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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.
CONSTITUTIONAL EXPERT NEEDS CONSTITUTIONAL COACHING

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. [http://www.ca9.uscourts.gov/coa/newopinions.nsf/8138B5E4723C6FE988257150005B327E/$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.


SCANT SHELTER, MORE HARASSMENT

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: [http://indybay.org/newsitems/2006/12/15/18337877.php]

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 SILENT ON KEY ISSUES

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.


LATEST SENTINEL ASSAULT SCARE LOOMS

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.


UPDATES ON THE "JONES" DECISION

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.


HARASSMENT OF THE HOMELESS INTENSIFIES AND CONTINUES

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 [http://www.radiolibre.org/brb/brb070201.mp3] who describes the situation there. See also http://www.laweekly.com/news/dissonance/between-a-rock-and-a-soft-place/15544/]

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.


COONERTY & DAD BOGUS PROGRESSIVES ON HOMELESS ISSUE

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).


IF YOU MISSED THE PROTEST, WE'D STILL LOVE YOUR HELP!

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 http://www.huffsantacruz.org).

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.

Comments  (Hide Comments)

by Sam Weeks
Saturday Feb 3rd, 2007 10:52 PM
Let's not forget the harrassment that occurs when I try to walk through a Santa Cruz "wild" places with my children. Litter, bottles, evidence of fires, human waste.. I don't feel safe with my family trying to take a hike in nature. Chartities have built and supported a model shelter at River street. We give away food and services to the very people that turn around and destroy our habitat. Is it harrassment to keep people from using my yard as a toilet while they camp in their car out front? No. It's just a line that has to be drawn when my good graces are abused. *I* feel harrassed every time I try to get out with my family in this increasingly putrid town.

Enough is enough. Letting large numbers of people camp out will not get them into treatment, it will not help them get jobs - it enables a marginal lifestyle and destroys not only them, but the entire community.
by Tim Rumford
Monday Feb 5th, 2007 4:16 PM
Would you not at least concede that prohibiting people from sleeping ANYWHERE at night will impede a poor persons ability to "improve themselves"?

The more ordinances aimed at any class of people, particularly as defenseless as the homeless and poor, will only make the situation worse, and it has. Feeding bans are sweeping the Country"

The homeless become more desperate the more they are deprived of their rights. In the depression - they rioted, and were not far from that now. By the way, it worked. How else are they to fight for their basic rights?
by February 28th
Tuesday Feb 6th, 2007 9:39 AM
Hey Huffsters!
Thought you might like to organize a protest for National Public Sleeping Day!!

When : Always February 28th

Public Sleeping Day is an opportunity to sleep in public. We can think of a whole lot of places to sleep in the public eye. And, today is the day to do it.

You can sleep on a park bench. You can doze on a blanket on the beach. Some people may opt to sleep on the job. They do so at their own risk. Have you ever caught twenty winks on a bus or subway traveling to or from work? Sure, we all have.

Wherever you choose to sleep today, we hope it is peaceful and restful.

Origin of Public Sleeping Day:

Our research did not find the creator, or the origin of this day. When it came time to document and record this day, apparently the creator was sleeping on the job.

If you have any information about this holiday, please email us.
by Richard Cipian
Wednesday Feb 7th, 2007 9:53 PM
holla this is one hell of an idea!
by Robert Norse
Thursday Feb 8th, 2007 3:49 PM
Thanks for the comments--critics and supporters alike.

