Although Berkeley voters rejected Measure S, a controversial proposal that would have criminalized sitting on commercial sidewalks, we shouldn’t mistake it as an endorsement of inaction. The simple fact still remains: we need to address homelessness.
I didn’t support Measure S, but I’m not calling it a day as many do post-election. Next Tuesday, City Council will have the opportunity to continue the critical conversation around homelessness with the Compassionate Sidewalks Plan — a blueprint for creating consensus-based solutions to homelessness.
This time around, the plan is for you to be a part of the solution — to offer your ideas and work with City Council. Under the Compassionate Sidewalks Plan, we would commit ourselves to an open, community-driven process where we will consider all perspectives, study the issues in depth, and work with one another to come up with a comprehensive plan over a series of workshops.
We cannot repeat what happened with Measure S and have nothing to show for months of contentious debate and tens of thousands of dollars spent. Our solutions cannot come from behind closed doors with select stakeholders in a process where “public input” is simply a statutory requirement. And we cannot afford to continue pitting ourselves against one another, forgetting the fact that we share common goals. Homelessness is too important to be left to a game of winners and losers — it’s time to sidestep cynical politics and get something done.
We are smart and innovative, and our creativity and compassion is unrivaled. There is no limit to what we can accomplish together; that’s why I have faith in the proposed process — that if the community comes together and share solutions in the open, and do our due diligence with research, we can come up with a series of solutions that will not only work, but will reflect our values.
The Compassionate Sidewalks Plan is not policy-prescriptive and it needs your ideas and participation. Councilmember ideas are welcomed, too, and should be part of this process like any other idea. The solutions may not solely be enforcement and it may not be just more services. It may be an intelligent mix of both and refining what exists, along with new ideas, but that is why we need to come together and be open to a good faith “give and take.”
I ask you to join business owners, service providers, experts, homeless individuals, and others, to make this happen. And I call on my fellow Councilmembers who share the faith that I have in our community to overcome and outsmart any issue to support the Compassionate Sidewalks Plan. The time to act is now, but we must act together.
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