Thursday, November 29, 2007

Civil Liberties Horror: Berkeley Cracks Down on Homeless

You ever notice the practitioners of tolerance and diversity usually take a couple of decades to catch up with the rest of society?

Sure enough, the folks in Berkeley have now passed ordinances to help restore some semblance of sanity to their streets, and it's not just the homeless who are affected. Of course, the San Francisco Chronicle considers it controversial.
The Berkeley City Council approved a controversial plan Tuesday night to reduce unruly behavior in public places.

The new plan cracks down on yelling, littering, camping, drunkenness, smoking, urinating and sex on sidewalks and in parks.

The initiative, known as the Public Commons for Everyone Initiative, will provide more housing, benefits counseling and public toilets for the hundreds of homeless people in Berkeley. It also beefs up enforcement of laws against lying on the sidewalk and imposes a smoking ban in commercial areas.
What if you lie while you're on the sidewalk?
Under the plan, seniors or social workers would walk around monitoring street behavior and either direct homeless people to social services or call the police if necessary.

"There are people on the streets that we as a society are collectively responsible for," said City Councilman Laurie Capitelli. "I think sometimes people need help fixing their lives, and we collectively have to help people do that."

City staff began crafting the initiative earlier this year in response to regular complaints from visitors, merchants and residents that the city's public places were becoming increasingly inhospitable as a result of rowdy behavior.

The original plan, which the council passed in June, called for tougher enforcement of existing laws governing street behavior. Among the suggestions was a crackdown on sitting on the sidewalk, which enraged homeless people and their advocates who said it was overly punitive.

The revised initiative eliminates the sidewalk-sitting language but makes it easier for police to cite people for lying on the sidewalk. Enforcement would be a low priority between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m. if no one complained.

Berkeley has had a mixed relationship with its homeless population for decades. Homeless people, the mentally ill, teenage runaways and others on society's fringe have long been drawn to the city for its plethora of social programs, good weather, progressive history and generally tolerant attitude.

But over the years, residents and merchants have developed a more complicated relationship with the city's street population as the city has become increasingly upper-middle-class as a result of soaring home prices, and the homeless population has mushroomed.
Welcome to the real world, you intolerant bastards.

No comments: