Archive for January 23rd, 2014

by lizard

The Missoulian editorial board wants us to know that avoiding litigation should NOT be the main concern of city officials regarding the constitutionally dubious ordinance amendments rushed through last month. No, their main concern should be downtown businesses:

While litigation is always something to avoid whenever possible, Missoula’s city councilors should not let that be their overriding concern. Rather, they should keep foremost in their minds that downtown Montana has a legitimate problem with aggressive, vandalizing behavior – a problem that demands a legitimate solution. Whether that solution requires ordinance changes or enforcement changes, it ought to be one that respects the rights and civil liberties of all.

Missoula, like many cities, has long struggled with how best to respond to the unwanted behaviors that seem to concentrate downtown. They range from obviously unsanitary and unsafe activities like public urination and defecation, to less obvious things like repeated, increasingly insistent demands for money from passers-by.

The worse these behaviors are allowed to get, the harder it is on those who work, shop and visit downtown. And it hits downtown businesses hardest, because they’re the ones that see the cumulative effects of all these individual instances: frightened employees and fewer customers.

Despite the narrow framing of the Missoulian editorial board, the solution is neither ordinance changes or enforcement changes. People in Missoula might understand that if our local daily bothered including the cost of over-utilizing ER services and the county jail for people consumed with addiction and mental illness.

The only people that seem to matter in this conversation are shoppers, employees and business owners. That is obviously the interests the Missoulian editorial board represent, which is what I think people should keep in mind as the editorial board concludes their op-ed with this:

So this month, Mayor John Engen expressed his hope that Missoula could tweak the ordinances to avoid a lawsuit, and the item was moved back to committee for further discussion. In committee, Engen is expected to share some ideas he’s been hammering out with the ACLU for changing the ordinance.

But in public comment offered earlier this month, two active members of the downtown community – Dan Cederberg and Matt Ellis – reminded council members that the ordinances and subsequent changes made to them were brought about because of continued struggles over downtown’s cleanliness and safety.

It’s awfully soon to say whether ordinance changes would accomplish the intended goal of making downtown Missoula cleaner and safer – or cost the city an expensive lawsuit. However, it’s clear that allowing things to stand as they were was already costing Missoula plenty, and downtown businesses have been bearing the majority of these costs.

The city council ought to keep that in mind as well as it discusses ordinances designed to make Missoula’s downtown – indeed, all of Missoula – safe, clean and inviting for all.

This is absolutely NOT true. These ordinances are designed to insulate downtown from “those people” and in doing so, the proponents of these ordinances don’t appear too concerned that the probable result will be relocating problematic behavior to other parts of town, like parks and the surrounding neighborhoods.

And downtown businesses are not bearing the majority of the costs. St. Pat’s writes off around 4 million dollars annually by reacting to addiction and mental illness through the ER, and I’d like to see the court/jail costs quantified so Missoulians can better understand the real cost of our community’s failure.

This Missoulian op-ed on behalf of downtown businesses ran the day these ordinances were discussed in committee. Thanks to the second life of Bob Jaffe’s listserv, we have some commentary from Caitlin Copple and Jason Wiener to consider.

Caitlin Copple:

Administration & Finance
Adam now chairs this committee. Wet housing came up right away since we had just talked about the above-mentioned ordinances and were set to approve a contract regarding the 10 Year Plan to End Homelessness. Jason said CDBG and HOME funds will be set aside to do a small amount of permanent supportive housing but that they won’t be enough and that providers are working to get this off the ground. I find the pace frustrating. When will we actually see this project happen? I would support giving more money to providers if it means they can quickly and meaningfully solve the problems of bad behavior by drunk people downtown through housing that fills the true need.

Copple is frustrated? I can sympathize with that. I find the pace frustrating as well, but service providers don’t seem to command the kind of influence that makes things happen fast, like thinking up these amendments in early fall and getting them passed before the end of the year.

