The Berkeley City Council voted early Wednesday morning to postpone consideration of a new set of laws designed to curb problematic street behavior.
By Francesca Paris
In preparation for relocating to Berkeley five years ago, I arranged to pick up some moving boxes. It turns out, the couple giving me the boxes had just moved from Berkeley. When I asked why they left, they shared some nervous laughter and said something about getting out of there as quickly as they could. I couldn’t understand why anyone would want to flee from Berkeley, a small city known for tolerance, fruit trees, beautiful weather, and a world-class university in it’s cozy midst.
For a city that prides itself on substance on the issues of environment, free speech, locavore food politics, etc., Berkeley embarrassed itself Tuesday night on the substantive issue of caring for some of its neediest community members, opting for style over substance in the form of tidy sidewalks.
Update, Jan. 17: Berkeley’s Fair Campaign Practices Commission voted Thursday night to increase the fine for “Yes on S” campaign violations to $3,750, according to the East Bay Express. The campaign had failed to list the individual names of canvassers hired on election day 2012, made cash payments to them that should have been paid by check or card, and did not properly categorize or disclose two of its non-monetary contributions. After two votes failed, one to increase the fine amount and one to leave it at $2,750 — which had previously been set through an agreement between the city and “Yes on S” — the “Yes on S” campaign attorney agreed to raise the fine to $3,750.
The homeless are the most marginalized and dispossessed people in the United States. To be homeless is to experience a wide spectrum of discrimination. In the past decade, legislation seeking to criminalize the homeless has gained popularity in cities that are fed up or exasperated with the “homeless problem”.
The Fair Campaign Practices Commission has decided to investigate whether any campaign laws were broken when the Yes on Measure S campaign paid people from $50 to $100 in cash to pass out campaign material on election day.
After an acrimonious battle last year over Measure S, which sought to prohibit sitting on commercial sidewalks, Berkeley’s City Council pointed the way on Tuesday night to a more consensual approach to homelessness.
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.