Tuesday, November 23, 2010

San Francisco Back-N-Forth essays on Lying Down or Sitting on Sidewalks: Will of The Electorate, or a Higher Law

Cruel and Unusual Punishment Deemed Best
For Our Twenty-First Century Homeless Folk

Linda's Hearth Note: Two columnists talk to each other about San Francisco's recently counted electoral "majority" decision to pass laws intended simply to shepherd (or worse) homeless and poor people off the sidewalks and streets. It remains disturbing to me that everywhere in this country, overwhelmingly, those in power act to restrict further the ability for homeless people to survive.

Are we to believe they are so naive? Leaders say at each other, for an example in my town, "The OTHER two thousand homeless people can hide, why can't THESE folks?" and, "We spent all this money, why aren't they gone yet?"

All the while avoiding the very people being targeted. "Criminalize them some MORE, I almost had to see one of them in the corner of my eye." (? - no not really ~ that last is my synthesis, not a quote I've heard.

The people of that City by the Bay are asked in the face of such shuck-n-jive to make a rational and reasoned choice in the voting booth! It is part of a misinformation campaign; a form of sequential and intentional abuse and neglect shot toward homeless and apparently homeless people. However, this kind of "thinking" is not aimed JUST at folks reduced to poverty and homelessness for the sake of Bankers' inflation and deceit-based wars. It is quite disturbingly also neglect of duties elected leaders had to swear to keep and uphold: regard for both the National and California Constitutions.

Have they read those documents?

The only "fact-based" criticism I can comment on here: In C.W.Nevius' piece, he asserts, "
In fact, in most cities - from Santa Cruz to Portland, Ore., and beyond - the sit/lie controversy seems to have died down."

I believe that 'controversy' is a media blackout of anything besides "holiday feature" stories to beg funds for our "Good" homeless folks, or else the highest-contrast news about politically desperate and insistent homeless people's "criminal" behaviors?

For whatever reason, I recommend that Mr. Nevius do his homework and check other sources besides his own paper if he want's to know who has died down (unfortunate colloquial metaphor here). But enough of Linda's Hearth reacting: read on for journalism's punditry about the homeless struggle that continues to become more and more morbid.

Hnt: Blaming the victim does not make them go away. Criminalizing them doesn't either. It is clear to me that homeless people being targeted by these get-lost laws are most often those who have no place to go
whatsoever, and truly are at the literal mercy of the world of housed and largely oblivious people. Let us face the problem of our own deficient
humanity at the root of our collective
indifference to the daily and growing
suffering on our streets and sidewalks,
and we may find lots of solutions to
problems we have mis-named so far.

Sit/lie opponents must stand up for voters' wishes

by C.W. Nevius, November 6, 2010

Nobody likes to lose an election, especially when you are convinced
you will win. But now that the voters of San Francisco have spoken in
favor of the sit/lie law, opponents have to make a decision.

If they want to mutter and grouse about the election, that's fine.
They've been muttering and grousing about other, similar issues they
opposed - Care Not Cash, the Community Justice Center - for years.

But if they follow through with threats to challenge sit/lie in the
courts, we have to question their motives. They can't say that
putting the financially strapped city through a costly lawsuit -
which they would probably lose - is representing the will of the
people. More than 105,000 voters supported sit/lie.

"That would be like giving the middle finger to the city," said
Police Chief George Gascón, who supported the measure. "This is more
of an ideological statement. It is not about winning in court, which
is unlikely since it has been challenged and confirmed in our courts
and in our circuit. It is more about continuing to fight."

Opponents can say that the San Francisco version is citywide, not
just confined to the business corridors as it is in Seattle. But this
was a citywide vote, and the measure passed handily.

It brings into question that age-old question: Who really speaks for
the majority of residents? Sit/lie opponents were certain that they
did, and that the proponents were just a few malcontents and big
money developers.

"You'd hear that it was a couple of merchants in the Haight, or
downtown interests," Gascón said. "That's bull crap."

Clearly the tide has turned since a less restrictive sit/lie ballot
measure failed in 1994. But the far-left advocates seem intent on
ignoring the voice of the voters.

