It’s All About The Shizit

An Open Letter to Ms. Liz Kniss

Liz KnissMs. Kniss:

On Saturday (9/14/12) you really hit the s**t at the League of Women Voters’ candidates’ debate. (But you are no Mrs. Robinson. I saw The Graduate 29 times and you are no Mrs. Robinson.)

But you sure did hit the shizit. You found the fecal, Friend. It’s all out there now. Talk about putting your business in the street! It’s on now! Yes, it is out, Scout.

Seriously, you performed a great service. You identified what may well be the essence of support for the Vehicle Habitation Ordinance (VHO) for at least some part of the commuity. You seem to speak for—to use your phrase—“The Personal Business Faction.”

One of the proper functions of a leader is to highlight and communicate the essence of an issue–what really matters—for members of the public.

As I understand you, you are saying that for those opposed to allowing people to be free to live in/out of vehicles the main, motivating concern is where/how/when vehicle campers toilet themselves.

Is there some reason to think that houseless people forget their toilet training? Or that we are not able to figure out where bathrooms are? Don’t people using parks or just doing their jobs or chores or out running errands have the same challenge?

It can be messy, but it’s much better to get it out rather than hold it in. If it’s about the s**t, I say let it ALL hang out! I praise you for calling it what it is. So it’s about people’s personal business. I think you hit the mother lode.

It’s not about po’ folk having the nerve to live out of vehicles–when everyone knows the NORMAL thing to do would be living out of over priced housing like most everyone else in sunny Palo Alto—it’s this big unknown, nagging question, “Where do these people s**t?”

(I keep wondering if the people who seem to want to take away our vehicles have thought through where they want us to go after we lose those vehicles. Their lawns? Downtown sidewalks? The low-cost and below-market-rate housing that the Association of Bay Area Governments is “shoving down our throats”? Oh, that’s right, such housing is heavily resisted and avoided whenever possible.)

And a very white-bread, middle-class concern this is—the defecation location question. And don’t white-bread, middle-class concerns have a right to be represented and heard?

Where/how/when do houseless people s**t? Let me first say to all people so concerned—and I speak on behalf of a wide swath of hoboes, houseless, and transients when I say it–“Thank you, for making our fecal matters the focus of your concern. Who knew you even cared?”

Let me assure you all that we all take care of our toileting issues much the way you all do, with just a little less convenience.  Maybe. For all I know, my bathroom issues may be less burdensome than yours.

You’d have to ask others who sleep in cars and on the ground to get a fuller picture, but it seems to me you just figure out somewhere you can use a toilet before you go to bed and go use it before you go to bed.

Thanks to the generosity of private Palo Alto residents, there are a number of bathrooms available 24/7 in the City, even though the City itself has a policy against allowing bathrooms in parks to be available at night. Sometimes the City builds parks purposely without bathrooms. Sometimes it just closes them at night. That’s another but related matter.

I’ve been houseless here in Palo Alto for three years this past July.  I slept in the tilt-back front seat of my car in the alley behind Happy Donuts for the first year.  I just went in Happy Donuts and used the bathroom there whenever I needed to.  There is also a bathroom Jim Davis is kind enough to leave open 24/7 in his Valero station on the corner of Los Robles and El Camino Real, just down the street from Happy Donuts.

And there’s another always-open bathroom in the Safeway on Middlefield that’s open all night.  That’s not an exhaustive list, but you get the idea.  There ARE bathrooms available.  There should be MORE bathrooms available–for us, for parents and grandparents who have to take their kids home from parks because there’s no bathroom there, for shoppers, bicyclists, walkers, seniors–just folks who might need one.

After my year in the front seat of my car in the alley behind Happy Donuts, I developed swollen lower legs. I slept out on the ground in a couple of secluded spots.

Then I went into the shelter in the Armory in Sunnyvale the following winter.  That is a fine program. I was reluctant at first. But after one night, I never left. Being able to sleep safe on a mattress on a flat floor was much better for my legs—much better than when they weren’t supported in my front seat.

After the Armory closed at the end of March, I slept outside again, but it was still kind of chilly. I’d get up in the middle of the night and go to the Coin Wash next to Happy Donuts and sleep on the folding table in the back. Almost no one washed clothes there after two a.m.

Eventually I applied and got into the Hotel de Zink where you rotate from one church to another for three months.  It’s also a fine shelter program.  Both the Armory and the Hotel de Zink had bathrooms, warmth, safety, and you could stretch out flat. Plus you got a meal every night and breakfast in the morning. In the Hotel de Zink you got lunch-making materials also.

