Anaheim: Council Majority Kills Kris Murray Move To Affirm Anti-Camping Ordinance

The Tait council majority’s action on two agenda items last week set the table for the repeal of the city’s ordinance against camping and storing personal property on public property, a law the council adopted in 2013 as a tool for preventing homeless encampments from overrunning city parks. The make-up of a new homelessness task force – Councilman Jose Moreno’s brainchild – created by the council majority makes clear that repeal is the intended result.

Mayor Tom Tait and his council allies – Councilmembers Jose F. Moreno, Denise Barnes and James Vanderbilt – voted to table re-affirmation of the anti-camping ordinance, and then voted to create a homelessness task force stacked with advocates for repealing the ban on camping in public areas such as city parks.

The first item was Councilwoman Kris Murray’s request to have the city council re-affirm support for the existing anti-camping ordinance and current suite of services aimed at steering the homeless out of that life.

Mayor Tom Tait criticized Murray’s item as “premature” and “continuing doing the same thing” – a disingenuous characterization. Anaheim residents are fed-up with the present ineffective under-enforcement of the anti-camping ordinance. Murray’s motion affirmed the anti-camping ordinance that Anaheim residents want the city to enforce so they can enjoy their public parks and end the criminal activity that accompanies these encampments. On what planet does that equate to “continuing doing the same thing”?

Furthermore, Murray’s proposed re-affirmation also encompassed the “Coming Home Anaheim,” a Tait initiative he announced in his 2014 State of the City speech – and which has actually been a success: nearly 800 Anaheim homeless have been re-united with family or placed in housing. Yet, the mayor’s remarks made it seem as if the city is floundering on that front.

However, logic is unnecessary when one has the votes, and Mayor Tait had the votes to “table” re-affirmation of the anti-camping law until after Moreno’s homeless task force makes its recommendations; tabling is a parliamentary maneuver allowing the majority to vote against something without technically doing so.

Next, the council took up Moreno’s request to form a Homeless Policy Working Group. Employing anodyne progressive-speak, Moreno presented it as bringing together “people from different perspectives” to research “best practices” in order to develop a city homelessness policy – which the District 3 councilman apparently believes is lacking.

At Moreno’s request, for the last six months, at council meeting after council meeting, he and his colleagues have received reports on the homeless situation and its underlying factors, presentations on the city’s integrated services and briefings on best practices. It’s highly unlikely the working group discover or hear anything of significant that hasn’t already come to the councils attention.

Judging from the composition of the working group and comments by Tait and Moreno, it policy outcomes are already baked into this enterprise. Moreno described the working group as “very balanced” but the reality is it is stacked with opponents of the anti-camping ordinance.

Leading the working group is Councilman Jose Moreno, who supported repealing the anti-camping ordinance during his council campaign and has been critical of it as a councilman. Other working group members include:

Mike Robbins, who has been lobbying the council for months to not only allow the homeless to camp in city parks, but to open the park restrooms 24 hours a day. Robbins’ hounding of county homeless czar Susan Price is the reason she’s declined to participate in the working group – and without the county’s involvement the working group has little point to it.

Eve Garrow from the ACLU the guardian angel of Orange County’s homeless camps. The ACLU has done more than any single entity has prevented the County of Orange from enforcing the law and clearing the huge encampments along the Santa Ana River bed. The ACLU advocates the radical idea of a human right to live and sleep on sidewalks, parks and other public property.

Linda Lehnkering embraces that radical notion and believes the anti-camping ordinance “criminalizes” homelessness. Lenkhering was the panelist at the progressive Anaheim city council candidates forum who asked the various candidates if they would vote to repeal the anti-camping ordinance:

“HUD is ranking continuum of care funding for homeless services  based in part on county and city laws that criminalize homelessness. So just to be clear, the US Department of Justice states that punishing conduct that is a universal and unavoidable consequence of being a human violates the 8th Amendment against cruelty when the person literally has no where else to go, then an anti-camping ordinance enforced against that person criminalizes them for being homeless. Anaheim enforces such a ban even though there is a lack of shelter and housing.

So my question is: would you support the repeal of these anti-camping and anti-sleeping ordinances in Anaheim, and why or why not?”

The working group includes representatives from the offices of  Senator Josh Newman and Assemblymember Sharon Quirk-Silva. Murray had to push for inclusion of Assemblyman and former Anaheim Mayor Tom Daly’s office.

Missing from the working group are representatives of those bearing the brunt of the encampments: adjacent and nearby businesses and neighborhoods that have been victimized by the growing criminal element in these encampments.

If someone formed a “abortion policy working group” and weighted it with vocal Planned Parenthood advocates – or conversely, pro-life activists – there’d be little doubt as to the policy recommendations it would make.

By refusing to affirm the anti-camping ordinance, and then impaneling a homeless task force dominated by advocates of repealing that ordinance, Tait, Moreno, Vanderbilt and Barnes are setting the machinery of repeal in motion.

Think about that. The current ordinance makes it illegal to camp or store personal property on city property such as parks. A councilmember either one agrees with it and wants it enforced, or opposes it and supports repeal. Either one believes transients should be legal to camp in parks, on sidewalks or freeway medians – or it should be illegal. The council majority shouldn’t need a homeless policy task force in order to make up its mind on the subject. Their constituents don’t.

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