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Monday, November 2, 2020

Mental Health Considerations in Police Work

We received a very informative description about mental health issues in police work.  This is reprinted with permission from an email of Sunnyvale's Public Safety Chief, Phan Ngo.

Link to this post for sharing:

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Please see below regarding thoughts of DPS partnering with mental health. 

Current Sunnyvale DPS procedures


DPS responds to mental health calls for service with a minimum of two officers to ensure the scene is safe. Based on the details of the call additional resources such as more patrol-based personnel, fire and ems responders, paramedics, the Mobile Crisis Response Team, and a number of NGO resources such as Uplift (Eastfield Ming Quong) and Emergency Psychiatric Services at VMC can be accessed. All of these services rely on DPS to provide the scene safety needs and evaluation of the caller’s mental health status for every call. On all responses DPS personnel provide referrals, problem solving capabilities as well as enforcement appropriate laws.


Santa Clara County


Santa Clara County Behavioral Health Services operates a Mobile Crisis Response Team (MCRT) Monday – Friday from 0800 – 2000 hours. This team conducts phone call screenings and may arrange a response within the county. A prime example of their work is the MCRT’s response to assist DPS on a recent 14-hour barricade that was resolved peacefully. Although our request for MCRT was made after their regular work hours, the clinicians responded and assisted DPS in an attempt to negotiate a peaceful surrender of the suspect - who had significant mental health issues.  


Santa Clara County Police Chiefs’ Association


           It’s been a longstanding practice to have a police chief in Santa Clara County represent the County Police Chiefs’ Association as a member on the Santa Clara County Mental Health/Behavioral Services Committee. It is through this process that the police chiefs and the County collaborate on operational and policy issues.



DPS is aware of the national discussion regarding police response to mental health calls. We continue to work with our County and NGO partners to evaluate how we handle these calls to best serve our communities. Thank you.





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Saturday, July 18, 2020

Sunnyvale Dems Picnic Questions

Sunnyvale Dems' Picnic
With Yummy Questions!

On July 18th, 2020, the Sunnyvale Democratic Club will hold their annual picnic.  Because of Covid-19 it will be a virtual 'picnic'.

The club had a brainstorming session and came up with some interesting questions to discuss.  A selection are reproduced below with my answers - written July 16th, 2020.

Some of the topics talk about allocating money.  I need to point out that it is not at all clear what the economy and therefore the city budget will look like over the next few years.  

The state government faces a $54 billion deficit this year.  It will likely be filled partly by changing the allocation of sales and property taxes as happened in the last recession.  The state will get more and the city will get less.  In addition, it is highly likely that sales taxes will be lower in the next two years. They are a sizable part of the budget.  With all those cuts in the future, it will be difficult to keep the city services at the current level.  It is impossible to say how much money can be allocated for items not currently in the budget.

--------------------------------  Question 1  --------------------------------  

Question 1: What is the role of the city in recovery, resilience, and regeneration as we deal with the Covid-19 crisis and the long-term climate change emergency?

Covid-19 should be in the history books in a year or two, while we haven't really begun to see the effects of climate change. When we do see the effects of climate change, those effects will be with us for thousands of years.

Covid-19: as mentioned, budget constraints are unknown at this point but it is likely they will be severe.  The city has its own "bully pulpit" it can use to try to rally people to work together.  It can get companies that are still doing well to help other companies and individuals in special cases.

Climate Change: The effects of climate change will be most easily seen in sea level rise.  The earth's temperature is already nearly 1 deg. Celsius above pre-industrial levels.  The last time the temperature was this high, sea levels were higher by 6 - 9 meters (20 ft - 30 ft).  See chart below from: “Rising Seas: How Fast, How Far?” – the Earth 101 lecture”

Ice melts slowly relative to human time frames so it will take some time to see the 20-30 ft sea level rise that is already "baked in" (so to speak) with the current 1 degree Celsius.  Since the GHG emissions are continuing, it is likely we will see at least 13 meters (43 ft) before emissions are brought under control.  

This is what Sunnyvale will look like with 5 meters of sea level rise.


Sunnyvale needs to adapt by halting housing development north of 101 and 237.  Trying to fight it with sea walls is pointless - just delaying the inevitable.  This map with 5 meter rise is currently projected to take 150 years (could be sooner) to fully work out, in the best case of GHG emissions reduction.

Sunnyvale needs to get serious about climate change.  The current climate action plan is not strong enough, relying way too much on VMT reduction and not enough on other means.  We should serve as an example to other communities by banning natural gas in new construction, demanding solar panels on all new office buildings (as San Francisco has done for years), and providing chargers everywhere for the 50% of Sunnyvale who are renters and will need access.

--------------------------------  Question 2  --------------------------------  

Question 2: What will be your priorities to maintain given the cuts to programs caused by budget impacts from the pandemic?

I hope we can maintain everything but at a reduced level.  Reduced library hours, reduced park maintenance, etc.  Public safety is nearly half the general fund budget but it is hard to reduce.  No one wants to call 9-1-1 and get an answering machine.