Now I’m back sleeping in my car. I lost a bunch of weight and learned from a very tall unsheltered friend who asked if she could sleep on the front seat of my car one night that I could curl up on the back seat. At least my legs are on the same level with my heart, which the doctor says is mad important for heart health. I park near Happy Donuts and have the use of their bathroom again.

Others spend the night parked in their cars nearby. Happy Donuts is one of the great houseless resources on the Peninsula. It has drawn unhoused folks from San Jose to San Francisco who need a place to spend the night.  When you’re tired of riding the “Hotel 22″ (Number 22 VTA bus), you stumble in to Happy Donuts and spend the rest of the night with your head down on the table in front of you or hanging back over your chair or nodding. Or you stay up and watch movies or play games or do school work or read or research or have interesting conversations or write or work on projects for work or for your own startup or email or browse the web for whatever you’re interested in.

The Coin Wash next door is open 24/7 like Happy Donuts and you can watch TV there, do a laundry, read, or just sit. Sleeping there can get you awakened by some interesting people at all times of the night and early morning. After being chased out a half dozen times, I began to think I wasn’t welcome and just didn’t come back anymore.

But I digress from the focus on feces.

I looked into the issues bothering the Greenmeadow Neighborhood Association (GNA) about the people camping in cars and on the ground at Cubberley.  The GNA folks also said they were quite concerned about “defecating and urination” by the people there.

One night when I was sleeping there (on a rectangular table on the plaza behind the library), I found the Foothill College men’s room was open instead of locked as usual. It was a weekend night and there was a sign on the inside of the door saying that the bathroom was open on weekend nights.

Some checking with other car campers there revealed that the bathrooms WERE actually open on SOME weekend nights.  They were SUPPOSED to be open on ALL weekend nights (why not weekday nights also?), but when the weekend custodian was the one who didn’t like houseless folks, the bathrooms were NOT open.  On the weekends when the custodian who WAS a houseless “car camper” at Cubberley was working, he left the bathrooms unlocked.

But even though the bathrooms are usually locked, there’s still always a port-a-potty at the edge of parking lot where it meets the playing fields.

So, here was my proposal to the GNA, through their very friendly, very reasonable president Zachi Baharav:  Let’s work together on getting those bathrooms open EVERY night and then your concerns are answered AND those who live there can live a little more easily—more like YOU’D like to be able to if you found that your best option was to live in your vehicle parked in some semi-friendly location.

That was at least semi-reasonable, right? Would you believe Zachi was not able to find anyone who had toilet concerns who was also willing to meet, to discuss, or even correspond on the subject? I was quite amazed.

So, that’s why my hat is off to you, Ms. Kniss.  You popped the cork, opened the floodgates, called it what it is. I do thank you for making something that wasn’t so clear a lot clearer—just how basic this concern is.  And that it must be dealt with—it can’t be ignored just because it’s icky. You have shown the way.

My statement is:  we unsheltered take care of our s**t.  We (in general) use toilets whenever available and clean up after ourselves when they are not.  We take precautions and figure out where we can go when we need to go.

There really is not as great a problem here as you might think from hearing the concerns expressed.  I’ve smelled a lot worse streets in most other places I’ve lived. Also, there are certain sights and sounds that one experiences in any and every urban location–and in most places it’s getting more like that all the time. However, in Palo Alto the houseless population—at least at Cubberley– is not increasing.

For those caught in the jaws of the economic trap often referred to as the “greatest transfer of wealth from poor and working people to the wealthy in the history of this country,” there are certain dislocations in more than just regular housing. Convenient toilet access is not the only problem.

Decisions were made, countries were invaded, dead and dying are still multiplying.  Private enrichment at public expense has run riot and still rages on barely abated.  Wars–very, very expensive wars–were waged and not paid for.  Tax cuts were lavished on the populace and not paid for. Liar loans by investment banks (well, almost) were approved.

Wouldn’t it be awfully strange if those who’ve borne the brunt of the transfer of wealth didn’t show a sign or two of despair, poverty, and deprivation? Losing jobs, homes, vehicles (from lots of causes, not just anti-vehicle habitation ordinances)–all these lead to many dislocations—some physical, some psychological. Houseless people—poor people– have many pressures, worries, fears, and things to think about—where to use a toilet is only one of those concerns.

What are we going to do, Palo Alto?  Continue with the policy of “No Potties For the Poor” (So They Can Be Further Marginalized For Public Defecation?) like the mean custodian at Cubberley?  Or are you going to be like the good custodian at Cubberley and try to solve a “problem,” instead of exacerbate it?

Don’t be an exacerbater.  Open up the bathrooms. Cleanliness for all!

I ask you, Ms. Kniss, to take up this challenge. You’ve identified the issue, clarified the issue–now bring porcelain to the poor!  Help clean up this problem.  You were the first to call it by name.  Lead the crusade. Let a thousand toilets  flush!

