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Angry and Hopeful Updates from the Central Valley
Santa Cruz has no Renter Protection/Just Eviction law and sorely needs one. Both activists and leaders content themselves with grumbling about foreclosures without demanding or taking action. Unconstitutional restrictions against public assembly are locked in place at the County Building and City Hall (the nighttime curfews). Police are acting as private security guards for bigoted homeless-excluding groups taking over public spaces. Trials of peaceful protesters such as the Santa Cruz Eleven and Linda Lemaster of PeaceCamp2010 roll merrily along. Callous and arbitrary exclusion practices at the Homeless Lack of Services Center are exposed daily. Perhaps these updates from the Central Valley can provide some hope and direction.
Occupy Fresno Legal Victory
by Mike Rhodes ( editor [at] fresnoalliance.com )
Friday Jun 8th, 2012 4:12 PM
The video (4:41 minute) below is from the Occupy Fresno press conference held today in Courthouse Park to share the results of the settlement with the County of Fresno on the 100+ arrests that have taken place over the last eight months. The good news is that all charges have been dropped and Occupy Fresno can once again have all night demonstrations in the park. (To see video go to http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2012/06/08/18715007.php )
Occupy Fresno held a press conference today (June 8, 2012) to discuss the settlement of its suit against Fresno County. Bob Navarro, attorney representing Occupy Fresno, Mike Bridges and Richard “Patch” Day spoke and their comments are available on the video (above). According to Occupy Fresno representatives, the settlement is not the victory they were looking for, but it is positive. It upholds the constitutional rights of freedom of assembly and freedom of speech.
Fresno County will remove restrictive ordinances limiting the circulation of flyers, carrying of signs, and holding small gatherings in Courthouse Park. Those arrested will not face criminal charges.
Most importantly, Occupy Fresno has not gone away! Tomorrow is the anniversary of eight months at Fresno County Courthouse Park – the only known Occupy in the movement that has maintained a continuous 24-hour presence in its original location.
Led by young adults and beginning on October 9, 2011, several hundred people of all ages, from all walks of life met in Fresno County Courthouse Park to be a part of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Some engaged in civil disobedience because of their passion for economic justice and freedom of speech. There were 105 arrests.
Fresno County spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to monitor and arrest Occupy Fresno demonstrators. The arrests distracted and deterred supporters of Occupy. But, the national problems that sparked the Occupy movement remain - extreme inequality of wealth, accelerating poverty, and the power of large corporations and financial institutions.
Occupy Fresno can now put the arrests behind them and get back to the business of working for economic justice. The group will celebrate the settlement and look to the future this Saturday, June 10, with a potluck at 5:30 p.m. and a General Assembly at 7:00 p.m.
FOR MORE DETAILS OF THE SETTLEMENT AGREEMENT GO TO http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2012/06/08/18715007.php .
MORE CITY DEMOLITION OF HOMELESS SURVIVAL ENCAMPMENTS
I have heard from several sources that the City of Fresno will post notices to evict homeless residents living in and around the Monterey Bridge. These evictions will include people living on The Hill, New Jack City (which has been re-born), and the area around Pastor Ray Polk's ministry. My best guess is that the notices will go up in about two weeks and they will give people about 10 days to move. My understanding is that this eviction will take place so the bridge can be destroyed. The city says that it is a hazard and needs to be removed. It has not been used for years and it was one of the reasons the city gave for evicting the homeless on October and November of 2011. I talked to Polk yesterday morning and he said he is not planning on moving and will contact the faith based community to try and get support. It is unclear what the rest of the residents will do or where they will go if evicted from this area.
It is interesting that the city will spend money to destroy this bridge, but have to cut back on senior meals because they have no money. The city spent millions to build a community center (Elm and California) with an NBA size basketball court and has no money to open it up. Yet, they can spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to bulldoze the homeless encampments and destroy this bridge. By the way, that community center is less than a block from a new and growing homeless encampment near E and California, where people are dying from the heat. The community center could be opened as a cooling center, but the city says that would cost too much money. They have their priorities.
Community Alliance Newspaper
PO Box 5077
Fresno Ca 93755
(559) 978-4502 (cell)
(559) 226-3962 (fax)
editor [at] fresnoalliance.com
First Tenant Rights Referendum in California’s Central Valley Hits the Streets
by Tenants Together ( info [at] tenantstogether.org )
Monday Jun 11th, 2012 10:44 AM
Tenants Together, California’s statewide organization for renters’ rights, began circulating a referendum this week to overturn this week’s action by the City Council to repeal Merced’s Just Cause for Eviction law. Passed in November 2011, the Just Cause law protects tenants from arbitrary eviction by banks and investors after foreclosure, and has already stopped or postponed multiple evictions of tenants after foreclosure. The council voted to repeal the popular anti-eviction law at the request of real estate industry interests, a move that prompted the first referendum campaign.
