Sit/lie debate takes a strange new turn

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Defying laws of gravity, and sit-lie
"Lying Down Game" on Facebook

Emails are rocketing around San Francisco political circles in anticipation of an April 21 meeting of the Democratic County Central Committee (DCCC), the policy-making body for the Democratic Party in San Francisco. Committee members are slated to discuss the city's proposed sit/lie ordinance, a controversial measure backed by Mayor Gavin Newsom and Police Chief George Gascon meant to afford police more powers for dealing with hostile youth occupying sidewalk space.

Labor activist Gabriel Haaland, a DCCC committee member, touched off a small firestorm early this week when he submitted a resolution against the sit/lie ordinance. Haaland, who has lived in the Haight for around 15 years, said wayward youth have been flocking to that neighborhood and hurling occasional barbs at passersby (including himself) since he can remember, and recent interest in the issue does not make it a new problem. “What would actually solve the problem?” Haaland asked, and offered that sit/lie is not the answer. According to a post on Fog City Journal, his resolution for the Democratic Party to oppose sit/lie was co-sponsored by Assemblymember Tom Ammiano, Supervisor David Campos, Supervisor Chris Daly, Supervisor Eric Mar, Aaron Peskin, Hene Kelly, Rafael Mandelman, Michael Goldstein, Joe Julian, Jane Morrison, Jake McGoldrick, Michael Bornstein, and Debra Walker.

While some might look at a grungy street kid and see a menace to smooth business functioning or an unruly vagrant not being properly dealt with because the laws are too weak, Haaland said he perceives a kid from a broken home who already feels alienated from society. Incarceration for a nonviolent crime such as lying on the sidewalk would only further alienate these youths, he argued, possibly nudging them toward criminal behavior instead.

“This legislation will not solve longstanding, complex problems,” Haaland’s resolution reads. “City Hall has openly and repeatedly admitted in the press that the criminal justice system is failing to deal with similar issues in the Tenderloin, and has created an alternative known as the Community Justice Court (CJC) that is founded on principles of Restorative Justice.”

Restorative Justice is an alternative approach to dealing with crime that involves bringing together those who are directly affected to understand and address the harm that has been done, with emphasis on personal accountability and transformation. Some models also seek to change the conditions in which harmful actions occurred.

Haaland’s resolution urges the Board of Supervisors and the Mayor to oppose sit/lie, and to explore successful alternatives to incarceration.

The proposal sparked a second resolution, this one from committee member Scott Wiener, who is a candidate for the District 8 seat on the Board of Supervisors. Wiener submitted that the Democratic Party should officially get behind the CJC, and should acknowledge its error in opposing the court, a Newsom pet project, in 2008. “When I saw Gabriel’s resolution … I noticed it contained a positive reference to the [CJC],” Wiener told the Guardian. “I was pleasantly surprised.”

Furthermore, his resolution “encourages the Mayor and Board of Supervisors, budget permitting and based on careful analysis, to consider future expansion of the CJC's geographic boundaries to include the Haight-Ashbury.”

Wiener is fully behind the sit/lie ordinance. “Right now, the police do not have enough enforcement tools to deal with some of the behavior on the streets,” he said. The measure has been an issue in the District 8 race, since progressive candidate Rafael Mandelman opposes the ordinance.

The resolution contest wasn’t over yet. In response to resolution No. 2, Haaland submitted yet another resolution -- along with a personal note that appeared to extend an olive branch -- revising Wiener’s proposal by urging support for “the restorative justice model as an alternative to incarceration.” (Haaland wrote an in-depth piece about restorative justice in a recent Guardian editorial.)

“I appreciated him doing that,” Wiener said when asked what he thought about resolution No. 3. “But I’m not convinced that that’s the way to go. That’s why I did not agree to it.”

Perhaps there won’t be any kum-ba-ya moments after all.

Along other email-blast circuits, Haaland’s initial proposal prompted David Villa-Lobos, a strong sit/lie advocate and District-6 contender, to sound his own alarm by urging SFPD officers to attend the April 21 meeting and defend the sit/lie ordinance.

The city Planning Commission recently voted 6-1 against the measure, and a grassroots group that brought opponents of the rule onto city sidewalks last month will hold another Stand Against Sit Lie citywide protest on April 24. The measure is expected to go before the Board of Supervisors near the end of the month.

The DCCC meeting will be held on Wednesday, April 21, at 6 p.m. in the basement auditorium of the California State Building, 455 Golden Gate Ave.

Comments

We are all indebted to Gabriel Haaland for pushing to have the politicians and the wannabes go on record in regard to the proposed sit-lie law.

I hope we get as many politicians and wannabes as possible to stand up and make a commitment one way or the other on this issue, through whatever venue may be available.

When the politicians and wannabes come up for election or re-election, such records will be invaluable reminders to the voters.

Go, Gabriel!

Posted by Arthur Evans on Apr. 15, 2010 @ 7:30 pm

It seems that the comments at the bottom of this thread are gradually disappearing because the system can't hold them all...or something is going on. So I'll put this up here:

Some people might find this interesting. Below is a link to the bio for migratory Arthur Evans. In his past---assuming the bio is correct---he's been rather progressive. So WHAT HAPPENED TO HIM? Is this a case of someone who is now 68 years old and because he's close to 70 years old is becoming or has become rabid right-wing which happens with some people as they age? I know there are some people in The Castro who had their "fun" in the 1970-80s, but now they want to shut down "fun" (of the same nature they enjoyed 30 years ago) for other people today. They are some of the NIMBY crowd. Yet they were in someone's "back yard" (and "front yard") 30 years ago having "fun" and saw no problem with *their* fun. Hypocrites.

After reading Arthur's bio, I thought to myself: What happened to him? I wouldn't expect this guy to be pushing something like regressive sit-lie. It just doesn't make sense. Since the spam filter kicked in when I tried to give the link, Google:

Critique of Patriarchal Reason, arthur evans

Then click on the webcastro dot com forward slash evans link

(For me it was the first site in the list of entries).

Posted by Sam on Apr. 20, 2010 @ 12:40 am

I just walked from dropping off the zipcar at Haight & Stanyan and walked Haight all the way to Masonic. Even at 10PM, everyone was having a wonderful time, not one person harassed, panhandled, insulted, or threatened me. I'm really just still not sure what this law will do...

Posted by mcas on Apr. 15, 2010 @ 8:44 pm

If there isn't a problem with homeless encampments in that particular area, than the law won't affect it.

But there are many commercial areas in the City with businesses that have to live with perpetual encampments of terratorial, aggressive, drug-using individuals - right outside their business entrances. This law is the only way to give the police the ability to help out our merchants ... who DO need help.

--Alex

Posted by Guest on Apr. 16, 2010 @ 11:41 am

We need police chief Gacon to enforce already existing laws.

This ridiculous proposed law makes it a crime, punishable by jail time, to simply sit down on the sidewalk.
This law has nothing to do with " homeless encampments ".
Time for "Alex" to buy some brains.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 16, 2010 @ 10:49 pm

Here is an example of an activity that will become a crime punishable by jail time if the No sitting On The Sidewalk Law passes.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/48436949@N02/4460122517/in/pool-
1342563@N25

Posted by Guest on Apr. 16, 2010 @ 11:09 am

It is very encouraging to see these DCCC members take a clear stand in opposition to sit-lie, an offensive and draconian law that would violate our basic civil liberties.

Incredibly, at the various public hearings for Sit-Lie, the police department literally promotes this law as a "tool" they can use to cite and arrest people before they actually commit real crimes. It's stunning that they can say this with a straight face. The proponents of Sit-Lie use essentially the same arguments as President Bush did for his policy of warrantless wiretapping of US citizens.

