-By Christopher D. Cook
Before you vote today, I hope you can consider some important documented facts about "sit-lie" Measure S. The pro-S campaign has misrepresented this as a benign, feel-good measure to help small businesses and homeless people--but the facts show otherwise.
Please consider the following before you vote:
- Measure S provides zero new funding for homeless services or outreach by ambassadors or anyone else--zero.
- City economic data show clearly that there is no connection between homeless people and business decline. A 2010 Berkeley city manager's report showed districts most frequented by homeless people declined least in the recession. That report cited internet shopping and Emeryville malls for the business struggles in Berkeley--not homeless people or street people. A recent UC Berkeley Law School report found that, nationwide, there's no evidence that homeless presence reduces business--none whatsoever.
- Sit-lie laws do not work. A 2011 study by the SF City Hall Fellows, commissioned by the controller, found sit-lie there hasn't helped anyone--not merchants, nor shoppers, nor homeless people.
- Measure S provides for criminal citations, and $75 tickets, for anyone arrested for sitting--leading to bench warrants for homeless people, making it much harder for them to access services and get off the street and back on their feet.
- In its own text, Measure S acknowledges state and local laws already exist making encampments on sidewalks illegal. It goes on to say that enforcing existing laws would divert limited police resources. Measure S, by its own logic and admission, will further divert police time away from more serious crimes.
- Nearly all Measure S campaign funds come from corporations, real estate and developer interests--hardly any money from small merchants. Follow the money: this is not a grassroots small business measure, it's backed and run almost entirely by real estate and developer groups.
I know many voters feel the urge to "do something" to change the street scene in Berkeley--but all the available evidence shows that Measure S will not accomplish anything for anyone. Even if you want to see change, Measure S represents a failed model.
Instead of scapegoating homeless people for the business slowdown in Berkeley (when the evidence shows otherwise), let's build common-sense solutions that unite rather than divide our communities. I encourage you to reject this knee-jerk emotional sit-lie measure, which all the evidence shows will not help merchants, public safety, or homeless people in any way. It's a waste of our tax dollars and police time. Berkeley can do so much better than this. (You can visit www.noonsberkeley.com to learn more before you vote. And this article I wrote goes into more detail: http://www.alternet.org/liberal-berkeley-may-fine-homeless-75-sitting-down).
Contrary to the feel-good claims made by sit-lie Measure S advocates, facts are facts.