To Sam: none of us support despoiling the environment fires, human waste, or litter--for that matter. When the City declines to acknowledge the basic needs of its own homeless population, these conditions pile up as a consequence.
Some homeless folks are also less likely to be respectful of the law and the environment, especially they are treated like trash by police, rangers, and some conservative residents and businesses
All of this becomes something of a macabre joke if you're suggesting to poor people that the survival of homeless people is of smaller importance than the right of your family to feel comfortable taking nature walks.
Obviously it's important the environment be respected, and important that people feel secure to use the public spaces (housed and homeless alike). The apprehensionsand tastes of the well-off, however, should not determine public policy--as is currently the case.
It's still of particular importance for homeless campers to respect the environment--first, so as not to despoil the area where they're living and sleeping; second, so as not to provoke the understandable and justifiable concern and anger of wilderness users such as yourself.
It would be helpful for the city and/or county to fund or encourage "tidy camper" classes or programs, which one can take, perhaps even required if found guilty of littering, damage to the greenbelt, etc. Instead campers are charged with fines they can't pay (or long hours of community service they often can't complete) for doing something they cannot avoid: sleep somewhere at night.
The Homeless Service Center (which includes the Interfaith Satellite Shelter, the Winter Armory Shelter Program, the Page Smith Community House, the Rebele Family Shelter, the River St. Shelter, and the Homeless Persons Health Project) provides emergency walk-in shelter for less than 160 people in the winter and less than 40 the rest of the year. And that's IT for emergency shelter in Santa Cruz for 1500-2000 homeless people.
Ask yourself if it's reasonable or even cost-effective to arrest or fine poor folks for sleeping outdoors or in their vehicles when they have no alternatives. $90 per night is the fine with court costs; more than $400 if it isn't paid within a month.
It's actually unconstitutional ("cruel and unusual punishment") to do so, and the City is currently financially liable, the taxpayer tab waiting for the next lawsuit.
Your yard is not at issue; it's private property. But you might ask yourself what happened to all the public toilets in Santa Cruz. There are no 24-hour bathrooms. And all the portapotties have been pulled out.
You are also misled into believing that the homelessness problem is because people are unwilling or unable to work. It actually has more to do with the destruction of the social service net, the elimination of affordable housing, the rise of real estate speculation, and the flight of jobs.
Thanks for expressing your concerns.

National Public Sleeping Day seems like a good idea. HUFF voted yesterday to support the Olympia homeless (see http://indybay.org/newsitems/2007/02/08/18359480.php) with a moving target: a Sleep-Mobile where people can (illegally) sleep outfitted with a video camera so police will be documented as they unconstitutionally ticket people with no shelter to send them to.

Perhaps will park it near Coonerty's B.S. Santa Cruz, so liberals can buy books, then scurry home to their houses, or perhaps--decline to purchase at stores whose owners or prime workers are politicians who appeal to bigotry while claiming to be civil libertarians. Wait for the next Coonerty Cookout, where we will distribute edibles and invite the Vice-Mayor to join us in a dialogue he so far refuses to have.


Thanks for the comments--critics and supporters alike.

To Sam: none of us support despoiling the environment, fires, human waste, or litter--for that matter. When the City won't acknowledge the basic needs of its own homeless population, these conditions do pile up, don't they?

Some homeless folks are less likely to be respectful of the law generally and the local environment, when they are treated like fugitives, pariahs, or trash by police, rangers, and some conservative residents and businesses

It's a macabre joke to suggest that the survival of homeless people is of smaller importance than the right of your family to feel comfortable taking nature walks.

Obviously it's important to respect the environment. It's important that people feel secure to use the public spaces (housed and homeless alike). The apprehensions and tastes of one class (the well-off), however, should not determine public policy--as is currently the case.

It's still of particular importance for homeless campers to respect the environment. First, so as not to despoil the area where they're living and sleeping--which affects everyone, including other homeless people. Second, so as not to provoke the concern and anger of wilderness users such as yourself.

Wouldn't it be helpful for the city and/or county to fund or encourage "tidy camper" classes or programs? The workshops could be required for those found guilty of littering, damage to the greenbelt, etc. Instead hyperactive rangers charge survival campers--who have nowhere else to--with fines they can't pay (or long hours of community service they often can't complete). All for doing something essential: sleep somewhere at night.

The Homeless Service Center (which includes the Interfaith Satellite Shelter, the Winter Armory Shelter Program, the Page Smith Community House, the Rebele Family Shelter, the River St. Shelter, and the Homeless Persons Health Project) provides emergency walk-in shelter for less than 160 people in the winter and less than 40 the rest of the year. And that's IT for emergency shelter in Santa Cruz for 1500-2000 homeless people.

Ask yourself if it's reasonable or even cost-effective to arrest or fine poor folks for sleeping outdoors or in their vehicles when they have no alternatives. $90 per night is the fine with court costs; more than $400 if it isn't paid within a month.

It's actually unconstitutional ("cruel and unusual punishment") to do so, [see http://indybay.org/newsitems/2007/01/22/18350755.php?show_comments=1#18352048] and the City is currently financially liable, the taxpayer tab waiting for the next lawsuit.

Your yard is obviously not the issue; it's private property. But if the smell is really getting to you, you might ask yourself what happened to all the public toilets in Santa Cruz. There are no 24-hour bathrooms. And all the portapotties have been pulled out. Perhaps to pay for developer consultant fees.

You are also misled into believing that the homelessness problem is because people are unwilling or unable to work. It actually has more to do with the destruction of the social service net, the elimination of affordable housing, the rise of real estate speculation, and the flight of jobs.

Thanks for expressing your concerns.


National Public Sleeping Day seems like a good idea.