Have we really come to this point in post-9/11 San Francisco where we're willing to trade our basic civil liberties in order to feel a tiny bit safer? Apparently Scott Wiener and Arthur Evan are, but I have faith that most San Franciscans will reject this awful ordinance.

Join us Saturday April 24, on sidewalks across the city, as we have loads of fun celebrating public space, civil liberties, and freedom of expression!

http://www.StandAgainstSitLie.org

Posted by Andy Blue on Apr. 16, 2010 @ 12:05 pm

"Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety."---Benjamin Franklin

I agree with Andy Blue's comments. Gracias. The only thing I would change would be referring to George W Bush as "president." The man is a war criminal and US Constitution shredder and deserves no respect whatsoever. He belongs in prison for life with the rest of the war criminals in his despicable regime. He was illegitimate for both terms. The 2000 election was stolen in FL and the 2004 election was stolen in FL *and* OH. (This is *not* conspiracy theorists stuff, as some will likely suggest. Do some research.) I have never referred to George W Bush as president and never will.

And Bush's warrantless wire-tapping is continuing under Bush3. Just yesterday, it was announced that Obama's Injustice Department is indicting the whistle-blower (a true patriot) who blew the cover on this illegal act of warrantless wire-tapping. (The title of the article I read yesterday: "Obama’s Justice Department indicts NSA whistleblower.")

More of that "Change we can believe in."

As for sit-lie: OUR SIDEWALKS. OUR STREETS.

Posted by Sam on Apr. 16, 2010 @ 1:17 pm

Andy Blue,

very conviencing argument, perhaps you should suggest that people walking too

slow will be beaten by the police or perhaps the CIA will swing in a lift you while

waiting to cross the street or the NSA will jump out and kick the crap out of you

while window shopping.

you have a lot of spare time on your hands.....

Posted by Andy Blueballs on Apr. 16, 2010 @ 1:11 pm

Do you have a point?

Posted by Guest on Apr. 16, 2010 @ 10:56 pm

The Neighborhood Context

The Haight Street corridor is its own little world, differing from the blocks that are immediately adjacent. When I walk one block downhill to Oak and Ashbury Streets to visit a friend, I feel like I’m in suburbia, by comparison. When I walk a few blocks up the hill to the fashionable neck of the woods up there, I feel like I’m in Carmel.

The Haight Street corridor is like a long impacted bowel running from Golden Gate Park to Market Street. It’s long overdue for a good flushing.

The Narco Context

The problem is that the Haight Street corridor has become a magnet for packs of migratory addicts and alcoholics from elsewhere. These roam up and down the West Coast in search of easy access to drugs and weak law enforcement. They have created a subculture for themselves that embraces addiction and refuses treatment programs.

In recent years, they have become increasingly belligerent and territorial. They colonize sidewalks and other public places by sitting and lying on them. These places they use as their turf for drug dealing, harassing and assaulting residents, spraying graffiti on buildings, urinating and defecating on sidewalks, causing fires, pounding on drums around the clock, and dumping used needles.

They are often called “the homeless,” which is misleading. In fact, only a tiny minority are San Francisco residents who have become homeless. As noted, most are migratory addicts and alcoholics from elsewhere.

Many of them are violent bullies with pit bulls. They especially target the elderly, women, and men they believe to be gay. They commonly hurl the words “faggot” and “cunt” at men and women who get in their way.

I’ve personally witnessed and/or experienced numerous instances of homophobia. In one case, a large, beefy drunken white male, about 40 years old, stalked two thin, young gay men who were walking down the street holding hands. He jumped in front of the couple, spat in the face of one of them, and shouted “Faggot! I hope you die of AIDS!” They fled in horror.

The problem is not that the Haight lacks social services. In fact, the Haight already has one of the highest concentrations of social services in the city. Nor is the problem that the Haight lacks benches and other places for people to rest on. In fact, the Haight is one of the most park-rich neighborhoods in the city, with ample benches and grassy places for resting.

In recent years, the street bullies of the Haight Street corridor have been spreading out into the Castro and other neighborhoods. In these neighborhoods, too, they colonize public spaces by sitting and lying on sidewalks, which they use as their turf for undermining neighborhood well-being and safety.

The Context of the Right to Sidewalk Civility

Civility on sidewalks should be a basic civil right possessed by every San Franciscan in every neighborhood, regardless of whether it is rich or poor. Unfortunately, the right to sidewalk civility has been eroded in many of the city’s at-risk neighborhoods, including the Haight Street corridor that runs from Golden Gate Park to Market Street.

The problem is largely due to an irrational constraint that city policy now puts on police foot patrols. These cannot, acting on their own, direct sidewalk squatters to move along unless the police first have a formal complaint from a civilian. No other California city imposes this extra requirement for a formal civilian complaint.

Civilians are often reluctant to file a complaint because of fear of retribution. This is especially true for merchants who own stores, which are sitting ducks for vengeful acts. Also, many small store owners cannot take time away from their work for the lengthy procedural follow-through in the court system that is entailed by a civilian complaint.

The requirement for a formal civilian complaint is the result of two arcane General Orders passed by the Police Commission in 1994 (5.03 I.A and 6.11 II.E.3). I personally know of these two General Orders because I helped mount an effort against them in 1996, which failed. The Commission said the two General Orders were the result of a court order from a lawsuit, and the Commission could not unilaterally rescind them.

The Context of an Appropriate Solution

The proposed sit-lie law is a sensible and modest tool. It would help police foot-patrols in protecting the general public’s civil right to civility on sidewalks. If passed by the Board of Supervisors, the sit-lie law would overrule and circumvent the arbitrary General Orders passed by the Police Commission.

The proposed law specifies that there shall be warnings only, with no citations or prosecution, for first-time offenders. It is for this reason that the official who runs the jail, Sheriff Michael Hennessey, stated he expects no increase in the prison population as a result of passage of the law. In fact, cities that have passed similar laws rarely report citations. Most squatters move along when asked to do so by foot patrols.

Also, the proposed law is based on a similar one used by Seattle. Its constitutionality has been upheld by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, whose jurisdiction includes San Francisco.

Finally, the law does not target the homeless or any group in virtue of their status. In fact, its aim is to regulate a certain type of behavior – namely the blocking of sidewalks and the colonizing of public spaces in a way that erodes the general public’s civil right to sidewalk civility.

If there are better solutions to the underlying problem, I for one would be open to hearing about them. But it won’t do either to deny the underlying problem or to propose vague, theoretical schemes that are impractical.

And it certainly won't do to engage in ad hominem slanders against proponents of the law, as opponents have often done on various threads here at the SF Bay Guardian website.

Let’s pass this sensible and limited law, and restore the right to sidewalk civility to San Francisco.

Posted by Arthur Evans on Apr. 16, 2010 @ 5:57 pm

Putting people in jail for not being civil to Arthur Evans is a ridiculous idea!

Raining Needles!
High Noon!
Arthur Evans sprang into action back in 2005.
It was “RAINING NEEDLES”!
Plus, he had to do battle with a “Demonizer in Chief”!
http://www.sfbaytimes.com/index.php?sec=article&article_id=3447

Just as he had no choice but to address his most recent manufactured emergency with panic and alarmist rhetoric.
Because “IT’S HIGH NOON OUT HERE”!
http://articles.sfgate.com/2009-12-17/bay-area/17224558_1_haight-ashbury...

It must have been Quarter to High Noon in 2007, when “Arthur Evans watched a new generation of wayward youth INVADE his free-spirited neighborhood.” and sounded the alarm to the LA Times:
http://travel.latimes.com/articles/la-trw-haight29may29?page=1

Then, of course, there was the time he saved us all by fearlessly opposing the “NARCO LOBBY”! in yet another emergency situation in the Haight in 2006.
http://www.sfbaytimes.com/index.php?sec=article&article_id=5373

Also in 2006, regarding legislation that made marijuana the lowest law enforcement priority, he prophesied:
"It will undermine the efforts of people who live in marginal neighborhoods to make their neighborhoods safe, clean and peaceful," said Arthur Evans, a Haight-Ashbury resident. "This measure is an ATTACK on the well-being of our neighborhoods.”
http://www.bluelight.ru/vb/showthread.php?t=278454

That statement sounds familiar. The strange thing is that four years have passed and instead of the falling sky promised by Evans, we have an endless series of fresh predictions of imminent doom from the same hysterical old man.

Who knew?
The Haight is constantly facing a NEW EMERGENCY! and only Arthur Evans has saved us from certain annihilation by demanding that we not think and act immediately to implement his plans.
So far.
But who will save us if this champion is ad hominem slandered, when he should so obviously be praised and celebrated?

Who but Arthur Evans can possibly save us from the terrifying world outside our door, that only he is heroic enough to constantly remind us of?

Posted by Guest on Apr. 16, 2010 @ 11:16 pm

"In one case, a large, beefy drunken white male, about 40 years old, stalked two thin, young gay men who were walking down the street holding hands. He jumped in front of the couple, spat in the face of one of them, and shouted “Faggot! I hope you die of AIDS!” They fled in horror."

Did you fulfill your civic duty and file a report on this man? Or perhaps those men report it and you acted as a witness, I hope. Was the man tried and punished for his hateful crime? Do you have a link to the article about this man's trial and arrest? I would sure like to see more media focus on these alleged crimes that keep happening, so everyone can know about the terrible things going on.

"Civilians are often reluctant to file a complaint because of fear of retribution. "

Oh.. so you probably didn't pursue this perpetrator in a legal setting. You probably didn't even pursue him in any noble fashion whatsoever. Did you at least..you know..tell him he was being a jerk and shouldn't be so mean? Did you talk to the assaulted couple and comfort them? Did you do anything, anything at all? Surely you did SOMETHING. Right?

No, no, to do something would to be putting one's self at risk. We can't risk "retribution"..

I'm sorry, but that is pathetic. To ask for more government, rather than taking actions into one's own hands, is sorry enough. But to simply not utilize pre-existing government forces because of 'fear of retaliation/retribution' after doing so.. Why ever do anything at all! Why, I ought to never say a single word, for it may offend someone and perhaps they will come after me! Heavens what shall we ever do!
What silliness, my dear. I am near-speechless..

I wanted to read your book, Critique of Patriarchal Reason. Now..I'm not so sure it will be worth my while. You have proven yourself rather boring and loony.

----

Furthermore, I LIKE the travelling children. Even the ones who are sore and behave badly sometimes I love them because they are human beings finding their way. Perhaps you are received coldly because you carry yourself with your nose too high. I personally have little problem with the transient people congregating on Haight Street. They are life-loving free spirits. And those who are addicted to something or another, those who are ragged and mean-looking, they ought to be pitied, and not hated or feared.
You ought to be ashamed of yourself. Perhaps that fine couple you speak of said something nasty to the poor man. Or perhaps one too many people had said nasty things to him through-out the day, making him aggressive and angry with the world. Well-to-do folks such as yourself should be a little stronger and open-minded when confronting the down-and-out, or else you do no one justice but your own ego.
Who's to say the man was even homeless? I have encountered many belligerent drunk men, many nasty insults and threats, from people of all walks of life. In fact, most of my negative encounters are with well-dressed young men with sharp-looking hair.

Posted by Kelly Pierce on Apr. 19, 2010 @ 2:51 pm

"In one case, a large, beefy drunken white male, about 40 years old, stalked two thin, young gay men who were walking down the street holding hands. He jumped in front of the couple, spat in the face of one of them, and shouted “Faggot! I hope you die of AIDS!” They fled in horror."

-----------------------------

When I first read that "testimonial" from migratory Arthur Evans, I thought it was rather "over the top." It seemed a bit much to me. I think the version I read said, "they fled in shock and horror" which sounded right out of a novel.

Assuming this incident did actually happen, it's certainly not limited to San Francisco. Such an incident can happen anywhere...in any city or town. But I don't doubt that Arthur made the whole thing up to help promote his regressive agenda, which is what I suspected at the time.

And if one reads more of what he has written since, his own comments should cement what he's really about. He has demonstrated that he's prejudiced, very judgmental and his intent is quite clear... and it's nothing positive for The Haight or The City.

Posted by Sam on Apr. 19, 2010 @ 4:46 pm

"In one case, a large, beefy drunken white male, about 40 years old, stalked two thin, young gay men who were walking down the street holding hands. He jumped in front of the couple, spat in the face of one of them, and shouted “Faggot! I hope you die of AIDS!” They fled in horror."

Did you fulfill your civic duty and file a report on this man? Or perhaps those men report it and you acted as a witness, I hope. Was the man tried and punished for his hateful crime? Do you have a link to the article about this man's trial and arrest? I would sure like to see more media focus on these alleged crimes that keep happening, so everyone can know about the terrible things going on.

"Civilians are often reluctant to file a complaint because of fear of retribution. "

Oh.. so you probably didn't pursue this perpetrator in a legal setting. You probably didn't even pursue him in any noble fashion whatsoever. Did you at least..you know..tell him he was being a jerk and shouldn't be so mean? Did you talk to the assaulted couple and comfort them? Did you do anything, anything at all? Surely you did SOMETHING. Right?

No, no, to do something would to be putting one's self at risk. We can't risk "retribution"..

I'm sorry, but that is pathetic. To ask for more government, rather than taking actions into one's own hands, is sorry enough. But to simply not utilize pre-existing government forces because of 'fear of retaliation/retribution' after doing so.. Why ever do anything at all! Why, I ought to never say a single word, for it may offend someone and perhaps they will come after me! Heavens what shall we ever do!
What silliness, my dear. I am near-speechless..

I wanted to read your book, Critique of Patriarchal Reason. Now..I'm not so sure it will be worth my while. You have proven yourself rather loony. I find your arguments boring and short-sighted.

----

Furthermore, I LIKE the travelling children. Even the ones who are sore and behave badly sometimes I love them because they are human beings finding their way. Perhaps you are received coldly because you carry yourself with your nose too high. I personally have little problem with the transient people congregating on Haight Street. They are life-loving free spirits. And those who are addicted to something or another, those who are ragged and mean-looking, they ought to be pitied, and not hated or feared.
You ought to be ashamed of yourself. Perhaps that fine couple you speak of said something nasty to the poor man. Or perhaps one too many people had said nasty things to him through-out the day, making him aggressive and angry with the world. Well-to-do folks such as yourself should be a little stronger and open-minded when confronting the down-and-out, or else you do no one justice but your own ego.
Who's to say the man was even homeless? I have encountered many belligerent drunk men, many nasty insults and threats, from people of all walks of life. In fact, most of my negative encounters are with well-dressed young men with sharp-looking hair.

Your discrimination towards the homeless is a mirror to the discrimination against homosexuals in the past. You are no better than a homophobic person, in my opinion.

Posted by Kelly Pierce on Apr. 19, 2010 @ 3:36 pm

Your discrimination against the homeless is a mirror to the discrimination against homosexuals in the past. You are no better than a homophobic person, in my opinion.

Posted by Kelly Pierce on Apr. 19, 2010 @ 4:05 pm

Your discrimination against the homeless is a mirror to the discrimination against homosexuals in the past. You are no better than a homophobic person, or misogynist, in my opinion.

When you make generalizations about the transient people, the homeless people, the street kids in San Francisco, all I hear is hate speech and fear, very much like the hate speech and fear of homophobes. You may think 'There is no comparison, it is completely different'
Well, I have news for you, discrimination is discrimination, it does damage no matter how you go about presenting it. Homeless people are people too, each with a story of his/her own, each with feelings and ideas and weaknesses and strengths. Your intolerance and hate sicken me to the core.

