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ACLU Santa Cruz County Renews Its Objection to Cowell Beach Curfew
Public Fora Must Remain Public
In its General Session of July 22, 2014, the Santa Cruz City Council considered a Resolution to continue the previously imposed curfew on Cowell Beach. ACLU Santa Cruz County reiterates its objection to this restriction of public access and urges the Council to reconsider the issue in the full light of relevant facts.
ACLU of Santa Cruz County
123 Liberty Street, Santa Cruz, CA 95060
santacruzaclu [at] gmail.com http://www.santacruzaclu.org
To: Santa Cruz City Council
Re: Cowell Beach/Municipal Wharf Public Access
The rights that the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) seeks to protect include the right to access and use open and public spaces. In Santa Cruz, we are fortunate to have many such spaces; our city beaches are one example of historically and legally recognized public space. By completely prohibiting the use of Cowell Beach during certain hours, the Resolution being considered by this Honorable Council raises serious issues of the abridgement of substantial civil liberties. We recognize, of course, that even Constitutional rights may be subject to reasonable restrictions. However, we do not believe that this standard is met in this instance.
As community members, we are aware of the anecdotal testimony that has been offered in support of the opinion that continued open access to Cowell Beach may adversely impact public safety. However, we have seen no data, statistics, or reliable evidence of any kind that would justify the abridgement of civil liberties that the proposed curfew would cause. In our view, the potential harm implicit in this Resolution far outweighs any perceived benefit to the community at large.
We are mindful of the delicate balance that exists in our society between the preservation of civil liberties and the desire of our citizens for a safe and secure community. But the curfew proposed by this council asks too much of individual liberty and offers too little in the way of potential public safety, particularly in light of the absence of credible evidence regarding the nature and extent of the public safety problems.
Therefore, on behalf of the Board of Directors of the Santa Cruz Chapter of the ACLU of Northern California, we respectfully request that this Council withdraw the Resolution currently being considered, at least until the Council has obtained broad, reliable, statistical evidence of the scope and nature of the public safety issues. As you know, if the Council does impose the contemplated curfew, any court considering the Council's action will require this kind of evidence to be able to engage in the necessary Constitutional balancing of interests.
Santa Cruz Chapter of the ACLU of Northern California