HUFF voted yesterday to support the Olympia homeless (see http://indybay.org/newsitems/2007/02/08/18359480.php) with a moving target: a Sleep-Mobile where people can (illegally) sleep outfitted with a video camera so police will be documented as they unconstitutionally ticket people with no shelter to send them to.

Perhaps you can join us with your own vehicle near Coonerty's B.S. Santa Crux. Folks can buy books, then scurry home to their gated houses, avoiding homeless eyesores. Or alternatively you can stop spending at a store whose owner or prime worker is a politician who appeal to bigotry and bogus security concerns while claiming to be a civil libertarian.

Check out the next Coonerty Cookout, where we will distribute edibles and invite the Vice-Mayor to join us in a dialogue he so far refuses to have.


by Jim Schultz
Thursday Feb 8th, 2007 10:11 PM
Nationwide there is one homeless person per 500 people. In the city of Santa Cruz, therefore, our "share" would be approximately 100. We have 10-20 times that amount! A small percentage of these are locals who became homeless locally. The majority came here independently. Perhaps it's reasonable for Santa Cruz to take on a larger load than is proportionally ours (say 300%.) The current numbers, however, are unsustainable, destructive, and have caused overly-strict reactionary policies. We need fewer homeless impact the city.
by Becky Johnson
Tuesday Feb 13th, 2007 6:51 AM
Jim Schultz is mis-informed about homelessness nationwide. According to the National Coalition for Homelessness, it affects 1% to 3% of the population. For a City the size of Santa Cruz, one would expect to see approximately between 540 and 1620. Sadly, we are closer to the 3% number than the 1% number----but well within national trends.

Nearly all cities complain they are a "magnet for homeless people" with over a dozen cities claiming that they are THE magnet for homeless people.

There is no evidence that homeless people move from one area to another to take advantage of homeless services----with 71% staying near where they last had housing. Homeless people move around for the same reason that housed people might choose to move to another locality: the presence of family and friends who can be part of a support network OR to find jobs. Santa Cruz is a lousy location to find employment.

We DO however have 3.2 million visitors per year just from the Boardwalk!! Some of these visitors are homeless.
by Thomas Leavitt
(thomas [at] thomasleavitt.org) Tuesday Feb 13th, 2007 9:47 PM

The Community Action Board regularly does reports and surveys of the local housing / homelessness situation. The URL I link to points to their 2005 assessment, which states (among other things):

  1. Of all the people who are going to become homeless in Santa Cruz County over the course of the coming year, most are currently housed. Prevention services are very important.
  2. Homeless people don’t come from somewhere else; they are mostly from Santa Cruz County and they are our neighbors, our sons and daughters, our friends.
  3. Homeless people overwhelmingly want to live in a home; they are not homeless because they want to be.
  4. Most people are homeless for less than 6 months. People cycle in and out of homelessness.[16]

More than half of homeless people were between the ages of 30 and 50 and more than half have children. Surprisingly, 28.4% said that they grew up in Santa Cruz County and the report contradicted a common misconception—the “magnet theory”—that homeless people came from somewhere else. In fact, more than two-thirds reported that their last permanent housing was in Santa Cruz County. Only one in 10 cited their last permanent housing in another U.S. State. In addition, 81% have lived here for more than a year, and of those, more than half said they had lived in Santa Cruz County for more than 10 years while 23% have lived here for more than 20 years.[17]

So, no, we wouldn't be assuming an unfair burden. No, we wouldn't be housing strangers. Many of the people we'd be housing are children.

by Robert
Wednesday Feb 14th, 2007 8:38 PM
Yes, but what about the behavior? I don't care if someone I happen to encounter is homeless. That's not the issue. What is the issue is drug and alcohol consumption downtown, and the problems that result from that. That is both a homeless and a "homeful" issue, but Norse, leavitt and Johnson don't address that. They'd rather sweep meth users under the rug and protect all "homeless" people rather than end an abusive, disgusting, shit-filled experience downtown.

It's the behavior stupid. No one hates homeless people. They hate drunk, drug addled people cooking up their meth in the bathroom stall next to them while their family waits at the restaurant table. They hate the drunk asshole (college or homeless or whatever) pissing next to them. THAT IS WHAT THEY HATE and needs to be dealt with. Unfortunately, there is no way to write into law an ordinance that says "no bad behavior will be tolerated". It needs to focus on specific behaviors and crimes. If the majority of the people who commit those crimes are homeless thats something for us all to think about.

