Opinionator

Five lies about Measure S — from both sides of the debate

By Ted Friedman

Ted Friedman is a contributing reporter for the Berkeley Daily Planet, and a guest-contributor to the op-ed page at the Daily Californian. He has written numerous articles on Berkeley's street people, and for Berkeley Reporter, his blog.

According to Goebbels, you could establish a lie as true by repeating the lie often, and loudly. This worked until the collapse of the Third Reich.

Berkeley is presently up to its eyeballs in an emotional debate over a proposed sitting ban in business districts — Measure “S.” To read the pros and cons on what has become a melodramatic spectacle, you would almost think you’re at the Biden-Ryan debate. Who was big-lying?

In order to lie, you have to deliberately misrepresent the truth. Whether the advocates of both pro and con positions on “S,” actually lie is between them and their consciences. We will just call their talking points lies and move on.

Lie one (against “S”): “S” will “criminalize” sitting on business district sidewalks. Criminalize is a buzz word, connoting that sitters will be branded criminals.

Societies make laws, and if you break them, are convicted, or plead guilty, you could be called a criminal, but in common usage a one-time offender is just a one-time offender.  Hence the phrase, career criminal, or habitual criminal to apply to the real perps.  HAC, a Berkeley agency, which helps homeless people, among others, receive disability benefits, has legitimate concerns that the sitting ban could deter its clients by rendering them ineligible for benefits (because they have crime convictions.)

If you repeatedly disregard warnings to cease sitting (if it becomes illegal), you will be criminalized only because you, in fact, will have a short history of accumulated crimes. You can avoid that by just standing up for your right to stand up.

Max Anderson, Berkeley City Councilman for District 3, has a novel take on “S,” which defies classification: “What will they outlaw next–breathing?”

Lie two (for “S”):  Berkeley sitters have so many services they need not sit on the sidewalks in business districts. The mayor repeatedly boasts of Berkeley’s generous outreach services to the needy. But most of that money is spent on administrative costs, and an over-crowded shelter system that the usual suspects eschew.

The city mental health outreach workers rarely, if ever, work the streets, as they did in the past, because their budget was severely slashed. Intervention in mental health crises on the streets now is from police and emergency medical personnel.

A whopper of a lie, and Lie three (against): selective enforcement; if you sit on the median across from the Cheese Board, you get a pass, but the kid off the road from Oregon, will be cited. The lie here is that the kid from Oregon will be cited at all.

I asked the kid from Oregon if he would defy a no sitting-ban. He said he’d stand up

Most  law-enforcement is selective, in that cops decide which offenses to ticket, which to ignore, based on police resources, and tactics.

Lie four (for): Sitting Bans have “worked” in sixty cities across the country. But these cities differ, especially by size, and history. Santa Cruz, which is often cited, began street-conduct regulation more than twenty years ago, but the ban was for aggressive panhandling. Santa Cruz had solved its street-problem, if it is indeed solved, long before no-sitting bans.

Numerous press accounts (NYT, MSNBC, SfGate) declare the outcome of the Haight’s sit-lie ban uncertain. Business was down at first, and only a handful of uncooperative people were being ticketed repeatedly, jamming the court dockets. Hardly a success.

An article by Rachel in the East Bay Express, a lengthy investigation, recently quoted many city’s officials touting successes in curbing offensive street behavior in their cities. Are they lying or just engaged in civic exaggeration? The lie is in saying, simplistically, that the ban has “worked.”

Lie five (against): “S” persecutes the homeless. Recently instituted cop street patrols on Telegraph Avenue has put officers on the street to establish “parameters,” they tell me, for street conduct. All the “persecuted” street kids need do, if “S” passes is stand up, and the many that I’ve interviewed will comply with a sitting ban.

We’ll just stand up, or lean they tell me. Who says the police, or host-ambassadors will persecute itinerant homeless kids? Liars?

Lie six (for): this is a bonus lie for readers who’ve slogged this far. From the mayor: Support “S” to protect mom and pop businesses from closing on Shattuck near BART. The mayor cites a closing, he says was caused by the street-scene there. Beware cause and effect arguments. The mom and pop store closures caused by street people is right up there with Reagan’s Welfare Queen. If this is not a lie, its Reaganistic tomfoolery.