Chuck Jagoda, Houseless Advocate

PA racial profiling goes unchecked – Citizens’ encouraged too report police wrongdoing

Very little progress it seems has taken place since 2008 with the resignation of former Palo Alto police chief Lynne Johnson concerning her controversial orders to stop all African Americans wearing a “Doo-rag” during a series of robberies having taken place in Palo Alto involving an African American.

We believe an alleged racial profiling vehicle stop occurred in Palo Alto on University Ave and requested to review the actual Mobile Audio Video recording (MAV) which recorded the stop to confirm our uncertainties under a California Public Records Act as a third party complaint. That request was denied in complete defiance of the law.

CPRA – Section 6255. “The agency shall justify withholding any record by demonstrating that the record in question is exempt under express provisions of this chapter or that on the facts of the particular case the public interest served by not making the record public clearly outweighs the public interest served by disclosure of the record.”

Listen closely to Palo Alto Police Chief Dennis Burns commitment to the community on open government and transparency concerning the ability to review the actual vehicle stop recording (MAV) to eliminate even the slightest perception of unconstitutional motivated racial profiling by the Palo Alto Police Department.

As citizens, what should we do if we encounter or witness police engaged in wrongful racial profiling? It’s all about “citizen participation”. “It’s incumbent upon you, it is imperative; it is your responsibility to let the authorities know”. “Take responsibility”! Say’s Harold Boyd who is a former member of the Police Chief’s Community Advisory Group. And we have…….

Up-date: At a recent city council meeting I approached city attorney Molly Stomp to advise her that the California Public Records Act mandates a legal explanation. “Do you mean you received no response”?

Yes, we received a response but it was a one line code section [“MAV is exempt from the CPRA under Government Code 6254(k)-Penal Code Section 1054.5.”] of the CPRA without any legal “justification”.

“Send it to me again but I’m not going to spend a lot of time providing a “legal summary”. We got nothing to begin with!!

All this from a seemly innocuous benign front license plate traffic stop. We believe there’s more to this story and further believe the city of Palo Alto and its Police Department, is attempting to mislead the public’s trust by not revealing the MAV recording which would demonstrate that no such selective racial profiling had taken place.

Lucrative city advertizing contract coming up for bid

BidUp for bid is Palo Alto Weekly’s lucrative 3 year advertisement contract, valued at $450,000.00, and who currently monopolizes the city’s’ legal advertisements set to expire on June 30th.

This lucrative contract actually expired on December 31th 2012, but was extended through what has been described as a number of reprieves also known as a, “service order” modifications and ultimately, “a six month extension was granted as allowed under City procedures” to the Weekly through June 30th 2013, as explained in an email communication received from David Ramberg Assistant Director of Administrative Services for the City of Palo Alto and through our initial California Public Records Act requests. (CPRA)

Reeks of a subsidy

In an editorial written by Dave Price of the Daily Post “bad idea newspapers” bitterly referred  to this contract as “Corporate Welfare” in which he describes that the city of Palo Alto was fundamentally “subsiding some news organization” namely the Weekly. We tend to agree.

The Post goes on to describe “Honest competition” leading some to suggest the the Weekly some how engaged in illegal activities to win this contract.

Price goes on and on to complain; the “Council decided to pay the Weekly as much as $450,000 over the next three years for legal notices and other advertising. We could understand if the city were to spend a few thousand dollars with the Weekly, but a six-digit figure reeks of a subsidy”.

Government subsidy Lifeline

Financial life preserverMany have called the Weekly’s contract a lifeline and infusion of fresh cash to support bludgeoning payroll and other operating expenses.

The Weekly was rumored to be teetering on the brink of bankruptcy.

So in light of what appeared to be a government sponsored bailout of nearly a half million dollars, fueled further concerns and speculations of questionable back door wheeling and dealing. A half a million dollars is a lot of money. In fact, shortly after being awarded this lucrative contract the Weekly moved into their new facilities.

On the matter of “Honest competition” as far as it concerns the Daily Post? “we don’t want a handout or subsidy.”

But we sure in the hell beleive the Daily Post would love to get a piece of this money pie. And we further believe their planning on doing so. It would only make for good business to break up the current monopoly, and ad fair competition into the legal lucrative advertising market place.

Weekly receiving questionable preferential treatment over other Newspapers

The Palo Alto Weekly has been selected because it is the only local newspaper which is adjudicated to run legal advertisements in Palo Alto.

Neither of the other two local newspapers, the Palo Alto Daily News and The Daily Post, are adjudicated to run Legal Advertisements in Palo Alto.

