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Indybay FeatureRelated Categories: Santa Cruz Indymedia | Government & Elections | Health, Housing, and Public Services | Police State and Prisons
Toxic Expansion of Stay-Away Ordinance Hits Council Agenda Today
City Council will vote on the First Reading of a harsh law expanding Councilmember Terrazas' 4-Year old Anti-Homeless law today at its 2:30 PM Session. The law targets homeless community members for sleeping, being in a "park" after dark, obstructing the sidewalk, etc. It vastly expands the unconstitutional sweep of the current 13.08.100.
Agenda item #20 carries the deceptive "“Schools Safety Enhancement Zones” label to describe the vast expansion of police power
Familiar anti-homeless language like "nuisance crime" and "illegal behavior" are the usual code words for harassing and expelling homeless people from public spaces in a city with no available shelter for hundreds.
The proposed law will include not just anyone within 300' of a school, but anyone in any of the following parks as well as any adjacent sidewalks and public spaces: Arana Gulch, Neary Lagoon, Depot Park, Poets Park, Beach Flats Park, Harvey West Park, Pogonip (Open Space), Louden Nelson Park, Sergeant Derby Park, Mission Plaza Park, Star of the Sea Park, Moore Creek (Open Space), University Terrace Park .
If you're given a citation -- even it's unjustified, and dropped short of court -- you are banned from the area (and other prior areas if you've received citations) for 72 hours.
Since 2013, the use of "we don't need to charge you in court" Stay-Away orders, have systematically and specifically impacted, if not targeted, homeless folks.
The "crime wave" being addressed is the usual: sleeping, being in a park after dark, smoking. Hundreds of citations and stay away orders were issued to folks.
No actual specifics regarding these "crimes" are provided in the staff report. Nor are there any particulars of the great threat to the schools that is used to label this grotesque expansion of police power.
It also provides massive police powers to criminalize protesters, particularly homeless ones.
Second reading will be required which may give folks a little organizing time to speak against it in two weeks when it reappears for a rubberstamping.
There are many more details which I'm hoping to expand on in a future story.
Agenda report: http://scsire.cityofsantacruz.com/sirepub/cache/2/d5tnqexznorzejga3wurjtew/463088208222017083904996.PDF
When I initially rushed out this article on Tuesday morning, I too quickly read over the proposed ordinance and was confused by its language.
I thought it suggested there was a tripling of the fines as well as a tripling of the Stay-Away times. In act, as the corrected article now reads, it was rather a tripling of all Stay-Away times.
Apologies anyone reading the original post--and an early flyer that contained that error.
EXTENSIVE EXCLUSION POWERS WITH NO COURT "PROTECTION"
This wording is horrendous in and of itself. It means if you are, say, given three infraction citations in three different places over the course of three days (or even three weeks, if the second ticket happens within a week of the first), the Stay-Away law empowers police to ban you for three months from all three areas.
All before you've gone to court to get a "fair trial". And if you get a 4th ticket anytime within the next 18 months in any park or other area covered by MC 13.08.100, you can be banned for 1 1/2 years from all 4 areas. If at any time, you violate this police-imposed ban any time during these periods, you face a possible year in jail or $1000 fine. The standard fines are $200-400 for the original infraction crime.
RUBBERSTAMP "APPEAL" PROCESS COVERS CITY MANAGER'S ASS
The phony process for "appealing" a Stay-Away order involves going before an appointee of City Manager Martin Bernal, whose employees are the cops and rangers testifying against you if you file an "appeal" within 1 day. There are no "rules of evidence", no official record of the proceeding, no provision permitting an audio recording, no right for the public or media to be present--in other words, no due process. Doo-doo process indeed.
The standard of proof is different before the City Manager's kangaroo court--it's "preponderance of the evidence" (51%) unlike the "beyond a reasonable doubt" standard of the courts. Hence you can be improperly banned for weeks from public property (particularly important for homeless people trying to survive by hiding out) before you get your court trial. And then even if found innocent, there's no provision for reversing the Stay-Away.
To read the specifics of the "in-house" appeal of Stay-Away orders process, go to MC 13.08.100(b) at http://www.codepublishing.com/CA/SantaCruz/ .
We've heard a token squeak or two from our timid local ACLU-- whose regional and national affiliates have quadrupled their cash reserves since the Trump victory protest. As for actually sending volunteers to help folks expose this travesty? We're still waiting.
GOING TO COURT
Courts, of course, provide little real protection from infractions, even if you trek to and from the courthouse waiting for the citation to appear, getting to the arraignment, going to the trial. The overwhleming majority of unhoused folks getting the infraction citations that accompany the Stay-Away orders have neither time, energy, nor resources to do this.
In an infraction case, you get a "judge" rather than a jury trial. You face toxically police-partial judges--even if you disqualify the Dept. 10 Commissioner and send the case to a "real" judge. And even with video documentation of false claims, selective enforcement, and/or harassment by police or rangers, the "real" judges convicted activists Abbi Samuels and Keith McHenry in two separate trials recently. This had the appearance of being part of the City Manager/SCPD campaign to drive away peaceful Freedom Sleeper protesters and Survival Sleeper homeless from City Hall. Even from the half of the sidewalks adjacent where they slept every Tuesday night in protest.
Infraction cases normally go to the Commissioner in Dept. 10, previously the notorious Brimstone Baskett who went to great lengths to provide the semblance of fairness and then finds you guilty. Baskett has now been dumped on us as a "real" judge in Dept. 4. I have no new info on the new Commissioner in Dept. 10 who hears cases.