Here is what Jason has to say (the lead-in is a reference to the ADU issue, which is back in the headlines):

On the heels of discussioning whether to make it legal for someone to inhabit a private space, we returned to our ongoing discussion of laws regulating the degree to which downtown public space should be regulated. The mayor brought forward a number of revisions, and the summary is reprinted in Caitlin’s email. There was not consensus on a coupleof points: The ACLU objects to definition of solicitation (which bans silently holding a sign) and objects to the ban on sitting (As the mayor says, it would make the cost of soliciting in the CBD standing, however if someone can’t stand or is playing an instrument that requires sitting they are banned.) Dan Cederberg, representing the interests that supported the ordinance, objected to removing the sit, sleep, lie in tunnel provisions and removal of exclusion zones based on distance from a vendor and advised that they would like them back in the ordinance if we are facing litigation regardless. PSH has just Jon, who was running the meeting, Alex and me as well as the four new people. In order to get something going, I made a motion to advance the ordinance the mayor sent, with changes removing the provisions the ACLU objected to. We set a public hearing on Feb. 10. The revised ordinance is better in many ways than the one that was on the books before so I see some benefit in moving forward but this whole thing has left me with a very bad taste. The conversation has been consumed by fear, people describing how one thing or another they see or experience makes them afraid and some of the things that have been described are scary. But the insistence that the definition of soliciting include silently holding a sign? That’s not disturbing because it makes someone afraid. It’s disturbing because it confronts us with want and I think the emotion it evokes is guilt or shame, not fear. The same goes for people who are passed out cold or so far from sane that they are asleep in their own excrement. Guilt and shame don’t make consuming more fun; they can really put a damper on that stuff. It reminded me of the Women in Black vigil on the Higgins bridge for so many years. What a bummer it is to be reminded in the middle of our anticipation of a coming weekend about violence and deprivation half a world away but that was solicitation.

There will be more committee hearings and public comment opportunities and city council votes before this mess is figured out. There is also a chance that, despite the Mayor’s attempts to find a compromise, the ACLU may decide to sue anyways.

I hope the work being done to actually move toward solutions isn’t overshadowed by this colossal waste of time and resources. Just read the first paragraph of this boingboing article (h/t @KathleenMKimble):

A program in Salt Lake City decided that it would be smarter — and more humane — to spend $11K/year each to house 17 chronically homeless people and provide them with social workers than it would be to waste the average of $16,670/year per person to imprison them and treat them at emergency rooms. As Nation of Change points out, this commonsense, humane and economically sound way of dealing with homelessness works, unlike the savage approaches taken by other cities (like the Waikiki rep Tom Bowker who smashed homeless peoples’ carts with a sledgehammer, or cities like Tampa, which banned feeding homeless people).

Defenders of the amendments will say it’s about behavior, not homelessness. If I’m not mistaken, I think I read something about a BID study being used to back that up, but I don’t think that study has been made available to the public.

If it’s only about aggressive behavior, I have yet to hear a good explanation about why statutes like disorderly conduct don’t address the threatening behavior proponents of these amendments have described. Maybe I’ll hear a better explanation in the coming months as this process of reconsideration plods along.

by lizard

I wonder what the humanitarian interventionists think about the result of their advocacy regarding Libya? Are they still paying attention? Do they feel guilt, remorse? Or is it on to the next contrived state crisis?

Back in November, Prime Minister Ali Zeidan went on television and ordered all militias to leave Tripoli. How that was going to be accomplished remains unclear. From the link:

At least 31 people have been killed and 235 injured in clashes in the Libyan capital, Tripoli, officials say, after militiamen opened fire on protesters.

The demonstrators had marched to the headquarters of the Misrata militia to demand that it leave Tripoli.

Hours after the incident, armed men returned to storm the compound, where militiamen are still holed up.

The Libyan government has been struggling to contain numerous militias who control many parts of the country.

Prime Minister Ali Zeidan gave a televised address in which he said all militias had to leave Tripoli without exception.

