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City Council Clowns Prance Again On Tuesday Afternoon
Here's a brief suggestion of afternoon agenda matters that may concern homeless advocates, those concerned with police abuses, and renters vainly seeking for some sort of relief as the economic noose grows tighter. I hope to be supplementing this barebones list with some specific commentary later today.
The Santa Cruz City Council is having its first regular meeting in a month.
Items I suggest might be of interest to folks are:
CLOSED SESSION (begins at 1:30 PM in the City Hall Conference Room behind Council chambers)
Closed Session Item #A1 Proposal to Settle or Take to Trial my Mock-Nazi Salute Case of 2002
Closed Session Item #A3 The proposed new Unreasonably Disturbing Noise law, to replace the one thrown out by the Federal District Court last week
Closed Session Item #C Claims for false arrest by the biker club folks from last February
REGULAR AFTERNOON SESSION (begins at 3 p.m. though there will be some waiting through “presentations” which though on the agenda, are excluded from public comment--illlegally, I believe.)
Consent Agenda Item #2: Claims for false arrest by the biker club folks from last February—the chance for the public to speak in front of tv cameras.
Consent Agenda Item #5: $80,000 for “security patrols” for the library and city hall complex.
Consent Agenda Item #13: Progress of the “more money for De Sal” stuff.
Regular Business Agenda Item #18: the new and worsened Unreasonably Disturbing Noise law
Regular Business Agenda Item #20 Have staff consider the devastating effects on City Council's termination of rent control for De Anza Mobile Home Park a decade ago.
ORAL COMMUNCIATIONS: around 5 PM. For discussion of homeless sweeps, Occupy Santa Cruz related issues, police repression, and other issues routinely ignored by or excluded from the agenda by Mayor Lane.
More on this later today, hopefully.
UNREASONABLY DISTURBING POLICE BEHAVIOR LIKELY WITH NEW LAW
For those particularly interested in the Unreasonably Disturbing Noise law, go to http://www3.ci.santa-cruz.ca.us/sirepub/mtgviewer.aspx?meetid=264&doctype=AGENDA for the staff report and text of the new law.
I also had a lengthy interview with Mike Millen, the attorney for William Hampsmire, who successfully challenged the law in federal court. Go to http://www.radiolibre.org/brb/brb121007.mp3 (about 4 1/2 hours into the audio file).
For an alternate noise ordinance that actually gives an objective standard instead of the vague "unreasonably disturbing" phrase, see San Mateo's law at http://www.cityofsanmateo.org/index.aspx?NID=402 .
NO MEETING FOR A MONTH
Two weeks ago Mayor Lane canceled the regular session, explaining to me in a phone message that he wanted to respect a Jewish holiday (Rosh Hashanah) and give the Council a chance to “greet the students” up at UCSC. He said instead the Council was holding a “special meeting” which excluded the usual Oral Communications time.
Walker-bound Andrea Morgan called Lane to ask that the Oral Communications period be restored, so that she and a disabled friend could talk about abusive conditions at the Homeless (Lack of) Services Center [HLOSC]. Lane, Morgan reports, cheerfully refused and suggested she could wait another two weeks before raising the issue.
Morgan has been blowing the whistle on abuses at the HLOSC on my Free Radio Santa Cruz show quite regularly. Her advocate John Colby publicly exchanged numerous e-mails with Lane confronted him this summer on Community TV. Lane has refused to have a return encounter, to have rules and rights for disabled people posted at the HLOSC, clarify what the appeals process is there, and answer numerous other questions. Lane the President of the Board of the HLOSC.
Audio of the Lane-Colby exchanges is at http://www.radiolibre.org/brb/brb120802.mp3 .. See also http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2012/07/31/18718653.php ("Discrimination Against the Disabled Homeless? Forum w/Mayor Lane, John Colby, Steve Pleich") for some written discussion and links.
The closed session meets at 1:30 PM in the City Hall Conference Room, which is right behind City Council chambers at 809 Center St. Members of the public are allowed to make comment to the Council before they close down for "litigation and personnel issues" and meet in private, but they have to be on the specific agenda item; there is no provision for Oral Communications on other subjects.
Also former Mayor Coonerty, ever intent on cutting off public comment tried to shut down Linda Lemaster some weeks ago, suggesting that "only litigants" have a right to address the Council. This was not true and Mayor Lane seemed to know it. An e-mail Lane sent me this afternoon seems to suggest that there will be public input allowed on these items if anyone can stand to be in the same room with the (hypo)critical mass of bureaucrats and politicians that crowd into these small chambers and consult in secret.
