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A few corrections

Re: Fishy Fascist Foolishness


The only changes in the ordinances as a consequence of public input was the addition of a phrase exempting "bubble performers". And an addition which exempted "non-sign" soliciting devices (so now as long as you don't have a sign saying you're asking for money, just a cup, a can, or a guitar case, you can silently solicit as long as you don't sit down). Otherwise the prefabricated wording of the laws was passed completely unchanged by hours and hours of critical public input. The leaning law was put on hold, apparently as a consequence of Fitzmaurice's political considerations so as to appear deliberative while rubberstamping all the other anti-homeless laws.

When the Downtown Commission returned saying it couldn't recommend any exemptions because of the rushed process, the "don't lean on my building" law was put on hold. But even the "save the musicians and activists" delay

Laws against sitting and peaceful solicitation ARE generally anti-homeless because they primarily impact poor and homeless people. They're the ones who need to sit down and don't have the money to spend in trendy cafes. They also came out of Seattle in 1994 specifically designed to remove homeless people as part of the notorious right-wing "Broken Window" theory. That theory states that if you allow seedy looking people to hang around, they acts a "broken window" that produce more broken windows).

The unattended backpack law obviously targets the homeless and only the homeless. There is inadequate storage space at the bus depot and the Homeless Resource Center for folks to stash their stuff. Folks have to carry it with them.
The old law penalized leaving stuff that blocked the sidewalk. This new law is another "police tool" to rid the street of the unsightly and their unsightly stuff.


Reilly has never met with me or returned a phone call since she got into office with the exception of a few casual encounters at City Council and one meeting a month after she was elected with the Homeless Working Group that I invited her to.

She and most of the other Council members keep their Council lines a secret, have no office hours, and during the Downtown Ordinances rush-to-passage gave few meaningful responses to the very real and basic criticisms that these laws (a) aggravated useless and selectively enforced downtown ordinances put on the books as anti-homeless laws back in 1994, (b) did nothing to address real anti-social behavior (such as vandalism, sexual harassment, assault, theft), (c) were the product of private sessions with police, merchants, redevelopment gentrification experts, and other special-interest types, and (d) violated basic constitutional liberties as well as the spirit of the Santa Cruz community by restricting homeless people, performers, and activists to less than 5% of sidewalk space near buildings city-side in business districts (the most blatant kind of class discrimination).

Reilly and Porter are major phonies on homeless issues who have betrayed their promises once in power in very very familiar fashion. Fitzmaurice, Rotkin, and Matthews, at least, have the virtue of being relatively outfront about their bigotry. Though Fitzmaurice, of course, masquerades as a Green and gets away with it because conservative allies in the Green Party care more about his power position than his unprincipled violation of homeless civil rights.

Whitewashing Reilly's lie to the community (that she was only going to take care of one or two things and then coming back with boatload of law changes) by claiming that these were all to address "anti-social behavior" is just confused thinking. First, the ordinances don't address anti-social behavior. They simply surrender to a conservative merchant-redevelopment agency view that wants to remove homeless and poor people from the area and buys into the poisonous fantasy that this will improve business and the downtown generally. Second they severely restrict public space for performers, activists, and poor people generally and so are obviously more than a few minor changes.

Trying to diminish the serious consequences here is deceptive and akin to Assistant City Manager Martin Bernal's rewriting of the Reilly-Porter hearings which revealed police harassment and selective enforcement as a if not the major concern. Bernal lumped various categories together in order to diminish the obvious impact of the complaints against police and the existing downtown ordinances--very real concerns which Reilly and Porter simply ignored in their bogus "search for public input from the stakeholders"

As Geneva Kelly writes, it's "new laws and stolen freedoms". Worst is the amount of energy activists now have to expend correcting these stupidities, instead of dealing with real actions that might actually address these problems like eliminating the sleeping ban, finding safe areas for poor people to park and camp, setting up more public space downtown with a real downtown plaza, and turning back real estate profiteering with rent control or some sort of vacancy tax.

Unfortunately the Loathsome Threesome (Rotkin, Matthews, and Fitzmaurice), who will probably spend the most money, are most likely to be elected to Council. They will freeze in power a reactionary majority in Council for another two years. Unless people like Leavitt, Argue, and (perhaps) Baer get in through some miracle, we won't even have any dissenting voices on the Council. Our only alternative is to mobilize on the streets for these changes.

Robert Norse.
 


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