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County debates how to break the law

The mafia doesn’t make their internal dealings public, and much of their public image comes from fictional depictions, but it is easy to imagine a bunch of mafiosas sitting around and having a strategy meeting about how best to avoid getting in trouble for their various illegal activities. They would bring in a lawyer, some other high-ranking members perhaps, and talk about a) the current laws on the books which restrict their activity, and b) what they think they can get away with given those laws.


To see a real life example of how this might look, you could watch the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors meeting that was held on June 14th, and specifically listen to their discussion around Item 77.

The County held this meeting because they are interested in drawing up an ordinance that would dramatically increase the areas in which “camping” is prohibited, and beef up their own ability to enforce those prohibitions. This meeting was a workshop, so there was no ordinance up for a vote, but County staff made a presentation on a proposal and got feedback from the Board of Supervisors on the language they used.


Specifically, the proposed ordinance would prevent any encampments either in or near “critical infrastructure, locations providing year-round overnight shelter to people experiencing homelessness, and wildfire and flood risk areas during inclement weather.”


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There was no pushback at all from any members of the Board of Supervisors against this idea - in fact, Phil Serna spent a lot of time enthusiastically proposing even larger restrictions, specifically covering sidewalks and waterways. The City staff giving the presentation - Emily Halcon and Leticia Ramirez - said that they would probably need to bring back a separate ordinance to deal with the waterways, but should be able to incorporate sidewalks (to read about a sidewalk ordinance in Sac City click here) into this one.


The County was rightfully savaged by public comments for this nonsense. A common refrain was that the Board is trying to “criminalize homelessness”, which of course prompted the board members to fits of over-exaggerated outrage, but it really seems like the shoe fits in this case.


You can find some important comments in the video below!

Setting aside for a moment the obvious moral failing of a County that is determined to harass and criminalize its unhoused residents over and over again, the County is on very shaky legal ground whenever it tries to impose restrictions on where unhoused folks are allowed to stay.