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Indybay Feature

Activists ask ACLU to help end sleeping ban

by cp
On August 26, 2007, a number of Santa Cruz homeless activists made an appeal to the ACLU during a fundraising event held at the small public aquarium next to the UC Long Marine center. They would like for them to contribute to the legal fight to end the ban on outdoor sleeping and camping, using the same process behind the Jones decision precedent in the Los Angeles courts, which held that a local city cannot ban sleeping on public property if adequate shelters for indigent people are not available. Santa Cruz currently has fewer than 100 shelter beds for a countywide homeless population which could number in the thousands.
When considering the sleeping ban, it is appropriate to distinguish between the issue of civil rights (which the ACLU has a mission to defend) and wise government practices.
Many civil rights precedents have defended the speech of democratically unpopular groups. It is a different situation to consider the level of constitutional protection for behaviors required to remain alive. Using some amateur legal theorizing, it would seem like various statements in U.S. foundational documents do express that the government may not interfere with "life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness" etc.
That said, it is not the case that the government is required to supply everything required to sustain life. On the other hand, it is typically a smart thing for local governments to attempt to alleviate problems where the free market has failed, both for ethical reasons, and to avoid instability in society.

For example, in order to live, everyone needs food, clean water, to sleep, a place to pee, shelter from some weather conditions, as well as a few other things such as occasional medical care and freedom from toxic pollution.
Typically, most of these things are created at the family level or purchased on the market. It has never been the government's job to provide people with food. But many governments/monarchies have been toppled during starvation conditions. After the depression era of near-starvation conditions, the U.S. did a wise thing by instituting reforms to mitigate poverty so that those conditions are less likely to arise again. When the water delivery system was privatized under libertarian reforms in Bolivia, riots over the sharp price increases caused the government to reverse the decision to award ownership to Bechtel. In the United States, it is rarely argued that the government constitutionally must supply these things. It is just smart for them to regulate the market system so that things don't get out of control.
On the other hand, what if the government itself were to obstruct access to these needs, such as blocking food distribution, polluting the water, being the gatekeeper to hospitals and excluding some people?
The sleeping ban in Santa Cruz very arguably would fall in this category.

During the past year, there has been a sharp increase in camping tickets. This has resulted in homeless people leaving large county parks and being more visible in the downtown area. Some residents have called for even more ticketing for sleeping in downtown. This is a separate issue from police response to actual crimes such as theft, assault and so forth. Yet, the police department is typically not able to point to viable locations where ticketed people may go to legally sleep. This amounts to the government banning an activity essential for living. This sounds like it should be a constitutional issue.

Angry letters to the local paper express that homeless people are especially high here because they come from other regions, and that all of them should be driven out of town. This is where good government practices should come into play, separate from the constitutional issue of people needing to sleep, eat etc. It isn't necessarily clear that Santa Cruz has such an excess of homeless, given that very poor towns such as Fresno also have large conflicts over the presence of homeless. While Santa Cruz homeowners argue that everyone doesn't have a right to live in a wealthy zip code such as Beverly Hills, thus SC is not required to help everyone, Fresno might argue that because they are a city suffering from greater poverty, they would have fewer resources, and shouldn't have more poor people sent there because rents are lower.
Yet, many have noticed that some cities such as Carmel, Scott's Valley, and parts of San Jose do have fewer visible homeless. Is it really the case that individual cities are bearing social services costs for homeless people, so there is an incentive for each city to get rough in driving away homeless? Well, if this is true, wouldn't it be a good idea for city councils in San Francisco, Berkeley, Fresno, and Santa Cruz which bear greater burdens to petition to make these services administered at the state level on the basis of per capita city homeless counts? This goes for disability services as well. Some cities have far larger proportions of senior citizens, and people with wheelchairs, and relying upon local tax levies is a poor way of dealing with their special needs.
Several ACLU members serve on the city council, and they could be far more useful in seeking justice in this way, rather than arguing that they personally help out at church feedings for the homeless.
Given the rapid inflation in property values recently, the tax base of Santa Cruz has to be near its highest level right now. What is going to happen when a recession comes around, if we already are claiming that we can't afford an arrangement such as a free public camping area, and the extra policing necessary to keep it safe and secure.

§Robert Norse surrounded by police
by cp
Robert Norse puts lots of hours into defending the Santa Cruz homeless population with his radio show and political advocacy. Here, ~15 activists had already arrived outside of the ACLU event, and he is negotiating with police so that they can go inside if they keep their signs low and don't disturb the event.
§Marimba band
by cp
The marimba band that often plays on Pacific Avenue was playing in the courtyard.
§Seymour Center
by cp
The Seymour center aquarium is on the property shared UCSC Long Marine Lab, California Department of Fish and Game's Raptor center which has capacity for seabirds in case of oil spills and raises some rare peregrine falcons, and NOAA Fisheries, which helps out the salmon. USGS is nearby. Both these federal agencies choose sites near universities so that there can be communication and exchange with academics, and students can perform some jobs.
§Police coming to event
by cp
There were 5 police cars there, and at least one more was driving up. As I walked off, they were discussing where each one would stand while they waited for the activists who had gone inside to do something arrestable.
by cp
The large fields on this property at the edge of Santa Cruz used to be involved in brussels sprouts cultivation like the adjoining land. It is very impermeable soil, and vernal pools develop during spring which take months to drain. It is a great place to go bird watching, where one may see kites (which can hover, and sometimes fight), and CalDFG's peregrine falcons learning to hunt, herons, etc. Voles, like in this photo, have underground tunnels through the grass. They have bad vision, and so they can seem very friendly because they don't dart away.
A few building proposals for the fields have been shot down by the Coastal commission due to drainage and other issues. Next to the CODAR installation next to the blue whale skeleton, the university is building a small desalinization plant. When the marine labs were first proposed and they got the zoning permissions changed, the developer put a lot of pressure on the farmer to leave and shut off their well water.
§Parking zone
by cp
Compared some San Francisco Bay area cities such as Berkeley, the homeless in Santa Cruz generally have some different qualities. San Francisco has some really disabled looking people who appear to have visible drug problems and beg by intersections, or have catatonic mental health symptoms such as not leaving their park bench, or walk around barefoot and showing severe delusions - and generally make housed people wonder how they are able to make it through the week.

Santa Cruz homeless stand out for appearing very industrious and hard working. The first thing people might notice driving into town is people on bikes carrying belongings in crates over long distances between various parks. There isn't much panhandling. Also, there are more vehicle campers than would be noticed in San Francisco. During daylight, they often might park in public parks.
On the outer edges of town in the industrial zones, there are signs banning parking between midnight and 6am. This must have come about as a result of complaints, but it seems like bad public policy. Where do you think these vehicles are being driven when the parking lots are shut down after dark. Clearly, they have to try to sneak into neighborhoods and park where it's legal at night, next to apartments and single family houses. Do those residents prefer them right on their street, or out in the empty commercial areas?? It's better policy to police actual crime rather than their mere presence.
§Homeless gardens
by cp
The homeless gardens project is also nearby, on Shaffer street. This seems like a good project for the people involved, particularly for someone with a mental symptom such as PTSD who needs some stability and therapy.
It isn't a good solution for connecting larger numbers of people with good jobs though. Agriculture and landscaping has relatively low wages, and often has excess labor supply in California. Rental prices for single people with poor credit historys or bad previous references are extremely high in all of coastal central California, and many homeless actually are holding down jobs here and have some career skills. In other cases where people have mental illness or sobriety problems, business and landscaping skills aren't the solution.
§camp clearout
by cp
This is a pathway through the grass which was made by UC trucks sent to clear out some homeless encampments. I learned this when I was walking behind a worker talking on a cell phone in a parking lot a few miles away and he described throwing away people's possessions. It makes sense as a place for a desperate person to start a secret camp, because nobody was able to see that they were there from the road, and they weren't walking in from the road, but rather the distant railroad tracks.

In the background you can see the hills rising. Santa Cruz has stairlike marine terraces made through some geological process where there are a series of flat plateaus punctuated by cliffs and steep rises in elevation.
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by corin
A friend of mine was just traveling outdoors in Scandinavia, and he told me that the entire coast of Sweden is free to camp on in public beaches and by law, as long as one is twenty-five feet away from private property and one abides by certain sanitation laws. I don't know the details of this law, but it seems like something that would never be permitted in the U.S.

Maybe because it's normally colder and the coast is so long that there are really only a few places where there is too many people.
What a surprise to see someone else not connected with our group, both photographing and commenting on the strange confrontation that happened at the ACLU fundraiser this afternoon!
Much thanks, cp, whoever you are!

The MP3 I'll be posting shortly records the first few minutes of Rotkin's physically obstructing our way into the publicly-announced ACLU "donations requested [but not required]" fundraiser.

HUFF (Homeless United for Friendship & Freedom) and HRO (the Human Rights Organization) came to the ACLU fund-raiser in order to mingle with the membership and urge them to support what their sister ACLU of southern California has supported: a legal challenge to the Sleeping Ban. In L.A. the challenge was successful. The Jones decision of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals halted police enforcement of the Sleeping Ban at night. San Diego quickly followed suit. Richmond changed its law.

In Santa Cruz, Rotkin, Councilmember and four-time Mayor, is a militant supporter of the Sleeping Ban. He's also on the Board of Directors of the ACLU. He was also the main person physically blocking me, demanding I leave, threatening me with arrest, denouncing me, and trying to force us to leave signs about the Sleeping Ban outside.

I was dumbfounded, both that an ACLU member--much less a Board member--would try to stop peaceful expression of opinion on a relevant subject at a publicly-announced meeting--of the ACLU itself. Even more saddening and disheartening was the way not one member of the meeting stepped up to question Rotkin's bizarre assertion of authority.

