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Another Toxic S.C. City Council Meeting Today
by Robert Norse (rnorse3 [at]
Tuesday Aug 11th, 2020 12:09 PM
I wrote a letter to Justin Cummings last week about the upcoming "public" City Council meeting. On the agenda are the usual rubberstamping of City Manager Bernal's diktats, new police funding, denying claims against the police, the zombie resurrection of an anti-Vending law, inadequate "controls" on facial technology use, and a sell-out CACH homeless report.
LETTER TO JUSTIN CUMMINGS (to which he made no reply)


Health permitting, I'll be making a group presentation to two items on the regular agendas--item 31 on the afternoon agenda, and the CACH report on the evening agenda as well as at Oral Communications. If not another HUFF rep will be speaking.

All of these items directly impact unhoused people on the streets regarding the right (and need) to be in public spaces and their health and safety during the COVID-19 crisis.

The unprecedented creation of "Administrative" courts as a work-around to continue to criminalize unhoused, poor, and counterculture people in the downtown and other areas from political organizing, vending, or simply resting is abusive and unconstitutional. You were elected by a constituency that understood you were going to reverse these discriminatory policies.

All over the country people are rising up against the agents (police) who enforce like ordinances--which are discriminatory in racial and class impact. Instead we have a Consent Agenda item (#17) which ignores strong loud public sentiment demanding defunding rather than refunding. Your inaction and agenda selection signals the green light to police actions such as the costly fencing off (for the third time) of the Post Office, the depopulation of the Benchlands, and increased police harassment of vehicles around Swanton and Delaware and elsewhere.

At the same time merchants are seizing large sections of sidewalk for their private business interests, poor folks are being fenced off or herded into restrictive containment areas in violation of CDC shelter-in-place requirements, the Martin v. Boise decision, as well as the more recent Blake v. Grants Pass decision. Those objecting face property seizure, police force, and COVID-19 jail conditions. You still have done nothing to alleviate the group shelter dangers of the Vet's Hall, the Armory, the Paul Lee Loft, and other supposed shelter-in-place alternatives to the obvious and necessary motel rooms of Project Roomkey and Housekey.

Due to your failure to maintain the Progressive majority last year, you have lost much of your power at City Council. Nonetheless you can still choose to speak out strongly and clearly on these issues.

You need to restore public in-person access to these meetings, as the Board of Supervisors does, with safe spacing, the Civic Auditorium as venue, and amplified sound. As I'm sure you've been told, the Zoom presentations and the tv transmission is spotty and inadequate. There is no democratic process here.

That's what HUFF will be doing during these presentations.




City Council is again refusing to hold an in-person meeting (as the Board of Supervisors does). Mayor "Just-Us:" Justin

Cummings refuses to use the spacious Civic Auditorium to accommodate the many people who would like attend. Or declines to set up outdoor seating outside the City Council with microphone and loudspeaker access.

This practice, of course, excludes or severely restricts the input from poor and unhoused people who may not have the luxury of waiting on their phones or may not have uncharged phones at all.

For those willing to wait for the pisspoor 2 minute time (sometimes reduced to 1 minute at Cummings' whim), the

Call any of the toll free numbers below. If one is busy, try the next one. 1-833-548-0276 1-833-548-0282 1-877-853-5247
Enter the meeting ID number: 982 5063 5656 When prompted for a Participant ID, press #. Press *9 on your phone to “raise your hand” when the Mayor calls for public comment.

It will be your turn to speak when the Mayor unmutes you. You will hear an announcement that you have been unmuted. The timer will then be set to 2 minutes.

To view the City Agenda, go to

Given the exclusionary nature of this meeting (and all others for the last 4 months), the only way to catch even a jerky skipping frequently inaudible version of the Council meeting is to go to Online at or go to Community Television of Santa Cruz County . This both cuts out protesters and those outside.


To hear an analysis of the Council's upcoming upchucks, go to (1 hour and 4 minutes into the audio file).

For those with the stomach for it, I recommend closer attention to specific agenda items. The afternoon session begins at 12:30 PM.

The City Attorney's Report and the City Manager's report. These come early in the meeting shortly after presentations. Since what these two (and the Police Chief) say goes, it's wise to listen to their latest pronouncements.

In order to address any of these items individually, you must request they be pulled from the Council agenda so you can speak on them.

Of course, in the past, they've not made that decision until after the public has made its requests. This, however, is also the same time when you're supposed to comment on all Consent Agenda items at once. So if you think the Council won't pull the individual item you want to speak on and hear more information about, you should cram everything you want into that "2 Minutes for all items combined" period.

To complicate matters further, if you speak on your items briefly, but a Councilmember agrees to pull an item for individual consideration, you may be told you've already spoken on the item. A double-bind. You lose either way.

Sandy Brown has, in the past, been responsive in taking items off the agenda, so you can also request she tell you before you continue speaking whether she will take the item off the agenda. That way you can defend yourself from the accusation accused of speaking twice or "stealing time". That is, if Cummings doesn't mute your phone.