The Palo Alto Weekly has a large circulation in and around Palo Alto. It is delivered to all Palo Alto households, with a distribution covering the mid-Peninsula area San Francisco. In addition the Palo Alto Weekly is a free weekly publication whose target audience is the local community.”

When we presented our California Public Records Request to the city of Palo Alto for all related documents including contract information, the contract and its discovered language was not initially provided. It was only after contacting Mr. Ramberg that he directed us to a newly found city procurement link.

Honest competition and the city’s legal position or loophole

News RacksPerhaps we will never learn the true motives behind the city’s choice for the Weekly.  Only because both the Palo Alto Daily News and The Daily Post have a rather large targeted audience and a wide city distribution of ugly unsightly newspaper racks which litter our city streets.

What it boiled down to was that neither newspaper was adjudicated, in other words, sanctioned by an earlier petition from the Weekly and argued in a court of law pronouncing the Weekly through decree that they were a “newspaper of general circulation” under Government Code Section 6000-6008.

We don’t know if the Weekly provide with there proposal, a copy of there mandated petition  and decree to the city of Palo Alto or if the city even asked for one. But, we would like to see it because once again, this document was not provide originally and it should have been a part of this legal binding contract.

On the balance sheet we have no idea how this past lucrative contract contributed to the Weekly’s bottom line on profitability, but apparently it’s not enough. We recall front page announcements for solicitation, ‘Support Local Journalism’ and the launching of a ‘community membership campaign’.

As to the total number of legal announcements and city advertizements publish by the Weekly remains to be seen on the previous 3 years and we will continually up-date this story as new information is forthcoming.

Newspaper publishing may be on the verge of extinction

However, with the advent of the internet, print newspaper ads just may become a thing of the past. The demands for print ads are in crisis. “The public policy blog of the American Enterprise Institute” calls newspaper advertising business in a Free Fall and at their lowest since 1950.

We would be surprised if the Daily Post or the Daily News failed in acquiring this coveted legal document proclaiming them a “newspaper of general circulation” and in hand, if and when they submit their bids.

Were precluded from taking any part in the upcoming bidding wars do to a legal “blanket order” recorded directive issued from City of Palo Alto Attorney Molly Stump barring us from participating in any fair competition.

Sen. Jerry Hill to speak at strip club

Déjà Vu Showgirls
Déjà Vu Showgirls

State Sen. Jerry Hill, who represents the mid-Peninsula, will hold a press conference at a strip club near Sacramento this morning, asking the Legislation for more transparency when it comes to business is receiving tax breaks.

Wants more openness about tax breaks, like the one this club got

Hill, D-San Mateo, and state Sen. Anthony Cannella, R-Ceres, will be at Déjà Vu Showgirls in Rancho Cordova, a fully nude strip club that has received thousands of dollars in tax credits from state government.

According to Hills office, strip clubs would claim up to $37,000 in tax credit for each worker hired, even when they don’t create new jobs.

That’s more than the servers, waitresses and sales clerks earn in one neat year at the club, according to a press release from Hill.

“With a large, showgirl stable housing over 80+ curvaceous stage performers, this capital city locale lights-up the night with parties that are never forgotten,” The club’s website says. “And with a club capacity of over 150 reveling patrons, the party train keeps moving.”

The club got it’s tax credit from the California Enterprise Zone program and Hill  introduced Senate Bill 434 to let taxpayers know where their money is going.

The legislation would establish a database to let the public know which companies get the tax breaks and how many jobs they’ve created.

The program was set up in 1984 to create jobs to low-income communities. Gold club Centerfold in Rancho Cordova is another club that’s used the program for tax credit.

A manager at Déjà Vu told post yesterday they will not be participating in today’s press conference.

The clubs owner told Hill’s office that he did not see the tax credit but was approached by tax consultants who got a piece of pie.

Greg Munks. Photo courtesy of the San Mateo County Sheriff's Office
Greg Munks. Photo courtesy of the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office

As a side-note to this story, it is allegedly rumored that San Mateo County Sheriff Gregory Monks will be providing Hill with escort service and protection.

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The Asphalt Jungle, Cubberley Community Center, The city under the city!

asphalt_jungleWe can’t imagine any of the actors having starred in this once famous movie becoming homeless and impoverished. I believe it would be safe to say that those associated with the movie industry are gainfully employed with movie gross receipts reported at an all time high.

The picture is quite different for a disturbing number of California unemployed, that number now topples over 1 Million.

Although claims are being made were on the road to recovery, with a drop in unemployment on a national level, and a solid boon recently reported in financial circles, has causes many to give way to a much needed sigh of relief.