Instead two UCSC police officers arrived, heard both our accounts. Rotkin offered to write out a Citizen's Arrest (which, as far as I know, he never did). The UCSC officers were not friendly, and demanded that we not "hold up signs to block the view of people" or "disrupt the meeting" (which we hadn't intended to do). We reassured them. Rotkin and his opposition then melted away, and the ACLU members were all amiability.

Jenny Heth, the public liaison who I'd spoken to earlier, who'd told me the meeting was open to the public and didn't require a donation, told me that it was appropriate for Rotkin to stop me. She said that she herself had sounded the alarm when when arrived (I, DeMoan and Jeremy of the City Hall Sleep-In, Becky Johnson, Bernard Klitzner, and 79-year old John Telfair).

Telfair, who hobbles with a cane, was first told he couldn't stay in the meeting because he had to spend $25 to $50. I reassured him that this was not the case, and led him back inside. We eventually all came in unmolested under the watchful eye of the UCSC PD--a strange protextor of civil liberties against the authoritarian leadership of the ACLU. We gave out fliers, circulated a petition, displayed our signs, and exchanged pleasantries with ACLU muckymucks (former Supervisor Mardi Wormhaudt, Assemblyman John Laird, Mayor Reilly, Supervisor Coonerty, were all there mingling with the filled hall).

I was both chilled and elated by the situation. It struck me as bizarre, ominous, and, of course, humerous that the most civil liberties-minded people present were the police. Also at the scene was an SCPD officer, sergeant, and lieutenant waiting outside in case "trouble" developed.

What it boiled down to, of course, was Rotkin pulling another authoritarian power play, as he often does at City Council to intimidate and control. It was clear we weren't being disruptive at all (though I raised my voice to alert others at the informal pre-meeting snack session that we were being banned from the meeting because we were carrying signs. Signs objecting to the ACLU's failure to address the most elementary rights of homeless people such as the right to sleep.

I suppose it wasn't any surprise that Rotkin didn't want signs raising the Sleeping Ban issue in plain sight of ACLU members. It might produce an awareness of the hypocrisy of Rotkin, Laird, Wormhoudt, and Reilly's positions. But even more outrageous was the dictatorial demand that we "surrender" our signs, or "wait outside" because Rotkin didn't like our message.

Again--though I got a pro forma apology from one of the Board--it was done without much enthusiasm and belatedly. There was obviously no commitment when Rotkin was blocking our entrance and threatening us to uphold basic civil liberties, the right to show dissenting opinion, to be considered innocent (of disruptive behavior) until found guilty, when it concerned their own fund-raising venture. Perhaps they were afraid that folks might pull back their wallets when they saw how the ACLU was acting towards poor people and dissidents in their own town, however high-fallutin their rhetoric.

I'd suggest that folks think twice or thrice before giving to the local ACLU, if you're interest is supporting local civil liberties. In Los Angeles and Fresno, the ACLU has been involved in defending the rights of the homeless. It's been many a moon since the ACLU did this in Santa Cruz.

I still believe that Rotkin was guilty of filing a false police report by dialing 911 with the claim that we were disrupting the meeting because we were carrying signs. Again his objection was that we were not following his rules--the same position he stakes out at City Hall.

It's hard to say where it's more outrageous---at a group supposedly committed to civil liberties, or at a City Council meeting where the public is supposed to be guaranteed the right to access, reasonable comment, and free expression.

Rotkin seems to have a thing about signs:

The incident was a victory for us in being able to attend the ACLU meeting as advertised in the teeth of Rotkin's threat and the arrival of the police (who perhaps recognized that simply claiming we might be disruptive was not a basis for excluding us, particularly on the basis of the content of our signs).

Again, what's chilling is that the ACLU member thesmelves (more than 100 of them) didn't seem to see anything wrong with what Rotkin was doing. Instead we got our support from...gulp...the most notoriously violent police force in the area--the UCPD.

Perhaps that means that ACLUers will follow the Rotkin, just like the City Council in their own case, and need to have their own repressive tendencies held in check by another group--even a bunch of armed blueshirts--when you're on their turf and where money is concerned. It sure seems strange.

But it actually fits in rather neatly with the long-term Progressive hypocrisy that we've lived with so long under the "Progressives".

by Robert Norse
Listen now:
Copy the code below to embed this audio into a web page:
Here's Rotkin's initial dscriminatory refusal to let us walk into the meeting with our signs and my discussion/debate with him and other ACLU members who supported him.
by human rights
I like the way the marimba music sounds in the background. It makes listening to Robert's recordings more tolerable ;-) Not bad Robert, keep it up.
by Becky Johnson
Jenny Heth, one of the main organizers of the ACLU fundraiser, spoke with Robert Norse by telephone prior to the event assuring him that the donations for the meal were "voluntary" and that members of the public were invited. However, when we arrived in two cars with three homeless people, Heth urged Rotkin to call the police. He was more than happy to do so, and volunteered to sign a civil complaint form against Norse and his group.

I came up on the confrontation with my video-camera only to be physically blocked from entering by the ACLU Chairman, John Thompson. As he physically blocked my entrance, he accused me of physically blocking the entrance and not allowing other people in!!!

I did what I could to film the circumstances as they were happening despite Thompson's efforts to block my shots and interfere.

I shouted "We were told this event was open to the public. I'm a member of the public and I'd like to come in" Later he accused us of "shouting."

From what I could understand, the issue was not that we were not paying, or that we had three homeless people with us, but that Robert Norse is "known" for causing disruptions and they were afraid he "might" interrupt their event.

Of course the SWAT team that screamed to the area provided its own kind of disruption.

Its outrageous that the ACLU should call the police on members of the public attending a meeting which had been announced as open to the public, simply because we arrived with a few signs, a clipboard for gathing signatures, and a few flyers.

Rotkin should NOT be on the ACLU board!! He is the main impetus to keeping the Ban in place despite the ACLU's victory in LA with the Jones decision. And his actions at this event show that he is not above eclipsing the civil liberties of anyone he doesn't like.
by You're jokin, right?
There are dedicated panhandlers at many of the intersections in town. Each and every day, I see a panhandler at:

-The westside Safeway parking lot entry.
-The town clock
-A dozen on the mall
-Ocean street underpass at the freeway
-Santa Cruz Medical at Soquel

...and that's just the route I drive every day.
by cp
The verbal exchange there does play off nicely against the music.

I probably could have composed the first paragraphs above a bit better.

It would be best for no adversarial relationship to develop with the ACLU organization, despite the personal disagreement with the member who is a city councilman.

We might safely assume that the Jones decision, argued by the ACLU in Southern California, would apply equally in other regions that share similar conditions.
Something that I wanted to add is that it seems like it is not yet determined what spatial scale this outside sleeping vs. shelter space principle will apply. The core question, by my interpretation, is whether the state can make it illegal to not be able to afford an apartment or hotel room, without violating any additional laws.
But once the ACLU showed that this isn't legitimate, could someone go to a particular expensive neighborhood or zip code and claim a need to use public space to sleep due to a lack of shelter space, or would they have to demonstrate that alternative shelter wasn't available at the city level or county level, or regional level (e.g. could they give a ticket for someone sleeping on the beach or sidewalk, after the Jones decision, if there were open spaces at a shelter in Watsonville, which is in the same county, or if there were just a shortage in Santa Cruz, or if there was space over the hill in San Jose).
Personally, I don't know whether the wealth or rent prices of the community is a key part of the equation, and I have no idea which level of government would be the natural unit.
The Jones decision looks like it was carried out within the city of Los Angeles, which is a very large space. Yet, it someone who is homeless would be making a good decision for their safety to seek shelter in a wealthier enclave north of the city.
by Heart Felt
To: Intersection panhandling observer:
It seems that the homeless problem in Santa Cruz has gotten your attention.
What solutions would you suggest?
by You're jokin, right?
My answer is that I don't believe there is an answer.

I believe there are a number of variables at work, and that a a result there is no one answer.

I think some of the homeless are drug addicts or alcoholics, and that that addiction negates their ability to find work, get a home, or get off of the streets.

I think some are mentally ill, and that often is combined with the above mentioned drug and alcohol dependcency. I think this has been the case since Regan shut down much of the state mental health facilities. I think our society has failed this population, and that they need help they aren't receiving. But I don't think that allowing them to camp in the Pogonip or at Neary's is a solution to their sufferings.

I think some are drifters, free spirits, nomads...whatever you want to call it, who prefer not to work and are willing to put up with the hardships it entails in exchange for not having to work. I think this is also often combined with the above mentioned drug and alcohol dependency. I don't feel that providing these people with a campsite so as to facilitate that lifestyle is a good solution for this community.

And finally, I think some are people down on their luck, or who suffered a setback and are trying to get back on their feet. I admire those people, and I think that most of them have access to food and support services, and many get back on their feet and into a house. I actively support these people and salute their efforts.

I do not support the drug addicted, alcoholic, or "nomad". And that's who I see on the street corners panhandling.
by Tim Rumford (thatoldbookstore [at]
Someone mentioned the problem of mental illness and alcoholism amongst the homeless population. People should be aware that our Gov. just signed a budget retracting 55.5 million dollars to be used for homelessness and mental illness, a program that had success. Instead he gave a $45- million dollar break to the rich, tax breaks for those who might buy yachts or other luxury vehicles. Call your governor and tell him where to stick his $45-Million and garage full of Hummers. The thought behind removing this money is that counties have the funds to make up the differance. The services go beyond what money prop 63. will give us. Among those enrolled in the program as of January, 81% had a decrease in incarceration, 65% fewer days of psychiatric hospitalization and 76% fewer days of homelessness compared with their pre-enrollment days.

