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Will our city presume to prohibit life for whoever can’t afford to pay their way?

In case you thought City Council’s reprieve earlier this winter reflected a soft spot in their heart for the homeless forced to live in tents, in reality the city attorneys advised any purge of the unsightly camps be delayed until an iron-clad ordinance could be devised. The suggested legal verbiage was reviewed at Monday’s meeting, to be formally adopted today. It reads “9.6.109. Camping on Public Property Prohibited.” The definition of “camping” to include: “Sleeping or making preparation to sleep, including the lying down of bedding for the purpose of sleeping.”

No sleeping. On public property.

By the way, I care not the least about a slippery slope that might infringe on your prerogative to take a nap in the park. This is not about the average man losing his middle class privileges to the creep of authoritarian rule-making. At some point I have to presume we agree that human beings have some inalienable rights. They used to be lofty ideals, protected by fundamental principles. On the issue of sleep, we are discussing the right to an involuntary life function.

The right to defecate is what’s got these homeless camps in trouble, but it stands to reason that to shit is more than a right too, it’s a necessity. All of this is dreadful platitude unless it’s escaped our city administrators. Are they suggesting that because the city cannot provide for the services for its people, that the people must forgo their basic creature needs?

What inhuman folly. And on public ground. Where are they to go? Must man pay rent to exist?

That you can dictate the rights of another on private land is open to debate. By whose authority do you claim dominion to use land for yourself? How dare you refuse a fellow human being, wherever he might need to rest his head? Granting the argument for private property, who are you to force your will upon others on shared common property? Others can’t do what? Where?

Do public lands belong only to property owners? You can legislate the right to take property for yourself, but you can’t hoard all of it. You have the right to private land precisely because the remainder is reserved for the public. The authority to give the deed to you comes from a governing entity empowered by everyone. A government is bound to providing for the land-less in exchange for the privilege to sell premium land to the better-off.

And a city has obligations to service that public land just as much as it serves the private lots. Can local administrators say, sorry, no more money for water, sewer, utilities, or security? Neither can it fail its responsibilities to the poor.

You aren’t obligated to provide eat, drink and shelter to all, but you can’t deny men access to the basic resource of land. Would you have men born into cells until they agree to work for their sustenance? Colorado Springs would deny them heat and sleep too. If we could, would we regulate breath?

On public land you have limited authority to regulate. Where private property owners crow about property rights, so do the public have property rights. Every bit, and perhaps more sacrosanct. The public can consent to regulation, for the safety and health of all etc, but that doesn’t encompass prohibition. You want health and safety, you provide the services. You have no authority to deny the service and then deny man’s basic needs. What an absolute crock.

Below is the text of the city’s proposed ordinance. It describes the creation of a new section, under 9.6.109.

9. Public Offenses, fair enough;

6. Offenses Affecting Property, a functional necessity of course;

109. Camping on Public Property Prohibited. Huh?

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT ORDAINED BY THE CITY COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF COLORADO SPRINGS:

9.6.109: CAMPING ON PUBLIC PROPERTY PROHIBITED:

A. It is unlawful for any person to camp on any public property, except as may be specifically authorized by the appropriate governmental authority.

B. For the purposes of this section “camp” or “camping” means to use the public area for living accommodation including, but not limited to, the activities and circumstances listed below. These activities and circumstances may be considered in determining whether reasonable grounds for belief have arisen that a person has “camped” or is “camping” in violation of this ordinance.

1. Sleeping or making preparation to sleep, including the lying down of bedding for the purpose of sleeping.

2. Occupying a shelter out-of-doors. “Shelter” shall mean any cover or protection from the elements other than clothing, such as a tent, shack, sleeping bag, or other structure or material.

3. The presence or use of a camp fire, camp stove or other heating source or cooking device.

5. Keeping or storing personal property.

Sleep, a basic animal function. Shelter, a fundamental human need. Fire, the first of mankind’s tools. Before agriculture was fire.

Property. How unbecoming that an ordinance seeking to prohibit the public’s right to public property should also deprive the public of the ability to keep personal property.

Also presented on Monday were recommendations from the city management, detailing the consequences of violating the camping prohibition. They included this paragraph:

FINANCIAL IMPLICATIONS: A violation of these updated ordinances may result in a fine and sentencing to the Criminal Justice Center (CJC). In the past, homeless individuals have been known to ignore summonses to appear in Municipal Court until it is advantageous for them to be placed in CJC (cold weather, need for food and/or shelter, etc.). The preferred method of dealing with these types of violations would be to gain the cooperation of the individuals involved without relying upon the criminal justice system, thus removing them from the circumstance by linking them with the appropriate service agency.

Making the specious argument basically that since homeless persons sometimes get themselves arrested on purpose, authorities are justified in accommodating them full time. How considerate of us.

5 thoughts on “Will our city presume to prohibit life for whoever can’t afford to pay their way?

  1. In short, being homeless can be punished by being sentenced to one of the Wackenhut Slavery Corporation facilities that infest this entire country.

    The Tea-Baggers are getting what they want, the re-institution of Slavery.

    Their mommas would be so proud

  2. I know. Time to pie some faces at the City Council meeting. These wannabe Brownshirts must have a humiliation threshold of some kind. The inhumanity is reaching a level beyond idiocy.

  3. My final say.
    Some of you who read this have agreed or disagreed with me. If the ordinance passes I ask please argue peacefully through blogs and emails. Please constructively express your anger through art by poems or other nonviolent means. This issue has been a heartbreaker for many of us. This will not go away if it… passes but I ask please do not break any laws, it will only add fuel to the fire.

  4. That’s why there should be an organized legal resistance from within the camp.

    It needs to be done, first to show the doubters on the other side that poverty doesn’t equal crazy.

    One thing that strikes me, if a spokesman or several could be elected. When the press invade the camps to seek out what anybody has to say, have somebody there who will handle them.

    Several would make a huge difference, because they could back each other up. A gang of reporters can do a pretty rough job of interrogation.

    Also with an organized committee, named whatever and involving whoever, could more easily “lawyer up” than one individual at a time.

    It helps more to have a class action lawsuit than to have several individual cases. It’ll also make it where the class isn’t forced to defend themselves from inside a jail. Maybe.

    And if they can file an appeal BEFORE the planned invasion, there’ll be a far better chance.

    Anger is to be expected, many of these guys, probably ALL, have had the one-at-a-time assaults against their camps.
    There’s no way the memory can be erased. The camp-raiders are never prosecuted, the one that resulted in the murder last year is exceptional in the level of prosecution, not unheard of that people will get together and assault or even kill a so called “bum”.

    What kind of enforcement options are the cops talking about? Stop and search anybody carrying a backpack? Arrest anybody who doesn’t have proof of residence?

    They’ve had the apparatus in place for quite a while and I strongly suspect they’ve been champing at the bit to actually go forth and use it.

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