Monterey Crowd Defends Homeless Rights; Council Backtracks Slightly (CORRECTED)

NOTES BY NORSE

CORRECTIONS TO AN EARLIER STORY
I reported on a Monterey City Council meeting that turned back 1 of 3 anti-homeless measures being proposed for study several days ago.  There were several significant typos in the story (“11 AM” should have read “11 PM”; “two out of three” should have read “one out of three”).  Just to clear up any confusion, I’m forwarding a corrected version of my  notes, with apologies. 

The story I was commenting on is at http://www.montereyherald.com/ci_23296764/compassion-or-crackdown.  There  are also some interesting comments there after the story.
I reprint my original (corrected) notes below.

The lengthy testimony at the Monterey City Council (though some of it fuzzy and distorted) is heartening and can be found at http://www.ampmedia.org/asx/24614.asx .  Unlike Santa Cruz City Council, everyone was allowed three minutes–even though it took hours to hear everyone.  The force of that testimony may have been responsible for the defeat of any further consideration of the Sit/Lie law (which has been Santa Cruz law since 1994–when we were the first City to adopt such a regulation in California).

NO LOITERING ON THE MEDIANS
Santa Cruz is now considering an anti-homeless “no loitering on the median” law (not just a study of an anti-homeless law as Monterey was doing with Sit-Lie, the Smoking Ban, and the Parking-Overnight Ban proposals).    This is item #15 on the Afternoon Agenda for Tuesday 5-28 at 3 PM (likely to come up slightly later).

As is typical for those trying to restrict public spaces and criminalize homeless presence without saying so, the staff report (and the complaint anti-homeless “Public Safety” Committee) uses a “public safety” pretext without any statistical documentation.   Even the staff report (go to http://sire.cityofsantacruz.com/sirepub/mtgviewer.aspx?meetid=461&doctype=AGENDA click on item #15) acknowledges there is no documentation backing up the “Public Safety” cover story for this latest “pander to prejudice” proposal.

The Terrazas-Mathews-Comstock committee also took anecdotal complaints and a police report about two medians to ratify a staff proposal that ALL medians in the city now have “thou shalt not loiter” restrictions.    This not only outlaws traditional use of the medians downtown (in front of Zachary’s, for instance) for socializing, but will outlaw holding political signs during the regular protests that happen.

The right-wing crowd attending the meeting (Deborah Elston of Santa Cruz Neighbors, for instance) made it clear that their target was “panhandlers”  (by which they meant poor homeless panhandlers, not City Council enablers of million dollar De Sal consultants, of course).   The gruesome threesome making up the committee also  noted they’d be considering stay-away orders from public parks (after citation and prior to any charges being filed or trial), triple-fine zones throughout the city for (homeless) infraction offenses, more park rangers replacing security guards, and other anti-homeless delicacies.

Repeated twice in the ordinance is the homeless-hostile rhetoric which (unnecessarily) reveals the ordinance’s true targets:  a purpose other than…assistance in crossing the street including the purposes of disorderly conduct, solicitation of money, solicitation of prostitution, consumption of

alcoholic beverages, or other activity not related to crossing the street.  Ironically all these activities are already illegal (including panhandling someone in a vehicle).Making illegal asking for help with signs is grossly abusive of the First Amendment, of course.   It is also a violation of elementary morality, as well as a sign of the desperation and determination of NIMBY bigots to clear the streets of visibly poor people messing up the fantasy of healthy happy neighborhoods.

“DISORDERLY CONDUCT IN PARKS AND BEACHES” LAW
A second ordinance being proposed (item #16 on the afternoon agenda) proposes up to $1000 fine and six months or a year in jail for someone who ”

willfully harasses or interferes” with a city employee in the park or on the beach–which will create a wealth of jury trials for those who want to challenge them.  Attempts of the city attorney to later reduce such measures to infractions (which would strip folks of their trial and public defender rights) comes into conflict with state law limiting such shenanagans.The real focus, however, seems to be Section 2 which provides for 24 hour stay away orders from the park at the whim of the offended officer.  And again provides for misdemeanor penalties.  Dangerous, overbroad, unconstitutional, and targeted legislation.

The restrictions of the ordinance does provide for an interesting Constitutional challenge for those willing to face jail (say by holding up a political sign in a park after dark and then ignoring, i.e. “interfering” with a uniformed thug’s demand that you leave, or leaving and then coming back the next day during the daylight hours with a sign inside the 24-hour forbidden time zone time).


NOTES BY NORSE: Indybay writer and videojournalist Alex Darocy and I were at the Monterey City Council meeting last night.  The agenda seemed designed to drive away by exhaustion  homeless people and advocates who packed the chamber.   The homeless issue was split in half between proposed noxious anti-homeless ordinances “to be studied” and solutions “to be discussed” with other candytreats-for-the-hotel-owners agenda items shoved in front of the two  homeless topics.    As a result Alex and I only stayed until 11 PM when discussion of the first item had finally concluded.   The people won one out of three–with any “study” of the Sit/Lie Ban thrown out, but likely “no smoking downtown and on the wharf” and “no parking overnight” laws to come out of new studies–passed by the Council.

Mayor Della Sala seemed markedly more tolerant than past Santa Cruz panjandrums, which may have been due to the size and restiveness of the audience.   He warned people not to clap, which resulted in sustained clapping in response to his warning.   I made the occasional off-hand “First Amendment!” shout (but no “don’t act like a Nazi” salutes).  Santa Cruz mayors have similarly tried to “quiet the public”, claiming it’s “disrespectful” and “takes up too much time.”   No doubt in Santa Cruz soon we’ll hear it’s a ‘Public Safety hazard” or as former Mayor Fitzmaurice warned, “it frightens away the public” for folks to be too demonstrative.                                                                                         

Unlike Santa Cruz, Monterey City Council rules “allow” community members to require a separate voice and discussion on Consent Agenda matters which prolonged the meeting, but provided a shadow of real democracy, long absent from Santa Cruz City Council meetings.  Councilmember Alan Haffa, a professor and sometime Occupy Monterey Peninsula member was often outspoken in opposition to anti-homeless measures.  He also, however, had a usual Liberal Control Freak aspect to him, where he was impatient of other  views, desirous of combining items to cut short testimony (though with an understandable objective of  getting testimony before people collapsed from exhaustion), difficult to access individually).

Police were in the chamber, but their response to a rather annoying if sincerely motivated homeless interrupter was to talk with him, escort him outside at one point, allow him back in, and generally show far more respect than  has traditionally been shown to discordant voices in Santa Cruz.


To view the public and City Council discussion of the homeless items in question (Items #10 and 16), go to http://www.monterey.org/en-us/cityhall/themontereychannel/councilmeetingsvideoondemand.aspx where the videos will be available after May 24th,   according to the city manager’s office there. Check out the Afternoon and Evening Sessions of the May 22nd meeting as well as the April 24th Homelessness Study Session.    Some of the testimony is moving, some annoying, but there is not a single mention of “needles” at least on the 22nd.  Looks like Take Back Santa Cruz hasn’t established a Take Back Monterey chapter yet.

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