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Indybay Feature

Fast Track for New Repressive Downtown Ordinances

Tuesday, January 27, 2009
7:00 PM - 10:00 PM
Event Type:
Robert Norse
Location Details:
City Hall Council Chambers 809 Center St. across from the Civic Auditorium and the Main Library

Public Meeting to consider new anti-homeless Downtown Ordinances.

City Council really needs to be eliminating the laws that harass the young, poor, and homeless downtown. They add to public tension, constrict public space, and don't even address the "behavioral problems" that the merchants have.

Instead of meeting with the community to consider the real issues, a select coterie of reactionaries has met behind closed doors to design even more repressive and futile laws.

City Council's secret Downtown Task Force (Councilmembers Coonerty, Mathews, and Robinson) is fasttracking expansion of "forbidden zones" to perform, peacefully spare change, or political table downtown and other repressive anti-homeless measures.

They apparently are bypassing the customary Downtown Commission consideration process and have given the public only four days notice after cooking up these changes in private with police, merchants, and city staff.

The ordinances, as usual, are masquerading as "behavioral improvement" laws. They actually contract significantly the public space allowed for innocent behavior that nonetheless irks some merchants and particularly the Downtown Association.

They are also being described as "clarifications" that "make things more uniform". There will certainly be uniforms involved in their enforcement.

Police typically present little or no documentation of the crime problems, nor the specific documented complaints that supposedly justify the new laws.

Oral Communications begins at 7 PM. The ordinances and other homeless-hostile measures will be considered immediately thereafter.

For more info see:

"Detailed info on New Santa Cruz Downtown Ordinances" at


"Harsher Downtown Ordinances Being Cooked Up?" at

This is really Chapter 3 in grim chronicle of laws that give police power to move along those they or their merchant employers want. For a look back at Chapter 2 in 2002 when we saw an earlier City Council pass anti-poor-in-public-spaces laws, clumsily disguised as behavior ordinances. See the many articles in the July 19, 2002 issue of The Alarm:

The proposed ordinances for tomorrow can be found at:

Added to the calendar on Mon, Jan 26, 2009 8:00PM

Comments (Hide Comments)
by Hank
How many times do you have to post this Robert??

Indybay, come on. Robert is using this site for his personal soap box.

We get it. There's a meeting tonight. We all know about it.

Why does it need to be posted in four different places??!!
by sckid
Robert's work in Santa Cruz, though often ridiculed by its more well-to-do inhabitants, is deeply appreciated by me and many others. The general apathy towards these issues is immense. If it takes four posts to put it through our collective thick-headedness, then so be it. Hopefully, future discussion can be around the issues and not your personal beef with Robert.
by Shadow
Do you call 300 people showing up at city hall last night, and 320 emails by citizens to the city council apathy? Really, apathy?

Or would you call 20 people showing up at city hall last night, and 13 emails by citizens to the city council apathy?

Robert achieved the latter.

Robert can sing it from the mountain tops at this point and the results will now be the same. Nothing.

by Shadow
And by the way.

Calling people well-to-do as a form of insult, insinuating that they (well-to-do people) don't know anything about your cause is pretty muc the same as when people label all the drunks, druggies, punks, and miscreants as "homeless".

Calling people a name when you know nothing about them only confirms your ignorance at debate technique and shows you have no argument.

Ask Becky about that one. She and I agree on that point.
by Shadow
sckid says "Robert's work in Santa Cruz, though often ridiculed by its more well-to-do inhabitants, is deeply appreciated by me and many others."

Fine. Give us an example of something he has achieved and where the lives of people were made better? Please, knock yourself out.
by Ln
I don't live in SC but have loved visiting as often as I can. Have always loved it for it's LIFE, the smiling faces of the street performers. They have always given me much joy. Talented or not. I've stopped many times to enjoy 'Brent and Wireless', a lady with a guitar, other drummers, an many more beautiful human-beings, that have given me really good feelings about the human race after all. After listening for a song and contributing, I might poke into a shop and find out I just might want to buy something. I appreciate the fact that SC has Robert to bring these issues forward and go to bat for them and you. Some body has to do it. I'm up in years and have seen many rights go out the window, so- Ya, I'd not like to even go to SC if the street performers were not there. That would be like going to Los-Gatos and who wants to go there? Keepin' it real Robert.
by Campus Guy
Except the musicians are really not the biggest issue. Getting hassled by the pan handlers (spare changer give me a break) having to wade through the street kids and skateboarders to get anywhere. Looking at the lists of where they want to limit this sort of activity makes me wonder what took so long. I really do not want a bunch of street folks hanging around while I get money or have to go around them to get into a shop.
by Robert Norse
If folks don't know about it, they can't respond to it. The process was deliberately kept secret. Even Mayor Mathews admitted this. It's also easier for those with homes to churn out e-mails, letters, and phone calls.