However, left in the wake of what has been described as the worst depression in modern times, many, many continue to find themselves without a traditional place to reside. Having lost their jobs, homes and their savings accounts has forced countless numbers of unemployed families and others to look beyond an already heavily taxed social service system for subsidized housing assistance.

Faced with savings accounts depleted and no other emergency back-up recovery system in place and a dismal economic forecast despite favorable predictions, its now becoming a matter of the “survival of the fittest”. Survival, quite often means finding oneself and or whole families living on the streets across America, living in cars in what some have defined as living in an Asphalt Jungle.

A tent with a view
A tent with a view

A subculture known as vehicle dwellers. “The city under the city”. The exact number of vehicle dwellers nationally is unknown. However, here in Palo Alto, the number hovers around 100 as previously reported in the Wall Street Journal.

Living on the the streets of Palo Alto has been a thorny issue for years prompting one local newspaper to address the problem head-on in its editorial by Jay Thorwaldson; “It’s long past time to ban ‘vehicle dwelling'” and of recent, the editorial written by Dave Price of the Daily Post; Cubberley Shelter.

In our opinion, both editorials gave rise, not to the plight of the disenfranchised or unemployed but to a seemly conscious biased attitude of, “not in our neighborhood” driving home the point further by stating; “Palo Alto has a right, and responsibility, to protect the quality of life in its neighborhoods” All to reminiscent of the media’s bigotry displayed during the 20’s directed towards African-Americans and other minorities.

Disturbing is Palo Alto’s city council’s actions being planned against the homeless vehicle dwellers and in many ways no different today. Including the powerful words of Henry Dodson, the president of the Colored Citizens Club of Palo Alto saying;

“Shame on a race that…holds in its hands the wealth of the continent and yet, not only refuses to lift his less fortunate fellow man…but seeks through humiliating, illegal ordinances and discrimination to sink him to the lowest depths of ignorance and vice”.

The fact is, people need a safe place to live, to reside, even if it’s temporarily in their cars or otherwise.

Life in The Asphalt Jungle

Located on Middlefield Road, The Palo Alto Cubberley Community Center has become that safe haven or oasis for approximately 18 vehicle and shopping cart dwellers that occupy the rear parking lots and hallways on any given night according to Alfredo Padeilla from Monterrey Mexico who has lived on the Cubberley campus for the past 18 months hoping to locate long lost relatives.

Alfredo Padeilla
Alfredo Padeilla

I asked Alfredo what life has become for him while living in this small city within a city. For the most part, living on campus is “uneventful” he stated, he’s happy and he feels his basic needs of food, shelter and clothing are cared for.

But, more importantly he feels safe. And in the 18 months living on campus he hasn’t witnessed any crime or violence. He did mention the Armories, which are used for temporary housing will be closing at the end of March. So he expects to see an increase in campus population. BTW Mr. Padeilla holds a BS degree in Anthropology.

I interviewed Adam Howard, supervisor for the City of Palo Alto who currently manages the Cubberley Community Center to describe his observations and concerns of life for homeless on campus and what he feels to be the real pressing issues. “Mental health”; he stated, “We just don’t have the proper services available to care for them”.

Aside from the occasional complaint of people sleeping in the front doorways or human waste found occasionally on the hallways, life on campus is like any other small city. Its status quo. When asked if he was aware of reported drug or alcohol related problems on campus, he was aware of police being called out, but not aware of the exact numbers.

Reported crime on campus

According to an email received from Lt. Zach Perron, media spokesperson for the Palo Alto police department, outlines some interesting statics on the number of police calls for service on the Cubberely campus.

He states;  “In 2012, the police department responded to 173 calls for service at Cubberley Community Center.  In 2011, that number was 200.

In 2010, that number was 210. Those numbers include any call for service at 4000 Middlefield Road (i.e., suspicious people, medical calls, missing people, theft reports, auto burglaries, etc.), either in one of the buildings or in one of the parking lots, to which a police officer or animal control officer responded.”

Our officers will respond to calls of suspected criminal activity at Cubberley (like we will do anywhere in town, of course) and only take appropriate enforcement action if a municipal code or state law is being violated.  Every call is evaluated on a case-by-case basis with the information available to the officers on scene.”

For the moment vehicle dwellers will remain

Vehicle Habitation
Vehicle Habitation

The city of Palo Alto for the moment is the only city that does not prohibit vehicle dwellers from sleeping in their cars. In fact, Palo Alto vehicle dwellers received a reprieve to a planned proposal which would outright ban vehicle dwellers from inhabiting our streets.  City council voted against the proposal by the Policy and Services Committee in a vote 3 to 1 back in November of last year.

