One of the main reasons that I am happy to live in Berkeley is that is a city that is so legendary for it's inclusiveness and progressiveness that it is the go to punchline for jokes about those ideas. Even San Francisco, in it's liberal heyday of the aughts, could make fun of Berkeley for being too far left. Berkeley even voted against the war in Iraq WHEN IT HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH THE WAR IN IRAQ! Well, if Berkeley wants to keep that lefty reputation then it had better make sure it protects the rights of all of it's people. And homeless people are also Berkeley's people. There are many ways to approach homelessness. And reasonable people can have reasonable debates as to how to approach it. But if we take the simple actions of having a blanket, lying down, and holding a sign and turn those into criminal acts then we will lose the right to the reputation that Berkeley lives and thrives on. And it is a major disservice to people who are already in need of our help and support, because we all know that once you enter the criminal justice system --- no matter how minor the initial offense -- it can become nearly impossible to get out. These anti-homeless laws that the city council is proposing tomorrow night, June 30th, send a message about who is and who is not welcome in our public spaces. And if you know me, then you know I think we should all be able to go wherever we want on the streets of Berkeley. We should ALL be able to enjoy the sidewalks, parks, and occasionally even the cafes of our fine city.
Here's what you can do...
1) Email Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates -- firstname.lastname@example.org --- and ask him to reconsider his support of these laws. (He voted for the original version of these, which was milder than the current version). You can do this even if you don't live in Berkeley. I don't have to tell you that it will work better if you are nice and persuasive.
2. Go to the Berkeley City Council Meeting tomorrow night if you can. It's at 7pm, but I'm told that the this agenda item will be on around 10pm. Here's the address...
City Council Chambers, 2134 Martin Luther King, Jr. Way
3. Join the Facebook Group to keep updated with new information.
And if we don't do help support all of Berkeley's people, well then we might as well change the name of the city because Berkeley won't be Berkeley anymore. How about Unberkeley... or Notberkeley... or Modesto.*
*Apologies to Modesto. I'm sure it's a lovely town. I just had a bad gig there one time, every time I had a gig there.