When similar issues were raised in 2002 expanding the forbidden zones from 6' to 14' for sparechanging and sitting, and from 6' to 10' for performing and sparechanging, the e-mails tilted the other way as I remember, perhaps because folks had some advance warning about what was happening. At the Council meeting then, most folks spoke against the ordinances. But, of course, the Council passed them anyway.

Calling folks "well-to-do" is not an epithet, if it relates to why they're passing laws criminalizing innocent behavior and masking it with loud yowls about abusive behavior (but not targeting that behavior). What they really wanted here is a poverty-free corridor downtown. Or perhaps a silent we-say-nothing-about-our-poverty corridor.
And yes, many of those supporting the ordinances were starkly clear about it being a business issue.

It's also a form of bigotry to merge peaceful sparechanging and how downtown looks because poor people are there with abusive behavior--which is exactly what the "well to do" were doing.

Misleading a mob of anxious businesspeople with repressive laws that won't solve anything but make the problem worse (through constricting space and heightening tensions) is also a bad if not an evil political strategy.

If folks really want to deal with problems involving crowds of folks downtown panhandling or "occupying space" (which is the actual wording of the current ordinances and their changes for the worse), you need to seriously involve folks on the street who are down there and ask them what they suggest. There are no easy answers. But there may be some if we seek for them fairly and inclusively.

Those fighting for the rights of homeless people (and i'm among them) helped establish first the Free Meal, then the Homeless Commuity Resource Center, then the Homeless Service Center downtown. Our agitating helped reduce Sleeping Ban violations from a misdemeanor to an infraction (now reversed by the recent City Council vote). Our protests opened up the River St. mini-Shelter's Annex. Protests help reverse anti-homeless discrimination at Denny's, in the county courthouse cafeteria, and other places. We've successfully helped people defend their Sleeping Ban and "forbidden zone" citations.

We've exposed discrimination against clients at homeless services, out-ed businesses like Srinath's Lulu Carpenters, the Heinrich's Pacific Trading Company, and Coonerty's Bookshop Santa Cruz--which either directly harass the homeless, or collude behind the scenes to further criminalize the poor. Our work helped stop the latest attack on public assembly at the Drum Circle next to the Farmerls Market...

Our protests generally, I believe, have helped inform and so slow down the process of gentrification in Santa Cruz. There's lots there. And it's not about me, it's about folks involved in this struggle and a sympathetic community. For more info go to w
by Campus Guy
Robert you know as well as I (and most of the folks on here) that if you ask the musicians, panhandlers and street kids what they suggest they would say just leave us the hell alone and let us do our thing. Not a solution.
by Robert Norse
Left alone from police harassment. Folks on the street usually share the space pretty well, considering the Forbidden Zone constriction happening. However they too share an interest in controlling REAL problems such as theft, assault, harassment of women, drunkenness, etc. When you pass laws that impact everyone and reduce their rights and their public space, you create more problems. Or drive away the best. Wait and see.
by Shadow
Robert says "Left alone from police harassment. Folks on the street usually share the space pretty well"

Is that what happened yesterday when that guy Jeremy clocked a guy in the face?

"Jeremy" went up to three guys sitting on a bench, told them it was his because it's his preferred place to panhandle (sorry, spare change), and when the guys said they were sitting and didn't want to leave "Jeremy" punched on of them in the face.

If that's your idea of "sharing space pretty well" then please, don't ever invite me over for cocktails.
by Shadow
Robert's post title is "Involve the Community, Don't Exclude It"

Isn't that exactly what happened the other night? People who usually don't bother to get involved with the affairs of our city council decided that they needed to get involved. They decided not to be excluded from the process.

And they won.
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