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The "Panhandler Parking Meter" Hoax
by Robert Norse and Herman Kalfin
Monday Apr 19th, 2010 11:20 PM
On Tuesday 4-13, the Santa Cruz City Council passed the Downtown Association's latest mixture of Anti-Panhandling Propaganda and Anti-Homeless Forbidden Zone Expansion, masquerading as a mixture or art and charity. Past such efforts in Santa Cruz (1989: "Give a Hand not a Handout"), 1997: "Real Change Not Spare Change") were clearly transparent and mean-spirited from the getgo and failed. Attorney, photographer, and activist Herman Kalfin writes hiis own satirical take on the Rotkin-Coonerty Council's latest giveaway of public space to privatization interests.
City Council passed this proposal, without any stats showing its supposed effectiveness in Denver or other cities. Nor any estimates of the time and money already spent by staff. The Council voted to locate 8 - 13 parking meters dressed up with new artistic colors and the inscription "Imagine Positive Change" to provide those wanting to give money "an alternative to panhandlers".

The Sentinel story can be found at .

The staff report backing this dead fish wrapped up in ribbons can be found at

A map showing where the panhandling meters will be placed reveals the true purpose of this ordinance--to constrict panhandling, sitting, performing, and political tabling space still further. It can be found at . Say goodbye to performing spots near New Leaf, Borders, and elsewhere.

Also merchants will be able to "sponsor" new meters at new spots--allowing what looks to be an unconstitutional veto on political, artistic, and other First Amendment activity on the sidewalk. Apparently, the City Council isn't satisfied with backing City Attorney's "sing a song that wakes up a sleeper during the day, pay a $250 fine" case they directed City Attorney Barisone to pursue (see "Homeless activist ordered to community service after singing downtown" at

I suspect these meters will provoke both ridicule and resentment and wouldn't be surprised if someone doesn't adopt a "Cool Hand Luke" response to them (the Paul Newman character was arrested for wrenching the heads off of parking meters while drunk). The "penguin" art statues--some placed so as to set up "forbidden zones" for sitting, sparechanging, tabling, and busqueing--have already been baptized with red paint (quickly removed by city workers and unreported by the Sentinel).

But, all is not lost, Mayor Rotkin assured us that the meters will be placed to allow "at least one place in every block" where folks can sit, panhandle, political table, and/or perform--perhaps all on top of each other.

Councilmember Don Lane (whom I've called "Gone Lame" for years) revealed his true colors quite clearly by cooking up this deceptive proposal. Lane sits on the Board of the Homeless Services Center and should be ashamed of himself--though perhaps, considering the silence of the Board in the face of repeated assaults against the rights of homeless people, he considers himself mainstream. Beiers also voted for the proposal as did every other member of this callous and cowardly Council. (Madrigal was absent).

HERMAN KALFIN'S ARTICLE (sent to me to be republished)

Plan to Install Fake Parking Meters to Help Homeless Actually Tricky Scheme to Establish 14 Foot Stay Away Zones – Stores Pay $500 for the Extra Protection

Pacific Avenue, the “mall” as it is known to the locals, appears to be straight out of Hollywood’s central casting, with wide tree lined sidewalks and shiny busy stores. Cars (usually) stop for the throngs of shoppers cascading into crosswalks, clutching ice creams cones and bags of loot piled onto credit cards.

Street performers sing and lurk on many corners. Some performers have Grammies. Others might be selling gram bags. Some might sing like angels, others not so much. And that is the epicenter of a war that is going on in Santa Cruz.

Some Pacific Avenue businesses do not appreciate the cadre of performers, hippies, panhandlers and wannabees that perform and bake in proximity to their front doors. As a result, the hammer of the State has been smashing hippies and homeless on the mall like a whack a mole out of control.

Long lists of laws have attempted to criminalize hanging out, singing, or being homeless on the mall. Downtown interests, backed by the police and members of the City Counsel claim that they need to keep the mall safe for the shoppers and strollers. Street performers have recently been put on trial for singing too loud.

Like an overzealous condo board, this sort of thing is expected from your garden-variety wannabe police state. A new scheme to keep the perceived riff-raff away however is so clever and ironic, that it deserves special mention.

The City of Santa Cruz has just begun installing vintage parking meters on the mall with the claimed goal to raise money to help the homeless. Instead of giving spare change to the homeless directly, pump your the spare change into the meter. The City will then collect that money and provide services to the homeless.

One obvious goal is cutting off direct money to the panhandlers and street performers. This writer further notes this to be a Trojan horse of greater trickery, and a new police enforcement tool.

Panhandling and sitting will be banned within 14 feet of the faux parking meters. Political tabling will be banned within 10 feet of the faux parking meters. That’s because the meters are deemed public art, which Santa Cruz protects under the 14-foot stay away forbidden zone. It is now expected that these meters will be installed along the mall, in front of businesses that do not want people hanging out nearby.

More skeptical or jaded voices (ok this author) also opine this has the hue of a shakedown. Any business could sponsor a faux meter in front of its business for $500. It’s akin to the police offering protection to that business for an extra “donation.”

Yet another view is that money can buy you an extra set of laws for protection. A wealthier business spends the $500. The less affluent business can expect to receive the less vocally trained visitors. It also has a whiff of a tax (stated just to get the few republicans in the area angry also). In any event, this faux meter plan does not appear transparent.

The plan purports to offer a revenue source to help the homeless. In fact, it is a scheme to caste aside people central casting consider extras in this drama we call a community. (© Herman I. Kalfen - April 18, 2010)
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You can call me Ben, or you can call me Benjamin.BenWednesday Apr 21st, 2010 3:44 PM
Are we forgetting?WillisTuesday Apr 20th, 2010 11:47 PM
Who are you, Ben?Robert NorseTuesday Apr 20th, 2010 10:41 PM
Added detailBenTuesday Apr 20th, 2010 8:12 PM
You should fact checkBenTuesday Apr 20th, 2010 8:02 PM
Tres hypocriticalStandard Norse processTuesday Apr 20th, 2010 6:19 PM
penguinscool hand lukeTuesday Apr 20th, 2010 8:07 AM