Posted by Kelly Pierce on Apr. 19, 2010 @ 4:20 pm

Your discrimination against the homeless is a mirror to the discrimination against homosexuals in the past. You are no better than a homophobic person, or misogynist, in my opinion.

When you make generalizations about the transient people, the homeless people, the street kids in San Francisco, all I hear is hate speech and fear, very much like the hate speech and fear of homophobes. You may think 'There is no comparison, it is completely different'
Well, I have news for you, discrimination is discrimination, it does damage no matter how you go about presenting it. Homeless people are people too, each with a story of his/her own, each with feelings and ideas and weaknesses and strengths. Your intolerance and hate sicken me to the core.

Posted by Kelly Pierce on Apr. 19, 2010 @ 5:40 pm

Let’s NOT pass this insensible and unnecessary regressive and extreme law, and keep the right to sidewalks for We The People under the US Constitution.

"Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase THE ILLUSION OF a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety."---Sam, after Benjamin Franklin

Posted by Sam on Apr. 16, 2010 @ 7:13 pm

"insensible"

"unnecessary"

"regressive"

"extreme"

Aren't you getting a little carried away with yourself here?

Posted by Arthur Evans on Apr. 16, 2010 @ 11:50 pm

Why don't you ask YOURSELF the question you asked me. You're the person that a Google search brings up nine (yes 9) pages of entries on---last time I checked...it may be more than that by now---when one searches "Arthur Evans, sit lie." Talk about someone getting a little carried away with themselves! Look up the definition of hypocrisy when you have a chance.

Posted by Sam on Apr. 17, 2010 @ 12:49 am

Let's have a reasonable discussion here of the issues.

That's the best way to influence public opinion.

You may want to reflect on this image from "I Ching" ("Book of Changes"):

"A lake on the mountain.
The image of influence."

Posted by Arthur Evans on Apr. 17, 2010 @ 9:11 am

“the right to sidewalk civility”
Posted by Arthur Evans on Apr. 16, 2010 @ 5:57 pm

Could you please cite your source for this “Right”?

Posted by Guest on Apr. 17, 2010 @ 11:24 am

In a post above, Guest asks:

"Could you please cite your source for this 'Right'”?

All people have the right to move about unimpeded in public, free from blockage, threats, assaults, and disturbances to the peace.

Otherwise, why would there be laws on the books against blockage, threats, assaults, and disturbances to the public peace? Think about it.

Are you opposed to this right?

Do you want to repeal the laws against blockage, threats, assaults, and disturbances to the public peace?

Should we let San Francisco revert back to a Wild West town - one where there was no right to civility in public places except the guns that people carried on their own persons?

Do you want to take this backward step in the name of promoting progressive politics?

Posted by Arthur Evans on Apr. 17, 2010 @ 1:18 pm

"Could you please cite your source for this 'Right'”?
You have failed to do so.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 17, 2010 @ 3:00 pm

opposes sit lie, the guy who put the unconstitutional as according to the supreme court prop H on the ballot. And of course David Campos ran on helping to put the struck down prop H on the ballot.

Another comical pronouncement from the brain damaged.

Posted by glen matlock on Apr. 17, 2010 @ 1:53 pm

I wish that Arthur Evans could calm down and get a grip, but I know that's not about to happen. He is addicted to this topic. He certainly has mastered right-wing/regressive tactics. I remember all during the Bush years that whenever I would point out hypocrisy or double-standards to the Bush believers, they would immediately shout, "calm down, Sam!" It was their way of being defensive because they couldn't bear to hear the truth about themselves and their hypocrisy. Meanwhile, I was quite calm. Arthur Evans uses the same tactics as the right-wing which is what this sit-lie nonsense is about. He urges people to "calm down and let's have a reasonable discussion..." Again, does this guy own any mirrors? And reasonable?...with migratory and ubiquitous Arthur Evans? Not very likely.

"Oh, that's an Ad hominem attack." (Another one of his signature phrases).

Deal with it. It's my opinion.

Posted by Sam on Apr. 17, 2010 @ 3:02 pm

In a post above, Sam says:

"Arthur Evans uses the same tactics as the right-wing which is what this sit-lie nonsense is about."

So now the effort to establish sidewalk civility is a right-wing plot.

What will you claim next, Sam - That it's evidence of Satan's power in San Francisco?

When this measure comes up before the Board of Supervisors, I sincerely hope that Sam emerges as the leading advocate for its defeat.

This is going to be fun, folks!

Posted by Arthur Evans on Apr. 17, 2010 @ 4:34 pm

This sit lie thing is in actuality a very populist movement.

The people in the Haight have been asking Merkirimi to do something about the thugs on Haight street, he has other things to do than serve the citizens of his district so nothing gets done. Merkirimi does go on about a golf course outside his district and other such idiocy.

These citizens get some press from the Chronicle, again a very populist way of doing grass roots politics, then mayor hair responds doing the bidding of these grass roots people, something that Merkirimi should have been addressing a long time ago.

The logic here is, when papers notice good grass roots it's common sense, when they do bad grassroots, its whipping up a false emergency.

Then like many populist movements that the so-called progressive's love, there is a public debate over the subject. This time it's not about the wishes of the local citizens of a neighborhood being respected, its transfered into some right wing conspiracy against the progressives, progressives who often claim to speak for "the people(tm)," although this time the people who started it are stupid and duped.

If Merkirimi had at least pretended to care before it would never have come to this, if Merkirimi at lest pretended to care about the actual citizens of his district it would never have come to this. Instead the supposed representatives of the people want the people to shut up and put up with the superior values of the progressives.

Posted by glen matlock on Apr. 17, 2010 @ 7:14 pm

Could you please cite the source for this "Right'”?
Is it in the Constitution?

Posted by Guest on Apr. 17, 2010 @ 7:46 pm

What will you claim next, Sam - That it's evidence of Satan's power in San Francisco?

---------------------

No, I wouldn't claim that because I don't believe in all that god (floating cloud being) and satan/devil bunk. That stuff is brainwashed into children and hopefully they deprogram it as adults. Unfortunately, most never do. You appear to be one of them, since you brought it up. You just make up stuff. But most right-wingers/regressives usually do.

Posted by Sam on Apr. 17, 2010 @ 8:11 pm

"This is going to be fun, folks!"---migratory Arthur Evans

------------------------------

And I think that's really what this is about. Drama. This is a drama for Arthur Evans. Arthur Evans gets off on all this dysfunction and drama. He enjoys it. He finds it "fun." I don't. I find it pathetic. As I said weeks ago, get some psychotherapy Arthur.

This issue has nothing whatsoever to do with sidewalk "civility." It has to do with migratory Arthur Evans and the Chamber of Commerce and SFHate (also known as SFGate/The Chronicle) and that CW Nevius guy who doesn't even live in The City trying to control other people in The City. It is absolutely regressive and unnecessary.

As I've said in the past, if you don't like your neighborhood: MOVE. That's what I would do. I think that's what any intelligent person who is mentally well-balanced and stable would do. Moving would be easier than all this...Arthur's addiction to this issue. Move just a few blocks away (even) and you *may* find your so-called "civility." I say *may*, because given what I've seen from Arthur Evans and what he considers "fun," (dysfunctional dramatic behavior), he would find something to pick at in his new neighborhood and start on a whole new drama/addiction. Pathetic.

Posted by Sam on Apr. 17, 2010 @ 7:06 pm

reports on a meeting of citizens and those citizens complaints about that lack of response from their supervisor and the issue starts to build from there, its really about some form of "hate?"

When the mayor nabs an issue of concern to disgruntled citizens and uses it to look like he isn't useless, he is really doing the bidding SFgate commenters?

I see.

