Tag Archives: bum camps in Bidwell Park

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.