Sonoma CounterPoints and Sonoma TalkingPoints
Through the years, the Commission on Human Rights has held public forums to bring attention to issues that dramatically impact the human rights of members of our community. The Sonoma CounterPoints forums bring together a panel with differing viewpoints on an issue, while Sonoma TalkingPoints is more focused on educational content. Both encourage public participation and engagement.
Sonoma TalkingPoints: Human Trafficking in Sonoma County
Human Trafficking is the fastest growing criminal industry in the world. Sex slaves are recruited every day in our own backyard in Sonoma County. The Commission held a panel forum to bring attention to this shocking growing form of human slavery on October 5, 2013. Held at the Hyatt Vineyard Creek Hotel and Spa in Santa Rosa, the panel included featured speakers from law enforcement and advocacy organizations:
- District Attorney Jill Ravitch
- Detective Chris Mahurin, Santa Rosa Police Department's Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault Unit
- Dana Bryant, Executive Director & Co-founder of Crossing the Jordan
- FBI Special Agent Marty Parker
- Michelle Doyel, Sexual Assault Advocate at Verity
The forum featured keynote speaker Board of Supervisor Chair David Rabbitt, and was moderated by CHR Chair, Judy Rice. The free, educational event informed community members about how victims are recruited in Sonoma County, who's recruiting them, and how to recognize when someone is being trafficked. Special emphasis was put on information on how to protect children, who are particularly vulnerable to trafficking. The average age of entry into forced prostitution is 12 to 14 years-old.
Sonoma CounterPoints: Immigration
In September 2012, the Commission on Human Rights held a panel discussion on one of the most critical central issues in our county and our nation. The areas touched on were the DREAM Act, undocumented workers, and border security. County of Sonoma Board of Supervisors Chair Shirlee Zane gave the keynote address, and Rollie Atkinson, Publisher at Sonoma West Publishers served as the moderator. The panel was made up of six stakeholders offering a diverse range of views:
- Lorenzo Dueñas, then Sonoma County Assistant Sheriff
- Nick Frey, President of the Sonoma County Winegrape Commission
- Steve Giraud, Former Border Patrol volunteer & Director of NorCal Border Patrol Auxiliary
- Laura Gonzalez, Santa Rosa School Board Trustee & Educator
- Christopher Kerosky, Immigration attorney, and former U.S. Department of Justice attorney
- Marcos J. Suarez, then-President of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Sonoma County
Members of the community participated in the discussion and the panelists fielded a wide range of questions. The event took place at the Friedman Center in Santa Rosa.
Sonoma CounterPoints: The Economy
The Commission's inaugural forum featuring keynote speaker, Representative Lynn Woolsey, was a discussion framed around the premise that Congress was not effectively addressing the issues that most severely impact the economy. The need for job creation, passage of a living wage, balancing tax levels, and pulling people out of poverty took center stage with a lively display of opposing political viewpoints. Panelists included:
- Jack Atkin, President of the Sonoma County Taxpayers' Association
- Dan Hamburg, Mendocino County Supervisor
- Lisa Maldonado, Attorney & Executive Director of the North Bay Labor Council, AFL-CIO
- Richard L. Sutter, Ph.D, Former Director for International Programs for the California State University system
Moderator Pamela Torliatt, former City of Petaluma Mayor did an excellent job of managing the rapidly fired opposing viewpoints expressed by the panelists. One of the few areas in which all panelists were in agreement on involved the need for placing more effort and importance on formal education and job training.