Commentary by Daniel McMullan
[dropcap]I [/dropcap]remember Measures N and O in Berkeley, the anti-homeless ordinances of 20 years ago. The crowd was so big that we had to hold the City Council meeting at the Berkeley High Auditorium. The lies they told back then seemed slicker. Today they just say anything — any lie will do.
Even on the night after the election, Gina Cova was writing for the Daily Cal that Measure S was aimed at “sidewalk encampments,” not just the simple act of sitting. Yet sidewalk encampments have been illegal for quite some time under ordinance 647 (e) P.C.
That’s a penal code I know only too well. I’d love to have it on my tombstone: “Finally. I’m not violating 647 (e) any more.” But let’s be real. I’m too poor for a decent burial.
This year they had a Measure N and O on the ballot, too. It was about taking care of Berkeley’s pools. It failed. It failed for one reason: “Where would Berkeley politics be without Dirty Pool?”
But when it came to the Yes on S group, things got as dirty as it gets.
It’s hard for me to imagine how Berkeley’s business people keep falling for this same one-trick pony. Instead of doing some real work, let’s blame people sitting, and people with no homes —again!!
What real work, you ask?
Maybe try including the people of Berkeley, for starters. We all care about where we live, not just where we sell.
I can think of dozens of things to bring people back to Telegraph Avenue. People came to Telegraph for that fabled vibe — one of its best parts being its street musicians. Telegraph Avenue should hold a “Telegraph World Street Musician Competition.” Every year. Close off the street, let people walk around, listen to the musicians, check out the vendors.
Look at the state of Haste and Telegraph today. When Andy Ross attacked the poor on behalf of business and profits, he started a trend that continues to burden Telegraph with some bad, bad Karma.
Let us bring back the best of that old vibe and help those in need with some genuine good will and imagination.
A lot of people sitting around are poor people that have places to stay, but they cost so much that they have no money left to do anything. Why not a program in cooperation with local businesses that gives these people credits for time they put in volunteering in Berkeley? These credits can be used to go to movies, get something to eat, get items they need, etc.
I would also like to develop something I call “E.T. (Errant Teenager) phone home.” That puts kids on the streets in touch with their families.
These are just a few things on my mind, but they sure beat the lame scapegoating and negative impressions our business leaders have been killing us with.
Try getting some new, more positive and nicer people to head the Telegraph Business Improvement District and the Downtown Berkeley Association. People who are willing to do great things and stop moaning about how bad these places are. Who could read their whining and ever want to buy what they are selling??
John Caner is the director of the Downtown Berkeley Association and was a major supporter of Measure S. Why would Caner, who owns a huge hilltop villa in Sonoma, want to begrudge some poor person a piece of sidewalk?
Then we come to Dr. Davida Coady of Options Recovery Services. On election day, she reportedly sent Options clients over to John Caner’s place to pick up Yes on S literature to pass out at voting stations. Homeless people asking voters to criminalize homeless people? These are people that Coady often holds the power over — the power of the legal system.
Many Options people are the very ones that would get tickets if Measure S had passed, but they are too afraid to say no, and they were too afraid to say no when Dr. Coady (fearing a loss in her power to jail people?) came out against Prop. 36, the law that gave first-time drug offenders the option to go to a real treatment program, rather than jail, for drug possession.
Why was someone who runs a recovery program so opposed to a proposition that supports and provides funding for recovery programs? And now, Options Recovery Services has no problem with sucking up all that Prop. 36 money.
When I think of laws that criminalize sitting, I am reminded of Kevin Freeman, a homeless man murdered in a Santa Rita jail cell. His crime? Being poor. Through the model that criminalizes poor people, he should have left town. But he didn’t.
So Kevin needed some more jailing. Enough jailing to end up getting his brains splattered all over a jail cell by a homicidal prisoner. That got him off our sidewalks for good. I knew Kevin as a gentle, generous man. I’m still mad about, and sad about, what happened to him.
That’s why I want to thank you, Berkeley. Thank you for seeing through the B.S. surrounding S.
As City Councilman Jesse Arreguin said, Berkeley’s spirit is better than this law. And some said he was naive. But no, he was right, and the defeat of Measure S was one of Berkeley’s finest moments. Now let’s get on to some real work.
Dan McMullan is the coordinator of the Disabled People Outside Project. McMullan was the co-treasurer of the victorious campaign to defeat Measure S. On Nov. 26, 2012, McMullan was sworn in as a Berkeley City Commissioner on the Human Welfare and Community Action Commission.
McMullan was left homeless himself after a disabling accident, and, as a result of that experience, he has worked to uphold the human rights of homeless people for many years. McMullan is most proud to be the father of two sons and one daughter.
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The Disabled People Outside Project is dedicated to helping homeless people with disabilities survive the ordeal of living outdoors this winter. We gratefully accept donations of clothes, warm coats, sleeping bags and blankets so we can help people without shelter survive the harsh weather of the winter months.
Please help us in our mission to help homeless people survive the hardships of sleeping on the streets all winter, exposed to the cold and rain. We are also in dire need of a servicable van to replace our failing current one.
Thank you so much for helping homeless people survive another winter!!!
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Please donate clothes, warm coats, sleeping bags, and blankets to the Disabled People Outside Project so we cn help homeless people survive their exposure to the cold and rain this winter. [/typography]