This is the first known referendum on a tenant rights issue in the Central Valley. Tenants Together needs to collect approximately 2900 valid signatures from Merced registered voters within 30 days in order to stop the repeal from taking effect. A successful signature drive will force the issue back to the Merced City Council which can either stick with its decision or change course. If the council sticks with the decision, the matter would go to the voters.
Merced’s new mayor, Stan Thurston, is a major local landlord who made eliminating the Just Cause law a top priority after taking office, despite the range of economic issues facing Merced. Thurston found allies in two new councilmembers with real estate industry ties – Councilmember Tony Dossetti, himself a landlord who owns a foreclosed property of the type regulated by the ordinance, and Councilmember Mike Murphy, whose Bay Area based law firm (Orrick, Herrington) proudly touts its record advising banks on mortgage securitization and other practices that caused the foreclosure crisis in the first place.
Also voting for the repeal was Councilmember Pedrozo, who supported the law last summer, but subsequently bowed to real estate industry demands and became a leading opponent of the law starting in November.
At issue are arbitrary post-foreclosure evictions of renters. Since December, these evictions have been outlawed under Merced’s Just Cause for Eviction law. The law applies to foreclosed properties and prohibits evictions of renters unless there is specific cause (like nonpayment of rent, nuisance, owner move-in, etc) for the eviction. Foreclosure alone is not grounds for evicting a tenant under the ordinance.
The Merced Sun-Star published an editorial supporting the Just Cause law in November. Mayor Pro Tem Noah Lor, Councilmember Mary-Michal Rawling, and Councilmember Bill Blake, have consistently supported the law and opposed repeal. As they explained in a recent Op-Ed in the Merced Sun-Star, “We will not continue to allow banks and other post-foreclosure owners to displace Merced's families for no good reason.”
Supporters should contact info [at] tenantstogether.org to get involved in the referendum campaign.
Homeless Action in Fresno
by Mike Rhodes ( editor [at] fresnoalliance.com )
Sunday Jun 10th, 2012 11:17 PM
There was a “homeless action” event organized by Faith in Community/PICO in Fresno on Sunday, June 10. The event consisted of serving the homeless breakfast, a presentation (mostly) by homeless people to County of Fresno officials, and a street fair.
Hi, my name is Sandy. I’m going to tell you a little bit about the homeless people like me that talked with Faith in Community about what they need to get off the street.
They talked to over 100 homeless people in Fresno, some here at Poverello but most out on the streets all over Fresno. The top two things people mentioned as needs were interesting:
60% said they needed a job
48% said they needed housing
People want housing as a way to get back to work. They want to get back into a normal life.
Some other interesting things are the age of the people that were interviewed and their time spent on the street. 73% of people Faith in Community talked to were between 40 and 60 years old. Most of these people had work experience and skills in some field.
Now let’s look at how long people have been on the street. 55% of the people that participated in one to one interviews had been on the street less than 5 years and 33% had been there less than 3 years. What this suggested was that there may be a lot of us out here because of the recent economic crisis. We can’t find a way to make ends meet. Then people end up on the street and can’t find a way out.
Finally, many of those interviewed had a combination of crisis situations that led to homelessness, including:
Loss of employment
Death in the family
Incarceration (sometimes for minor offenses)
What seemed to happen a lot is that two crisis situations lead to someone being unable to cope with their life. Then people end up on the street.
But listen to what we hear a lot from the City and County of Fresno, with all due respect to the Supervisor and County staff present today. (To them) Thank you so much for coming today to listen to our concerns. What we hear a lot is:
“Fresno’s homeless want to be on the street. They will refuse services if they’re offered.”
But this isn’t true. We do want services but this doesn’t mean that just anything will work for us; we’re people too.
Now I’d like to tell you what we want officials in Fresno to do. Homeless people need help. This problem isn’t going away. Every two years the federal government counts the number of homeless in Fresno and there are more of us every time and more of us are unsheltered.
Everyone needs to do as much as they can to make systems meant to serve us work better. These are the things we want:
1. The City and County of Fresno need to coordinate the services that do exist so that they reach those that need them. This includes both sources of income as well as housing. Give us a place we can go where all the County and City services are together. This will make it easier for us to learn what’s out there.
2. Increase access to emergency shelter beds and other services that already exist (64% usage measured for the 2011 Point in Time study)
3. Address homeless as a part of addressing poverty in a time of economic crisis.
Thank you so much for listening. Our message today is that we’re ready for help, as we’ve always been. We’ve always wanted to get back on our feet. But we want that help in a way that makes us feel valued. Thank you.
TO VIEW THE VIDEO, GO TO http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2012/06/10/18715144.php /