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You ask your district rep and I’ll ask mine – is Chico still collecting money for the “Shelter Crisis Designation,” and if so, where is it going?

22 Dec

It’s hard not to obsess about the transient camps when they are the first thing you see driving out of your neighborhood. We have to contrive NOT to drive by tents as we go out and about town. Living just a couple of blocks from Bidwell Park is like having a salt patch on a burn, rub it in, rub it in. Having to read letters like this in the paper is a Super Burn.

ENTERPRISE RECORD, 12/12/2020

Merry Christmas, here’s a fine for being homeless.

Is stunning lack of empathy a conservative trait?

Our community members are hurting. They have been burned out, priced out, and driven outdoors. As winter approaches they are living in tents in the park because we have a lack of affordable housing, a lack of shelter space, and a lack of social services in this county.

The conservative “solution” to this problem isn’t to create more space and services, it is to levy a fine on people whose backs are already against the wall. What do they think this is going to accomplish apart from creating a criminal class, and putting the police into contact with a population they have dealt with notoriously poorly in the past?

Can the conservatives not see the ridiculous, and by that I mean worthy of ridicule, nature of their “solution”? These people aren’t rolling in dough, if they were they’d have a house to go too.

I keep hearing conservatives say homeless people are simply lazy and need to pull themselves up. Really? The numbers of homeless are rising nationwide. Did all of these people suddenly decide to abandon their homes and be lazy? Or perhaps is there some systemic pressure that is putting people on the streets en masse?

Speaking of lazy, this conservative “emergency resolution” is about the laziest piece of legislating I’ve ever seen. If this is the best the conservative majority can come up with, Chico is in for a long 2 years.

— Bob Howard, Los Molinos

The first burn is having met Bob Howard as “Mad Bob,” a musician who made his home in Los Molinos years back, but still thinks he is allowed to complain about what we are doing in Chico.  Bob doesn’t have to look at these people, he can live in his romantic imagination – they’re just vagabonds, free spirits! They’re not going to rob his garage while he’s at work, or sell his kid crank at the playground, or stand across the street staring at his wife or college age daughter while they yank off in the bushes. 

The second burn is in agreeing with him somewhat – the new parks ordinance is a lazy and worthless piece of legislation. Read it yourself, I don’t think you need to be a lawyer to see it has no teeth whatsoever, just another discretionary law. Like, move along Buddy, and if I catch you beating off in the bushes outside this sorority house again… well… I’ll counsel you and move you along… again… 

You heard another musician say this. “Meet the New Boss. Same as the Old Boss.” And the beards have, indeed, all grown longer overnight. The “conservatives” have done quite the about-face, all the sudden we have to find “some place for them to go.” 

A friend of mine was expressing frustration with a situation in his neighborhood. He lives very near the old Louisiana Pacific lumber yard, where he has seen transients camping for years. People seem to forget how many fires have been started there – an entire building burned down one winter – by transients. My friend and a neighbor of his have not only called the fires in but have run over to the site with picks and shovels to beat the flames back themselves. Right in the middle of a densely populated neighborhood, the city allows illegal campers to threaten homes with elderly and children inside. I’d have to ask Mad Bob – whose backs are against the wall here? 

Why aren’t these arsonists jailed? If you listen to the Chico side of the story, it’s because county DA Mike Ramsey won’t prosecute Chico Muni Code violations. Well, isn’t arson a federal offense? I would guess Ramsey is sick of trying to prosecute for urinating/defecating in public, littering and illegal camping because those are only misdemeanors. With our pathetically inadequate jail and now COVID, they would just be processed and released.  But I can’t believe he won’t prosecute for starting illegal fires. A local transient who fire bombed a college girl’s bedroom was arrested and held, but illegal campers who threaten people’s homes are not?  My friend says the fires are put out and the transients just disappear, no one is held accountable.  I believe this is a Chico problem, starting with cops who are unwilling to do their jobs and council members who are unwilling to push them to do their jobs because the Chico Police Officers Association is a big player in every local election. 

But yesterday I realized that the real lynchpin to this entire problem is the Shelter Crisis Designation, and the annual pot of money received for declaring it. Here’s a question for your district rep: why aren’t they discussing that declaration, and overturning it? Ask if they are still receiving the grant for this designation, and if so, what are they spending it on? 

I’ll  get back to you with my rep’s response, you do same. 

