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Confronting the Coonerty in his Lair: Another Protest at B.S. Santa Cruz
by Robert Norse
Friday Feb 2nd, 2007 8:32 AM
1-3 PM Today (Friday February 2nd) A Gathering in the "Free Speech Zone" Outside Vice-Mayor Coonerty's Bookshop Santa Cruz Asking for Answers to Simple Questions About Homeless Survival Shelter and Public Access to Information: Get Fed (Thanks to Jumbogumbo Joe Schult'z Vegan Yumyums), Have Fun, Sing & Sign Petitions! Help the Vice-Mayor hear the voice of those his cops are harassing.

Vice-Mayor Coonerty, who also teaches courses in Constitutional Law, at UCSC and has a law degree, has stated that it's constitutional and acceptable for Santa Cruz to have a law that bans all outdoor and vehicular sleeping 11 PM to 8:30 AM. This law seems to fly in the face of the L.A. Jones decision, which requires L.A. to set aside a safe sleeping area at night. [$file/0455324.pdf?openelement ]

City Attorney-for-Life John Barisone has given an opinion to the City Council in secret, which Mayor Reilly and Vice Mayor Coonerty decline to release to the public. We are asking that this opinion be made public. They say this requires a vote of the City Council, but have so far refused to schedule such a vote.


Meanwhile each night there is shelter for less than 160 of the City's 1500-2000 homeless people and a law that fines them $90 for Sleeping outside. Enforcement in the primary sleeping area--the Pogonip--has been increased exponentially.

With a new City Council appropriation of $700,000 last month, four additional Community Service Officers and three Park Rangers have been assigned to harass and ticket survival campers. Homeless property, according to Ranger John Wallace, is being routinely destroyed instead of being stored (as the federal court has now ordered in Fresno: []

Another $700,000 appropriated for "shelter" at the Homeless Service Center won't expand existing shelter significantly, just replace the ISSP church program. That program is apparently going bankrupt because of the cost of busing people to distant church floors.


Coonerty has refused to say why he feels the City's Sleeping Ban law is constitutional. His e-mails and phone messages have been limited to saying he "disagrees" with activists who believe the Ban violates the Jones decision.

We hope to persuade him to come out of his lair today and talk to us at length, answer questions, and explain his position. He might also indicate where 1500-2000 homeless community members can legally and safely sleep, particularly the vulnerable.

His phone number at City Hall is 420-5027. An alternate phone number which he provides on his City Hall voicemail is 423-8939.


Homeless people have traditionally been 4 to 10 times more vulnerable to assault than housed people (according to the city's own statistics in 1999). So now more than ever, it's important that those who sleep outside be able to do so in groups, in well-lighted areas, and with the ability to contact police if they so choose. All these possibilities are lessened or foreclosed by the city's Sleeping Ban enforcement policy.

My own interviews with homeless people (specifically homeless women) do NOT indicate an upsurge of violence against homeless women outside, Sentinel stories notwithstanding. Still, the usual level is bad enough for us to demand long overdue restoration of constitutional rights for the vulnerable poor.


The Jones decision is currently law and precedent in all nine states over which the 9th Court of Appeals has jurisdiction. It is currently on appeal, with no decision made yet as to whether it will be reviewed by a larger ("en banc") panel of the Court, as has been requested by the City of Los Angeles.

The City of L.A. is currently engaged in settlement negotiations with the ACLU down south with the next mediation session scheduled for mid-February. While all this goes on, the time is ripe for an appeal of our own ban, using the Jones decision as precedent.

Meanwhile the Cities of Los Angeles and San Diego have reportedly stopped enforcement of their Sleeping Bans at night. Richmond changed its law to incorporate Jones decision language (stopping police for citing or arresting for "camping" unless shelter is available). The "Progressive" Reilly-Coonerty City Council in Santa Cruz refuses to do this.

