The “Public Safety” Task Force, hand-picked by Mayor Hillary Bryant, has its first meeting tonight at 6 PM in the small Tony Hill sideroom at the Civic Auditorium on Church St. across from City Council chambers. According to staff person Scott Collins, the meeting will not be televised, though he intends to bring a small audio recorder. The room accommodates a much smaller number of people than the City Council chambers across the street or the main Civic auditorium assembly room in the same building. It also has no provision for letting folks outside listen via speakers as City Council has. Bryant has politely refused to move either the time or location of the meeting.
HYSTERIA-HEAVY ORIGINS OF THE PUBLIC SAFETY TASK FARCE
The Public Safety Task Force was hastily cobbled together as a patch-up job to respond to the loud criticism of Take Back Santa Cruz and The Clean Team, who came to City Council shaking cans of hypodermic needles they’d picked up over the previous days, weeks, and months.
The fact that they found less than 750 needles in less than half a year compared with the 250,000 reportedly turned in to S.O.S. volunteer Needle Exchange didn’t stop City Council from meeting in closed session, closing down all needle exchange in the city limits, and treating this political hysteria as though it were a real public safety concern.
The Clean Team recently was exposed as homeless harassers in a You-Tube video, which disappeared several minutes after it was posted, as CT members denounced and abused homeless people in their sleeping bags, threatened to return and pour water on them, demanded they get up, and clean up the area.
I’ve stopped waiting for Take Back Santa Cruz to announce it has told its “clean up” crews not to disturb homeless camps as Save Our Shelter folks are reportedly advised in their regular clean-ups along the beaches and river.
NO HOMELESS INVOLVEMENT ON TASK FORCE NOR REAL ACTION TO DEAL WITH TRASH & NEEDLE DISPOSAL
What Council did not do is involve the homeless community in assisting with improper needle distribution, trash dispersal, and real environmental protection.
This could be done by–say–setting up public bathrooms (or at least portapotties) for the 1500-2000 who sleep outside (because there are facilities for less than 50 in the Paul Lee loft for the next six months and a Waiting List of 4-6 weeks), taking seriously Brent Adams’ Sanctuary Campground proposal (or something similar), or at least providing trash pick-up’s, garbage bags, and clean-up incentives for those who camp of necessity. Instead there’s a police hotline to snitch on survival campers, which makes all the more reluctant to be publicly seen hauling trash out of the Pogonip.
Part of the real agenda of Take Back Santa Cruz seems to have always been to treat homeless campers as criminals, drive them out of Santa Cruz, harden the hearts of those who recognize they have rights with venomous rhetoric, and scapegoat them as bums, addicts, drunks, and “foreigners”. Out-of-towners with money to throw into shops or lavish at the Boardwalk, of course, regardless of the traffic, trash, and police problems they create are welcome.
The visible poor are falsely blamed and targeted for impeding the escalation of property values and discouraging upscale shopping on Pacific Avenue as well as leaving feces, trash, and needles on (now closed at night) Cowell Beach. Hence in the last two decades we’ve escalated from the Sleeping Ban to the Sitting Ban, removal of benches (check Walnut Ave. outside of the Silver shop), and massive over-policing and security guard thuggery downtown.
COMPOSITION OF THE INQUISITION
Mostly cops, merchants, and bureaucrats. No homeless folks, homeless advocates, public defenders, and scant social service representation. No surprise, even though Bryant had many to choose from–as can be seen in the list of applicants above.
MAYOR BRYANT’S STONEWALLING CONTINUES
Bryant has continued to stonewall on providing any e-mails for the last year other than 3 “newsletters”. The SCPD continues to refused to provide bikes to the bike church with no explanation–from Tina Shull, Assistant City Manager, Council members Don Lane, or Hillary Bryant, whose husband reportedly has a financial arrangement with the Bike Dojo boss–where the SCPD has been sending the bikes. And Council member Posner declines to make any public statements on the matter.
REAL PUBLIC SAFETY IS NOT THE ISSUE: DRIVING AWAY THE HOMELESS IS
Real Public Safety, of course, is being significantly compromised by the SCPD’s political anti-homeless agenda of over-policing downtown, engaging in survival-gear-destroying sweeps, and encouraging bigot snitch activity against visible homeless people. Ironically, the data documenting this obvious fact was long unavailable but then supplied in a ham-handed attempt to demonize homeless people.
Public statements from old-time bullies like Deputy-Chief Steve Clark suggesting that nearly half of the police budget goes to address “homeless crime” sounds fearsome until you realize the “crime” he’s talking about has been created and magnified by the SCPD. These “crimes” include drug use, urinating, defecating, llegal sleeping, recycling, using shopping carts, open container, and other victimless activities that most people do behind closed doors.
Chief Vogel himself did not deny there was no rise in the “crime rate”–though he willingly accepted the new officer recruit bonuses being thrown at him by City Council in its haste to show it was “doing something”.
COME EARLY AND WEAR A NOSE PLUG
If you wish to attend this packed Task Force, make sure you go early, since there’s likely to be little space. There’s also likely to be plenty of Take Back Santa Cruz partisans armed with glass jars of needles.