Posted by glen matlock on Apr. 18, 2010 @ 12:28 am

The problems on Haight Street were nothing new, and of such a limited nature that they were solved within a week last December by police enforcing already existing laws. “Haight Street is looking great.”
Nevius declared on Dec. 24.
sfist.com/2009/12/24/nevius_confirms_sfists_story_haight.php

As for the manufactured panic and fears of “thugs with dogs”, it turns out that, after six weeks of daily patrols and strict enforcement, the SFPD says:“We have not found any menacing dogs,”
“instead of encountering aggressive animals, the officers discovered the more-common issue was unlicensed and off-leash dogs.”
sfexaminer.com/local/Dogs-becoming-concern-on-Haight-90906099.html

To sum up:
If the problems that a handful of alarmist cranks used to foment fear and panic across the city was solved in a week by police enforcing already existing laws, we obviously don’t need a new law that robs all San Franciscans of our civil rights.
This unneccesary law threatens REAL rights, including the right to sit in public, as opposed to imaginary rights, like ”the right to sidewalk civility”.
The idea that civility, or courtesy, or politeness ought to be legislated and that police should jail those who violate politeness laws would be laughable if it were not so nightmarish and Un-American.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 18, 2010 @ 11:53 am

Merkirimi from addressing the concerns of the people in his district over this?

Posted by glen matlock on Apr. 18, 2010 @ 2:48 pm

In the sfexaminer link that Guest (11.53 am) provided, did you notice the language used by one of the people interviewed in favor of sit-lie?

Lena Emmery (president of the Cole Valley Improvement Association) referred to "THOSE" people and "THESE" people when speaking about the people sitting on the sidewalks. Ugh. Sigh.

The people sitting on the sidewalks are just like YOU, Lena. They are a human being just like you. They may not have your snottiness (thankfully) and your pretentiousness and they may not think that they are better than you (thankfully) so stop trying to put yourself up on some damn pedestal with your nose in the air. Talk about attitude and feeling more entitled! Do you own any mirrors, Lena? Have you ever heard the word hypocrisy? How smug-assed can one get!

Ah Lena: Why don't you put your energies into getting the millions and millions of outsourced jobs back so that the people on the sidewalks and elsewhere here in the Divided States of North America can go back to work? Hey, that's a thought!....imagine that: to solve a problem at the BEGINNING (I'm referring to jobs being outsourced by the millions and that is escalating at this time) instead of at the end of the problem (giving citations and jailing people who don't have a job or a home or a place to stay. Yeah, giving citations to people who don't have any $$ makes a lot of sense, doesn't it? Duh.)

Posted by Sam on Apr. 18, 2010 @ 3:49 pm

If the posts on this thread are any indication of what’s to come, here’s what we’ll see when the sit-lie law comes before the voters at the ballot box in November:

Opponents of the law will scoff at the notion that the public has a right to civility in public places. They will claim that those who invoke such a right are part of a right-wing plot. Finally, they will say that those who live in thug-plagued neighborhoods should move.

Nothing that opponents say could be better suited for torpedoing their standing in the eyes of the voters. These arguments are the same as those that sank the opposition to Care Not Cash.

Not that the opponents care. They seem to have a love of making themselves look ridiculous and getting Darwin Awards in the process. Their antics qualify as genuine Monty Python Moments (MPMs).

I witnessed an MPM yesterday afternoon in the Haight. A small band, consisting mostly of brass and clarinets playing raucously, came marching down the sidewalk, accompanied a by a person holding a "No On Sit/Lie" sign.

Apparently their aim was to drum up voter opposition to the measure. However, most residents of the Haight avoid Haight Street during weekends, and especially so during beautiful weather, when they go to the parks or the beaches.

However, the tourists, who don’t vote here, were out in full force. They observed the rag-tag band with bemused detachment. It was the same reaction that tourists have when they see bands of white-robed, spaced-out Hare Krishnas marching along the sidewalk, mumbling over and over to themselves “Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Hare, Hare, Krishna, Krishna.”

In other words, the brass band was just another MPM in a neighborhood renowned for its MPMs. In terms of defeating the sit-lie law, it will have zero impact.

That scene, in turn, reminded me of when Eileen Hansen ran against Bevan Dufty for supe in district eight. Her supporters plastered placards on her behalf up and down Haight Street. The only problem was that Haight Street is not part of district eight (oops!). Another MPM.

A certain part of the city’s political spectrum is in love with MPMs. Their arguments in this thread suggest that they will continue to display more MPMs as public debate intensifies over the sit-lie law.

Nothing could make supporters of the measure happier.

Go, Sam! Go, Guest!

Posted by Arthur Evans on Apr. 18, 2010 @ 5:39 pm

Migratory Arthur Evans wrote this stuff:

"However, most residents of the Haight avoid Haight Street during weekends."

------------------------------

Really? "Most residents of the Haight?" How would you know that? Have you verbally asked everyone who is walking on Haight Street or sitting on Haight Street during weekends if they *live* in the Haight?

Answer: No, you haven't.

So how would you know that?

Answer: You don't. You made the whole thing up...as usual. Like those fictitious Hollywood-style script "testimonials" you cooked up. I know you're desperate and it shows but don't come up with nonsense about what "most residents" do. You can only speak for yourself.

Arthur: You don't like freedom. You only like the part of freedom such as parades, flag-waving and wearing buttons and voting. But when you encounter real freedom, you can't stand it. You act more like the Germans did during WWII. I notice you haven't mentioned one word about the US Constitution in any of your ubiquitous migratory drivel.

Posted by Sam on Apr. 18, 2010 @ 7:03 pm

"It was the same reaction that tourists have when they see bands of white-robed, spaced-out Hare Krishnas marching along the sidewalk, mumbling over and over to themselves “Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Hare, Hare, Krishna, Krishna.”----Migratory Arthur Evans

-----------------------------

More and more, the proponents of sit-lie are showing their prejudices. They let these things slip out in their attempt to pursue their political agenda.

I'm not a religious person at all, but I wouldn't attempt to put down the Hare Krishna's by saying what migratory Arthur Evans wrote. To begin with, why would he describe them as "spaced-out?" That's a pejorative and it's intended to be. Then he writes that they were "mumbling over and over." Well, "scholarly" Arthur, they are actually chanting an anustubh poetry stanza:

"Hare Krishna Hare Krishna."

And it should be pointed out that chanting takes place in many faiths: Anglicans/Episcopalians and Lutherans come to mind of the christian variety.

The Hare Krishna's are no more silly than christians who claim to be eating the flesh and drinking the blood of christ (at communion). So despite migratory Arthur's attempt to come off as "scholarly" and "intellectual" and "intelligent," and all that other pretentiousness that he puts out in his migratory drivel, as one can see he's actually quite willfully-ignorant about many things and likes putting people down who are not like him.

The more he talks, the more he shows his ignorance.

Posted by Sam on Apr. 18, 2010 @ 7:44 pm

Says Sam above:

"You act more like the Germans did during WWII."

Sam, I hope you and your comments get lots of publicity during the debate on the sit-lie law. If there's anything I can do to help you out along that line, please let me know.

You're a better foil than Chris Daly!

Posted by Arthur Evans on Apr. 18, 2010 @ 10:10 pm

Migratory Arthur Evans wrote:

I witnessed...A small band, consisting mostly of brass and clarinets playing raucously, came marching down the sidewalk, accompanied a by a person holding a "No On Sit/Lie" sign....However, the tourists, who don’t vote here, were out in full force. They observed the rag-tag band....In other words, the brass band...
---------------------------------

Why was the group of musicians described in such a negative way (he called them a "rag-tag band" playing "raucously")? Because they weren't as polished or as well-prepared, well-trained as some of the well-known musical ensembles in The City and Bay Area? Arthur Evans probably describes the band like that because he didn't like what they were demonstrating for, so he tried to put them down. How childish. It sounds like it was a small marching band. Technically that's what it would be called because a brass ensemble does not have clarinets in it. Clarinets are in a wind ensemble or a symphony orchestra or a clarinet choir. One would think that "scholarly" Arthur Evans would know that.

