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Santa Cruz Indymedia | Police State and Prisons

Nasty new ordinance making Sleeping Ban Tickets misdemeanors Tuesday 3 PM at City Council
by Robert Norse
Saturday Jun 19th, 2010 5:40 PM
The City Attorney's office is apparently not satisfied with spending $50,000 to $100,000 targeting Anna Richardson and Miguel de Leon in the unusual and unjustified Permanent Injunction Hearing that lasted through the last week. Their crime? Sleeping tickets in a town with no shelter for 95% of its homeless. The new law would restore misdemeanor status to Sleeping and Blanket Ban citations (removed in 1999 by City Council action). The First Reading of the new law will be hustled through Tuesday afternoon at another of Mayor Rotkin's inconvenient-for-the-public 3 PM sessions of the twice-monthly City Council meeting. It is item #25 on the agenda. Due up at a time uncertain--probably 3:30 PM or later.
Agenda Item #25 on the Tuesday 6-22 City Council afternoon agenda is titled the Code Enforcement Ordinance.

Staff report at http://64.175.136.240/sirepub/cache/2/u4voer45dxwh3a45vopkg1vq/231467606192010055938853.PDF

Text of the ordinance at http://64.175.136.240/sirepub/cache/2/u4voer45dxwh3a45vopkg1vq/231467706192010060025275.PDF

It replaces the current law passed in January 2009 by City Council. That was a quick and dirty deal with the Downtown Association (see "Notes on the Proposed New Improved Downtown Ordinances Reducing Public Space" at http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2009/01/26/18565796.php and "Aftermath" at http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2009/02/09/18569234.php?show_comments=1#18569688).

The current law (MC 4.04.015) can be found at http://www.codepublishing.com/CA/SantaCruz/ as MC 4.04.015 .

The current law punishes any three "unattended" infractions--however unrelated--making a failure to pay or attend court a misdemeanor.

This can be used to arrest, jail, and charge a homeless person for missing court dates or not paying fines for three unrelated citations--let's say--one for sitting near a building, another for smoking, a third for sleeping outside) by allowing the City Attorney to file a misdemeanor charge. Jailing can be a serious and exhausting matter for a homeless person. After jailing a person, seizing their property, and holding it until the middle of the next week, the SCPD is only open to reclaim backpack, bedroll, and other survival necessities twice a week and then only an hour or two a day during those two days.

This, of course, gives the homeless person strong incentive to follow a cop's orders and adopt a subservient attitude no matter how humiliating, illegal, and/or unreasonable the cop's behavior may be.

In addition, activist Becky Johnson has pointed out that cops and courts often delay, rush,or screw up their infraction citation filings. Usually you have to wait at least a month before a ticket is filed with with the court. If the police are targeting you, you may be incurring additional citations while waiting for the earlier ones to appear.


EVEN THE CURRENT LAW WAS UNNECESSARY--UNLESS IT WAS INTENDED TO STIFFEN THE PENALTIES FOR SLEEPING AND COVERING UP WITH BLANKETS

A second violation of the same ordinance--for every ordinance in the Municipal Code--has for decades been chargeable as a misdemeanor. This is in the wording of each infraction as you read through the code. Misdemeanors allow police to arrest and jail the accused person. They require defendants to appear in court on penalty of Failure to Appear warrants--unlike infractions which just go to Failure to Pay penalty assessments and are sent to collection.

So if there's already a way of citing, jailing, and charging homeless people for the second violation of the tripwire matrix of laws set up in 1994 and 2002-3 called the Downtown Ordinances, why the 2009 changes? To please merchants, apparently, who wanted "something done" given the current recession. Simple homeless scapegaoting.

So there was no need for the current unattended infractions law, if the issue was finding some hook on which to arrest a "criminal sitter", someone in the park after hours, or a scofflaw smoker--once they'd broken the law twice. Police could always arrest someone for a second infraction as a misdemeanor.

But apparently even this isn't enough. And so a new law is being proposed that makes any infraction, subsequent to three tickets being ignored, a misdemeanor.

What's going on? Likely, this is a Homeless "Patriot Act" to circumvent the current limit on Sleeping Ban and Blanket Ban penalties--which are the only infractions in the city code that can't be charged as misdemeanors because of changes made by the City Council in 1999, and the only infractions which limit fines to $20 ($97 with court assessments added on) and 8 hours community service.

The current "three unattended infractions" does apply to Sleeping and Blanket ban tickets, allow for the 2009 "three infractions and you've got a misdemeanor" law (used once so far in the case of Melvin Jones). But the proposed law would actually restore misdemeanor status to Sleeping and Blanket Ban citations if a homeless person has gotten three other infraction citations--of any kind--and been unwilling or unable to deal with them.

More on this later.

