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Critics Win Delay in Downtown Commission

PUBLIC WORKS STRONGMAN MARK FERRELL PUSHES LAW

This repressive measure is explicitly directed against gatherings of people to "help the staff" cleaning and working in parking structures (whoever they may be).

It originally appeared on the January 10th City Council afternoon agenda (where few folks could have discussed it).

After a number of letters angrily demanding more time, City Council delayed action until after the Downtown Commission's January 26th meeting.

Some of this discussion can be found at santacruz.indymedia.org/newswire/display/19303/index.php .

A particular group of people is being targeted (giving the police "more effective tools"). This was explicitly admitted by the law's main backer and apparent source, Matt Ferrell, head of the Dept. of Public Works at the 1-26 Downtown Commission.

Ferrell also acknowledged moving undesireable groups was the purpose of the new change-making machine installed in the place of a bench at Elm and Pacific without a public hearing or any input from a public commission.

Elm and Pacific was called "punk corner" by some because of its being a gathering place for young and homeless people.

COMMISSION IGNORES ONGOING REPRESSION BY DOWNTOWN ORDINANCES

The Downtown Commission has taken no interest in examining this and other "social cleansing" measures downtown (such as the removal of benches, making the seating area near the Pacific Trading Company unsittable, etc.).

Nor did it have any interest in reviewing police behavior generally against street performers, youth, racial minorities, and homeless people under the Downtown Ordinances.

Instead under the Downtown Ordinance Review, they simply rubberstamped a selective anecdotal report given by Jim Brown, a Downtown Commission member who said he spoke with police, merchants, and "a few musicians" but no civil rights groups, homeless service agencies, or homeless people.

On Sunday January 29th, celloist Brandon, who often plays in front of the New Leaf and the Gap, was led by two police officers in handcuffs. He had two unpaid warrants on tickets he felt were illegitimately given him (one for having an "open display case" "blocking" the sidewalk which he used to solicit donations, another for sitting in a forbidden area on the riverbank).

DOWNTOWN COMMISSION DELAYS DECISION

After hearing public comment from activists Bernard Klitzner and Bob Patton of the Human Rights Organization, local resident Terry Thomas, and HUFF activist Robert Norse, the Downtown Commission paused.

Though presented with a resolution supported by Joe of Atlantic Fantasyworld (a Downtown Commission member) to forward the bad law to City Council with a few "concerns", some members began raising concerns. A second resolution was proposed to forward it "without recommendations".

Ferrell admitted he'd not determined that City Attorney Barisone had certified the measure "constitutional" (which he will, of course).

There were no specific statistics on actual crime in the parking structures. Bob Patton pointed out that it took more than 10 minutes for his 90-year old grandfather to get into and out of his car and that similar problems were involved for dealing with younger children.

Bernard Klitzner pointed out that homeless people sheltering themselves from the rain would be criminalized for standing there more than 10 minutes.

The Commission decided to ask for more stats from the SCPD and perhaps other agencies and return the proposed law to the next meeting.

DANGEROUS PRECEDENTS DEMAND MORE PUBLIC INFORMATION

Particularly ominous was Matt Ferrell's comment that the "Ten Minute" law might apply to Food Not Bombs ability to hold its 4 p.m. meals next to the Farmer's Market on Wednesday, possibly requiring them to "get a permit".

In past years, attempts to require permits for such political/charitable ventures have prompted massive public protest, mass arrests, and a farcical "steal the food" circus by the police (Police arrests at the Town Clock Winter 1988-9, An injunction against Food Not Bombs Spring 1993, Downtown Association driving The Potters Hand meal from Pacific Avenue 2004).

In order to effectively stop this new law (and expose another police-power expansion scheme), we need a public records act request uncovering all e-mail traffic between Public Works, City Council members, the public, special interest groups like the Downtown Association, the homeless-hostile Redevelopment Agency, and police agencies.

Rico Thunder through the northern California (not the local) ACLU got such a request partially answered while Sherry Conable's Public Records Act request was apparently turned down. Out of town muscle won the day.

Those who oppose this law (and want to change other oppressive laws) needs to expose the dark and tangled background and history of these laws. Such requests can uncover who lobbies for them, how they proceed in the darkness until they're finally "sprung" on the public at afternoon sessions of City Council where they are quickly rubberstamped.

Selections from the 1-26 Downtown Commission meeting's discussion of a ten-minute limit for using public parking areas and a discussion of the issue were played on the January 29th edition of the Free Radio Santa Cruz Show, Bathrobespierre's Broadsides at www.santacruzcopwatch.org/robert/brb060129.mp3
 


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