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Indybay Feature
Time to Stand Up
by Steve Pleich (spleich [at] gmail.com )
Sunday Feb 21st, 2021 11:18 AM
Write Santa Cruz City Council Today
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Honorable City Council Members,

I write to express my concern and disappointment in both the letter and the spirit of the proposed Outdoor Living Ordinance coming before you for your consideration. At a time when we remain tightly in the grip of an ongoing public health crisis, the proposed ordinance clearly aims to skirt the latitude provided by the covid pandemic with respect to the ability of homeless residents to shelter in place as recommended by not only our local public health officials but the national Centers for Disease Control as well.

As the city continues to pursue a rudderless homeless policy, the draft proposal feigns compliance with the letter of federal mandate of Martin v Boise while wholly ignoring its spirit. Although the ordinance on its face does not criminalize the necessary and natural act of sleep, the clear and unambiguous intention of the draft is to make it so mentally burdensome and physically exhausting on the homeless residents who will have to break down and carry away their camping equipment every morning that they will ultimately give up and move away. This leads me to conclude that the real objective of this proposed ordinance is the eventual and wholesale exclusion of the homeless population from our community.

Of equal concern is the very real probability that the ordinance in its present form is unenforceable as a practical matter. The daytime camping provisions will increase calls for service and create enforcement problems for an already overburdened police department that has been significantly reduced in number due to city wide budgetary shortfalls.

Additionally, the administrative expense and burden which will inevitably be created by the penalty provisions of the ordinance will strain a city budget that is even now unable to fully fund essential services. More troubling still is the provision that persons receiving a second citation for a violation of the camping provisions with 30 days of a first citation can be charged with a misdemeanor and arrested, thus requiring even more law enforcement and city staff time and expense.

Finally, I am gravely concerned about Section 6.36.040 d of the ordinance which provides for an exemption for a "Qualifying Disability". This section is extremely vague and entirely subjective in that City Staff would make the initial on site determination; a determination that, in my view, they are flatly unqualified to make.

Despite my concerns, misgivings and disappointment, I still believe that you are people of good will and good intentions who strive every day to create a better community for us all. But in putting forth for consideration and approval such a fatally flawed proposal, you have sadly missed your mark.

What this community needs from our elected leaders at this time in our history is not the grand gesture which the draft ordinance endeavors to be, but rather the simple kindness that is within your power to bestow on the less fortunate.

I offer this for your consideration.

Respectfully,

Steve Pleich
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