PUBLIC HYSTERIA POSTURER DAVID TERRAZAS'S MENDACIOUS MAP
This latest giveaway to the "homeless get out" crowd at Take Back Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz Neighbors, the SCPD, and conservative staffers comes out of the bowels of Vice-Mayor Terrazas's "Public Safety" Committee. As far as I know, it's done zero outreach among folks outside to determine the impact of the current Stay-Away law--which has harassed and excluded hundreds of poor people without shelter.
The map showing the dramatically expanded "Stay Away Even Before You Get Charged in Court" zones is at http://scsire.cityofsantacruz.com/sirepub/cache/2/d5tnqexznorzejga3wurjtew/463211108232017052436570.PDF.
Terrazas's sedulous scare narrative whitewashes the actual bigotry agenda of this law. The protective clothing for this bigoted expansion of police power and invitation to vigilante action is "child welfare"--all without any statistical evidence. The boogyman label is "school safety enhancement" . If you examine the map, though, it's mostly areas beyond the 300' "safety zone" that suddenly kicks in triple stay-away times. (Again without a court appearance or finding of guilty).
SCARE STORIES AND REAL STATS
The "evidence" used to back this police power expansion were anecdotal stories from two Take Back Santa Cruz activists who regularly sit in the City Council who'd heard a story about a child being threatened in a park and another eye-witness account of a fight in a park. The only police stats presented in the agenda packet were the "alarming" but actually quite predictable significant percentage of police "calls for service" and "citations" in the parks.
There was no breakdown, of course, as to what those citations were for, whether there were convictions, nor how many were accompanied with stay away orders. The police statistics actually presented were used to dramatize a misleading narrative of "bad behavior", "failure to maintain behavior standards", "environmental degradation" and, of course, "public safety for our children" in the park areas.
However HUFF's detailed study of Parks and Recreation citations for 2013 documents these were status crimes involving non-aggressive survival behavior by homeless people like smoking, sleeping, and being in a park after dark (See "Stay-Away From Human Rights ! An Activist Examines the Escalating Stay-Away Orders Law" at https://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2014/10/25/18763326.php).
More stats on an earlier version of this law are at https://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2014/10/12/18762778.php ("Nasty Anti-Homeless Stay-Away Laws to Get Exponentially Worse").
MORE NEXT TIME
Why bother with real evidence and argument when you have a locked-in 5-2 majority on the City Council (it actually passed 4-1 with Brown and Chase absent). It's hard to believe that rational, reasonable, mellow-sounding people like Vice-Mayor Terrazas seems to be...that they can pass this kind of straightforward repression. Terrazas has been rubberstamping like measure for years, though, through his Public Safety Committee.
Perhaps it's raw meat thrown to the right-wing constituency, angered at the appearance of increasing numbers of visible homeless people (ironically becoming visible through being driven out of the parks and downtown). The appearance of action without the substance. More laws for useless and unconstitutional police actions.
More on the City Council capers last Tuesday when I muster up the energy. Free Radio Santa Cruz is currently off the air due to equipment problems, but I hope to go into the broader Council meeting in more detail next Sunday.
Assistant City Manager Scott Collins provided the folllowing information at my request earlier today. It had been my understanding that Santa Cruz was unique or nearly so in having this "no court conviction required" police-initiated Stay-Away order law.
However, he presented me with the following:
1. City of San Jose, Municipal Code 13.44.210, Conduct - Certain persons to leave parks when - Reentry restrictions:
“Persons who willfully harass or interfere with any city employee(s) in the performance of their duties in a city park, or who by their conduct, or by threatening or profane language annoy, willfully molest or unreasonably interfere with the use of a city park by any other person, or who have committed a public offense in a city park or who operate any vessel in an unsafe manner or conduct themselves in an unsafe manner, shall leave the park upon request made by the director of the department of recreation, parks and community services, any recreation leader, ranger, park facility supervisor, park attendant, guard, or special officer authorized by city or the director, peace officer or reserve police officer. No person who has left the park premises after such a request shall reenter said park until after eight a.m. of the next day.”
According to the current bail schedule for the City of San Jose, violators of 13.44.210 are guilty of a misdemeanor and must pay a fine of $500 or more.
2. Santa Clara County Ordinance Code, Title B, Division B14, Chapter 3, Article 2 states the following:
“Sec. B14-32.1. - Disorderly conduct.
(a) Any of the following persons is guilty of disorderly conduct.
(1) Any person who willfully harasses or interferes with a County employee in the performance of his or her duties in a County park.
(2) Any person who by his or her conduct, or by threatening or profane language annoys, willfully molests or unreasonably interferes with the use of a County park by any other person.
(3) Any person who has committed a public offense in a County park shall leave the park upon request made by any peace officer. No person who has left the park premises after such a request may reenter said park prior to 8:00 a.m. of the following day.
(b) Any person who violates this section shall be guilty of a misdemeanor.”
Note that the Santa Cruz Stay-Away ordinance, the current one, the proposed one, and the earliest one initially passed in 2013 all provide longer stay-away's even with the first infraction.
Note also that the San Jose ordinances lead off with language like "threatening, molesting, interfering" although there is a provision for "committing" "a public offense" . Santa Cruz's law notes, by contrast that any infraction is justification for a Stay-Away and doesn't bother to mask its law in offenses that might reasonably suggest asking someone to leave.
Of course, the overwhelming majority of tickets given in 2013 and 2014 were for non-threatening behavior such as simply being in the park after hours or sleeping there at night.
Some enterprising researcher might track down how many Stay-Away orders have actually been issued in San Jose (a simple Public Records Act request should get that info) and whether those so banned were subsequently convicted in court of the original underlying "public offense" that supposedly justified the Stay-Away.