Harry Potters, first-time pregnancy books, several National Geographic editions, and titles from such inimitable names as Barbara Kingsolver, Stieg Larsson and Dr. Seuss.

Jason is on vacation the next couple of editions, he’ll be back in early August. Aloha Jason at jason.walsh@sonomanews.com.

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