Bizarre Council Actions On Homeless/Vagrancy Policy -- Some Councilmembers Flip Positions, Some Vanish On Vote, Mayor Avoids Linking Himself To Any Position -- As Slim Council Majority Votes To Send "Letter" Instead of Higher Visibility Council Resolution To Support Overturning Court Opinion That Blocks Local Laws Against Sleeping/Camping On Public Property Unless Sufficient Shelter Beds Available
|(Oct. 21, 2019, 7:40 p.m.) -- On Oct. 15, 2019, by the slimmest possible margin, the City Council voted
Although the Oct. 15 City Council vote took no immediately visible action, it showed the entire city a fundamental divide among LB's current Councilmembers on how to address the city's most publicly impactful issue: homeless/vagrant persons sleeping/establishing encampments in various neighborhoods, along business corridors, on beaches and along flood control channels/bike paths. Specifically, should the City of Long Beach support U.S. Supreme Court review to overturn Martin v. Boise. a federal appeals court) opinion that blocks local laws (as "cruel/unusual punishment") against sleeping/camping on public property unless the City has sufficient shelter beds available for all of its homeless/vagrants?
The Oct. 15 vote to send a "letter" favoring overturning that opinion was Yes: Price, Supernaw, Mungo, Andrews, Austin; No: Uranga; Absent: Pearce (exited Council Chamber) and Richardson (absent entire meeting); 1st dist. vacant...and it followed a series of bizarre policy flips by some Councilmembhers.
The Council voted action came after Councilwoman Price had to offer a hastily amended floor motion to send a "letter" -- instead of adopting a formal Council policy-setting resolution that she had originally agendized -- when one of her co-agendizers, Vice Mayor Dee Andrews (seeking re-election in March 2020) balked at the resolution after having twice co-agendized it (Oct 8 and Oct. 15.) On Oct. 15 Andrews flipped his stance on the Council floor and argued prsuing against his own co-agendized item...and only re-flipped his position after Councilwoman Price amended her motion to send the lower visibility "letter" instead of the more conspicuous Council policy-setting resolution.
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Conspicuous by his silence, Mayor Robert Garcia remained mum on the citywide-impacting issues raised by Martin v. Boise. He voiced no views one way or the other during Council discussion on Oct. 1 (left prior to the Council item), 8 or 15. Since the hastily-amended Oct. 15 floor motion didn't specify who'd sign the "letter" on the City's behalf, the City Attorney's office says the City Manager will sign the letter...meaning Mayor Garcia's fingerprints won't appear anywhere easily visible in connection with the Martin v. Boise homeless/vagrancy issues.
The chain of events began when Councilwoman Suzie Price, joined by Councilmembers Stacy Mungo, Al Austin and Roberto Uranga, agendized an Oct. 1 Council item seeking a Councilresolution to support U.S. Supreme Court review of the Martin v. City of Boise opinion:
[Oct.1 agendizing memo text] ...[The Martin v. Boise opinion] severely limits our ability to address issues of homelessness and the appropriate protections of the rights held by everyone to access public spaces. The City needs to have the ability to appropriately regulate public camping and enforce our City ordinances with the objective of protecting everyone equally and maintaining public health standards.
Over the course of three Council meetings (Oct 1, 8 and 15). two Councilmembers -- Roberto Uranga and Vice Mayor Dee Andrews -- who initially supported Supreme Court review -- flipped their positions on the Council floor.
Councilman Uranga -- who'd co-agendized the Oct. 1 item -- flipped his stance and opposed Supreme Court review on the Council floor on Oct. 1. He remaied opposed on Oct. 8 and Oct. 15.
Vice Mayor Andrews (facing re-election in March 2020) -- who'd co-agendized support for the items on Oct. 8 and 15 -- flipped his position on Oct.15 and argued against his item. He re-flipped his stance and delivered the fifth supportive Council vote only after Councilwoman Price hastily amended her motion on the floor to settle for sending a City "letter" instead of adopting a more visible Council policy-stating resolution.
Another Councilmember seeking re-election in March 2020, Jeannine Pearce, initially voted to support Price's item on Oct 1 but then sought Council reconsideration to switch her vote to "no." At next two Council meetings (Oct. 8 and 15), Pearce vanished on the Council votes.
Councilman Rex Richardson led opposition to the Council majority action on Oct. 1, arguing that Martin v. Boise doesn't flatly prevent enforcement of local laws but rather ties enforcement of local laws to the local availability of shelter beds. Richardson (who along with Garcia has endorsed Mary Zendejas in now-ongoing 1st dist. City Council race) sought to reframe the issue as a matter of providing local shelter/housing capacity.
Councilwoman Price has framed the issue as supporting the City's right to enforce its locally enacted anti-camping ordinances and stressed their health and safety implications. She's publicly challenged any Councilmember(s) questioning those LB-Council enacted laws to bring an agenda item to repeal LB's local laws. Price's stance is consistent with multiple critics of the Martin v. Boise opinion who say it effectively stymies and deters cities from enforcing their local laws against sleeping on public property/encampments by creating exposure to potentially costly constitutional rights lawsuits over whether the city does or doesn't provide sufficient shelter beds.
The City of LB and its residents have no control over whether the U.S. Supreme Court chooses to hear Martin v. Boise and restores the cities' ability to enforce their local laws on homeless/vagrancy/encampments. However right now, LB 1st district residents are deciding who LB's next 1st district Councilmember will be. In just over three weeks, that peson will have the ability to cast citywide impacting policy votes on how the City of Long Beach will address these homeless/vagrancy/housing/health/safety issues.
To our knowledge, the candidates' stances on the Martin v. Boise issue -- restoring the city's ability to enforce its locally enacted laws against homeless/vagrant encampments/address health-safety issues vs. the view that going so inflicts cruel and unusual punishment unless the city provides sufficient shelter beds -- hasn't seriously come up in the 1st Council district election.
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