Opinion

Editorials

Consensus, not Contentiousness, is What Berkeley Businesses Need Now

By Becky O'Malley
Friday June 08, 2012 - 10:23:00 AM

Sometimes Berkeley politicians tell more truth than they realize. From the online text of the Tom Bates Anti-Sitting Initiative proposal, up before the city council on Tuesday:

“Given the contentiousness of the City’s past efforts regarding street behavior issues this item requests the City Manager return with draft ordinance and ballot language for Council consideration so the entire issue can be put before the voters for approval.”
If the proposal’s author had looked up “contentiousness” in the Merriam-Webster dictionary, he would have found this as the only meaning:

“Contentiousness: an inclination to fight or quarrel.”

Used in an example sentence: “His natural tendency towards contentiousness made him a poor choice for a diplomatic post.”

Could Merriam-Webster have been thinking of Berkeley’s mayor when they wrote that sentence?

The last thing downtown Berkeley, now experiencing a bit of an image uptick, needs is more contentiousness. Do we really want yet another big fight about whether beggars (and also, kids and old ladies and people with bad knees and tourists) are allowed to sit on the sidewalk? -more-


The Editor's Back Fence

New: First Look at Berkeley City Council's Anti-Sitting Initiative

Wednesday June 13, 2012 - 03:06:00 PM

If you're one of those who cares about the fate of civil liberties in Berkeley, you should take the time to watch these clips from Tuesday's Berkeley City Council meeting. The council's discussion of the Bates Anti-Sitting initiative was one of the most appalling displays of insensitivity and hubris I've seen in my more than 35 years in Berkeley, as well as containing some eloquent progressive oratory. Here's the full item, including public comment: -more-


New: MSNBC: "Beware, sidewalk sitters: Berkeley is coming for you."

Thursday June 14, 2012 - 09:18:00 AM

In case you might have wondered how the Bates Anti-Sit initiative is making Berkeley look in the rest of the world, check out this MSNBC story, including the comments: -more-


Cartoons

Odd Bodkins: Dark and Gloomy (Cartoon)

By Dan O'Neill
Saturday June 09, 2012 - 10:25:00 AM

Public Comment

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

Friday June 08, 2012 - 12:51:00 PM

Tea Party's Finished; Fire danger in hills; Yes, consider the source, Steven Donaldson is not "West Bezerkeley" -more-


Anti-Homeless Groundhog Day

By Osha Neumann
Thursday June 07, 2012 - 04:52:00 PM

A young man is asleep in a sleeping bag on the sidewalk next to the curb on Shattuck Avenue. It's past midnight. The sidewalk is deserted except for a few other young people who are sleeping nearby. A Berkeley police officer drives up and gets out of his car. He goes over to the sleeping man, who looks even younger than his 22 years, and shines a flashlight in his eyes. The man stirs, rolls over onto his stomach, but doesn't wake up. The police officer grabs him--still in the sleeping bag-- and dumps him into the street. The officer then drags the man out of the sleeping bag, throws him up against the police car, and slams his head down on the hood. He keeps the man's head pressed against the hood until he's finished calling dispatch. Then the officer gives the man a ticket for lying on the sidewalk in a commercial zone. The ordinance for which the man is cited only applies between 7 AM and 10 PM on weekdays and requires the officer to give a warning. The man has committed no crime. Except that he's homeless in Berkeley, and likes to sleep in proximity to his friends.

If they sleep on the sidewalk they are given citations for lying down. If they try and make themselves inconspicuous, bedding down at night at the foot of the stairs leading to the library on Kittredge, they're cited for trespassing. They are told to go to Telegraph Avenue or up into the hills. They ask – where can we legally sleep? And no one has an answer. They want to stay together because they are more vulnerable if they are separate, but in a large group they draw attention. Some of them have dogs and some are in couples. The shelters will not take them, and in any case they're mostly young, and in no mood to be regimented.

And yes, these days they sit on the sidewalk on Shattuck, next to the library, mostly minding their own business. They would sit on the benches of "Constitution Square," the wide inviting plaza next to the downtown Berkeley BART station, but they've been run out of there. BART has conspicuously posted a sign warning loitering and begging are prohibited. Begging and loitering are not crimes.

Neither is sitting on the sidewalk, although that would change if Mayor Bates and the commercial real estate interests backing him have their way. The Mayor's put on the Berkeley City Council agenda for its June 12 meeting a recommendation to direct the city attorney to draft a "Civil Sidewalks Ballot Measure" prohibiting sitting on the sidewalk between 7 AM and 10 PM. He wants the measure back from the city attorney by the Council's June 26 meeting so it can go on the ballot in November. -more-


Updated: Tuesday's "No-Sit" Motion--
To the Berkeley City Council
Plus a Reply to Mayor Tom Bates' Response

By Beverly Slapin
Sunday June 10, 2012 - 11:03:00 AM

As you all know, these are terrible economic times for most of us. Some of us are a paycheck away from living on the streets, and many of us are not that fortunate.

As the actions of the federal government, along with state and city governments all over the country, tighten the noose around the necks of working and poor people, more and more of us are threatened with homelessness.