Rotkin it seems has a long history of being apart of groups like WILPF, the ACLU, a few Anti-War groups etc, often being on the board of Directors or part pf the upper echelon. This allows him to keep his progressive persona and gives him more power. He makes a show at a few anti-war rallies a year, and makes sporadic attendance at other groups. To me this is all a bunch of propaganda. He knows belonging to such organizations helps him look the way he wants to be perceived. When such organizations have protests that involve blocking entrances or possibly getting arrested, he is far from the action. Moreover, he is allays the one calling the police when ever the homeless show up to public events. It reminds of a schoolyard kid calling the yard duty because someone called him a bad name. But its worse then that, he is an elected official, and should have been concerned for the rights of the homeless present.

It is a tragedy that the ACLU in Santa Cruz treated people in this fashion, seemingly because they're were homeless in attendance. The last thing Rotkin ever wants to see is the homeless standing up on their own in public. I agree, don't give your money to the local ACLU, not until they stand up for the rights of the poor and homeless. What occurred is a travesty by an organization supposed on the side of those with little power to wield their own rights, and whose rights are being abused, no matter what the organization or person. It seems they are pandering to elected officials instead of doing their job.

Mental illness affects many people, including myself. Although many of what people call mental illness is to me just part of who we are, there is no disputing mental illness and homelessness have allot to due with each other. In Santa Cruz, we do not even have a overnight psychiatric unit that provides anything other then " a safe place", and that is disputable. I am of of course talking about the unit we have at Dominican. If you ever have the pleasure to go there, you will be told "this is not a place of healing. Were only here to keep you safe."

Good work all those who took the time to go, the sleepers at City Hall, the publisher of this post and those that continue to fight for what they believe in.
by cp
By the way, my assessment of relative levels of panhandling in Santa Cruz is influenced by previously living in a neighborhood in the east-bay by Berkeley which appeared to have more homeless. There was a woman's shelter in an unmarked storefront a block over from me, probably several panhandlers or side-yard campers, and a man with severe mental illness lived in the crawl space under the neighboring apartment. You could almost set your watch by his routine of entering at 10pm and leaving at 5:50am and he would go sit with his stuff on a bench during the day. So clearly, everyone knows the houseless have a variety of issues, some of which have broad community empathy (mental illness, a heroin addiction developed serving in Afghanistan), or lower tolerance (ex-prisoners, heroin addiction due to bad choices) Supermarkets and drug stores there often might have several people trying to make their living selling 'street sheet' and staking out different sides of the parking lot (see the KPFA statement that caused some reaction by the mayor there. I'm actually happier with Bates than the previous mayor. He's just prone to weird gaffes. Berkeley has a parallel city discussion about sidewalk disorder, which took a slightly different route. After long council meetings, they ended up not criminalizing park sleeping and outside peeing until they set up an additional public restroom. They have had greater policing of crime in business zones though ). It might be an optical illusion that San Francisco has more homeless because they have high density.
by Tim Rumford
To: You’re joking right?

I am not sure your comment completely. You say in one paragraph - “I think some of the homeless are drug addicts or alcoholics, and that that addiction negates their ability to find work, get a home, or get off of the streets. I think some are mentally ill, and that often is combined with the above-mentioned drug and alcohol dependency. I think this has been the case since Regan shut down much of the state mental health facilities. “

“I think our society has failed this population, and that they need help they aren't receiving.”

Yet you go on to say.

“I do not support the drug addicted, alcoholic, or "nomad". And that's who I see on the street corners panhandling.”

Taking nomads out of the conversation for the moment…You also said above

“I think our society has failed this population, and that they need help they aren't receiving.”

I guess see two conflicting arguments in your point. Mental illness, for a better word, can cause addictive behavior. Add poverty and homelessness and your chances of abusing drugs escalates. It is fucking hard to live being homeless. If we failed this populous, and we still are, can you blame the outcome?

As far as nomads, or people who freely wish to live on the streets, or out of the norms of society, I know a few. I will say their numbers are small. Those I know take no services at all, nor do they panhandle. Admittedly, those I know are all adults. Those under 18 are a completely different story, and deserve looking at separately in my opinion. I was one, 25 years ago.

Most “nomads” I know work odd jobs, when they have too. They are usually creative people. Panhandlers and people those who are drunk will ALWAYS be the people most visible. Being the most visible does not make you the norm nor does it make you worse or better accept in your situation. The most visible person at a party, rich or poor, is the drunk. The homeless person sitting reading quietly does not make a big impression and this will be what you will see most often unless you change how you perceive these things. Talk to people. Go to the Library.

Being poor, is not a crime. Having no home, is not a crime. In my humble opinion, how we as Americans perceive poverty in general, is a crime.
by cp
Yes - I heard Mac, the young author of the minorly controversial book Evasion, published by Crimeth Inc press, was largely living at UCSC at the time he wrote this biography. I never met someone here who knew him, but people who knew people who knew him. If you read between the lines and took note of his unacceptance of drugs and alcohol use, he was clearly some sort of foster kid or abused boy, who was actually doing quite well given his background. The subculture of typically younger people traveling between towns functions differently than the permanent residents.
I don't know any local homeless currently. Once I met Gabe Myers, famous from the Josh Wolf video, at a book reading where I recognized him from a photo. He went homeless here after he had been a positive,contributing member of society, working as a nursing assistant at a care home. He was fired for missing too many days for court. It was really a tragedy how his life was screwed up so much, without even getting on the Colbert report, although he wasn't put in Federal detention at least. He moved to the central valley where he had cheaper rent with family, and was able to get his life back together.
by You're jokin, right?
I think it's a chicken or the egg scenario when you try to decide what comes first: homelessness or drug/alcohol abuse or mental impairments.

So that said, let me restate my point and see if it makes more sense. What I mean is "I don't support the idea, or believe, that providing legal camping is an effective way of helping the drug addicted, the mentally ill, or the "nomad". Nor do I support the benefit that legal camping would provide them when I balance it against the impact on the community.

I had personal and firsthand experience of the downsides of this idea when they designated two legal camping areas near Harvey West and Locatelli Pond on the westside some years back. I'd lived in that neighborhood for over a decade when they decided to try out the idea of letting people camp legally. Within a matter of weeks, the quality of life in our neighborhood went down signficiantly.

I had people stashing booze and clothing in my hedges. I had a drunk guy knock on my door at 10pm on a weeknight, panhandling me. I awoke one morning to find a guy crouched down and defecating in my side yard. None of these incidents had occured previously in the 10 years I lived in that neighborhood. None of them was repeated again after the camping idea was recinded. And as I recall, one of the reasons it was recinded was because city workers were complaining about the amount of dangerous garbage like syringes and human waste that they were having to deal with in those camping areas.

I think that my opinion is similar to that of many in this community. A very small percentage claim that we are fascists, inhospitable, uncharitable, etc. But I would disagree. I think that it's a very small percentage who have gotten so far out there that they portray the town as right wing and the ACLU as a fascist group bent on supressing their free speech. And for that group, nothing will be good enough.
by Becky Johnson
A message from the "Not good enough"group:

It's not good enough when the ACLU calls the police to arrest members of the public
for bringing signs and petitions to their event.
It's not good enough to insist that homeless people stay awake all night because "other
homeless people might come here"
It's not good enough to fund social services that are barely a bandaid on a gaping wound
and then spend 10 times that on punishing the victims
It's not good enough to blame homeless people for addictions to alcohol and drugs when
Janus has only 2 slots for the indigent 3,000 - 8,000 homeless people in the county
It's not good enough to arrest people for sleeping out of doors when there is grossly
insufficient shelter available under the 8th amendment of our constitution

RE: the 2000 plan for sleeping zones in SC. two industrial parks:
1. the City NEVER put in the PLANNED dumpsters and porta-potties (ASK EMILY WHY NOT?)
2. City police were directing every homeless person they found to go there before they were
even set up
3. The SC County Sheriff's were directing every homeless person they found in the county to go
into the City zones
4. Mike Rotkin (the ACLU board member!!) LOBBIED HARD to close the zones before they opened, and conducted a fear-mongoring campaign claiming we were being inundated by homeless from "everywhere" . it wasnt true.
5. Ex. Dir. of the Homeless Services Center, Ken Cole, announced on television 3 weeks after the plan was announced that his organization had experienced no increase in homeless people seeking those services
6. The SF Chronicle and the SJ Mercury falsely reported that vehicles "as far away as Connecticut" were coming there. The only vehicle from Connecticut parked there was a Ryder Rent-a-truck. It was not occupied.

Let's be fair about what really happened in 2000. Katherine Beiers nixed the plan at 1:15 AM on an item that was not posted for an up/down vote on the plan. It was not ended because of people pooping on your lawn or because homeless came from everywhere in the country. It was nixed because of Mike Rotkin and his anti-homeless campaign based on bigoted assumptions and false claims.

A 24-hr campground would GREATLY help homeless people get their lives back together. Do not kid yourself. Knowing where you will be sleeping at night, and having a place where you can keep your things while you are looking for a job or working is an absolute necessity. Can YOU look for a job while carrying around everything you own including your bedding???

Re: alcohol or drug-addicted homeless people. There are plenty of alcohol and drug-abusers in houses. You don't seem to be upset by housed alcoholics or drug users. This is called a double-standard. Newly homeless people have no higher rates of alcoholism or substance abuse than housed people do. But after being homeless for 4 months or more, substance abuse doubles. For it is the stress, pain, depression, irritability, isolation, and fatigue which occur when you have no home that cause people to self-medicate. Alcohol and meth are bad choices which often exacerbate homelessness. Pot, however, does help a lot, without worsening a person's condition. At least, that is, until law enforcement gets involved.
by You're jokin, right?
I agree, let's be fair. And being fair would entail your respecting my reality and memory of what occured, not converting it into your memory of what you think occured. What happend in 2000 is that dozens if not hundreds of residents and merchants filed hundreds of complaints with the city council and police for the multitude of things that went awry as soon as the homeless camps were put in place.