--------------------------------  Question 3  --------------------------------  

Question 3: How can we support low wage workers to live and work in Sunnyvale? eg through affordable housing and healthcare?  What should be done for those at the bottom of the economy, for example, to deal with disparities from the pandemic?

Low wage workers need higher wages.  The current minimum wage is about as high it can go without increasing the prices for everything so much no one can afford to buy a cup of coffee.  We need to get everyone's skill levels up.  This is a long process but it is the only way to lessen the current wage disparity.

--------------------------------  Question 4  --------------------------------  

Question 4: Sunnyvale will approve a new bicycle master plan as part of the Active transportation plan (ATP) this summer. SVBC recommended Sunnyvale spend at least $4M/yr or $40M over the 10 years to implement the plan. Would you support that?

It is not at all clear there will be any extra money in the budget for the next several years.  Besides the budget constraints I mentioned earlier, if "work from home" really takes off, we may see a mass exodus from the entire SF Bay area.  A lot of people I meet here would rather be back at a place they consider "home" and if they can work from home in Ohio, Georgia, or other countries, they will.  This may further reduce taxes and therefore the budget.  We need clarity on future revenues.

--------------------------------  Question 5  --------------------------------  

Question 2: What can we do to prevent small and medium businesses from being forced out of the city by rising rents?

I don't know that rent increases are going to be as significant a threat to small businesses as other factors.  

One, of course, is the continuing rise of online retail.  A more recent threat is new laws from Sacramento such as SB-330 that allow developers to decline any one zoning rule that they choose.  

The zoning rule builders seem most interested in declining is the requirement to have retail in mixed use areas.  They prefer to replace retail with housing because housing is more profitable.  Areas zoned for mixed-use (retail and housing) are being bought up for housing only.  If this continues, you may have to go to South San Jose to buy anything in a "real" store.  We need Sacramento to realize there are other needs in a city besides housing.

--------------------------------  Question 6  --------------------------------  

Question 7: How much funding are you willing to dedicate every year to implementing the Climate Action Plan ‘next moves? $1M/yr? $5m/year? $10M/yr?

I expect we will be struggling to avoid further budget cutbacks.  Spending more money is unlikely.  I think implementing the climate action plan is going to need to come from regulation of current activities.  

The biggest thing I think we can do is ensuring there are more public chargers for the coming onslaught of new (and later used) electric cars.  50% of Sunnyvale residents are renters and they will need to be able to have access to chargers if we want to eliminate GHGe.

The other thing is to start eliminating "natural gas" connections in new construction and start planning to eliminate natural gas from existing buildings.

--------------------------------  Question 7  --------------------------------  

Question 7: Do you support a vacancy tax?

Houses held vacant was a real problem in Vancouver, BC and they imposed a vacancy tax.  It worked for about 6 months and then it didn't.  The vacancy rate in Santa Clara county is about 7.5% while in the US as a whole it is about 15% (including vacation homes).  This is more a fear than a reality in our area.  C.f., 

--------------------------------  Question 8  --------------------------------  

Question 7: What level of affordable housing do you support for new development? 15%? Higher or lower?

I have heard some cities are able to impose a 20% requirement without impeding the amount of housing built.  It partly depends on the requirement for different categories such as "very low income", "moderate income", etc.

--------------------------------  Question 9 --------------------------------  

Question 7: Do you agree that Sunnyvale should have a goal of 10% of local trips being by active transportation mode (walk/bike/scooter) by 2030? What actions would you support to accomplish this?

The question does not make clear what the motivation behind the 10% local trips goal is.  I will guess that the goal is Greenhouse Gas emissions (GHGe) reduction.  The UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has stated that we need to get to zero GHGe, so anything that reduces GHGe is a goal I heartily endorse.  However, switching 10% of local trips to walking, biking, etc., will prove difficult.  The share of commuters who use active transportation is currently about 3.3% nationwide (0.6% bike, 2.7% walk).  See chart below:

Above from:

We can expect a little more in the SF Bay Area because the weather is better, but not too much more.  I am open to ideas on how to the percentage that bike to work.

For further background on the challenge of GHGe reduction consider the following chart from the CAlifornia Air Resources Board.  It shows that the GHGe from "transportation" are 40% of which 28% is due to "passenger vehicles".  About 30% of that 28% of personal vehicles includes GHGe from pickup trucks which are mainly used for work - plumbers, etc.  That leaves only about 20% due to strictly personal use.  Eliminating 10% of that 20% would result in a total reduction of 2% in GHGe for Sunnyvale.

Sources of GHG Emissions in CA in 2017

As another reference point, consider that from 2007 to 2017, total CA GHGe declined by 13% (490 MMTCO2e) due to existing California rules and regulations.  (MMT = Million Metric Tons").  See following chart from "California Greenhouse Gas Emissions for 2000 to 2017":

Many more questions that I did not have time to answer in written form.