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  • Berkeleyan

    Between you being a regular Berkeley Daily Planet contributor, Mr. Friedman, and you’re having started off with “According to Goebbels…”, I just couldn’t read on.  

  • The Sharkey

    No mention of the “NO LEMONADE STANDS” alarmist bullflop that’s printed all over the No on S campaign literature?

    I’m shocked that Mr. Friedman would even pretend to be able to be objective about this issue considering how many anti-S articles he writes for the Daily Planet.

    Lie two (for “S”): Berkeley sitters have so many services they need not sit on the sidewalks in business districts. The mayor repeatedly boasts of Berkeley’s generous outreach services to the needy. But most of that money is spent on administrative costs, and an over-crowded shelter system that the usual suspects eschew.

    Their refusal to use services – or go to a park where sitting is always legal – does not make what Bates is saying a lie.

  • Charles_Siegel

    I think this clearly is a balanced view of the issue, though I disagree with a few of its points. 

    I want to make one correction:

    “Societies make laws, and if you break them, are convicted, or plead
    guilty, you could be called a criminal, but in common usage a one-time
    offender is just a one-time offender.”

    In fact, sitters would first be warned and then would be given a ticket, which is a violation not a crime.  A one-time offender who gets a ticket would not be a criminal, any more than someone who gets a parking ticket is a criminal.

  • Charles_Siegel

    In the article, I see lie 1, 2, 4, 5, and 6, but not 3.

    Maybe lie 3 was the one about lemonade stands, but it was edited out.

  • The Sharkey

     

    A whopper of a lie, and Lie three (against): selective enforcement;
    if you sit on the median across from the Cheese Board, you get a pass,
    but the kid off the road from Oregon, will be cited. The lie here is
    that the kid from Oregon will be cited at all.
    I asked the kid from Oregon if he would defy a no sitting-ban. He said he’d stand up

    Most  law-enforcement is selective, in that cops decide which
    offenses to ticket, which to ignore, based on police resources, and
    tactics.

  • Charles_Siegel

     Sorry I missed that. 

    Another bit of advice about writing style:  Use parallel structure to make your points easier to read.  If each of the lies had begun in the same way (Lie # at the beginning of a paragraph), I would not have missed Lie 3.

  • The Sharkey

     It would also help if the lies listed were actually lies, or if they were more specific. Lie 3, for instance, is forgettable because it starts out supposedly as a lie the people against S are promoting, but sort of fizzles out at the end and supports their side.

  • Berkeley Resident

     There is an old saying, that here, I paraphrase.  It relates to your juxtaposition of The Planet as well as the quote by Goebbels, as was done in the Op Ed.

    There is sometimes no difference between the radical left and the radical right as it relates to their methods and style.  They tend to be rigid, reactive and controlling and without vision beyond a certain narrowness.

  • Bob Offer-Westort

    That actually *is* a crime, in that you can be incarcerated if you get a bench warrant for failure to appear if you never make it to court, or failure to pay if you can’t afford the fine. “Violation” doesn’t mean anything across the board in California law, but in states that use the term it usually corresponds to what California calls “infractions.” This isn’t a matter of perspective or opinion: The term’s actually defined in California’s Penal Code. This is substantially different from a parking ticket: The DA doesn’t prosecute parking tickets and the courts don’t handle those cases: They’re handled purely administratively (and ultimately through collections agencies, on failure to pay a fine), so there’s no possibility of incarceration under any circumstances. Things like jay-walking, sleeping outside, and sitting on the sidewalk (if S passes) are criminal; parking tickets are civil.

  • Bob Offer-Westort

    Sorry, I should have been clearer: The term “crime” is defined in the Penal Code. “Violation” is not, to my knowledge.

  • Steed Dropout, Berkeley

    I worried over that.

  • Steed Dropout, Berkeley

    Keep in mind that even the Planet observes some rudimentary journalism standards. I get my slant at the planet, even when I do not agree with Becky O’Malley, the “Chief.” ted friedman for, Steed Dropout @berkeleyreporter.com

  • Steed Dropout, Berkeley

    3 was weak–ted friedman

  • Steed Dropout, Berkeley

    Always looking for editorial assistance. Thanks for this.