You seem obsessed with Mike Rotkin. YOu're crediting him with single-handedly causing those camps to be shut. You also seem to think he's controlling the ACLU. But that's not reality, that's a personal vendetta. The reality is that lots of people, including me, complained when their neighborhoods were suddenly inudated with people who were using alcohol and drugs on the street, littering...and yes, crapping in the yard.

You state that I seem less concerned about my neighbor using drugs or alcohol in his house than I am when someone does it on the street? You're right, I am. I give more leeway to what someone does in the privacy of their home than I do when someone does it on a PUBLIC street where our kids have to be exposed to it.

I admire your goals, but not your tactics or subjective recreation of history.

Homeless camp 2000 was closed due to neighborhood outrcy. 24-hour camps didn't work then, they didn't work at Camp Paradise, and I don't think they'll work now.
by Catherine O'Kelly
When I was growing up in the '40's and '50's, anyone who was homeless was called a "hobo" or a "bum," or a "drifter." They used the railroads to get around, and would be mostly invisible, unless you knew where the camps were. There were also "flophouses" where for a few dollars, one could get shelter for the night, even if the room wasn't so clean. And there were "boarding houses" where folks on disability or just down on their luck could live cheaply--this usually meant turning over the disability check to the manager of the house, and in turn would receive 2 or 3 meals a day in addition to a small room. I recall my anger when in the '60's I read about a boarding home that had been shut down because its owner didn't comply with some bureaucratic county rules....they had cats in the kitchen!! We need BOARDING HOMES without licenses, without some government entity overseeing, just some good-hearted people willing to open up a multi-roomed house to the homeless, and serve up at least one meal a day. Our treatment of the homeless is shameful! To ban camping, to confiscate personal belongings is shameful! We need to set aside certain areas where camping would be allowed--Henry Cowell campground is closed all winter, yet it could be used for the homeless [if it wasn't so near "Pasatiempo" and people who would most certainly oppose such a suggestion]. I didn't go the the ACLU event, even though I'm a member--they wanted $25 "donation." Sure wish I'd gone anyway!!! I would have stood beside Mr. Norse. Robert, keep on keepin' on!!!!! [as we used to say!]
by Becky Johnson
YOU'RE KIDDING, RIGHT? WROTE: "What happend (sic) in 2000 is that dozens if not hundreds of residents and merchants filed hundreds of complaints with the city council"

BECKY: There were a total of a little over 100 correspondances total sent to the City Council on the Safe Zones. I know, because I read every one of them. About 40 of them were supportive.

The remaining 60 or so included cookie-cutter complaints cooked up by an organized campaign by Texas Instruments (see my article: Smoke, Mirrors, and Texas Instruments). Plantronics also manufactured complaints from their employees in an organized fashion. One particularly bigoted couple wrote 6 correspondences--all of them negative and hysterical. It really came down to about 20 individuals and businesses who were formally objecting. Hardly the "avalanche" of comments received that Rotkin claimed at the time and certainly NOT "99% opposed" as he also falsely reported at the time.

Rotkin WAS very high profile in his opposition and DID engage in false statements regarding the impact of the plan. The fact that he is on the board of directors of the ACLU is a huge factor in the ACLU ignoring homeless civil rights---including even the ACLU's own victory in LA with the Jones decision.

Do you think that man would have pooped in your yard if Emily Reilly and the rest of the committee had done their job and put in the porto-potties as voted?
by You're jokin, right?
I said there were hundreds, you say there were 100 correspondences. You've excluded the phone calls, and there were many.

I say dozens complained, you say they were, "cooked up", or "manufactured". I again say you are denying my reality. By ignoring the phone calls made by every day citizens such as myself, you are bending the truth to fit your agenda.

Again you focus on Mike Rotkin and ingore the citizenry.

And you ignored my point that both previous camp efforts failed the surrounding neighborhoods. And you ignored my point that yes, there is a difference between people abusing drugs and alcohol on public streets as opposed to private residences. And that's exactly what Camp Paradise and the other camp effort brought.

And finally, YES. I think that person would have pooped in my yard again. He was so wasted, or mentally impaired, that he wouldn't have cared to walk an extra 1/4 mile to get to a porta potty at the campground. Frankly, I'm not sure he could have walked a quarter mile if he'd have wanted to. And a porta potty has nothing to do with the people suddenly begging at my door, or stashing belongings on my property, or filling water jugs at the hose spigot in my yard, etc., etc., etc.
BECKY: I just listened to Robert Norse's MP3 of his exchange with Mike Rotkin of the ACLU in which he threatened to have Norse arrested for "disrupting" the ACLU fundraiser by bringing a sign into the ACLU event!! My God! The ACLU was founded on the rights of folks to carry signs, distribute leaflets, and sign petitions.

Its depressing to see fellow ACLU members, apparently dazzled by star-power, ignore glaring violations of freedom of speech, the rights of the people to peacebly assemble, the right of the people to redress government grievances ( Mayor Emily Reilly was at the event, as well as former mayors Bert Muhly, Jane Weed, Tim Fitzmaurice, John Laird, Mardi Wormhoudt, Neal Coonerty as well as Mike Rotkin --- all supporters of Santa Cruz' Sleeping Ban) and freedom of the press (I was physically blocked from videoing the resulting police action by none other than the Chair of the ACLU, John Thompson).

No wonder the Santa Cruz Chapter of the ACLU refuses to acknowledge or lobby for the implementation of the April 2006 ACLU victory in Los Angeles with the Jones Decision. They think being a card-carrying ACLU member means going to swanky parties and hob-knobbing with celebrities.
YOU'RE JOKING, RIGHT? WROTE: "I said there were hundreds, you say there were 100 correspondences. You've excluded the phone calls, and there were many."

BECKY: I was unable to verify the phone calls as they are not logged or even tallied. We have only Rotkin's word for the content of the phone calls. And I agree there were many. But he said they were "99% against." The paper-tally of public-record correspondences ran about 40/60 so I tend to not believe him, but then again, he may be the homeless bigots best friend on the council.

YOU'RE JOKING, RIGHT? WROTE: "I say dozens complained, you say they were, "cooked up", or "manufactured". I again say you are denying my reality. By ignoring the phone calls made by every day citizens such as myself, you are bending the truth to fit your agenda."

BECKY: He said "avalanche" and "99% against" as well as claiming that people came from all over the country the minute the council passed the Safe Zones on a first reading which was also "cooked up". I myself did an exhaustive analysis of the photo published and republished which supposedly "showed" campers thronging to the streets on the westside with out of state plates. The Oregon plates were on a van owned by a man who used to live in Santa Cruz, now lives in Oregon, and travels to art shows all over. For years he has parked his van in this area when traveling in the area and was doing so when the photo was taken. Another bus with Nevada plates had been using the area for two years. the two women who lived in it were from santa Cruz. The bus, however, belonged to her father in Nevada and he kept it registered in his name--hence the plates. And the Connecticut plates? On a Ryder rent-a-truck!! In fact, every vehicle in the picture was someone who had been using the area long before the Safe Zones were proposed. At the time there were the same reports of urine, feces, burglary, and even those such as Downtown Neighorhood Association member Robert Freitas who raised the specter of "child molesters" sleeping in vans. This is true demonization. Cooked up??? It was fricasseed, breaded, fried, baked, and whipped by media hacks, SCPD spokespersons, business leaders, and politicians into a media circus of pee-pee, poo-poo, filth, scum, litter, graffiti, vandalism, burglaries, drug abuse, whiskey bottles and environmental damage with Rotkin at the helm. Surely you remember all the hoopla, don't you?

YOU'RE JOKING, RIGHT? WROTE: "Again you focus on Mike Rotkin and ingore (sic) the citizenry."

BECKY: I think I've made my case why. However, I do not want to exonerate our current mayor, Reilly or our mayor-to-be, Ryan Coonerty.

YOU'RE JOKING, RIGHT? WROTE: "And you ignored my point that both previous camp efforts failed the surrounding neighborhoods. And you ignored my point that yes, there is a difference between people abusing drugs and alcohol on public streets as opposed to private residences. And that's exactly what Camp Paradise and the other camp effort brought."

BECKY: The Coral Street Open Air Shelter was open for 22 months, served up to 125 people per night and NO ONE DIED. Many were able to get jobs and find housing due to knowing that they could come back at night to the most minimal of shelter, a tent and sleeping bag, and a legal place to sleep uninterrupted at night. It was a screaming success for the homeless people. However it was a headache for the Citizens Committee for the Homeless (I was on the board at the time) which received no funding from the City and lots of complaints from neighbors and businesses such as Jeanell Montero who publicly called it "a urine field".

Camp Paradise sheltered up to 60 people at its maximum occupancy, removed literally tons of trash from a neglected and crime-infested riverbank, and established a "no alcohol/no hard drugs" rule. People who were turned away from the ISSP went there and were glad to be able to go there. It ended when the riverbank flooded after 10 inches of rain fell in Ben Lomond in one day. You call it "a failure?" So what do you call the wrecked homes of tornado victims? "urban blight?"

YOU'RE JOKING, RIGHT? WROTE: "And finally, YES. I think that person would have pooped in my yard again. He was so wasted, or mentally impaired, that he wouldn't have cared to walk an extra 1/4 mile to get to a porta potty at the campground. Frankly, I'm not sure he could have walked a quarter mile if he'd have wanted to."

