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City Council Do The Right Thing Challenge (impossible)

In April, the Sacramento City Council made a massive mistake, caving to pressure from business interests and putting an initiative onto the November ballot - Measure O, or “The Emergency Shelter and Enforcement Act of 2022” - which would functionally criminalize the homeless (link to our article on this here).

This August, the City Council was given a chance, one last opportunity to fix the mistake they made in April and remove this abomination from the ballot. If you’ve been following this Council for any time at all, you won’t be surprised to hear that they chose not to take the off-ramp, and are instead pushing full speed ahead into disaster.

It all went down at a Special Meeting which was called on August 9th. Members of the Council were cranky, because business groups led by Daniel Conway had promised the Council in April that the County Board of Supervisors would certainly take action to put forward a similar proposal at the County level, enabling the City and County to work together on the wholesale decimation of a highly vulnerable population.

The County has done no such thing, preferring instead to push their own separate plans to cruelly displace our unhoused neighbors (read more about their recent camping ordinances here). So Darrell Steinberg and company took action, determined to descend into fascism in the most efficient way possible.

Members of the City Council were primarily concerned with City/County cooperation during this meeting. Only Councilmembers Katie Valenzuela and Mai Vang had the wisdom and/or courage to see Measure O for what it is: an expansion of police powers, giving them yet another tool to harass and cruelly oppress the homeless, while barely even making the tiniest of token efforts to throw a couple scraps to the people who the city council mockingly refers to as “activists”.

To quote Councilmember Valenzuela:

I’m going to refuse to let my sense of urgency push me to do something that is fundamentally wrong

Unfortunately, the majority of Sacramento’s Councilmembers are either callous and uncaring, or blindly ignorant of the suffering happening every day on their streets. Valenzuela and Vang introduced a substitute motion to remove Measure O from the ballot, which was rejected by a 7-2 vote. The motion to instead add language requiring County cooperation prior to implementation passed by the same 7-2 margin.

All was not awful on August 9th, however! There was a high level of support for the unhoused among public commenters - even Councilmember Ashby remarked

I took a tally, more than double [the callers] wanted us to just withdraw it

However, she of course followed that up with a clear rejection of what the public desired.

Several large community organizations called in to express their opposition to this measure, including the Sacramento Housing Alliance, Sacramento Area Congregations Together, Organize Sacramento, Loaves and Fishes, the Sacramento Tenants Union, the National Lawyers Guild, and the American Civil Liberties Union, to name a few.

As Dave Kempa put so succinctly in his comment

If you push this forward, there are plenty of groups that are willing to fight you and win

There will of course be major legal challenges if Measure O passes in November, but in the meantime it is on the ballot - so it is time to fight.

Below you can find a video compilation of comments from the following community members:

  1. Mackenzie Wilson, Decarcerate Sacramento

  2. Evan Minton

  3. Michelle Pariset, chair of Organize Sacramento

  4. Cathy Cresswell, Sacramento Housing Alliance

  5. Rick Eaton, SacACT

  6. Commentor from the National Lawyers Guild

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