Homelessness is a tremendous problem, but the blame cannot and should not be laid at the feet of the poorest of the poor. The move to put an initiative on the November ballot to ban sitting on the sidewalks in commercial districts, such as downtown Berkeley and Telegraph Avenue, clearly targets homeless people. If you pass this motion on Tuesday evening, such an initiative on the November ballot stands a good chance of passing, and poor people will be thrown into the abyss of a citation-warrant-jail-street system that saps their strength and wrecks their health. -more-


New: Berkeley City Council Reopens Master Use Permit (MUP) Public Hearing on Tuesday, Plans Vote On Modified MUP Proposals

From WEBAIC
Sunday June 10, 2012 - 10:31:00 PM


After new Master Use Permit provisions were put on the table at their last meeting, City Council voted to reopen the Master Use Permit Public Hearing on Tuesday, June 12th. The agenda states the intention to vote on the MUP on the 12th but it's unclear whether this will happen. Discussions continue between stakeholders and Council members and provisions continue to evolve into (hopefully) better versions. Whether improved provisions can be considered or must return to staff for another meeting is unclear at this point. What is clear is that public testimony will be taken, the Council will hold a discussion, and the presence of the public is as important as ever. West Berkeley is now the first item on the action agenda, but the extremely controversial proposal to put a prohibition against sidewalk sitting on the November ballot is also before Council Tuesday. A large crowd is also expected for this item and Council can switch agenda items. As we hear about scheduling we'll keep you posted. -more-


New: Proposed Anti-Sitting Initiative Would Violate Rights of Berkeley Citizens

By Mary Ann Uribe
Monday June 11, 2012 - 09:04:00 PM

My name is Mary Ann Uribe and I live in Berkeley . It has come to my attention the Council will be taking a vote this Tuesday, June 12, 2012 on whether to put the Mayor’s proposed anti-sit ordinance (aka Civil Sidewalk Ballot Measure) on the ballot for November, 2012. The ordinance will prohibit people in Berkeley from sitting on the sidewalk in all commercial zones. I urge the Berkeley City Council to vote NO on this proposal.

As a former attorney of over 30 years I can tell you this type of ordinances have been found by the courts to be unconstitutional as unfairly targeting and trying to criminalize the homeless, young people, seniors, the disabled and people in general. Civil rights law suits are expensive so why invite this type of litigation? This a public sidewalk and a City cannot regulate a public sidewalk in a manner that interferes with the constitutional right of travel of the American people or one that affects the poor, seniors, and the disabled disproportionately. -more-


New: New England Law Student Urges Berkeley Council to Vote Against Anti-Sitting Ordinance--Vermont Would Never Do This

By Branden Cote
Monday June 11, 2012 - 09:09:00 PM

Dear Councilmembers: I am from New Hampshire and I am a third year law student at Vermont Law School. I am committed to serving low-income clients and I have travelled to Berkeley this summer to intern as a homeless advocate. I am writing to you today to urge you to vote no on Tuesday to keep the Mayor’s anti-sitting proposal off of the ballot.

The causes of homelessness are the same on each coast, and the resulting downward spiral is one which is hard to reverse. Nobody wishes for a mental or physical disability, aspires to develop a substance abuse problem, tries to get fired, or chooses to be alienated from their pillars of support. All of the homeless clients I have worked with both here and back in Vermont would much prefer the ability to be self-sufficient over the terrible reality and insecurity of being without basic human necessities. -more-


New: My Letter to City Hall: Help West Berkeley Grow with Citizen Input & Good Governance

By Adolpho Cabral, Rosa Parks neighborhood resident, West Berkeley-District 2
Tuesday June 12, 2012 - 11:07:00 AM

Dear Mayor Bates & City Council members,

Do not vote to accept this current West Berkeley Project re-zoning plan.West Berkeley residents, small businesses & neighborhoods need your help to provide fair & smart growth policy. 7,000 people live west of San Pablo Ave, and their quality of life will be compromised for the benefit of a few large developers. All of Berkeley will be adversely affected by your proposed Amendments allowing large-scale labs & office parks & condo complexes 75-100 feet high. What is proposed is far more intense development than Emeryville, with less protection for residents. All of West Berkeley is threatened, and land speculation is already happening. This is unacceptable.

What you are proposing will adversely impact West Berkeley for now & decades to come: -more-


Letter to the Berkeley City Council:
Anti-Sitting Ordinance Would Be a Calamity for Political Freedom

By Jack Jackson, J.D., M.A.
Friday June 08, 2012 - 07:54:00 PM

Honorable City Council Members:

My name is Jack Jackson. I am a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Political Science at the University of California, Berkeley. I also serve as a member of the Board of Directors of the Homeless Action Center. The advocates at the Homeless Action Center can speak to the counterproductive consequences of the proposed "sit/lie" ordinance for the displaced and dispossessed in Berkeley. I write to ask you to consider the broader political implications of this vote.

The proposed ordinance is quite simply a calamity for political freedom. That sounds hyperbolic, but these ordinances strike at the very heart of a democratic culture: economic activity is valued above all political value; the right of assembly is devalued to a hyper~regulated nothing; the promise of equal protection is made a mockery; and the police are, yet again, empowered and deployed against fundamentally non~criminal behavior. -more-


Open Letter to Berkeley Council Re Anti-Sit Proposal

By Patricia E. Wall, Executive Director, Homeless Action Center
Thursday June 07, 2012 - 04:42:00 PM

Honorable City Council Members,

I am writing to urge you to vote no on the Mayor's proposal to put an anti-sit proposal on the November ballot at your Tuesday June 12th Council meeting. I have been working with homeless people in Berkeley since 1995. Citations and subsequent arrests for warrants for failure to appear on citations impede our work with homeless people. People with active warrants are not eligible for public benefits like food stamps, General Assistance, or Social Security. We spend an extraordinary amount of time and energy helping people access these resources, and they can be wiped out with a single citation for sleeping in public, for having no bicycle license, for having more than a two-dog aggregation on Telegraph, or any of the other many things our clients get cited for. -more-