“It's an opportunity for us to become stronger together”, said Eddie Alvarez during the first night of the two part City Council Special,Community Conversations on Race Event.
This event was hosted by the Community Action Partnership of Sonoma County, as part of their weekly series that focuses on creating an educational and conversational space where community members can learn about and discuss topics of race. This event was unique, as it was a two part special where candidates from Santa Rosa’s Districts 1 and 7 had the opportunity to talk about race, equity, and more revolving around their candidacy.
Night one was moderated by Vince Harper and featured District 1 City Council candidates: Duane Dewitt, Eddie Alvarez, and Jorge Inocencio. Night two was moderated by Marcus Clarke and featured two District 7 candidates: Natalie Rogers and Daniela Pavone. This is the first year that the City of Santa Rosa has district elections, so it’s the first time these candidates have the opportunity to be a voice for their community on the City Council.
Harper and Clarke asked the candidates to elaborate on why they chose to run for City Council. I felt that Inocencio’s response perfectly reflected why all five candidates decided to join the race saying, “If I could sum it up in one word it’s representation.” Each and every candidate expressed how the lack of diversity and representation for their communities has been harmful and they plan to change that.
Throughout both nights of this Facebook Live event, I felt that the message was clear. Santa Rosa has a long history of inequity, lack of diversity, and the tendency to ignore certain communities. All five candidates have a strong passion for bringing light to these issues and being a voice for the underrepresented. “We will not be the unwanted stepchild...treat us with dignity,” said Alvarez. Pavone also used this “stepchild” analogy and further elaborated saying that a possible challenge in the future may be getting the City to listen to them. “We’ve really been an afterthought that doesn’t get a lot of attention and that needs to change,” said Pavone.
Given the current racial justice movement, the candidates were asked to discuss the Black Lives Matter Movement. Each candidate expressed their support for the movement and the importance of racial justice as a whole. Dewitt emphasised that the City of Santa Rosa has a racist history and it is time that they acknowledge this and work to create change for the better. I found Alvarez’s discussion on the topic to be very passionate and impactful. He said that if we were going to talk about race then “let’s speak about the reality, the hurt, the pain…”
Harper and Marcus asked the candidates to discuss the current COVID-19 pandemic, to which Inocencio again connected this to representation and race. He discussed how the Latinx community is disproportionately experiencing higher rates of COVID, which was discussed recently in the CCE’s Town Hall. “It boils down to housing,” he said. He explained that the Latinx community has limited access to housing and therefore large families all live together creating an environment of large gatherings and close contact where the virus rapidly takes effect. Rogers emphasized just how crucial spreading information and awareness is. She said that she wants to make sure her community members know what resources are available and where to access them.
Rogers made her closing statement saying “we need to work together, we need to unify.” This is exactly what I took away from this two part event. Representation is not only important, but also, essential. It is disheartening that these communities have been denied representation in the past but now is the opportunity to unify and strengthen the City of Santa Rosa.
While I am not local to Santa Rosa, hearing from the different candidates was a beneficial experience and I encourage others to attend events such as this one to expand your knowledge on the candidates and issues of your local community.
CAP Sonoma County hosts these conversations on their Facebook page. You can view these events and all past Facebook Lives on their Facebook Page or Youtube Channel.