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Introducing River Community Advocates

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Introducing River Community Advocates

By Jeniffer Wertz

I don’t tend to easily admire many people, however I have come to admire Vesta Copestakes, and the work she so tirelessly does for our communities with the Sonoma County Gazette. I think it’s an integrity thing. Like most of what is wrong with our country, many modern day corporate news outlets frequently place profits over social responsibility. We are unfortunately in an era where the traditional press and its objectivity standards are evaporating before our eyes; being replaced often times by ridiculous social media opinions, unreliable pop-up internet news sources, and tabloid tv news teaser headlines. The dedicated efforts of a few local community journalists who seek to keep us educated about what is important, and thus empowered to create a better world, should be revered in my mind. So, thank you Vesta for all of your hard work, and for allowing me the opportunity to participate in this process.

Most people are aware of the fires and the town meeting last January. There seemed to have been a sort of collective complacency with respect to our town’s homeless, drug, and crime issues up to that point. A lot of people were upset about these things, but not that many people were really ready to do anything, or maybe were just frustrated and didn’t know what to do. While we still don’t know who is responsible for the fires, the events of last year appeared to bring the issues we were somewhat ignoring to a boiling point. We needed to step up and do something.

We live in a remote area, away from the county seat. We have been out of sight, and sometimes out of mind from our local government; with only about 2,800 of the 5th district’s 43,000+/- votes, and we have had no town government representatives. What that means is, we haven’t had the votes or the money to have much of an influence on our representatives. We now have a new and enthusiastic 5th District Supervisor in Lynda Hopkins. She is full of new creative ideas to solve long standing problems, she lives among us and is raising her children in the Lower River area, which gives her a vested interest in what’s going on. She made a tremendous effort during the campaign to prove that she cares about us, despite the fact that it probably wasn’t the most politically savvy use of her time and effort for our 2,800 votes. I have no doubt she will continue to prove that we elected the person who will pay the most attention to our local remote communities, and we very much look forward to working with her and the other Supervisors moving forward.

So, what is the Guerneville Community Alliance, who are the people behind it,  and what are the goals? The Guerneville Community Alliance is a group of local volunteers, who live full-time in Guerneville, and are advocating for the community to solve problems that previously did not appear to be being adequately addressed. We are working in partnership with the Russian River Community Alliance, a non-profit based in Monte Rio. We are people who have special skill sets, such as former fire and police personnel, with experience in government administration, homeless advocacy and substance abuse, and community activism. We are volunteers, with no personal financial or political motivation, no funding sources to dictate our actions, and no interest other than to try and solve community problems to make our home a better place for everyone. We do not wish to contribute to the gentrification of our town; rather we seek to preserve the things that are already wonderful about it, and advocate for the local population that has, in our opinion, been under-represented, the working class full-time residents. We work with property owners and businesses, walk encampments, offer resources, do outreach, act as liaisons with the Sheriff’s department, and with any other government or non-profit group that is appropriate to solve problems. We are here to help individuals or businesses that we may be able to assist. We will be attending the monthly Supervisor’s meetings to offer solutions for our community on a regular basis in the months ahead.

This will be the first of a regular monthly GCA column in the Gazette. We will try to keep you informed about what’s going on and what we are doing. If you would like to learn more about us, possibly get involved as a volunteer, have some concerns or solution focused ideas you would like to share, you can “like” our FB page, or contact Mark Emmett at 707-529-0534.