Once again the Arcata City Council is set this Wednesday at 6 p.m. to approve an anti-panhandling law that would effectively outlaw Girl Scout cookie vendors and the Salvation Army Santa in their misguided attempt to further persecute the growing homeless and poverty-stricken population of our community.
The proceeding link will show you the latest draft of the law, which fails to take into account most of the points raised by ACLU of Northern California staff attorneys, who sent the City of Arcata a detailed letter spelling out how unconstitutional and unenforceable their proposed ordinance is. The "new" draft keeps language effectively criminalizing ANY requests for aid (whether aggressive or peaceful) within 20 feet of any doorway or at any intersection. The ACLU of Northern California sued the City of Berkeley over a decade ago when they passed a similar law. The ACLU won, and the taxpayers of Berkeley paid for the mistake of their representatives. Can Arcata afford a similar mistake?
It's a good time to remember that our Redwood ACLU vice chair, Christina Allbright, was going to meet with the City Manager (the former Police Chief) and the City Attorney -- despite the city's claims of consulting with local citizens, the City of Arcata blew off this meeting at the last minute, and has refused to respond to any e-mails, letters or phone calls from the ACLU or anyone else in the local civil rights community. To his credit, Councilmember Shane Brinton was still willing to meet with us, and his advocacy for civil liberties in this matter has been notable.
We urge all community members who live, work or play in Arcata to visit the Arcata City Council this Wednesday evening and speak out for the dignity and worth of all persons regardless of class or circumstance. Our representatives should not use our present economic calamity to persecute the least among us and further attempt a purge of the homeless from this city just to score points in an election year.
For more information, visit http://RedwoodACLU.blogspot.com and we'll see you on Wednesday night.