Opposition leaders have claimed the sit/lie law violates the Fourth
and Eighth Amendments. But the Fourth defines "unreasonable search
and seizure," and the Eighth concerns "excessive bail, fines and
cruel and unusual punishment."

Those arguments may be tough to prove. A cornerstone of the measure
is that a warning is required from the officer before someone sitting
on the sidewalk can be cited. There won't be any unreasonable search
or cruel and unusual punishment if the person simply gets up and moves.

"The experience we have seen in other cities is that most people
move," Gascón said. "Hardly anyone is arrested, and very few
citations are issued."

Gascón knows the police will be under a magnifying glass. Nothing
would hurt the measure more than a legal screwup by one of his
officers, handing the opponents a tailor-made test case.

Gascón says he will be doing a careful, very public rollout of the
ordinance. There will be training, a public oversight commission with
representatives from all sides of the issue, and a delay until
January before enforcement begins. All of that will be done in
public, with news conferences along the way. Even the training video
that will be shown to officers will be given to the media.

There will be the lemonade-stand enthusiasts who insist that sit/lie
will mean that little girls selling lemonade on the sidewalk and
tourists resting on their suitcases will be arrested and hauled off
to jail. Laws, they will insist, cannot be enforced selectively.

Actually, Gascón says, "We do it all the time. I always tell officers
that you don't write a ticket because you can, you write it because
you should."

In fact, in most cities - from Santa Cruz to Portland, Ore., and
beyond - the sit/lie controversy seems to have died down.

Advocates can try to keep the fight alive in San Francisco. But they
will have to admit they are sailing against the tide of public opinion.

C.W. Nevius' column appears Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday

John Burton:
I believe that it is not unreasonable for people to wonder about the discretionary enforcement of this law.


by John Burton, Nov. 23‚ 2010

My good friend C.W. Nevius seemed to miss the point about
the opponents of Sit and Lie and the Constitution of the United
States. Chuck said that people are not in good faith when they go to
court to challenge the will of the voters. Under that reasoning,
civil-right activists should not have challenged Proposition 14 in
1964 which placed discrimination in the sales and rentals of housing
into the California Constitution. The State Supreme Court promptly
overturned "the will of the voter." Now even the real estate industry
that sponsored Prop 14 would not want to re-institute racial
discrimination or inhibit people's ability to rent or own a home.
Also under Chuck's logic, gay-rights activists should not have gone
to court to challenge Proposition 8, which basically took away a
person's constitutional right to marry the person of their choice.

The fact that both Chuck Nevius and Chief Gascon considered it
outrageous that people would challenge a law that they considered
unconstitutional shows ignorance and lack of respect for the
Constitution of the United States. If the court upholds the law, it
is one thing, but to say that once people vote nobody should
challenge it is another matter. If that were the case,
African-Americans, Asians-Americans, and Latino-Americans would not
be able to buy the homes of their choice and the dream of same-sex
marriage would not exist because "majority of people is for it." The
beauty of democracy is that majority cannot take away rights of
people in the minority.

I believe that it is not unreasonable for people to wonder about the
discretionary enforcement of this law. I have strong doubts whether
construction workers sitting on the sidewalks across from a
construction site having a coffee break or eating their lunch would
be rousted and cited by the police. On the other hand, some scraggly
homeless person sitting on the street not violating any other law
would be told to move along or be cited. The real concern that must
be answered is how selectively will the enforcement of Sit and Lie
be. Everybody should know that there are sufficient laws in both the
State Penal Code and the San Francisco Municipal Code to stop
aggressive behavior toward people whether they are on sidewalks,
streets, or in public establishments.

I am sure that if Chuck and I were to sit outside the Chronicle on
the street having a Diet Coke or a cup of coffee, we would probably
be ignored. On the other hand, some scraggly-looking person on Sixth
Street maybe told to move along.

So let's see how the court hearing plays out and how enforcement
works. Let's see how things change in the city as the result of this
law. Let's not denigrate people's right to challenge a law because
"it is the will of the people."

John Burton is the former President of the California State Senate, and currently serves as Chair of the California Democratic Party

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