I would be pleased to see the band playing, in part, because it could inspire other people to want to learn to play an instrument (and that is a good thing), regardless of how well they were playing. Migratory Arthur Evans claims to love living in The Haight, but all I see him doing is whining about living there in comment after comment.

Posted by Sam on Apr. 19, 2010 @ 12:36 am

Taking a Stand to Keep Sitting Legal
Monday 29 March 2010
by: Randall Amster J.D., Ph.D., t r u t h o u t | Op-Ed

San Francisco is poised to become the latest in a string of cities to adopt a law making it a crime to sit on the sidewalk. While it is the case that some of these other cities are known as being among the more liberal in the nation (e.g., Portland, Seattle, Boulder, Austin), no city with such a deep progressive history has sought to impose anything like a citywide ban on sitting such as is being proposed for San Francisco. The fact that these draconian ordinances have generally withstood legal challenges due to the intricacies and inanities of the justice system is no small comfort to the homeless people who are the primary targets, nor to the activists and community members concerned about the social and ethical implications of such punitive laws. In San Francisco, many of these folks - activists and the homeless alike - are mobilizing against the proposed law in the name of justice and common decency.

First, a bit of disclosure and a statement of bias: I have spent over a decade investigating and analyzing anti-homeless legislation such as these "no sitting on the sidewalk" ordinances (also known as "sit-lie" laws because they prohibit sitting and lying down). In 1999, I led a challenge against the law in Tempe, Arizona, while I was a graduate student at Arizona State University. There, we went through all of the channels of dissent to take on a law that many in the community perceived as unnecessary, cruel, unusual and really just plain asinine. Community activists and homeless street people packed city council chambers, launched media campaigns and (once the law was passed) staged sit-ins in open defiance of and protest against the no-sitting law in particular and the criminalization of homelessness in general. Interestingly, the Tempe law actually took effect on Martin Luther King Day, a fact that we were able to use to highlight the argument that sitting is an important form of legitimate social protest.

While these laws are aimed at homeless people, they diminish everyone's rights in the process. The regulation of public spaces and the restriction of forms of communication are serious First Amendment matters that should not be lightly swept aside in the rush to "clean up" our cities. These points in particular framed a lawsuit that I filed in federal district court against Tempe's sit-lie law; although I was not homeless, I was an activist engaged in "expressive sitting" on the downtown sidewalks and so was able to get legal "standing" to represent myself in challenging the law's application to protests. This was really just a principled way of getting into court to take on the entire law, which had previously been upheld by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in a case arising out of Seattle. Still, I managed to convince a federal judge that my case raised novel issues and, indeed, he wound up issuing an injunction against the Tempe law and thus wiping it off the books on First Amendment grounds.

This decision was later overturned on appeal by the Ninth Circuit, following a special hearing held at the ASU College of Law. The court's decision wasn't unexpected, but neither was it determinative of the larger issue. In the process of litigating the case and organizing in the streets, many crucial facts that ultimately tipped the balance were brought to light, including: the removal of benches in the downtown area, the privatization of some of the sidewalks, the lack of adequate alternatives such as shelters in the city, the elimination of public restroom facilities and the inordinate influence that the business community had on the city council. I wound up writing my doctoral dissertation on these and other related issues, resulting in two books on the subject, the most recent of which is "Lost in Space: The Criminalization, Globalization and Urban Ecology of Homelessness" (LFB Scholarly, 2008). I mention all of this in no way to promote my own work, but merely to admit to a profound inclination against these laws derived from years of personal immersion and professional research alike.

Thus, we arrive in San Francisco, circa 2010. As is often the case, the ordinance has been proposed by a political figure - in this case Mayor Gavin Newsom - citing tried, true and trite "safety and civility" concerns. Supporting the mayor are the local police interjecting typically hyperbolic rhetoric such as references in the media to "bands of thugs blocking sidewalks and bullying merchants, pedestrians and neighborhood residents." The mayor himself claims to have decided to put forward the new law "after walking along Haight Street with his infant daughter and seeing someone smoking crack and blocking the entrance of a business." Not only are such allusions right out of the demonization playbook, but they are also completely disingenuous since the behaviors referenced - blocking sidewalks, harassing people, smoking crack and restricting access to businesses - are already illegal under existing laws. Proponents almost always will claim that it is "conduct, not status" being punished with these sit-lie laws, but the conduct that is often cited is already prohibited, begging the question of why relatively innocuous acts like sitting are being placed into the criminalization loop. And, please, don't buy the arguments that the police need more tools, and that existing laws are too cumbersome because they require complaining witnesses or the like - our criminal justice system easily seems to procure more than enough convictions every day, even operating within the limits of such tedious constraints.

The main reason for the preference toward criminalization of low-level behaviors is fairly straightforward. Under our legal system, "status crimes" are generally taboo, so the easiest way to attack a particular group is to isolate a behavior common (or even exclusive, if possible) to it and criminalize that conduct. Think of other public-place laws regarding skateboarding (targeting youth), "cruising" (youth of color) and even congregating (youth "gangs"); these are often sold as neutral prohibitions on conduct that apply equally to everyone even though it is widely understood that only certain demographics regularly engage in the behavior - recalling Anatole France's famous remark that "the law in its majesty draws no distinction, but forbids rich and poor alike from begging in the streets or sleeping in the public parks." By criminalizing sitting on the sidewalks, the law is singling out a group of people who generally lack better alternatives in terms of places to sit, such as sidewalk cafes or their own living room couches. Moreover, for many street people, sitting is understood as a passive posture that can convey need in a nonthreatening manner while doing so visibly and without shame.

In this regard, sitting is an expressive behavior. It has been utilized for purposes of political transformation on innumerable occasions, in places ranging from buses and lunch counters to university offices and, yes, sidewalks. With available spaces for public demonstration rapidly shrinking in the era of privatization, regulation and consumption, it is vitally important that we resist further colonization of the remaining public spaces of our cities. Sidewalks are part of that small class of "traditional public forums" where First Amendment rights of expression, assembly and petitioning for redress apply and, thus, sidewalks (like streets and parks, as the Supreme Court observed in the 1939 Hague case) "have immemorially been held in trust for the use of the public and, time out of mind, have been used for purposes of assembly, communicating thoughts between citizens and discussing public questions." The fact that these precious and eroding public forums are being lost in the name of commercialism and sanitization is all the more troubling.

Indeed, cities sometimes have found that when they attempt to "clean up and clear out" their public spaces to create more business-friendly environments, things can go awry and the very qualities that make for an interesting "destination point" can be lost in the process. This is particularly true of an area such as Haight-Ashbury, one of the primary tourist locales in San Francisco and also ground zero for the proposed no-sitting law. People likely to be found sitting on sidewalks there include poets, musicians and artists in addition to homeless people and youths. A recent USA Today article highlights many of these concerns and further notes that the law "would also make lounging near the entrance of Golden Gate park" illegal as well. Yet, while certain alleged behaviors and competing community values in the Haight are central to the public dialogue, the primary version of the ordinance being proposed (two versions were initially proffered) would enact the no-sitting ban on a citywide scale from 7:00 AM to 11:00 PM, rendering it one of the nation's most restrictive sit-lie laws. Tellingly, the text of the proposed law notes that "the prohibition applies Citywide in order to prevent displacement of violators from one district or neighborhood to another," but it makes no mention of where people will in fact be displaced to if a citywide ban is imposed. Simply running them off to neighboring cities is shortsighted and counterproductive in the larger struggle to address the complex social issue of homelessness.