BECKY: Well, its a moot point since Reilly, Sugar, and Krohn failed to put in ANY porto-potties. However, the man sounds like he was seriously impaired and probably was in your neighborhood instead of a hospital due to the failure of the Counties Adult Protective Services who are obligated to help people like him. YOU, however, use his example of how awful homeless people are and why its okay to use illegal and brutal methods to "get rid of them."

YOU'RE JOKING, RIGHT? WROTE: "And a porta potty has nothing to do with the people suddenly begging at my door, or stashing belongings on my property, or filling water jugs at the hose spigot in my yard, etc., etc., etc."

BECKY: So you never had magazine salesmen, students working their way through college, Jehovahs Witnesses, or the Sierra Club at your door before the Safe Zones issue came up in 2000 or since? Wow, what are the odds?

Yes, homeless people are always stashing their stuff all over. I know the phenomenon. I've kept lots of homeless possessions under my house lots of times. Its a real problem when you are homeless. Where do you store your stuff? Storage lockers are really only convenient if you have a car. And there is a waiting list for HSC lockers. And cops take your stuff too. Lots of people try to hide their things anywhere they can. Ditto for the water. Homeless people have no running water and must get it from unconventional places. I'm not surprised you were impacted. A legal campground would help a lot. Right now, there is no where for them to go.
by You're jokin, right?
That is some disengenous sidestepping your doing there; belatedly acknowledging that there were lots of phone calls, then trying to discredit them because you heard about them from Rotkin. I called. My wife called. My neighbors called. Many people called. I wasn't prompted by Rotkin, or some business giving me a cuecard.

You say the guy poopin in my yard was in my neighborhood due to a failure by state agencies. I say he was in my neighborhood because a campsite was established the prior week.

You say people come to my door like Jehovah's witnesses or people saying magazines. I say none of them are drunk and obnoxious and knocking late at night like the guy from the camp.

You say Camp Paradise was a sucess and removed tons of garbage. I say Camp Paradise required the removal of tons of garbage when it was evacuated, and Camp Paradise II was shut down after......complaints by neighbors about alcohol use, urinating in public, and transients wandering through the neighborhood. (Sentinel, 9.13.02). why does that sound familiar? Oh yeah, because it's the same thing I've been telling you happened to my neighborhood when they opened a camp.

You go on believing that its your arch enemy Mike Rotkin doing all this. I'll go on communiciating with my neighbors to ensure that no such experiment is repeated at the expense of our neighbrohoods.

More shelters, more services, more counseling....yes. More thanks.

by Robert Norse
The exchange between Becky Johnson and "You're Jokin', right?" is an important one. It's easy to dismiss it as a debate between a well-educated activist and an anonymous NIMBY bigot. (After all YJR has signed their name to letters and spoken in phone calls in 2000 to City Council, why is s/he afraid to do so here?)

Clearly, YJR has had a particular experience himself and draws certain general conclusions from it (Not in My Backyard, Not in My Neighbhorhood). He is correct in pointing out that for him (and for others), the issue is not what Rotkin says, does, or thinks, but how campgrounds, or Safe Zones, or a carpark, would impact her/his home and neighborhood.

I'd like to see some real crime stats about the alleged problems around Camp Paradise (where many neighbors supported the campground). Does YJR have any?

I'd like him to stop repeating falsely that the campsites were opened or established by the City in 2000 when the Safe Sleeping Zones ordinance was being discussed (it passed a first reading but failed a second one--so it was never law).

And I'd like to hear his "solution", if he has any. Counseling is not a place to sleep. Shelter space is obviously not feasible for 1500-2000 homeless in the city. Frankly, I don't have a solution either But I know it's dead wrong to turn people into criminals for falling asleep after 11 PM at night. And because I don't think YKR is a fascist, I suspect he thinks it's wrong too.

He just wants people "somewhere else".

The destruction of low-income housing, SROs, living wage jobs, and the domestic economy along with the major gentrification going on here as the rich acquire more and more money power makes such arguments sound naive at best and frankly disingenuous.

People need affordable housing and jobs. If they're disabled, they need a support network. If they're young and transient, they need some low-income hostels, campgrounds, etc. to stay in. But in the meantime, until we reach the millenium, everyone needs the right to sleep legally somewhere. Or they will sleep illegally anywhere and everywhere. This is the fundamental flaw in YJR's argument. And, of course, it is the issue s/he ignores. Because it is so obvious, so basic, so irrefutable.

It's the reason why Rotkin and his fellow Board of Directors on the ACLU are so frightened of six activists with signs reading "end the sleeping ban". They, like their ACLU fellows in southern California, know that this argument is unanswerable. The only way to deal with it is to suppress it, ignore it, and slander the messenger.

The fact is that everyone has a right to live. Every major city in the country has a homeless surplus. Police departments and conservative neighbors and merchants argue that the property rights of the well-established trump the survival rights of the poor--even those who had lived there for years before being forced onto the streets. YKR's right to be free from poo and pee and poverty trumps the need of homeless people to be able to sleep legally somewhere.

I don't think YKR can be convinced. Just like southern bigots couldn't be talked into respecting the rights of black people; men didn't voluntarily agree that women weren't chattel; and Bush/Pelosi won't withdraw from Iraq in spite of the mass murder it creates. We need to continue organizing the poor and educating those who aren't so entrenched in their NIMBYism. We need the legal force of groups, unlike the local ACLU, who aren't lethally entangled in the venomously hypocritical psuedo-progressive scene here.

We're working on a court suit to duplicate what the Carol Sobell of the National Lawyers Guild (with help from the ACLU) began downtghere. Legal force--to establish that people have certain basic rights, period.

A real discusson can only begin with folks like JKR with the agreement that we all do have basic rights. It's hard to argue with a Nazi about a Jew's rights. You can't argue with Rotkin about the right to come into the ACLU with a sign (he calls the cops). And NIMBY's like JKR get together to empower onceuponatime progressives like Rotkin to sabotage basic human rights.

For those who support the Vigil Against Two Wars, check out City Hall tonight, come to the HUFF meeting tomorrow, and volunteer to do what you can in this long long struggle.
by Robert Norse
Correction: I mistakenly abbreviated "You're Jokin', Right?" as YKR in some places (thinking it was "You're Kiddin', Right?" My apologiesl

I spoke with Mike Rotkin earlier today, who declined to come on the air to discuss his decision to bar my way into the ACLU meeting. He continued to maintain that he--acute judge of human character that he is--could confidently predict that I was there to "disrupt". He was sufficiently convinced of this that he called the police to exclude me.

I asked him, "why, if I wanted to disrupt the meeting, wouldn't I take you up on your offer to let me in without signs, and then leap up during the meeting and start shouting?" He had no answer to that.

How can Rotkin be a Board member on the ACLU and consider that his personal intuition is a substitute for probable cause or real evidence?

He claimed further that he dropped his threat to make a citizen's arrest because the police presence there was sufficiently "protective".

This was in a room of over 100 ACLU members; the menace: 3 elderly activists (myself, Bernard Klitzner, and 79-year old John Telfair, Becky Johnson the videojournalist and a homeless couple from the City Hall protest--rousted under Rotkin's Sleeping Ban a week before, seeking to appeal to ACLU members for help at a public meeting.

Rotkin had originally threatened to have me "citizen arrested for trespass or "disruptive shouting". At one point I called, competing with the marimba music, for ACLU witnesses to come over and observe Rotkin's antics.

Rotkin filed a false police report here. He 911-ed the police (and brought a slew of cops) on his claim that we were disrupting his event or about to disrupt it. His basis for believing this was what? His personal antipathy to me? The sight of six poor and aged critics appearing at a public event? The presence of six signs?

If anyone other than a City Councilmember tried to use the SCPD and the UCSCPD in this way, I suspect they'd be subject to criminal penalty. Should I make a formal complaint, first to the SCPD and then to the D.A. about his obstructing movement in a public event and then making a false police report?

Of course, it's much more insidious when someone in a position of power maneuvers to use the fear of the police this way--to bluff political opponents into abandoning basic civil liberties. The bluff didn't work...this time. But how many people want to risk a night in jail just for the right to carry a sign into a meeting? Not many even support that right--if a powerful City Councilmember or a Board of Directors member is telling them otherwise.

The police saw nothing to arrest us for. Rotkin didn't have the nerve to carry through on his threat to have me arrested (Neither I nor anyone I know of have NEVER been convicted in any of Rotkin's past arrests). He uses the police to firm up his own political power.

For him to do this while wearing an ACLU robe is despicable. For ACLU members to let him do it is profoundly saddening.

So shed a tear for lost innocence and the liberalism of an earlier era, and move on.

The police didn't arrest us. They actually let us go into the event and "persuaded" Rotkin to step away from obstructing the public from entering.

Rotkin, however, could not be persuaded to come on the air to either apologize or explain. No surprises there.
by RN is a Joke.
Robert's post brings up another important distinction: comprehending the difference between someone who disagree's with you because they have a differing opinion vs them being a Nazi or bigot for having a differing opinion. If HUFF wants to continue entrenching themselves in their smug position of self-rightoussness while at the same time vilifying those who disagree with them? Feel free. But it won't change hearts or minds or get you closer to your goals. Based upon HUFF's track record, I suspect that keeping RN and BJ and their ego's in the press and media is more important than effecting change anyway.

In answer to RN's comments and questions, I'm happy to respond:

RE your request for stats on Camp Paradise: Based upon Becky's recent example of disregarding facts and figures as unacceptable because she discredits their source, why would I now bother to provide them on this topic either? RN and BJ already personally expressed your distrust of the local government, of the Sentinel, of my own personal experiences and many others who were impacted. Why would I expect you to accept any stats I post now? But if you want some evidence, just check the archives of the Sentinel and you can be reminded of the reasons for the demise of Camp Paradise 2. And you can read about the truckloads of debris carted out of Camp Paradise (original) after it was evacuated.