 

Time to sue the county of Butte

13 Dec

Well, you know how I love to say “I told you so…” So, I told you so – despite a lot of tough talk out of the local conservatives, the bum camps have not disappeared from our parks and waterways, in fact, there are more tents in both Bidwell Park and the “Devil’s Triangle” next to the Pine/Cypress bridge today than there were a week ago. The “urgency” ordinance passed last Tuesday by our new, conservative SUPER MAJORITY is toothless. I even got one of the conservatives to say it – “we can’t clear the camps until we find someplace for them to go…”

The real problem, according to Chico PD officer Scott Zuchin, is County DA Mike Ramsey’s refusal to prosecute for Chico Municipal Code offenses. 

As Zuchin reported on Chico First Facebook, “Unless something has changed, any misdemeanor violations of CMC Chapter 9 are filed by the city attorney. The DA won’t prosecute Chico CMC’s. That was the problem from the beginning of adding camping and waterways. Infractions were meaningless and misdemeanors were not getting filed. With regard to being an enforcement tool, the camping and waterways ordinances were a failure.”

Well, there it is, from a guy who actually is charged with enforcing the laws – they’re unenforceable if there’s no cooperation between the county DA and the city attorney. I’m no lawyer, but I forced myself to read the entire ordinance, along with the old ordinance, and I already saw it was vague and left too much discretion to both arresting officers and the court, including the DA.

Lawyer Rob Berry seems to agree, but he constantly lets the city out of any responsibility for the problem.  “That is true, but that, like drug adn mental treatment, is a failure that does not belong to the City of Chico. Our job is to establish and enforce constitutional laws for the benefit of the general welfare of our citizens. Jails, prosecution and the penal codes belong to the county and state. We have to continue to work to find a way to not make them meaningless. By the way, violation of camping and dumping ordinances are also violations of various state and federal laws. The problem is enforcement and meaningful consequences. If a law that makes perfect sense cannot be enforced, we need to change that. Let’s make sure, as a first step, that Chico is not the bottleneck to those changes.”

Rob, old Dog, Chico Staff wrote the ordinance, and the boobs on council passed it. Staff also recommended the Shelter Crisis Declaration and the Consolidation of Services at the fairgrounds. That netted the city over $8 million in state (and federal?) funding. 

Zuchin reiterates his statement, this time explaining the city attorney’s role in this mess. “I totally agree. In this case it will be up to the city attorney to file charges on misdemeanor CMC violations. Problem solved. Use of state and federal laws are obviously another option. However, it will then by up to our local DA or state prosecutor to file the charges. It is my experience that our DA did not file 647e PC or 602 PC violations related to camping. Why? Because the city adopted their own camping and waterway ordinances. So, the problem with enforcement was the city attorney would not file the misdo CMC violations and the DA wouldn’t file penal code violations. That was my experience but perhaps things have changed in the 4 years since I was involved in that process.”

Zuchin admits he’s been out of that loop eversince he got reassigned and hopefully neutered after unloading his service revolver in the back of a 16 year old girl’s head. But I’ll tell you what, things have only changed for the worse. Now we have Sheriff Corey Honea telling us the jail is over capacity because of COVID, even while he’s been sitting on a $44 million grant since 2015, money that was supposed to be used to expand the jail.  I’ll guess that has been whittled away on over-generous salaries and benefits. The county also has an awesome pension deficit, a pot of money melts like butter around here. 

All Berry can do is agree. “No, you are stating the status quo correctly. But this must change. A city has the right and the duty to protect it’s own parks, and has a mandatory duty to the state and feds to protect waterways. Everyone is failing to do so. That cannot stand.”

This a far cry from his comments directly after the meeting. 

“And that, my friends, is how it’s done.Mayor Coolidge and Vice Mayor Reynolds appointed without drama. On the first significant issue, making the Park Regulations enforceable under misdemeanor penalties, the vote was 5-2. How many times have we been on the losing end of this kind of vote. But not tonight. That was 5-2 despite the illogical and inaccurate musings of Huber and Brown, and the unintelligible “explanation” by City Attorney Jared. We win. Watch us reclaim our parks and waterways.”

“CHANGE IS COMING!!!”
 
Reminds me of what Ned Pepper says to Rooster Cogburn: “I call that bold talk for a one-eyed fat man.”  Unfortunately, Rob Berry, neither fat nor one-eyed, is also no Rooster Cogburn. 

Berry, a natural mouth piece, has been telling us his new Super Council was  going to sweep this problem out the door with their new, Bad Ass Urgency Ordinance. I imagine he feels like a little boy who got a lump of coal in his Christmas stocking.

Frankly, our whole town just got handed a lump of coal. 

Here’s my idea: let’s sue the county. 

City’s proposed “park rules” ordinance needs more teeth

30 Nov
Tomorrow night our new council will discuss the difference between a “resolution” and an “ordinance”.  If you’ve never read Chico Municipal Code, now’s the time. Here’s a link to the section that will be discussed tonight.
 