We are living in a time where drawn-out recession has caused a spike in homelessness, not just among the unemployable or substance-addled, but also among working class people, families, veterans and children. Many of the young people frequenting the public sidewalks are in fact refugees of a sort, oftentimes fleeing from abusive situations even as they express their defiance and autonomy in ways that can sometimes be seen as incompatible with social norms of civility. Rather than the punitive arm of the law being brought to bear - with violators potentially receiving fines of up to $500 and terms of imprisonment of up to 30 days just for sitting down! - We ought to be expending our collective energies and political capital on constructive and compassionate solutions that protect everyone's rights and interests rather than privileging those of one class against another. Time and again, cities opt for these patterns of criminalization and demonization, which do nothing whatsoever to address the underlying problem and, in fact, make it worse by stigmatizing certain groups and undermining community cohesion.

Predictably, despite such concerns, the public seems to support the ordinance, at least based on the initial stories and quotes featured in the media and likewise local news outlets, which have editorially endorsed the law as well. This is par for the course, especially in the early stages of the debate where primarily police and politicians have their views reflected in the popular consciousness. Yet, critical voices have begun to emerge in the community, including one local columnist who described the law as "an overly broad, complicated and expensive option for fixing a very specific problem.... It's like killing a housefly with a flamethrower." Another blogger has accused the mayor of "political opportunism" and notes that the Board of Supervisors ironically met to discuss the sit-lie issue on the same day that the US Interagency Council on Homelessness was meeting in the city to gather public input on a strategic plan to end homelessness, concluding with this cogent suggestion: "start with 'don't outlaw sitting.'" And a local television report included comments from a citizen member of the Police Commission Board calling it "a draconian law," and an ACLU representative observing that the law would be "criminalizing innocent conduct" and is a "backward step" in addressing the root issues.

In fact, community voices are only just beginning to be heard. Activists held an all-day "Sidewalks Are for People!" citywide event on March 27, with demonstrators occupying and celebrating their public spaces in as many as 50 locations around the city. A concomitant web site and Facebook page have been established around the theme of "Stand Against Sit-Lie," drawing myriad postings and testimonials against the ordinance. Concerned residents like Andy Blue, a local organizer, told me that the proposed law "doesn't represent what this city is about.... We want to show that San Francisco is unified in its celebration of public space, civil liberties and a tradition of compassion." Many organizations that work with homeless populations will be offering their views about how to address the matter in nonpunitive ways. One such group, the Coalition on Homelessness (COH), focuses in particular on empowerment-based strategies that strive to foster "the active participation of homeless and low-income San Francisco residents and front-line staff in the struggle for economic and social justice." In this manner, as civil rights organizer Bob Offer-Westort of the COH recently told me, local organizations have been "turning homeless youth from the Haight-Ashbury out for hearings" and striving to ensure that "homeless people were able to be part of the hearing process." This is crucial to not merely opposing a bad law, but to further articulating contrasting perspectives and inclusive alternatives in its stead.

This task has been undertaken from a number of fronts including, as Offer-Westort noted, "a group of students in a journalism program [who] interviewed merchants on Haight Street to get varying perspectives on the proposed law. Everyone they spoke to either opposed the law because it was mean-spirited and constitutionally [problematic], or because they thought that it was a dumb idea that wouldn't really make homeless kids go away. They were unable to locate a proponent." On the question of public polling showing support for the ordinance, he observed that the poll question was posed in a demonstrably loaded manner: "Would you support a law that prohibited people who were sitting or lying down from obstructing the sidewalk and harassing pedestrians?" (Note that the proposed law criminalizes any act of sitting and, thus, targets neither obstruction nor harassment.) Based on his experiences as a homeless rights advocate, Offer-Westort concluded, "because the hatred of homeless people is still so socially acceptable, [big business interests] see sit-lie as a good wedge issue to turn the electorate conservative," and likewise that due to the ongoing recession, "poor people get scapegoated [and] it's way easier, psychologically, for some merchants to think that they can do something about the situation by attacking homeless youth" than to address the issues in more direct and comprehensive ways.

The presence of individuals and organizations with sophisticated critiques and longstanding connections to the issues bodes well for a positive outcome for all residents - homeless and housed alike - in this potentially divisive matter. As one of the true jewels of America, San Francisco occupies a unique place in the cultural and political workings of the past half-century. The forward-thinking, transformative and eclectic perspectives embodied by the people that call the city their home have served as something of a beacon of hope for those of us scattered among the more reactionary environs of the country. The fact that a city as creative and dynamic as San Francisco would even consider replicating the failed strategies of less innovative locales is troubling. Fortunately, the contest is only just beginning and the tide is already starting to turn away from knee-jerk criminalization regimes and toward the longer-lasting promise of compassionate and constructive resolutions to pressing issues.

(Source of article: truthout dot org)

Randall Amster J.D., Ph.D., teaches peace studies at Prescott College and serves as the executive director of the Peace & Justice Studies Association. His most recent book is the co-edited volume "Building Cultures of Peace: Transdisciplinary Voices of Hope and Action" (Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2009).

Posted by Sam on Apr. 19, 2010 @ 1:19 am

"People likely to be found sitting on sidewalks there include poets, musicians and artists in addition to homeless people and youths."

This guy is opposed to sit lie right?

Posted by glen matlock on Apr. 19, 2010 @ 1:55 am

Thank you, Randall Amster, for the lengthy article above. It’s refreshing to see that some opponents of the sit-lie law can do more than engage in ad hominem slandering.

Some reflections follow.

You say:

“San Francisco is poised to become the latest in a string of cities to adopt a law making it a crime to sit on the sidewalk.”

Not quite. Both the wording and the effect of the law are to give foot patrols the power to direct sidewalk squatters to move along. There will be only negligible citations.

You say:

“to the homeless people who are the primary targets”

Wrong. The target is abusive behavior, not a class of people. And very few of the people who engage in this behavior are San Franciscans who have become homeless.

You say:

“many in the community perceived as unnecessary, cruel, unusual and really just plain asinine.”

Really? All this because police will now have the power to keep sidewalks from being blocked, without first having a formal civilian complaint?

You say:

“sitting is an important form of legitimate social protest.”

The law provides an exception for political protests.

You say:

“I managed to convince a federal judge that my case raised novel issues”

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld Seattle’s law. San Francisco’s is based on Seattle’s. The jurisdiction of the Ninth Court of Appeals includes San Francisco.

You say:

“the ordinance has been proposed by a political figure - in this case Mayor Gavin Newsom”

The mayor acted in response to a public outcry for safer sidewalks.

You say:

“Supporting the mayor are the local police interjecting typically hyperbolic rhetoric such as references in the media to ‘bands of thugs blocking sidewalks and bullying merchants, pedestrians and neighborhood residents.’”

This is not hyperbolic rhetoric. I live in the neighborhood in question and have personally witnessed the problem. Do you live in this neighborhood?

You say:

“blocking sidewalks, harassing people, smoking crack and restricting access to businesses - are already illegal under existing laws.”

Not in San Francisco! Unlike any other place, this city is burdened by two General Orders of the Police Commission that forbid police to direct side-squatters to move along unless there is first a formal civilian complaint. These General Orders are the result of a court ruling. The Commission cannot unilaterally rescind them.

You say:

“By criminalizing sitting on the sidewalks, the law is singling out a group of people who generally lack better alternatives in terms of places to sit”

Not true. This neighborhood is one most park-rich neighborhoods in the cities. The parks have ample benches and places on which to sit or lie.

The sidewalks themselves are often thronged with visitors, residents, and tourists. To allow people to sprawl out on the sidewalks at will causes serious obstruction problems. Not to mention the drug-dealing and other activities that the squatters commonly engage in.

You say:

“it is vitally important that we resist further colonization of the remaining public spaces of our cities.”

The colonization is being carried out by the packs of migratory and threatening drug addicts and alcoholics who squat on the sidewalks, undermining the public’s right to civility in public places.