RE the young and transient: This is a point upon which you will continue and I disagree. I don't believe it is our communities responsabilty to provide them a place to stay.

RE the 2000 campsites: You're a joke. Trying to claim that they didn't exist because they were never written into law doesn't change the fact that they existed in the real sense that dozens of vehicles and people were sleeping in those two locations. And that litter, human waste, public displays of drunk and disorderly conduct, and subsequent calls of complaint to police and city officials went up instantly in the effected neighborhoods. How can Becky complain that the city failed to provide bathrooms for the camp if the camp never existed? Funny stuff.

Enjoy jousting with the windmills in your bathrobe, "nomad". I'll do my future corresponding in the way I typically have: with my vote, with calls to my local elected officials, and by working with my neighbors to ensure that the travesty that was attempted in 2000 won't be repeated again.

by Robert Norse
Getting back to the real issue: the right of homeless people in Santa Cruz City to sleep legally (which our name-changing critic hasn't addressed in any of his 5 posts)

Those who feel the Sleeping Ban is an issue the ACLU should be active on locally can call the ACLU's contact, according to her posting on the indybay calendar: Jenny Heth at 425-3619. (Her name rhymes with "meth", according to Mike Rotkin)

Heth hasn't volunteered for this, it should be noted, but she put herself out there as a public contact. So don't be surprised if she isn't terribly happy to hear from you, if you're registering a critical view. Ask that your view be forwarded to the Board of Directors. And simply ask, "does the ACLU support the City's Sleeping Ban?" If so, it's apparently at odds with both the northern and southern California regional chapters.

In retrospect Rotkin's terrorist tactics (calling the police to chill protest is a terrorist tactic) did derail our attempt to speak to ACLU members. We had intended to encourage them to go beyond the repressive decisions of their Executive Board and support basic rights for the homeless. (Forget about the right to carry a sign into an ACLU meeting without being blocked, strongarmed, and threatened)

I doubt the Board of Directors (and/or Heth) will pay lots of attention to a flood of critical calls on the ACLU behavior, but inquiries couldn't hurt.

It's nauseating to see political conservatives masquerading as liberals fundraising for a "civil liberties union" while beheading such civil liberties here in Santa Cruz and in their own meetings.

If you call, you might also ask when the next meeting of the ACLU Board is, where it is, whether it is open to the public, and what special procedures Rotkin might have in store for "suspicious" participants (will you be strongarmed, searched, or detained until the police are called to ensure that you don't "disrupt" their meeting?)

Above all be wary of carrying a sign--a particular menace apparently if Sunday's hysterical response was any indication. (The most important sign we had on Sunday was a display device describing the ACLU's reluctance to support civil rights for the poor here in Santa Cruz and urging them to change their policy)

You can also contact "Riot Act" Rotkin himself at City Hall at 420-5020 (24-hour number) or at his home (which he has--to his credit--given out as a contact number): 423-4209 and discuss the situation with him. As I mentioned before, he's declined to publicize the basis on which he decided Sunday that political signs were a "disruptive danger". Perhaps callers can tease some answers out of him. If so, call 423-HUFF and let us know!
It's telling that YOU'RE JOKING, RIGHT? has no crime statistics, calls for service, or stats on number of homeless sheltered by Camp Paradise or Camp Paradise II. In fact, he pretty much admits that all he knows about it is what he has read in the Sentinel. Indybay readers know that the Sentinel is no friend to homeless people, and regularly runs articles characterizing them as pooping, peeing, and doing drugs all over the place, harassing women, begging in an aggressive fashion, drunk, disorderly, litterers, vandals, burglars, and lewd behavior.

In reality, homeless people usually try to keep a low profile as complaints bring cops. Cops bring citations and take property. Some homeless people are as honest as the day is long. Most able bodied homeless people ARE working. Not all homeless people drink or do drugs. In fact, the minority of them do. On the other end of the spectrum, are criminals who experience brief bouts of homelessness between long periods of incarceration. It's not fair to lump them all together. But regardless of their character or history, if there is no bathroom open anywhere, people will pee and poop out of doors. That's not a crime. Its common sense.

If anyone is charged, it should be our public officials for failure to provide sufficient public accomodations to prevent a public health hazard.

Your comments seem to be all about your own personal problems in which you feel you were impinged upon or were the victim somehow. You don't have any concern at all about how our City's policies affect the homeless people themselves or whether they are at all effective in solving the crisis of homelessness. You selfishly are concerned only with your own house, yard, and whether you are forced to SEE homeless people in your neighborhood. You wrote complaining about "....transients wandering through the neighborhood."

What is wrong with homeless people walking through your neighborhood on the public streets? Obviously you don't think they have the right to be there, when, by law, they do. Not only do they have the right to BE in your neighborhood, they also have the right to speak, knock on your door, ask if they can use your hose, and should have the right to sleep and to keep warm with a blanket too.

What does arresting homeless people for sleeping, for using a blanket, for sitting on a sidewalk, or for asking for a dime do anyway? Does it "solve" the "problem?" (I guess for you it does--where the goal is to banish homeless people from your sight---caring not where they go at all--even if its to jail, a work camp, or to the grave). But its very expensive to house people in jail. It's much cheaper to house, feed, and counsel them than to arrest them.

For the homeless person, being chased all over town,continually losing property and identification papers, along with a criminal record are only further bars to getting back into housing or getting a job. Arresting someone for sleeping doesn't EVER teach them to not sleep at night.

And now, since the Jones decision, its illegal for the city to do it. While I do believe that a low-cost homeless campground and carpark would help people a lot, I'm not holding my breath. A much quicker solution to ending the persecution of homeless people would be to suspend ticketing under the sleeping ban and abolish the blanket ban altogether. This human rights abuse could be solved with the stroke of a pen.

BTW--back in 2000, HUFF argued that the two industrial areas were too small, and would result in a concentration of homeless people in a "ghetto." We argued to open up 40% of the city for legal sleeping at night so that people wouldn't be concentrated in one area. We were ignored. Mayor Keith Sugar decided to do it his way.

The Zones were never opened and his committee never put in the needed dumpsters and porta-potties.

by Corin
I have worked in a psychiatric hospital and a shelter. Although I am not a professional, in my experience, I would say that close to 70% of homeless people have some kind of psychiatric disorder that leads them to be homeless.

It is often impossible for the hospital to organize housing for the individual who is discharged, because the person has a history of property destruction, drug use, violence or other behavior that is not acceptable except in a unique and innovative social services program.

There is a lot of self-medication especially to lessen auditory hallucinations such as voices and paranoid delusions.

Sleep, nutrition, safety, etc. are all important in keeping the symptoms of schizophrenia and other problems like bipolar disorder from exacerbating. Shelters usually cannot provide a sleep environment that is appropriate to many people; they'd rather sleep according to their own perceptions of what is safe and preferable.

But in many cases, the problem is that as people are becoming more detached from reality, they have less interest in a long-term solution that involves going through a social system such as a shelter; and they have less interest in being seen as having appropriate public behavior.

Shelters, for the most part, are not places they want to be in because it involves being crammed in a room with other people, herded around, told to stand in lines, and so on. In addition to having their stuff stolen and being attacked, etc. If you were not schizophrenic, you would not want to tolerate this, but if you were, I don't think you would even consider it.

Long term housing (in programs such as a halfway house, or even independent housing) is an ideal, but transitioning into it is hard--especially if one is addicted.

Addiction, I think, should be seen as a chronic illness, not as a simple matter of choice. Some volition may be involved, but there is also co-occuring problems.

This is the problem that I see going on in most cities today: a deteriorating social safety net that inadequately takes care of people with mental health problems; a limited amount of working-class jobs; and an expensive housing market, coupled with neighborhood alliances that push the undesirable people out of town or criminalize them.

What's different about now as opposed to the 1980s and early 1990s is that there is a significant amount of wealthy people who are moving back into the center cities, there are condos being built and property values are escalating. The center cities are no longer places where exclusively poor people live, except for a few blocks here and there; and even those blocks are under target by the developers and speculators, who pressure the city to crack down on offenders and to make the homeless disappear.

But then there are also the peripheral social problems of drug pushers and prostitution, along with those that seek their services, which are not the same populations but which usually exist in the same areas as homeless people. The city attacks the whole group as undifferentiated "blight."

I think it would more effective homelessness policy to offer a "tent city" where homeless people themselves are responsible for administrating their living space. This is more empowering for homeless people, it creates common ground for homeless people and those such as YJR who don't want behavior such as public defecation. Tent cities which require ground rules, I expect, are on better relations with the cops. This is good, because problems like interpersonal violence, drug dealing, etc. can be solved more easily if one has access to the police, and the police are not criminalizing the homeless but are working with them.

Seattle has had excellent results with their tent city; people there must abide by ground rules (such as no public drunkenness, etc), attend meetings for the upkeep of the place, and put in some volunteer service for maintaining it.

For the most part, the people that actually use tent cities such as that are people who are successful in following the rules of such a place--otherwise they are kicked out. They don't last long in a place which demands that they be accountable to the community.

So--what then, after they are kicked out? Hopefully, the city can offer them other social services and other alternatives to simply arresting them for vagrancy.

Additionally, I think that other problems such as drug and alcohol use are not effectively helped by criminalizing the population which are addicted to them--or simply saying "just go somewhere else, not here."
I believe the high cost of housing has more to do with homelessness than mental illness. Otherwise, we would have to say that mental illness has been steadily rising since 1980. Jesus said, "the poor will always be with us." He didn't say "the homeless." That's because, up until recently, a man without a home could always build one--even if it was a ramshackle shed. Our modern zoning regulations and planning departments have led to high quality housing, but expensive and not affordable to all.