However, the uncertainty and future of this ban still remains unclear.  Lt. Perron further adds; “Since any proposed vehicle habitation ordinance is still under consideration from City Council based in part on input from City staff, there is currently no municipal code in effect that prohibits anyone from sleeping in their vehicle overnight anywhere in Palo Alto.”

So for the moment, it’s a wait and see, based on community input, and the police we may add, which will determine the continued fate of; “The Asphalt Jungle-Cubberley Community Center-The city under the city!”

Civil Disobedience and the Necessity Defense Vehicle Habitation Legal Fund

And why the need for a Necessity Defense Vehicle Habitation Legal Fund?

By some estimates millions of Californians still find themselves unemployed or underemployed despite a reported uptick in our economy.

As it stands, over 1 million Californians have lost all unemployment benefits and it may in fact be years before we see the light of day on any real job recovery on a state or national level.

Never-the-less, our present day economy has forced many families to live on streets across America in their vehicles and the city of Palo Alto is no exception.

This has given rise to some in the community of Palo Alto to voice their concerns of vehicles parked overnight in their neighborhoods prompting city officials to consider an outright ban on overnight vehicle habitation.

Over the past two years, the city of Palo Alto in a shared community outreach effort has engaged all city vehicle habitation dwellers and their major stake holders to come up with a plan or ordinance which satisfies the needs of all concerned.

Palo Alto’s police Chief Dennis Burns recently presented questionable data on the actual number of vehicle dweller complaints, but failed in presenting any comparable data on the number of calls for service on unruly bar patron’s or for that mater any other calls for service.

This fact alone has many vehicle dwellers claiming fool play to the existence of any real problems at all.  They feel it’s the affluent vs. disenfranchised or “not in my neighborhood” mentality and reminiscent of racial segregation calls of the 60’s .

Some have even gone as far as to believe that Chief Dennis Burns presented the equivalent of “filing a false police report” to the Policy and Services Committee claiming by his personal appearance alone, “Stacked the Deck” against the vehicle dwellers.

They also claim city attorney Molly Stump in collaboration with the chief, ordered members of the press banned from covering public discussion on city government property.

All designed some further contend, without the benefit of any real transparency and open government to quietly enact a new city ordinance designed to purge the disenfranchised off the streets of Palo Alto prompting one civic watchdog and civil rights attorney Aram James to release the following statement:

“I don’t want the city jamming this draconian ordinance down the throats of the unsheltered community–and at this point this is how they are using the Eugene Ordinance–as a threat i.e., either develop and take responsibility for a Eugene like program–or we will be forced to oppose  this oppressive ordinance.

Given my limited time and particular skill set –I will continue to focus my energies on educating CCT members (community cooperation team)–and others in the unsheltered Community–on possible legal strategies to consider–necessity, nullification–and maybe constitutional challenges.”

The history of America is enshrined in acts of civil disobedience.  From the civil rights movement of the 60’s to the modern day Occupy Movement that has taken the U.S. by storm by highlighting the many social injustices impacting the working class.

For this reason we have decided to launch and establish a Necessity Defense Vehicle Habitation Legal Fund designed to defend vehicle dwellers against the city of Palo Alto through legal representation should the city of Palo Alto enact a specially designed ordinance to rid its’ disenfranchised vehicle dweller off the city streets of Palo Alto.

“Unjust laws exist: shall we be content to obey them, or shall we endeavor to amend them, and obey them until we have succeeded, or shall we transgress them at once?. . . . . . If the injustice [of the machine of government] has a spring, or a pulley, or a rope, or a crank, exclusively for itself, then perhaps you may consider whether the remedy will not be worse than the evil; but if it is of such a nature that it requires you to be the agent of injustice to another, then, I say, break the law. Let your life be a counter friction to stop the machine.” -Henry David Thoreau-

If you wish, you may contribute to the Necessity Defense Vehicle Habitation Legal Fund any amount will be welcomed by utilizing the “Donate” feature located on the front page of Palo Alto Free Press allowing your contributions to civilly stop this seemingly unjust city planned ordnance.  You will receive an email acknowledgement of your contribution in addition to a quarterly statement of all monies held in trust.

To assist our readers to understand why the need for “Necessity Defense” and it’s history, the following is being provided……..

A Brief Case Look at necessity defense.

‘Freedom of expression in a free society includes freewheeling public dissent on controversial political issues of the day. Civil disobedience is a form of protest that, while usually peaceful, involves violating the law—usually by trespassing on government property, blocking access to buildings, or engaging in disorderly conduct.

Civil disobedience has been called “the deliberate violation of law for a vital social purpose.”1 In their day in court, civil disobedients have at times sought to interpose the necessity defense to justify their conduct.