On their agenda are two issues that might be of interest:
MOCK-NAZI SALUTE CASE
Item #1 on Conference With Legal Counsel - Existing Litigation is my mock-Nazi salute case, Norse vc. City of Santa Cruz—which we've offered to settle (see http://www.santacruzsentinel.com/santacruz/ci_21683823/robert-norse-case-set-trial-settlement-still-possible? ).
Members of the public can weigh in on why the City should not waste further money by paying off legal fees and clarifying Council rules. We want it made clear that a person cannot be evicted from a meeting unless she or he causes an "actual disruption" not someting that merely prompts a negative response from the audience or Council.
This is already the recent ruling of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in my case when it went to a 11-judge panel last year. (See http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2010/06/28/18652079.php )
So City Council has good reason to simply accept it. However good reason is usually not enough without significant public pressure. City Attorney John Barisone (who makes money off of this case) will probably be suggesting otherwise—that they can win the case at trial in San Jose and if not, appeal again..
I had proposed dropping my part of the case (a claim for $50,000 for two false arrests) if the city would stop harassing, citing, and arresting folks outside under the Camping Ordinance (MC 6.36) and other ordinances (PC 647e) for sleeping at night. The Council refused last year and again this year—according to their attorney George Kovacevitch though they have not provided any provision for public discussion of whether squandering money in this way is a good thing in these times of cutbacks.
OPEN SESSION (3 PM) ITEMS
'SECURITY PATROLS' –(item #5).
That's $80,000 to surveille, harass, snitch on, and conceivably ticket or arrest those who "hang around" the library or city hall. You know who that is. These patrols were apparently cooked up out of City Manager Martin Bernal's office last year—but there's been no documentation of any specific complaints, no tally of tickets, arrests, or trials—much less, of convictions.
This is simply uniformed gun squads walking around like First Alarm or the Hosts giving cheap back-up to cops who wish to make City Hall and the Library less of a homeless hangout.
This is on the consent agenda. That means it gets passed without debate or staff report unless a member of the Council pulls it off for individual consideration and vote. This is a unique Don Lane-special—in other cities, members of the public can demand items on this agenda be set aside, discussed, and voted on individually. So, ask that it be pulled in advance—either by talking to a Council member before the meeting, or requesting this from the microphone when they give you 2 minutes to speak on it before the whole Consent agenda is voted on as a block.
UNREASONABLY DISTURBING NOISE (Item #18).
This comes up for a Council vote (most likely a rubber stamp) on the regular business section of the agenda (where changes n the law that require a public hearing show up). You should have 3 minutes to demand to know how much money was spent in the last two years ticketing, and prosecuting UDN citations.
This ordinance has been used by police to shut down any street musician, singer, drummer, or political activist they "receive a complaint about" without considering whether the complaint is justified, without even asking the victim of the complaint to try to be quieter, without taking a counter-complaint of "false police report" if the claim is outrageous.
A real option for city law, as mentioned in the story above, is to use a decibel meter as an objective standard as San Mateo does, instead of leaving it to the judgment of the heckler, sleeper, annoyed merchant, or cranky lawyer on the 3rd floor above Forever Twenty-One. I've proposed this by e-mail, but it could also be done in person. Frankly, of course, the chances for any kind of positive response are remote in my view.
There is also the chance that Mike Millen, the attorney who won the Hampsmire case, would be willing to take another case under the new law, if the facts were right. He suggests documenting with video the entire performance you do (ideally having a friend do that). I would urge anyone who's been experiencing trouble with cops around these issues to call 423-4833 and leave a specific description of when, where, who, how long, what was said, who witnessed, and contact info.
Why is it so high a fine ($450 with court costs) ? Why isn't a decibel meter required? Who decides what's "unreasonably disturbing" if the city chooses not ot use a decibel meter? If a police officer can't tell you what it means, how can anyone be expected to understand it? Has it been deterring street performers who have been threatened with it? Will it stand up to constitutional challenge in court, regardless of the happy words of the City Attorney?
Does a subsequent argument with a police officer means if you raise your voice you can be cited (it does, even if they deny it. That's what happened in the Sinister Sidewalk Singsong case—see http://beckyjohnsononewomantalking.blogspot.com/2010/01/sing-song-go-to-jail.html ).
....That's all for now, though there are also other items on the agenda which deserve note.