I don't like using disease metaphors in politics. Susan Schweik describes the spread of ugly laws as a "contagion," and it's hard to resist a similar metaphor for the spread of sit-lie laws. But what is really at stake here is an ugly tendency in national politics, spread not by an anonymous bug, but by people in positions of power and influence, to shift the blame for our sour economy from those who run the system to those who are run over by it: labor unions, public employees, teachers, immigrants, and now, in Berkeley and too many other cities, people who are homeless. If Berkeley passes Measure S, sit-lie laws could be greenlighted across the nation, for who could object that such laws are unfair and mean spirited if oh-so-radical Berkeley passed one. On the other hand, if we defeat measure S Berkeley has a chance to model how a community can come together to find real solutions to real problems in hard economic times.
Osha Neumann is an attorney with the East Bay Community Law Center, and Chair of Berkeley Standing Up for the Right to Sit Down/No on Measure S. For more on the measure, visit www.noonsberkeley.com.