You say:

“This is particularly true of an area such as Haight-Ashbury, one of the primary tourist locales in San Francisco and also ground zero for the proposed no-sitting law. People likely to be found sitting on sidewalks there include poets, musicians and artists in addition to homeless people and youths.”

More than that! There are packs of migratory addicts and alcoholics who flock here, in search of an easy supply of drugs and weak law enforcement. So far, you haven’t mentioned them at all, yet they are the problem.

Your article is a theoretical, arm-chair dissertation, written from a distance by someone who has very little first-hand experience of what it is like to live in this neighborhood.

You say:

“it [the law] makes no mention of where people will in fact be displaced to if a citywide ban is imposed.”

The city has an abundant shelter system. Many of the migratory addicts and alcoholics refuse to use the shelters. Moreover, many refuse the available recovery services, which are highly concentrated in this neighborhood.

You say:

“We are living in a time where drawn-out recession has caused a spike in homelessness”

I’ve lived here for 35 years. Spikes in the colonization of the sidewalks by the migratory addicts and alcoholics go up and down in accordance with the availability of drugs, the weather, and the effectiveness of law enforcement. There have been big spikes in times of economic prosperity, and low troughs in times of economic adversity.

The underlying reality is a nomadic subculture that is committed to drug addiction and hostile to recovery.

You say:

“Many of the young people frequenting the public sidewalks are in fact refugees of a sort”

They come from all economic classes and all age groups. What they have in common is addiction and refusal to accept recovery programs.

You say:

“Rather than the punitive arm of the law being brought to bear - with violators potentially receiving fines of up to $500 and terms of imprisonment of up to 30 days just for sitting down!”

The law is tailored to have the squatters move along, not arrest them. In cities that have a similar law, there are very few actual citations.

The Sheriff of San Francisco, who runs the jail, said he expects no increase in the size of the prison population as a result of the law.

You say:

“Yet, critical voices [against the law] have begun to emerge in the community”

They aren’t going to get very far if they keep acting like characters out of a Monty Python movie.

You say:

“And a local television report included comments from a citizen member of the Police Commission Board calling it ‘a draconian law’”

That was one member of the Commission. She didn’t even know that the Commission is the cause of the problem, with its two General Orders, mentioned above. She had never heard of them, when I drew them to her attention. She is ill informed.

You say:

“Activists held an all-day ‘Sidewalks Are for People!’ citywide event on March 27, with demonstrators occupying and celebrating their public spaces in as many as 50 locations around the city.”

They claimed over 1,200 RSVPs. But there were far fewer participants. The last city-wide polls showed 71% approval for a sit-lie law among voters.

Your article reminds me of the distantly written, arm-chair oriented, ill-informed pieces that appeared some years ago against the Care Not Cash initiative, proposed by then-supervisor Gavin Newsom.

The voters weren’t fooled. Care Not Cash passed, and Newsom used support for it as his energy base in becoming mayor.

There’s a lesson here.

Posted by Arthur Evans on Apr. 19, 2010 @ 9:55 am

71% of 500 people (that's only 355) told the Chamber of Commerce they would support a law that would prohibit individuals from harassing pedestrians on the sidewalk. That was the actual wording of the question.
Only a desperate old attention addict would try to mislead people into confusing a biased poll of 500 people with all of "the voters" in San Francisco.

Over a thousand San Francisco Voters demonstrated their opposition to the ridiculous No Sitting On The Sidewalk Law (you can go to jail just for sitting in front of your own home) on March 27th.
That’s more than a thousand people who took action (as well as enjoying themselves, their neighborhoods, and the company of their neighbors and tourists), as opposed to 355 people answering the phone when the agenda driven Chamber of Commerce called.
And it means that 3 times as many voters are opposed to the No Sitting On The Sidewalk Law as those who said they would support it, if it prohibited harassment of pedestrians.
Not surprisingly, the Chamber of Commerce neglected to inform the 355 voters that existing law already prohibits this.

It is also no surprise that Arthur Evans has labored so desperately to misrepresent these points and to belittle the enormous number of people in San Francisco that do not share in his dream of people going to jail for behavior he deems impolite or uncivil.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 19, 2010 @ 11:51 am

I see, Guest, that you are determined to make up for the intelligent tone of Randall Amster’s article by bringing things down to your own level again.

You say:

“71% of 500 people (that's only 355) told the Chamber of Commerce they would support a law that would prohibit individuals from harassing pedestrians on the sidewalk.”

That’s right. You’d better believe it. Denial will get you nowhere.

You say:

“Only a desperate old attention addict would try to mislead people …”

Here come the age-ist, ad hominem slanders again.

You’re not going to win over the undecided voters with this sort of behavior, not mention senior citizens who are concerned about public safety.

You say:

“Over a thousand San Francisco Voters demonstrated their opposition …”

Yeah, sure, and the sun revolves around the earth, too.

Posted by Arthur Evans on Apr. 19, 2010 @ 12:48 pm

Tom Ammiano who is opposed to sit lie as an infringement on rights and all of the rest of the cliche has proposed that the city put cameras up at the freeway on ramp on Market to catch people who make illegal left hand turns.

So these concerns about rights and creeping government at least by him are a bit opportunistic.

Posted by glen matlock on Apr. 19, 2010 @ 2:37 pm

Your discrimination against the homeless is a mirror to the discrimination against homosexuals in the past. You are no better than a homophobic person, or a misogynist, in my opinion.

When you make generalizations about the transient people, the homeless people, the street kids in San Francisco, all I hear is hate speech and fear, very much like the hate speech and fear of homophobes. You may think 'There is no comparison, it is completely different'
Well, I have news for you, discrimination is discrimination, it does damage no matter how you go about presenting it. Homeless people are people too, each with a story of his/her own, each with feelings and ideas and weaknesses and strengths. Your intolerance and hate sicken me to the core.

Posted by Kelly Pierce on Apr. 19, 2010 @ 4:11 pm
Wow

Gays do not choose to be gay, many people do not choose to be homeless, but some people choose to harass their fellow citizens. Conflating a lack of choice in behavior or situation with thugism is ridiculous.

Your argument from moral outrage is so wearing, also the string of learned buzzwords doesn't lend your position a lot of credence.

The whole moral outrage stance in its attempt to be the end of the subject, "I'm outraged and my outrage entitles me to berate you, my moral outrage entitles me to win this round, arguing with me makes you as bad as a homophobe, if you defend your position my outrage has you cornered as being as bad as a misogynist because my moral outrage has set the terms of the debate, I win because I say so!"

Posted by glen matlock on Apr. 19, 2010 @ 4:50 pm

The problems on Haight Street were nothing new, and of such a limited nature that they were solved within a week last December by police enforcing already existing laws.
“Haight Street is looking great.” C.W. Nevius declared on Dec. 24.
sfist.com/2009/12/24/nevius_confirms_sfists_story_haight.php

As for the manufactured panic and fears of “thugs with dogs”, it turns out that, after six weeks of daily patrols and strict enforcement, the SFPD says:“We have not found any menacing dogs,”
“instead of encountering aggressive animals, the officers discovered the more-common issue was unlicensed and off-leash dogs.”
sfexaminer.com/local/Dogs-becoming-concern-on-Haight-90906099.html

To sum up:
If the problems that a handful of alarmist cranks used to foment fear and panic across the city was solved in a week by police enforcing already existing laws, we obviously don’t need a new law that robs all San Franciscans of our civil rights.

This unneccesary law threatens REAL rights, including the right to sit in public, as opposed to imaginary rights, like ”the right to sidewalk civility”.
The idea that civility, or courtesy, or politeness ought to be legislated and that police should jail those who violate politeness laws would be laughable if it were not so nightmarish and Un-American.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 19, 2010 @ 4:15 pm