If I were to lose my housing and suddenly be living in my car, very soon I would be depressed, anxious, fearful, paranoid, and sleep-deprived. After being rousted by cops and told to "get out of town" by the upstanding citizens, I might be angry, upset, and hurt as well. In time I would become anti-social, isolated, and skitterish. Seeking temporary relief by using alcohol or drugs could happen as well---and much more likely to happen than coping with problems while living in a house.

The Sleeping Ban and the Blanket Ban are just modern day "Jim-Crow" laws which are applied only against homeless people. I've always wanted to do a statistical study of how many homeless people are cited for sitting on a sidewalk. Since they are only 1% -3% of the population, we would expect to find 1% -3% of the citations of folks who are identified as "homeless" "transient" or "115 Coral St." Any higher percentage and it would prove selective enforcement. And selective enforcement is illegal under the US constitution.

Not much chance of that, though. When the Citizens Police Review Board voted in a resolution affirming that the policy of the police department is to NOT selectively enforce the law, Reilly and Rotkin disbanded the CPRB before they could even deliver that resolution to the City Council.
Oh, they said that the CPRB needed to be eliminated because of budget problems. Note, that they have not even hinted at bringing it back.

by cp
That's a good description, Corin.
It doesn't take much to be priced out of the whole region. The average San Jose income is $20,000 higher than in this county. Lots of people with college degrees don't earn enough to even afford 1 bedroom apartments according to the 1/3 income rule, at common prices of $1300+. And that is just renting. If you go to redfin or zillow and click on house price histories on the map, it is clear that prices have doubled and tripled. At work, I learned not to even bring up this topic after hitting a nerve with coworkers clinging to the idea that house prices never go down, they just plateau. It is common to have a garage or backyard unit with a toaster oven and mini fridge - which could be a solution, except many run for $1000, even in the hills.
What is going to happen when all the children of current residents reach age 18? I keep wanting to write a letter to the Sentinel in response to the upper-westside homeowners who complain about the students. Their kids will be moving into the garage, or to Oregon or Roseville unless they're really exceptional. Prices aren't that much cheaper over highway 17. Anyone who has life difficulties would need to move to exurban Phoenix or easily end up homeless. And even Phoenix is a sea of foreclosures. Without going into the national or international situation (as my friends report the same process happening in London, and the northeast), you can show that this process is inherently unstable. California house inflation was the most extreme, yet nationally there are similar bubbles in credit, and also the national debt which was declining to $5.5billion at the end of Clinton I, up to about $9billion with Bush II.
And we all understand that an increasing divide between the relative wealth of the rich and poor is driving this, and behaviors of banks, the Federal reserve, and the rest of the finance industry influence it but it's very difficult to propose a specific action to solve it.
The period from 1945-1973 is often regarded as the golden age when the economy worked very well for the middle class (visualize the Brady Bunch and other movies and TV where just the father could support a bunch of kids, and a nonearning mother, and have a house and car, despite the fact that worker productivity was lower without computers and much of the mechanization that has occurred since then. No chinese slave laborers either yet). The reason why this was possible was because prices of these things were affordable on a single salary. Why were the prices lower? Because rich people were proportionally less wealthy during that era so they couldn't bid prices up. Why were the rich people less wealthy?? Because the country had just exited the depression and WWII (which invovled high taxes), and some vast fortunes from the 1920s were really wiped out.
Everyone reads at least some Steinbeck in school. Much of his work is set in our backyard in Salinas/Watsonville, including his union fight titles that you won't see in high school such as In Dubious Battle. Anyway, you can sort of see from the architecture of Santa Cruz that many of the houses are modest post WWII houses, even near the water, probably occupied by people who had been Arkie immigrants and their offspring. This hasn't always been an exclusive area.
by Corin
Though it's debatable, most indications are that mental illness is increasing. Certainly, people with mental illness are increasing along with the population, and they are located within specific demographics (vast majority are urban).

But methods of treating mental illness are definitely moving from long-term psychiatric care, including supervised housing, to short term interventions after which the patient is discharged.

Jails are becoming a very common "alternative" to providing longer term housing. The jail system is a way of housing people who are difficult to control, have histories of violence, and necessitate complex psychiatric interventions; instead the cities just lock them up. It's the best of both worlds: the people are off the street, out of the homeowners neighborhood, and the state still receives money and jobs as a result of their presence.

Do I think this is appropriate? No.

It seems there are multiple issues involved in solving the homelessness problem. We have to find out what causes people to become homeless. We have to find out what in the social services fails those who become homeless so that they remain homeless instead of obtaining housing. Thus, we have to serve the various sectors of homeless people with various kinds of solutions; domestic violence centers, psychiatric care, low income housing, job training, job creation, drug and alcohol rehab, political pressure, etc...

That addresses the symptoms of the problem. Now what causes the problem in the first place? Breakdown of social support, among single men; broken families; mental illness; poverty; etc...

I don't think it's just a matter of providing housing, or providing a safe place to pitch a tent. That might ease the pressure of the problem for a while, but it will inevitably reach a breaking point--the supply will never be able to meet the demand. I don't think there is a solution if there isn't the political and social will to address the problem, instead of just sweeping it under the rug.
by H
It seems to me that this is a legitimate question for the local ACLU, especially Mike Rotkin publicly identified with them, yet robs the homeless of their civil rights by consistently supporting the sleeping ban.

*People sleeping outdoors doesn't scare me.*
by Tim Rumford
Just as a added comment about housing. The last comment talked about the 1/3 normally needed for housing. 1/3 of your income needs to equal rent, or that was the way it was. I just moved and had to put down an extra 1,000 dollars deposit, because they used a 2/3 income calculation. Even my girlfriend who makes over 12.00 an hour could make it past the new 2/3 income calculation. This is not a high class place either. I was told part of the reason is to get rid of illegal aliens and I have to say its gotten "mighty white" since new management arrived.

by Tim Rumford
I found the MP3 of Rotkin disturbing as well as the ACLU not coming to the rescue of a rights violations. I find it ironic that I had a sign against Rotkin and the Sleeping Ban and other Rotkin atrocities attached to my body, hung around my neck so both my front and back had the sign visible at a WILPLF sponsored PUBLIC event. Rotkin did not like it. I sat right in front of him. It was during his race for City Council. He was a speaker. I was in the audience. He squirmed, he hated it, but he did not make threats. I think he knew that crowd on that particular night might not have backed him up. He had no prior notice I was coming. It was a public event, the same as this one. I expect this from Rotkin, but the ACLU should be ashamed.
by Mike Rotkin (openup [at]
Mr. Norse and Ms. Johnson's protestations aside, the ACLU had every reason to believe that they were at our event to disrupt it. Nobody made any attempt to keep their message from the ACLU members or to keep them out of our meeting. It was made very clear that they could post their signs where all of the people coming in could see them and that they could leaflet inside, but that they could not bring in signs that would block people's ability to see the speakers at the event. Once the police arrived, they worked out an agreement where the signs could come inside but that if they were used to block people's views or if there was any disruption of the event, Norse and friends would be arrested. Once that was established, everyone was let in, there was no disruption, and once it became clear that they could not disrupt the event, Norse and friends left the event early. Will the wisdom of the police in working out an agreement that allowed Norse and friends to enter the event with their signs have any impact on Norse's constant assertion that the Santa Cruz Police are nothing but a repressive (sometimes called "fascist") force? Dream on. Also, should note Johnson's claim that there were about 15 people there with their group is only off by a factor of three. There were five.
mike rotkin
by Craig O'Donnell
Bravo, Mike! Of course, when you hear it from Becky or Robert, the sky is always falling and the world is always against them. Simply take a look at the photo in this posting titled "Robert Surrounded by Police", and see that it's two officers and four other people. If anyone is surrounded, it's you, Mike!

I wish that if we ingored these two they would just go away, but that hasn't worked for a few years. I know one of the reasons I was happy to leave Santa Cruz (and there were many reasons why it was hard, too) was to leave these two jokers behind. Now I can read about their egos online, rather than have their ideology shoved at me as I walk down the street.

I'm also wondering how long it will take for a "helpful" Indymedia volunteer to erase my comments again like they did the last time on a different post! Apparently if you are against the council, you can say any slander you want, but god forbid you stick up for rationality...

Good riddance...
by Becky Johnson
MIKE ROTKIN WRITES: "..the ACLU had every reason to believe that they were at our event to disrupt it."

BECKY: The ACLU had NO reason to think we were there to disrupt their event. While we did urge Sleeping Ban opponents to ATTEND the ACLU event, we had no plans to disrupt it. Nor can Rotkin produce any flyer or radio broadcast (they are ALL archived on the HUFF website) that calls for a disruption. But then Rotkin has arrested Robert Norse for disrupting a council meeting before. No conviction, of course. The kind of drama he pulled, when we arrived in two cars (I don't recall saying how many of us there were---my recollection is 7) by calling the police and having TWO jurisdictions arrive and STAY ON THE PREMISES just "in case" we disrupted the event!!

ROTKIN WRITES: "...but that they could not bring in signs that would block people's ability to see the speakers at the event."

BECKY: So Rotkin called the police on us, long before the first speakers had even stepped up to the podium, because we MIGHT use those signs to block people's views of the speakers? Is there an occasion where we have ever intentionally done that? Individually or as a group? Since when can someone call the police and have them come by and stand and watch just in case someone commits a crime? Next time, the ACLU should hire a security guard rather than bill the city.

Imagine the waste that was caused when Rotkin called the police. Both the UCPD and the SCPD showed up. It looked like a SWAT team converging. Then, when the UCPD sgt. ruled that members of the public WOULD be allowed to enter the PUBLIC event, they stood around and waited to see if 7 HUFF members would commit "sign" crime or not.