But not to say that anyone who hates meth and heroin users hates homeless people.
ROBERT WRITES: "It's the behavior stupid. No one hates homeless people. "

BECKY: Do you really think that if we did a public records request act for the housing status of the people being cited, arrested, or "moved-along" in the latest downtown police sweep that we would only find 3% of those cited to be homeless? Any more than that, and the police are targeting homeless people. Unless you want to argue that the 3% of the population that is homeless are more likely to break drug laws, laws re:alcohol consumption in public, burglary laws, trespassing laws, more likely to swear, scribble graffiti, more likely to commit assaults, more likely to defecate or urinate in public, or more likely to molest a child than the 97% of the population that is not homeless.

The 97% of the population that are NOT homeless also use illegal drugs, are intoxicated in public, trespass, swear, commit assaults, molest children, and urinate in public (have you seen what happens when the bars close at night downtown and there are no bathrooms open anywhere????)

Most of the ire I hear from merchants is directed at panhandlers who are often described as "aggressive" panhandlers.....(an aside here---what is wrong with Satelite Dish people??? I must get a recorded pitch from them every day on my answering machine? Talk about aggressive panhandling!! And that's in the privacy of my home).

According to the draconian solicitation ordinance in the City of Santa Cruz, aggressive panhandling is defined as asking for change from a seated position, in "groups" of TWO, while seated on a bench, or at anytime, anywhere in the City at night!! Even asking for a cigarette or a cup of coffee is illegal at night.

It is true that homeless people are more likely to panhandle than housed people. Its much harder to get employment if you are homeless, and easier to get fired. So they have no other choice. They are also a lot more likely to be sitting on a sidewalk. Even spitting is more likely to be committed by homeless people because being outside all the time, cold and wet, they are more likely to be sick.

The Sleeping Ban, The Blanket Ban, the Sitting Ban, the Begging Ban, DO target homeless people.
The No Dogs on the Mall law might as well be written as "No Homeless kid's puppies on the Mall" considering wealthy tourists pampered French poodles are invisible to cops and hosts while a homeless kid trying to CROSS Pacific Ave. with their dog is cited!!

The 15-minute Law was written specifically to drive homeless people out of huge, empty parking structures at night and into the rain---clearly an anti-homeless law.

Even chalking on the sidewalk is selectively enforced against homeless people. And activists. I can attest to that.

While some panhandlers DO use their money for drugs or alcohol, many also use the money for food, bus change, phone change, sunscreen, chapstick, aspirin, anti-biotic ointment, toothpaste, dental floss, bandaids, lotion, kleenex, tampons, and birth control pills JUST LIKE EVERYONE ELSE DOES!! One homeless man I interviewed told me he was panhandling so he could get enough money to buy new rubber crutch tips.

For public leaders like Mike Rotkin and Ryan Coonerty to publicly state that panhandlers are:
--- not disproportionately homeless or that they
--- only use the money for drugs or alcohol

is pure bigotry, and from a public official, it is fear-mongering.

ROBERT claims its behavior and not homeless status that is being targeted. Yet why is the Santa Cruz County Jail filled up with homeless people?

Remember, Measure H money is now rolling in---51% for police and rangers (only 9% for roads!!!) and they have to create a "crisis" in public safety to allow them to spend huge sums of money on police overtime (not to mention all the hardware!! $$$$$$$) so the public will accept a war on homeless people with them paying the tab.

They are the Halliburton of Santa Cruz.


by Jim Schultz
Saturday Mar 17th, 2007 11:40 PM
Robert is right...the behavior of the homeless downtown is horrible...and yes, homeless are disproportionately misbehaved. These are people who "got nothin...[so]...got nothin to lose." And so many are so drugged out or drunk that they couldn't care less about their behavior.

The study that Thomas Leavitt quotes is actually based on a year 2000 study, not 2005 as he implies...a study which, btw, showed that the homeless population in Santa Cruz had TRIPLED in the previous decade...I can't imagine what it's done in the 7 years since the study...the conclusion that it refuted the "magnet" theory is not supported by its own statistic...that only 28.4% of the homeless were from Santa Cruz! 71.6% were drawn by the magnet...the study does not determine how long ago...please also consider that the study was done by a group favorable to the homeless...would you trust a Fox news study on practically anything they were favorable toward?...and the study was countywide, not just downtown, including Watsonville.

The reality, as almost any visitor to Santa Cruz notices right away, is that we've been overrun by homeless far beyond a proportion seen in nearly any other city in northern california, save parts of San Francisco and Berkeley...some of the homeless deserve sympathy, and some don't, just like some politicians do and some don't, some criminal do and some don't, etc...Regardless, we have too many of them, and need to start decreasing our numbers.

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