  • Steed Dropout, Berkeley

    poetic license here. just spinning a meme

  • Steed Dropout, Berkeley

    thanks for the correction

  • Steed Dropout, Berkeley

    good close reading

  • The Sharkey

    Are you sure? I seem to remember a bunch of drama from a few years ago about the Planet not observing rudimentary journalism standards.

    http://blogs.sfweekly.com/thesnitch/2008/09/berkeley_daily_planet_reporter.php

  • Charles_Siegel

    I should have said traffic ticket, rather than parking ticket. 
    Sitting on the street would be treated like jay walking or not stopping at a stop sign, which are infractions.

    There seems to be some ambiguity about whether infractions are crimes.  From Wikipedia:

    In California, there are three different types of crimes: (1) Infractions, (2) Misdemeanors, and (3) Felonies.[2]

    Infractions

    An infraction is not a crime

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/California_criminal_law

    Maybe you can clarify, since wikipedia is contradicting itself. 

    Whatever the technical definition, infractions are generally not considered crimes by the public.  I have never heard anyone complain about the law “criminalizing” jay walkers and speeders.  Everyone knows that these infractions can get you a ticket, but they are not treated as crimes (though you can get a bench warrant if you don’t pay the ticket).

  • Charles_Siegel

     Ted Friedman, I just want to say that I enjoy your articles in the Planet.

  • Bob Offer-Westort

    Section 16 of the California Penal Code clearly defines infractions as crimes. (http://leginfo.ca.gov/cgi-bin/displaycode?section=pen&group=00001-01000&file=2-24) I’m not trying to draw this thing out, but the law’s really clear on this. I don’t know what the public at large considers to be and not to be crimes, but I’d be pretty surprised by someone who thought you could go to jail for things that weren’t crimes. If the public and the police have different ideas about what crimes are, they should come to an understanding on that pretty quick!

    I know that some people who advocate new criminal laws don’t like the terms “to criminalize” or “criminalization,” but they’re actually pretty standard in—wait for it—criminology. I don’t understand the aversion to calling a crime a crime. It would be entirely possible to pass a sit/lie law that wasn’t a crime. This wouldn’t be unprecedented: Seattle’s sit/lie law–the first of the post-’60s batch—is purely civil: You can get fined, and you can do community service in lieu of the fine, but you can’t ever be incarcerated, not even on a bench warrant. If sit/lie advocates don’t want their proposal considered a crime, then the easiest thing to do would be to propose a sit/lie law that didn’t include criminal penalties.

  • Ted Friedman

    it’s worse than you think. we have our own standards at the Planet

  • steed dropout

    Bob, you’re right.Very thoughful.

  • The Sharkey

    I suppose that’s true, in a way. A lack of journalistic standards and a clear decision to eschew any attempt at impartiality in favor of editorialism is certainly a type of standard.

    Given that strong leaning toward editorialism in most pieces, I sometimes wonder if a news blog format similar to the Daily Kos would make more sense for the Planet website. The newspaper layout doesn’t make a lot of sense for an online-only outlet, and sometimes means that newer content gets buried or bumped off the landing screen because of fixed stories at the top.

  • Probaway

    Thank you Ted Friedman ! For your FIVE LIES article.
    Perhaps the most important thing a human can do is to challenge a lie. Challenging lies from anyone, but especially by public figures, by a citizen of this country is a sacred duty, and it’s protected by the First Amendment of our Constitution. The problem is how to effectively challenge a lie, because liars will take the challenge as coming from a liar of the opposite opinion, and simply fight them. Simply presenting clear facts to a liar will result in his distorting them to fit his preconcieved bias. However, exposing a public lie and liar does have  important effects: 1. It helps the open-minded person understand, 2. It makes the liar more cautious about presenting distorted information, 3. The liar loses his support when exposed.
    Don’t tolerate lies sitting down – STAND UP, SPEAK UP, AND VOTE
    by Charles Scamahorn

  • steed dropout

    I agree, Sharkey. It’s just that the Planet sponsored me when I was down and out. This keeps me going. I owe them.

  • steed dropout

    thanks, Charles. Do I know you?