ROTKIN WRITES: "Nobody made any attempt ... to keep them out of our meeting.

BECKY: John Thompson, Chair of the ACLU physically blocked my entrance with his body (and also told Bernard he could not come into the event either. Later he said it was because I "was blocking the entrance so other people couldn't come in."

MIKE ROTKIN: "Will the wisdom of the police in working out an agreement that allowed Norse and friends to enter the event with their signs have any impact on Norse's constant assertion that the Santa Cruz Police are nothing but a repressive (sometimes called "fascist") force? Dream on!"

BECKY: He already has. Robert Norse pointed out that we were ONLY able to attend the event BECAUSE of the police intervention which allowed us to attend the event. He said this on his radio show and he has said so in print. What was most depressing is that all these ACLU members and supporters stood around and allowed one, disgruntled individual (Rotkin) to call the police for no reason, to demand that signs not be allowed into the event, and to collude with the Chair of the ACLU to physically block members of the public who tried to attend.

Finally, our message, which was to ask the Santa Cruz ACLU to support asking the City to abide by the Los Angeles ACLU victory for homeless people with the Jones decision, was completely lost in a power play of intimidation and distraction originating from Rotkin himself, or so it appears.

p.s. Greetings to both Mike R. and Craig O'Donnell for participating in this forum. I think readers can benefit from hearing all sides expressed. And thanks to the Indymedia volunteers for removing the advertising and spam.

Thanks, Becky, for a good-humored pungent response to Board of Directors member Mike Rotkin's brief defensive commentary. Far more than any verbal response can be, Rotkin's own behavior at the August 26th ACLU "public" fund-raiser speaks loudly (and sadly).

Does someone disrupt a public meeting (a criminal charge) by simply showing up at the door with signs? To claim so is to strain credulity. To call the police and report this in a 911 call is a serious matter. To falsely do so goes under the rubric of making a false police report--which is itself a crime.

For a Board of Directors member of the ACLU with a history of personal antipathy to a particular activist to do so indicates a belief (a) that the police will tolerate this kind of fanciful construction, (b) that the Board member's position of authority is sufficiently entrenched and/or intimidating that the membership will stand for it, and (c) that the local courts and grand jury will let him get away with this kind of outrageousness.

For a public official (Rotkin is a Councilmember) to act in this fashion is even more revealing. to do so and not be accountable to the media (I asked him to be on Free Radio subsequently, and he declined) adds an additional layer of hubris. Or it shows how far we have fallen in this community.

Rotkin's defended his "preemptive" strike against us by stating "the ACLU had every reason to believe that they were at our event to disrupt it." Has he named one reason? One piece of evidence? No. He's invited (again) to come on Free Radio and present his evidence. I doubt he will take up this invitation.

When I asked him subsequently whether this was an ACLU decision or his own, he refused to answer. It's possible it was done by the ACLU--after all John Thompson blocked Becky's path--and she didn't even have the menacing "signs" Rotkin claimed were his probable cause for calling the police to have me arrested. Perhaps Mike was covering for a bad decision by the ACLU Board. Indeed, Jenny Heth suggested at one point that she was "apprehensive" we might be there to "disrupt" the meeting. "Your reputation," she suggested with a smile, was adequate reason for discarding my right to enter the meeting without special escort.

I hope it doesn't need emphasizing that this is a form of slander that is obviously dangerous and debilitating to political debate. Heth doesn't have Rotkin's experience or power. It was infuriating to hear her talking this way with a bland smile, as though it was something I should just accept as natural, just, and true--instead of being false, malicious, and concocted.

For Rotkin to lend his authority to the false and damaging claim that I am about to commit a criminal act when I attend a public meeting, not only does a disservice to me and to those I might speak to, but it also represents a threat to the constitutional rights of everyone else in the community. It chills free speech and freedom of assembly palpably.

For him to successfully do this at an American Civil Liberties Union public meeting, giving away honors for defending civil liberties, turns tragedy to farce. And shows us the depths to which the local ACLU has fallen. It's not just a matter of ignoring the homeless people to allow politicians like Rotkin, Reilly, and Coonerty to save face around the Sleeping Ban, but becomes a broader issue of halting opposition to political dissent in public meetings where one might expect such dissent would be most protected and welcomed.

For the record, I have NEVER been convicted of disrupting a public meeting in Santa Cruz. I have never even been tried on such a charge, though Rotkin had me arrested for this at City Council, when I tried to speak for two minutes on a union issue after he had changed the rules in violation of the state's Brown Act.

Whoever's decision it was at the ACLU meeting, Thompson and Rotkin's blocking our path into a public meeting is the kind of behavior that Rotkin and Neal Coonerty claimed they were aiming at when they passed the anti-homeless Downtown Ordinance laws in 1994 (and made them worse in 2003). The laws, of course, were really passed to crush homeless protest against the Sleeping Ban--even back then.

For the ACLU to involve itself in this direct form of intimidation is eye-opening. Drawing the police into the equation, of course, magnifies the offense.

Mike is still welcome to come on the air Sunday or Thursday and discuss this matter more fully. The same applies to any ACLU member.

Until such time as they adequate present such an explanation or apologize and attempt to make restitution, I suggest those concerned with local civil liberties halt all donations to the local ACLU. Send their money instead to the southern California chapter, which actually has taken successful action to end the Sleeping Ban in Los Angeles as folks can learn by reading other articles on this website (the Jones decision).

It's late and there's more to say. But more important, there's more to do. And, I'm afraid, it doesn't involve Rotkin or the Rotkin-compliant ACLU.
by Huff n puff
Sorry you have to waste so many hours of city time dealing with two extremists who can't differentiate between their voices not being heard vs. their message not being accepted.
by John Thielking (pagesincolor [at]
If the Santa Cruz ACLU won't stand up for homeless civil rights, what will they stand up for? Will they take a stand on any issue that is less than 300 miles from Santa Cruz? All you nay sayers who don't support Robert Norse, name an issue within 300 miles of Santa Cruz that the Santa Cruz ACLU has taken on. I bet you can't do it. They didn't even take a stand on the SCPD spying on Last Night isssue, for instance. What is their stand on SB 840 (Single Payer for CA)? Anyone?
by Dear John Letter
Dear John,

When your only recourse is to challenge the values and value of the ACLU by comparing it to the value system of robert norse, you have lost credibillity.

There is a huge differentiation between the ACLU "not standing up for homeless civil rights" and the ACLU not standing up for homeless civil rights as robert norse envisions them.
by John Thielking
I'm trying to be POSITIVE here. But, I see you can't answer my simple question, what does the SC ACLU stand for. A clean Poginip? Freedom of expression for tree huggers at UCSC? Freedom for a former SC Earth First! arrestee who I bailed out a few years ago, before the court forgave his bail and let him go O.R.? I rest my case. Of course you are welcome to appeal it to a higher authority if you want. Ask Mike Rotkin my question and see what nonsense comes out of his mouth.
by Valerie C.
Why do you waste your time with personal jabs? The subject is not Robert Norse. It's poor people being harrased for personal gain. As Bush and city council and cops can do. They can do good work but not when they oppress. As they did to women and the black americans with the vote. I support activists, as long as it's not violent, who fight for our rights and I don't like that they get arrested for it! But at least they get some publicity. The people who lose their rights need solidarity and support. This is a crisis right here in OUR town. Not in New Orleans, not in Africa, not in Iraq (those poor civilians). THERE ARE PEOPLE DYING IN FRONT OF US! I talk to the people who suffer on the street, it's hard enough to survive but people are making it harder, it's really awful! If we don't say something it's not WE THE PEOPLE it's just one small group of people who don't even know what poor people go through and don't even care. That's when we MUST speak up. And however we do it is NOT THE ISSUE. It's the subject that counts. If you don't care, I hope none of your friends or family ever experience the kind of stuff that those in authority can pull. Let's LIVE THE AMERICAN DREAM, not just tout it. Let's work together ..not fight among ourselves about how we say piece.
by Greg Montoya
I suspect that Mike Rotkin's and a few others motivation for denying the small contingent from HUFF and the Human Rights Organization entry to the local chapter of the ACLU's annual fund raiser, awards ceremony, and membership drive had much more to do with preventing potential donors and members from being made aware of the local chapter of the ACLU's absolutely dismal record of doing nothing to end the persecution of the marginalized and homeless in Santa Cruz as it relates to their basic human need to sleep.

Mike' baseless claim that the activists were there to disrupt a public meeting are without merit.

The attempt by the current leadership of the local ACLU chapter blatantly and publicly to prevent the exercise of the very freedoms and liberties the ACLU claims to champion is a jarring contradiction.

I do thank the UCPD for telling Mike that "yes they can go into the public meeting and take their signs in with them." It was probably a shocker to receive that bit of news. I feel confident that Mike is working hard to make sure that never happens again--since it seems to me that he always gets his way when it comes to calling for intervention from law enforcement.
by Doug Enns
The issue is very much Robert Norse. He wouldn't have it any other way. The Huffies DO NOT speak for anyone besides themselves but to hear them tell it, you would think they invented civil rights. The reason anyone suspected they were there to disrupt things is because they were. When's the last time they weren't attempting to disrupt a productive process?
Kick this Norris Kahn guy back to Carmel folks. Any association with him will poison your cause. That's the truth. You go Mike. Thanks for showing some guts in dealing with these three losers.
by Ann Bonny
The photo captioned "Robert Norse surrounded by Police", should be correctly captioned "Mike Rotkin surrounded by tweekers, while Police look on in amusement". Robert is the guy way off to the left of the frame, looking like a somewhat more sagacious Edward Teach. Minus the firecrackers in his beard and plus that ubiquitous recorder. Otherwise, a good article.
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