According to the Staff report, you can’t enforce a “resolution,” it’s really more of a suggestion, apparently.  
 
 
“regulations in the City’s Municipal Code listed in Title 12R regarding rules and regulations related to City Parks and Playgrounds cannot be enforced by initiating criminal proceedings because they were adopted by resolution and not ordinance. This action will allow additional enforcement tools to address rules and regulations of the parks which are already on the books.”
 
The word “enforcement” comes up 11 times in the report and ordinance, with promises of criminal proceedings “by codifying such rules under the enforcement provisions of the Chico Municipal Code by ordinance., but the exact details of how they will enforce the ordinance never come up in either the report or the text of the ordinance. 
 
“Government Code Section 36900(a) states that violation of ‘a city ordinance is a misdemeanor unless by ordinance it is made an infraction. The violation of a city ordinance may be prosecuted by city authorities in the name of the people of the State of California or redressed by civil action.'”
 
And there it is, “may be”.
 
Hey, I don’t invent this crap, as I’ve been accused, I just cut-and-paste it out of city documents that are available for everybody to read. Unfortunately, judging from comments made on Engaged! Chico, nobody read the ordinance, they just assume it’s going to be a slam dunk and the tents will disappear from the park as soon as the meeting is over. 
 
From Chico Engaged:
 
“I 100% support getting back to enforcing our ordinances which will allow all of us to enjoy our beautiful natural resources together. I am pleased to see items such as this one on the agenda and look forward to its successful implementation! Thank you.”
 
“I fully support enforcement of our laws and ordinances, including in our parks and playgrounds. Let’s get back to not allowing camping, drug use, drinking, etc. in our parks. It’s time they become usable again by the law abiding citizens of this town.”
 
I have to ask these folks – what exactly do you 100%, fully support? Did you read ANY of the ordinance? The staff report promises, “violations of park rules and regulations may be enforced through not only administrative and civil code enforcement but also by criminal code enforcement and charging of violators with misdemeanors under the Chico Municipal Code.”  
 
I believe the words “may be” indicate this decision is up to the officer on scene, meaning, this ordinance is still discretionary. 
 
According to uslegal.com, Discretion is the power of a judge, public official or a private party (under authority given by contract, trust or will) to make decisions on various matters based on his/her opinion within general legal guidelines. It is a public official’s power to act in certain circumstances according to personal judgment.”  Any city employee is considered a “public official.
 
 So I went back to current municipal code, where it’s made pretty clear:
 
 
The park rangers shall be primarily responsible for enforcing the park rules and regulations adopted in this title, subject to the direction and control of the director. However, the park rangers, shall, from time to time, be assisted in enforcing the park  rules and regulations adopted in this title by city police officers.

A violation of the park rules and regulations adopted in this title shall be an infraction punishable by a fine in the manner provided for by Section 1505 of the Charter of the City of Chico.

A fine. Wow, I’m sure transients across Chico are shaking in their stolen boots. Take a look at Section 1505 of the city charter.

Section 1505.   Violations; penalties.
 
A violation of any provision of this Charter or of any ordinance or resolution of the city, or any order issued by any officer, agent or employee of the city pursuant to such ordinance or resolution shall be deemed an infraction unless such provision shall otherwise provide that such violation is a misdemeanor. All infractions shall be punished by a fine not exceeding one thousand dollars ($1,000.00) or as set by ordinance, and all misdemeanors shall be punished by a fine and/or imprisonment not exceeding the maximum penalty allowed under the general laws of the state for misdemeanors. A minimum penalty, not in excess of the maximum penalty provided for herein, may be adopted by ordinance with respect to any particular violation.
 
There it is – “a fine and/or imprisonment…” which is determined at the discretion of a city official. It also says “A minimum penalty, not in excess of the maximum penalty provided for herein, may be adopted by ordinance with respect to any particular violation.”
 
Read the ordinance yourself – there is no “maximum penalty” or any specific action listed in this ordinance. There’s nothing about repeat offenders, nothing about indecent exposure or defecating on the creek, nothing about vandalism or theft. But, here’s an irony – the next agenda item is an ordinance against dumping and prostitution, with specific fines and even threat of arrest. 
 
So, I’ll call this ORDINANCE OF THE CITY COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF CHICO, AMENDING TITLE 12 OF THE CHICO MUNICIPAL CODE BY ADDING CHAPTER 12.18, PARK RULES AND REGULATIONS what it is – another discretionary law that will not be enforced. Just like “sit and lie”.  
 
Of course, this is an “urgency” ordinance, and they’ve put a sunset of “no more than 6 months” on it. So, it’s still in the works. You still have time to chime in on Engaged! and ask them to put some teeth in their new chihuahua.