Comments  (Hide Comments)

by Craig
Sunday Jun 20th, 2010 2:30 PM
In the comment above Robert says "Their crime? Sleeping tickets in a town with no shelter for 95% of its homeless."

Becky has supplied us all with documentation from the Homeless Census Survey that states the number of homeless people in the CITY of Santa Cruz is 901. There are currently more than 310 shelter beds in the CITY of Santa Cruz. How is 310 5% of 901? It's not.
by Robert Norse
Sunday Jun 20th, 2010 11:42 PM
Please specify where these 310 beds are and what sub-populations of the homeless they are open to.

According to the Homeless Services Center (the only significant homeless emergency shelter provider), there is no walk-in emergency shelter available. Those "beds" that may be available down the road are currently taken and require waiting lists. This is and has been true every summer and is acknowledged by the City. Which nonetheless continues to authorize police to write citations and gives us the Anna-Miguel lawsuit. Tonight, for instance, when there is zero walk-in shelter space available for any of those at risk for citations outside.

The point is that people outside who are faced with tickets have no option to be legal. Get it?
by oops
Wednesday Jun 23rd, 2010 2:29 PM
They have plenty of options to be legal. Let's explore a couple:

Since the are homeless, and most of them don't have jobs, they could sleep during the day and do their nasty bum shit at night. This would also be good because there would be less people around for them to harass, which would probably take some of the heat off of them.

Or, check this out, they could fucking leave. We don't want them here. Robert, you are a pain in the ass and a complete waste, but at least you are not out doing and selling drugs, petty thieving, or vandalizing. You are about as low as we need to accept. You being around is enough to "keep Santa Cruz weird" without any of your bum army. To be fair though, let's say that anyone without a criminal record can stay. I figure that will leave about a dozen, maybe. Okay, you're right, maybe 6.

Regarding the Mayor and City Council, I know it is hard to believe, but they are actually doing what the people want for a change.

Seriously Robert, what are your feelings on how many people your antics have alienated from your cause? Do you think that your actions have contributed to the quality of bum life in Santa Cruz?
by Santa Cruz Resident
Wednesday Jun 23rd, 2010 4:52 PM
Concerning Anna and Miguel, your new poster children for the homeless, you need to add a few missing facts. As stated by Anna and Miguel themselves, they REFUSE to use the shelters (because the shelters have rules). They are homeless by CHOICE. They enjoy the way they live their life. They WANT to sleep where ever they want, when they want. They don't want to follow any rules. They have no desire to be housed or to work. Their own lawyer said he was going to get Miguel a job, but Miguel refused to work.

Why should Anna and Miguel not have to following rules like the rest of us? Are they at special? I really want to know.
by Santa Cruz Resident
Wednesday Jun 23rd, 2010 4:53 PM
sorry, should have been "Are they that special?"
by You Are Right
Saturday Jun 26th, 2010 10:29 PM
Yep, well said!
by Robert Norse
Friday Jul 2nd, 2010 9:17 AM
Those at the bottom deserve basic human rights, but are not likely to get them unless they fight back--hopefully in concert with folks indoors who understand that Sleeping is Not a Crime.

This absurd ordinance once more makes sleeping itself a misdemeanor (at the option of the D.A. or cops after 3 "unattended" infraction tickets). It may provide homeless folks ticketed with just the legal avenue to get the kind of Injunction, setttlement, and legal changes that happened in Los Angeles, San Diego, Richmond, and Laguna Beach--overturning the Sleeping Ban.

The Council falsely denied the anti-homeless impact of this law, the fact that existing laws already allow misdemeanor citations (so addressing the no-warrants-for-infractions issue), and ignored the absence of any statistics from the police or city attorney showing a need for yet another slash at the poor. Let them know what you think at citycouncil [at] cityofsantacruz.com .

I'll be playing the Council's "debate" on free radio Sunday July 4th at 10 AM on 101.1 FM and http://www.freakradio.org. It'll later be archived at http://www.radiolibre.org/brb/brb100704.mp3

City Attorney Barisone's office has already spent over $100,000 defending the City Council's "right" to expell and/or arrest members of the audience whose commentary they don't like (the mock-Nazi salute), It looks like Barisone and Kovacevitch (the city attorney arguing the case) have finally gone too far, and they're likely to face a judicial slap in the chops (see http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2010/06/28/18652079.php).

This proposed ordinance, another Barisone special, will be coming up for a second and final vote on July 13th at City Council, presumably at the 3 PM session but perhaps in the evening, if Mayor Rotkin allows an evening session.

In the meantime, folks are invited to come to the Peace Camp 8 PM Sunday July 4th to 8 AM Monday July 5th at 701 Ocean St. in front of the County Building. There will be food and good company. Bring instruments, signs, and friends.