The necessity defense asserts that breaking the law was justified in order to avert a greater harm that would occur as a result of the government policy the offender was protesting. Protestors will seek to invoke the necessity defense not so much to gain acquittal from the relatively minor charges, but to advance the more important objective of publicly airing the moral and political issues that inspired their act of civil disobedience.

There is the hope of gaining notoriety for a cause by discussing it in court, and “educating” the jury about political grievances or other social harms. The strategy is meant to appeal to a higher principle than the law being violated—the necessity of stopping objectionable government policies—and to let the jury have an opportunity to weigh their technically illegal actions on the scales of justice.

Acquittal is of course hoped for in the end but may be quite low on the protestors’ list of priorities. The necessity defense is attractive to reformers who practice civil disobedience because it allows them to deny guilt without renouncing their socially driven acts. It offers a means to discuss political issues in the courtroom, a forum in which reformers can demand equal time and, perhaps, respect. Moreover, its elements allow civil disobedients to describe their political motivations. In proving the imminence of the harm, they can demonstrate the urgency of the social problem.

In showing the relative severity of the harms, they can show the seriousness of the social evil they seek to avert. In establishing the lack of reasonable alternatives, they can assault the unresponsiveness of those in power in dealing with the problem and prod them to action. And in presenting evidence of a causal relationship, they can argue the importance of individual action in reforming society. Thus, the elements of the necessity defense provide an excellent structure for publicizing and debating political issues in the judicial forum.

The goal of describing their political motivations to the jury, and implicitly to the media, is subject to numerous hurdles inherent in the necessity defense. In most instances, as we will see, courts will rule as a matter of law that the actors have failed in the offer of proof regarding the elements of the necessity defense so that the jury rarely is given the chance to weigh in on the matter.

On the other hand, if the defense is allowed, the jury is called upon to weigh controversial political issues and to function as the “conscience of the community.” “Reflected in the jury’s decision is a judgment of whether, under all the circumstances of the event and in the light of all known about the defendant, the prohibited act, if committed, deserves condemnation by the law.”

In cases where judges have been persuaded to allow the necessity defense, juries have, often enough, delivered not guilty verdicts. This article will first examine the nature of civil disobedience, and distinguish between direct and indirect civil disobedience. Part II highlights some historical examples of civil disobedience.

Part IV then examines the principles of the necessity defense, analyzing each of the elements that make up the defense, illustrated with cases on point. Next, Part V will turn to an analysis of several abortion-protest cases that raise issues different from other types of civil disobedience cases. Part VI then will examine Viet Nam era civil disobedience cases. Following that, Part VIII will explore a unique defense known as the Nuremberg Principles defense.’

Civil Disobedience and the Necessity Defense

Draconian Pending City Ordinance

Implementation of the necessity defense in case of criminalization of homelessness

Necessary Defense from ending the threat of nuclear war

Why a fundamental understanding of jury nullification is so critical to taking back our criminal justice system

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Palo Alto critical turning points, scandals most likely not discussed by city official

Palo Alto Councilman and Attorney Larry Klein
Palo Alto Councilman and Attorney Larry Klein

Councilman Larry Klein will address “Turning points in Palo Alto History” at the annual dinner at Palo Alto Historical Association on June 5.

A resident Palo Alto since 1967, Klein served on the City Council from 1981 two 1998, then returned in 2005 and was re-elected in 2009. He also served three times as mayor and is an attorney.

The dinner will be at Ming’s restaurant at 1700 Embarcadero Road, with a social hour at 6 p.m. and dinner at 7 p.m. It is open to the public.

A reservation form can be found at Deadline for reservations is Friday and the cost is $50 per person

City of Palo Alto’s infamous racial profiling scandal

Beating of prominent Palo Alto African American Albert Hopkins resulting in fines against PAPD officers

Sex scandal involving prominent police sex detective Luis Verbrea

False PAPD coercion practices resulting in the arrest of an innocent man; Jorge Hernandez

False arrest of David Carlson cleared through DNA evidence

Arrest and tazing of Tony Ciampi ruled unconstitutional and subsequent payout settlement

The arrest and unconstitutional beatings of Micheal Schmidlin resulting in one of the largest city settlements

Palo Alto Children’s theater scandal

Untruthful U.S. District Court Judge James Ware Palo Alto councilmen Klein loves to hate

Housing Discrimination: A closed Door in Palo Alto

How city councilmen Larry Klein supports ban against vehicle dwellers reshaping our neighbors

Klein’s approval of Enron $21.5 million give-away

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Show us the 40 million up front and not behind closed doors

An old biblical proverb comes to mind when money or finances are discussed.  Some say, money is the root of all evil.  But in reality money can be the cause of all injurious things.  Money is what makes the world go round.  Money can in fact have a corrupting influence on our politicians and businesses alike we need only look to our past corporate scandal sheet.