Now, while the Jones decision is the law in California, we are most likely to get a favorable decision at the District Court level if we file a lawsuit. The threat of that kind of decision is what forced Richmond and San Diego to either change their law or suspend enforcement. We need to present the same demands here, with public protest and legal action. That's what the continuing visible protest outside Coonerty's Bookshop is all about.


The LAPD has also ratcheted up sleeping and camping arrests during the day and bogus drug arrests at night. I recently interviewed L.A. Community Action Network activist Becky Dennison [] who describes the situation there. See also]

In Santa Cruz, Public Works crews continue to roam the Pogonip destroying campsites and compacting homeless property, without storing it as required by state law and court decision. Ranger Wallace simply tacks up a notice, and then sends in the crews several days later, according to his own account. Coonerty has been informed of this and not taken any action that I've heard of.


Ryan Coonerty not only supports the Sleeping Ban, but initiated and pushed the Parking Garage Trespass Law last year which bans anyone from entering a parking garage (or Parking Lot #9 on Elm St.) unless going to or from a car or bicycle parked there. (It also bans those who've paid to park from remaining for more than 15 minutes).

He has also pushed for expanded police powers against "unruly partyers", for banning homeless car parking at night on the West side and downtown, for expanded "ban the homeless" powers for Parks and Recreation boss Danettee Shoemaker, and rubberstamp support for the SCPD and out-of-control Ranger John Wallace.

Neal Coonerty--now Supervisor, previously Mayor--though selling t-shirts with the logo "Keep Santa Cruz Weird", having one of the few open public bathrooms in town, and occasonally allowing homeless people to sleep outside his bookstore (technically illegal even with his permission) was the author of the original anti-homeless Downtown Ordinances (banning nighttime peaceful panhandling, even with a sign, sitting in most places, turning performing and political petitioning into a "get the police department's permission" event).


HUFF (Homeless United for Friendship & Freedom), the HRO (Human Rights Organization), Humanity for Homeless, and the Cabrillo Homeless Rights Task Force can use your help. We're looking for help getting together tickets over the past year and investigating court records for a potential lawsuit.

We need help with flyers, press releases, phonetreeing, and e-mailing. We're looking for outreach people to get in touch with activists in other cities and to contact allied activists in Santa Cruz. We need folks to write letters, go to (shudder) Council meetings, and keep tabs on local cops and bureaucrats.

Give a call to 423-4833. Check out the HUFF, HRO, and HfH websites. Listen to Free Radio Santa Cruz's Bathrobespierre's Broadsides show every Thursday 6-8 PM and Sundays 9:30 AM - 1 PM (archived at

The more help we get, the more chance we have of restoring basic rights to those outside.

This event is also part of the Vigil Against Two Wars (the War on the Poor in Santa Cruz and the War/Occupation Against Iraq). We urge the community to mobilize resistance against both.
Listed below are the latest comments about this post.
These comments are submitted anonymously by website visitors.
Robert is right...the behavior of the homeless downtown is horribleJim SchultzSaturday Mar 17th, 2007 11:40 PM
Statistics Confirm that Homeless People are being targetedBecky JohnsonSaturday Feb 17th, 2007 6:27 AM
Behavior is the problemRobertWednesday Feb 14th, 2007 8:38 PM
Check Your Facts Before You Shoot Your Mouth OffThomas LeavittTuesday Feb 13th, 2007 9:47 PM
Myths about Santa Cruz being some kind of "homeless" capitolBecky JohnsonTuesday Feb 13th, 2007 6:51 AM
Santa Cruz = Giant Homeless Shelter? We cannot do it.Jim SchultzThursday Feb 8th, 2007 10:11 PM
More protests coming with the Sleep-Mobile and Coonerty Cookouts (corrected version)Robert NorseThursday Feb 8th, 2007 4:02 PM
More protests coming with the Sleep-Mobile and Coonerty CookoutsRobert NorseThursday Feb 8th, 2007 3:49 PM
Ah Yeah!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!Richard CipianWednesday Feb 7th, 2007 9:53 PM
National Public Sleeping DayFebruary 28thTuesday Feb 6th, 2007 9:39 AM
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