Item #10 Resolution Extending Emergency Declaration in Connection with COVID-19 Pandemic by Sixty (60) Days and ratifying/Confirming Director of Emergency Services Executive Order Nos. 2020-13 through 2020-15 (CA) This continues the blanket authority of the City Manager and OK's what he's been doing in the absence of Council authorization.

Item #16.Liability Claims Filed Against City of Santa Cruz Beverly Hoffman & Troy William Swain are likely to have their claims denied. They seem to involve the police but the staff report doesn't clarify a lot of specifics.

Item #17 Resolution Amending the City of SC Personnel Compliment adding 2 full-time grant-funded CSO positions and accepting $750,000 for that purpose. Hardly defunding the police. It frees up cops for more violent provocative occupation behavior--most notoriously abusive anti-homeless policing. It's also the wrong way to deal with educating youth about tobacco.


This is a category of "rush it through" created under onder one of the reactionary Mayors (not sure whether it was Watkins or Terrazas) that gives the Mayor excuse to cut short the usual 3 minute Public Hearing time.

ITEM #25 Allowing easier transfering of retail recreational licenses but keeps Santa Cruz in the middle ages regarding no provision for places you can actually legally smoke or vape in public (i.e. No Amsterdam here, thank you!).

ITEM #28 Weak protections against surveillance (facial recognition) technology and no exposure of where current city-funded surveillance cameras are located.


ITEM #31 Restores the ridiculous and abusive "no vending of handicrafts, even if only for donation even if inside the sacred disc-demarked box zones" passed to smash street culture.

The restored repressive law uses the ridiculous and unlikely pretext of "impeding the orderly movement of pedestrians" to overturn the state-wide ban on repressive anti-vendor laws in Senate Bill 946. 946, which went into force in January 2019 effectively held off the police from enforcing the prior ban, which is now reinstituted.

That ban passed in the high tide of repression XX years ago, explicitly makes illegal: "a) the application of substances to others’ bodies, including but not limited to, paints, dyes, and inks; (b) the provision of personal services such as massage or hair weaving, cutting, or styling; (c) the completion or other partial creation of visual art; (d) the creation of visual art which is mass produced or produced with limited variation; or (e) the creation of handcrafts, such as weaving, carving, stitching, sewing, lacing, and beading objects such as jewelry, pottery, silver work, leather goods, and trinkets."

The ban applies to Beach St, Pacific Avenue, and all side streets intersecting Pacific Avenue including alleys and surface parking lots as well as West Cliff Dr. between Columbia and Beach Sts. It bans use of blankets directly on the sidewalk as "display devices" requiring them to be 1 1/2' off the sidewalk. It bans use of benches and any other "city property" for display use--even for First Amendment protected literature and art.

It may also be adding a "no storage" law. Section g) states "no person may set down any item directly on the sidewalk or street to store merchandise or personal belongings". Though this is under "Sidewalk Vending Conduct", it might also be used by overeager rookies to site an unhoused person and their possessions, particularly if they are accused of vending (which includes requesting donations in exchange for items). Or perhaps just if they're there.

On the "up" side, the law reinstitutes the Move-Along law but expands the time allowed from 1 hour to 4 hours, and reduces the time you have to be away from that spot from 24 hours to 4 hours, requiring you to move 100'.

This applies to anyone with a "display device", defined as "freestanding table, rack, chair, box, stand, or any container, structure, or other object used or capable of being used for holding or displaying tangible things, together with any associated seating facilities".

The new law also denies those charged court access, but establishes an "administrative process" which sets out fines of $100 to $500 and sets up an alternative process with a "hearing officer" without any provision for a court-appointed attorney or other due process provisions. It seems to candy-coat this by "allowing" community service, and reduction of fines based on the ability to pay.

There are no clear evidentiary standards provided (i.e. innocent until proven guilty, guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, etc.). The whole thing seems to be a way of avoiding court costs for the City as well as the implications of the Martin v. Boise federal decision. That decision, given Santa Cruz' shelter insufficienly, calls into question the whole toxic spiderweb of laws which police and their allies initiated as "useful tools".


I've laid out all these details not in hopes of influencing the City Council's likely foregone conclusion. Rather I want to encourage community members to Act Up and take Direct Actions on such obvious issues as the Library Burial, Police Militarization and Violence, Anti-Homeless Coraling. and the other issues not on the agenda at all, but left to the tender mercies of SCPD Chief Andy Mills and P&R boss Tony Elliot.


For my lengthy discussion of the Council agenda several days before the City Council meeting of August 11 netcast on August 9, go to (64 minutes into the audio file).

There are also scheduled protests starting at the Town Clock and going to City Hall around 6 PM today (August 11). See “Defund the Police; Refund the Community” at .
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Downward Slidecoral bruneWednesday Aug 12th, 2020 11:09 AM
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