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Coastal Voices: There is much work ahead

Editor’s note: Here are excerpts from the speech by Del Norte County District Attorney Jon Alexander after he took the oath of office Monday.

 To steal one from Jerry Garcia and the Grateful Dead, “What a long strange trip it’s been.”

One thing you learn along the way and that’s you don’t get to this point, or even through each day without a little help from other folks. I look around this room, and have to say there are not enough words or time to honor every person in this room and the kindnesses you have given me since my arrival here six years ago to be with my mother in her last years ...

I — we — have much work before us. I’d like to say just a brief word about the direction of my administration and its priorities. There is a concept in law that is precious and central to our constitutional system of government and it is called “due process.” Simply, what that means is, “Notice and an opportunity to be heard.” The opportunity to be fairly and timely heard exists within these halls of justice and emanates from the bench behind me. Notice exists simply in the knowledge of the manner folks are expected to conduct themselves, treat each other and the consequences of their failure to do so.

And some of the things that I serve notice of, here and now, are these:

• We hold our senior citizens and elders as our most cherished treasures. They got this country through the Depression and World War II. They gave their sons and daughters to Viet Nam and Korea.  Mr. Brokaw was correct when he called them “The Greatest Generation.” If you harm or injure, swindle or steal from them, you may expect harshness in return.

• Immigration is a heated issue on our national landscape this day. I believe the majority of undocumented persons in this country, like the men and women who pick your lilly bulbs, scrape your plates and clean your homes, are hard working, they pay taxes and they are law abiding ...

I will not use your tax money for “sweeps,” but if you are undocumented and you do break the law, I will turn you over to the immigration authorities. Living in America is a blessing, if you disrespect that gift, you forfeit it.

• The homeless: It is not a sin to be poor and no one should be punished for it. Along with the many other concerned citizens, I will do everything in my power to help see a much needed shelter be built and services provided. But that said, the harassment of persons outside our businesses will not be tolerated. The simple economics of business in 2011 small town America will not allow it and neither will I.

• Pelican Bay: Recent years have seen a drastic decrease in the prosecution of cases arising out of Pelican Bay. Under my administration, that trend, especially as it regards assaults upon staff, will be reversed. Day and night, the men and women at Pelican Bay protect you and I from California’s “worst of the worst.” Further, given the immeasurable contributions they bring to the quality of this county’s collective life, especially for our youth programs, those brave officers deserve no less protection. From gassings to armed attacks upon staff, these will be dealt with severely, either by incarceration or if you’re a lifer with the misconception that you have nothing to lose — my new Pelican Bay deputy, Lisa Specchio — is going after your commissary and trust funds.

Those are but a few of the issues we will be addressing in the criminal justice arena. But I want to conclude with notice to the people involved in the biggest continuing threat to the safety and quality of life in Del Norte County ...

There is a darkness that has descended upon this town ... I’ve seen it in the dead eyes of too many of our citizens, our teenagers and worst of all, infants born contaminated because their mothers could not resist it’s horrendous seduction. It is a weapon of mass destruction, the likes of which our enemies overseas in their wildest dreams could not create. It is a darkness and an evil whose malignancy has infected our town and spread it poison upon our streets, our businesses, our homes, our school yards, our reservations and our maternity wards. And its name is methamphetamine.

As a public defender and dependency attorney, for the past three years, I can tell you that fully 80 percent of the felonies committed in this county and three-fourths of the children removed from homes involve crystal meth. From the cities to the small towns, the oceans to the plains, it is a national epidemic and it’s cancer has descended upon Del Norte County.

I spoke with my colleague, Chief of Probation Tom Crowell, two nights ago and we agreed that one of the biggest threats was the sheer prevalence of this poison in our midst has created an acceptance, bordering on apathy. Most of you know my story. I’ve seen the slow death of methamphetamine. I know the devastation and destruction of the heart and soul it brings. And because it was personal to me, I refuse to let it become personal to you and your families. At least not without a battle.

And so, my notice — if you are beset by the chains of addiction, you will find no more sympathetic or understanding hand than the one my office extends to you. That hand comes not just from compassion, but from the knowledge that if you are in recovery, you are not harming this community, clogging our courts and decimating our tax dollars.

But also know this, if you steal or do damage to your family, your neighbors or our businesses, we will come for you and you’ll do hard time in addition to the program we offer.

If you do violence to us and disturb our peace, we will come for you.

If you harm your children or contaminate them with your poison, you can count on seeing more than a CPS worker, because we will come for you.

And if you sell your poison on the streets of our neighborhoods, our reservations or, God forbid, our schoolyards, know this and know it well, we will come for you and we will grab you up and we will show you what harm is.

Ernest Hemingway once said that anything good is worth fighting for. My dying mother brought me to this place where good and decent people gave me a new life and this moment today. On behalf of my deputies, my staff and me, we have tolerated you for the last time and tomorrow the battle is joined and that fight begins. And no matter what the cost or duration, your time in this county is numbered and we will prevail.

Know this, we will prevail.


Del Norte Triplicate:

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P.O. Box 277
Crescent City, CA 95531

(707) 464-2141

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