However, it is unclear how the authorities plan to dislodge them, the BBC’s Rana Jawad reports from Tripoli.

For more context to why the US used NATO for Libyan regime change, I put up this post last September. For a current depiction of the chaos Libyans are facing, Eric Draitser writes about The Secret War in Libya for Counterpunch. Here’s an excerpt:

Despite the high-minded rhetoric from Western interventionists regarding “democracy” and “freedom” in Libya, the reality is far from it, especially for dark skinned Libyans who have seen their socioeconomic and political status diminished with the end of the Jamahiriya government of Muammar Gaddafi. While these peoples enjoyed a large measure of political equality and protection under the law in Gaddafi’s Libya, the post-Gaddafi era has seen their rights all but stripped from them. Rather than being integrated into a new democratic state, the black Libyan groups have been systematically excluded.

In fact, even Human Rights Watch – an organization which in no small measure helped to justify the NATO war by falsely claiming that Gaddafi forces used rape as a weapon and were preparing “imminent genocide” – has reported that, “A crime against humanity of mass forced displacement continues unabated, as militias mainly from Misrata prevented 40,000 people from the town of Tawergha from returning to their homes from where they had been expelled in 2011.” This fact, coupled with the horrific stories and images of lynchings, rapes, and other crimes against humanity, paints a very bleak picture of life in Libya for these groups.

The situation in Libya is important to keep in mind as regime change in Syria stumbles forward with the Geneva II peace talks. Those efforts didn’t get off to a good start:

Syria’s government and main political opposition have traded bitter accusations on the first day of a major peace conference in Switzerland.

The opposition and US said President Bashar al-Assad had no legitimacy and must step down from power.

Syria’s foreign minister had a terse exchange with the UN’s Ban Ki-moon over the length of his speech and said only Syrians could decide Mr Assad’s fate.

The conflict has left more than 100,000 dead and millions displaced.

The leader who has no legitimacy when it comes to Syria is Obama. Though it didn’t make big headlines in the states, it’s worth noting that Seymour Hersch nailed Obama for being purposefully deceitful last August when trying to pin the Sarin attacks on Assad:

Barack Obama did not tell the whole story this autumn when he tried to make the case that Bashar al-Assad was responsible for the chemical weapons attack near Damascus on 21 August. In some instances, he omitted important intelligence, and in others he presented assumptions as facts. Most significant, he failed to acknowledge something known to the US intelligence community: that the Syrian army is not the only party in the country’s civil war with access to sarin, the nerve agent that a UN study concluded – without assessing responsibility – had been used in the rocket attack. In the months before the attack, the American intelligence agencies produced a series of highly classified reports, culminating in a formal Operations Order – a planning document that precedes a ground invasion – citing evidence that the al-Nusra Front, a jihadi group affiliated with al-Qaida, had mastered the mechanics of creating sarin and was capable of manufacturing it in quantity. When the attack occurred al-Nusra should have been a suspect, but the administration cherry-picked intelligence to justify a strike against Assad.

This farce continues because Americans have been systematically lied to while our corporate media is complicit in sticking to the cover story.  Not even MSNBC’s Melissa Harris-Perry countered the lies peddled by Obama regarding the Sarin attack in Syria when the topic came up on her show last weekend.  Instead, she let a comment from a guest pass as fact that Assad was behind the attack.

Those of us paying attention know better.

  • Pages

  • Recent Comments

    Miles on A New Shelter for Vets or an E…
    success rate for In… on Thirty years ago ARCO killed A…
    Warrior for the Lord on The Dark Side of Colorado
    Linda Kelley-Miller on The Dark Side of Colorado
    Dan on A New Shelter for Vets or an E…
    Former Prosecutor Se… on Former Chief Deputy County Att…
    JediPeaceFrog on Montana AG Tim Fox and US Rep.…
  • Recent Posts

  • Blog Stats

    • 1,687,791 hits
  • Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

    Join 2,736 other followers

  • January 2014
    S M T W T F S
  • Categories