The Latest from Looneyland: S.C. City Council Goes Medieval

by Robert Norse

Tuesday Feb 12th, 2013 9:44 PM

I had to leave the meeting because I wasn’t feeling well, but I did stay until the end of the Public Comment period on Item #15, The Public Bigotry Committee report. I’m hoping to review the video of the rest of the meeting on the City’s website when it gets posted.

From what I heard and saw, in spite of a few good questions from Lane and Posner, there was no challenging of the abusive behind-closed-doors decision to shut down 1/2 of needle exchange (the half on Barson St.). There were no stats justifying the shutdown presented (though the property owner gave one anecdotal incident where he said he found some clean needles near a point of break-in). No stats for the number of people actually injured by needles. No comparative stats of harm created by restricting needle exchange in terms of the spread of disease.

Just more cops, more drug war, and more stalling by City Council–in terms of any public discussion. It also seems that the Council majority without a vote is acting unilaterally through Terrazas in its planned selection of a Task Force–to be chosen by the Mayor and then operate without public hearings. Terrazas gave a long-winded evasive response to Lane and Posner’s questions, but he finally got the clear answer–it’ll meet in secret, probably selected by the Mayor.

Another issue that was left hanging was whether the Task Force would assume that needle exchange would not be in the downtown or residential area before it started. At this writing the Sentinel (useless sensationalist smearsheet that it’s been on this issue) hasn’t come out with a story.

The S.C. Weekly reporter, however, was so pissed at the steady pattern of prejudice and fearmongering that he got up and made a statement supporting accessible needle exchange himself.

“More conservative” liberals like Mike Rotkin and Steve Pleich declined to endorse needle distribution or “1 plus” needles exchange where more needles were given out than returned, one of the big demands of Analicia Cube, her rep Pamela Comstock on City Council, and Take Back Santa Cruz.

No one made any serious proposals for a shift in the Drug War mentality, though there was lots of meaningless talk about compassion, and drug treatment–but the money, of course, would go for more cops to jail more users to fill up more jails to be released again with no housing to pick up their drug activity, etc.

A number of people denounced the Homeless (Lack of) Services Center as a demonic drug den that had to be shut down. There were angry claims that “most needles and debris” were found within 1/4 mile (or a mile–pick your source) of the HLOSC. I think it was the last speaker, a woman claiming to be a social worker demanded that homeless services be available only to those who registered and were local. I guess tatooing folks on the wrist with ID numbers would be optional.

Not sure what a Strategy for Sanity looks like, but I’ll be pondering it.

And as for whether some drug abusers and needle droppers are homeless–sure. But to let that be the excuse to criminalize homeless survival camps generally is the kind of is a form of badly misguided hatecrime.

The recommendations naturally had nothing specific about putting in bathrooms, requiring pharmacies to have safe needle disposal facilities, or (shudder) establishing safe campgrounds. There was some talk (and that’s what it’ll remain–talk) about how without real housing options, there’s no real drug treatment programs.

And in spite of all the Lane-Martinez buzz about 180/180, this program will impact only a small number of folks.

Looks like homeless people will have to look to themselves and other allies for protection. If Ammiano’s homeless Bill of Rights isn’t too badly weakened (which I fear it may be), that may be a new avenue.

HUFF meets tomorrow 10 AM Sub Rosa Cafe 703 Pacific. Free needles…er…coffee.