Keep the bank vault doors of accountability open

The editorial in the, City banks on Stanford cash for major projects falls short in any discussions on open government and transparency.

If we are going to entrust our civic leadership as our personal bankers of this money, then in light of all previous scandals there needs to be full accountability and transparency with absolutely no closed bank vault doors on any discussions.

Let’s not forget the fact that the previous city attorney Gary Baum negotiated behind closed doors a settlement with ENRON to the tune of 21 million dollars only because he felt litigation would have been to costly.  There were few cities nationally which buckled under this premise.

The ENRON and City of Bell scandals should serve as a vivid reminder to all of what can go wrong with no oversight.  Any decisions as to how the money should be spent should be given full public disclosure and now is not the time for the citizens of Palo Alto too remain silent if we are to experience any re-occurrence of the 21 million dollar give-away by Gary Baum and those responsible council-members.

What concerns us is that councilman Greg Scharff and now mayor has always pushed for new public safety building and with this “windfall” it just may serve as a blank check to promote his personal agenda’s and ambitions.

Anything that involves the council’s policy and services committee and or its finance committee needs to be fully transparent and the citizens fully engaged in this process.  Nothing should take place behind closed doors.  21st century democracy demands this; there should be no mistaking, there’s simply too much money at stake to trust our current leadership with this responsibility.

The only way citizens can truly control and trust the essence of city managers James Keene’s notions of “methodically and cautiously” spending in any responsible way as noted in the, is to place a watchful eye over how the money is managed or leveraged into “transformative investments” that benefits the community and not the councils special interests. 

Show us the 40 million up front and not behind closed doors.

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Which is the greater city blight? Newspaper racks or vehicle dwellers?

News RacksIt sounds harmless enough. If city government ban or restricts newspaper racks in the interest of beautification. Newspapers that have published stories critical of city officials lose their rights to distribute.

The city says it’s a coincidence.

The U.S. Supreme Court said that the distribution of news through news racks is protected by the First Amendment (Lakewood v. First Plain Dealer, 1988).

NEWSPAPER RACK- recognized by the US Supreme Court as having special purpose in America life.

“Liberty of circulating is as essential to freedom of expression as freedom of publishing; indeed, without the circulation, the publication would be of little value,” the Supreme Court said.

When candidates run for city council ask them if they favor admitting distribution of news. Speak up to protect your right to get the news.

Newspaper Racks

Source: Palo Alto Daily Post

Cubberley Shelter, Editorial by Dave Price

Dave Price Editor and Co-Founder of The Daily Post
Dave Price Editor and Co-Founder of The Daily Post

One of the most shocking local stories in the past few days was how Palo Alto’s Community Cubberley Community center is becoming, in the words of city manager James Keene, a “de facto homeless shelter”.

The Cubberley parking lot is where car campers spend the night. They’re attracted by the bathrooms and showers at the city run community center. This was one of the observations made at a City Council policy and services committee meeting on Tuesday.

At the end of the meeting, in a 2-1 vote, the committee sent to the full council recommendation that the city ban sleeping in cars, something Mountain View, Menlo Park and Redwood City did years ago.

When it reaches counsel, you can bet that homeless advocates will fill the chambers, making dramatic presentations about how such a ban “criminalizes the poor.”

Every time the issue of homelessness comes before Council, the comments at the microphone are emotional, and the meeting becomes a show.

After an emotional outpouring against a proposal to ban car camping occurred at a July 18, 2011, council meeting, Keene shelved the idea and tried alternatives. One idea was to ask the city’s 42 churches to open their parking lots to car campers.

Two churches took the city up on the offer: University Lutheran Church at Stanford Avenue and Bowdoin Street and First Presbyterian Church at Copper Street and Lincoln Avenue.

But pressure from neighbors caused First Pres to back off.  I understand the desire to ban car camping I wouldn’t want a camper parked in front of my house either.

That’s scary to a family with kids. And I certainly wouldn’t want car campers using my yard as their restroom. On the other hand, the streets belong to all of us.

If you’re down on your luck, and all you’ve got is your car, it’s extreme to say you can’t park that vehicle on a public street overnight.

Seeking a middle ground

How about we ban campers from residential streets, but allow them to park for no more than 72 hours in commercial areas where there are no homes? Palo Alto has miles and miles of such streets.

I don’t have a solution to the bathroom/shower question. It’s not the city taxpayers’ responsibility to provide bathrooms and showers. But restaurant owners, who are required by law to provide bathrooms, shouldn’t have to cater to the homeless either. Maybe the Opportunity Center on Encina Avenue would come to the rescue?

The Daily Post Today
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