During their discussion on aggressive panhandling, council noted a lot of angry voices speaking out for limiting the number of homeless people. During the main public comment prior to the specific item, one person who spoke out was Jack Armstrong, who had spoken during the Chamber forum on the homeless last fall and talked about the incident with his family.
He spoke toward the item “dealing with the aggressive portion of our homeless population. I believe our police force needs tools to deal with that. My family was the victim of a crime with an aggressive homeless person this past fall – he’s going to state prison.
“My two children are still in counseling. One of them hasn’t attended school this year because he can’t hardly leave the house,” he explained. “It’s a pretty difficult situation.
“This particular gentleman could have been dealt with that day or certainly (in an) earlier circumstance if our police had the ability to deal with the aggressive population,” he said. “Currently we do not. Which is kind of silly really.
“I don’t know how many of you know who Marcos Breton is. He’s a progressive columnist for the Sacramento Bee. And a great liberal voice for Sacramento and the state of California. Wrote this column recently about one of your meetings. The title: ‘Hopeless liberal city title goes to Davis.’”
Mr. Armstrong read: “Members of the Davis City council for timid obfuscation this week by first considering common-sense measures targeting the vexing social issue of aggressive panhandling and then failing to act on them… It was tragicomic to watch Tuesday night’s council meeting, an amazing show of misguided intentions obliterating reasoned debate and proportional action.
“Davis has remained paralyzed on this issue for a year. Meanwhile, even liberal Berkeley has been able to withstand the heat from homeless advocates and hyper-moralists, adopting ordinances to prevent the obstruction of public streets for the safety of all two years ago. Sacramento passed ordinances meant to curb aggressive panhandling and harassing behavior in city parks in November…
“There have been reports of people being accosted at ATM machines, and of streets and alleyways being blocked by homeless men and women and their possessions… But the council hasn’t been able to make a decision – and they punted again this week.”
Mr. Armstrong scoffed, “I wonder if we’ll get a similar article after this meeting. We’re now fodder for humor among even the progressives who follow our politics. Do we want to be that far out there on this issue? Some of you do, I realize. But I don’t think most of the people who live here in Davis, want to be where we are currently.”
He added, “I had a long conversation with the chief of Police of Vacaville, some of the tools they were able to get to deal with the aggressive population – we need those tools here. It’s ridiculous that our police have no ability to deal with somebody who is acting aggressively.”
Mr. Armstrong stated, “Davis has changed so much in the years I’ve lived here. Since the crime was committed against my family, I’ve talked to so many people and an earlier person commented on this, about our common spaces where you can’t go anymore after a certain time of night or you sure wouldn’t go there with your kids.
“All the tax money we pay, what it costs to live in a house in Davis, so we can have these beautiful parks and bike paths and so many of them you can’t go on anymore because they’re scary. I don’t think that’s what we want. I don’t think that’s what most people in Davis want and I hope we can enact item nine.”
On the other hand, people like Lawson Snipes and Mayor Robb Davis questioned whether an aggressive panhandling ordinance would solve the concerns.
Lawson Snipes took exception to the word “aggressive.” He stated, “We don’t have aggressive panhandlers. What we have are sign flyers.
“I don’t see the aggressiveness related to panhandling. I see aggressiveness in the downtown. I see people screaming.” What he sees are people who are scaring even him, those who are severely mentally ill. He said, “We’ve systematically chosen not to treat them. If you want to talk about aggressive behavior let’s talk about untreated mental illness.”
The council voted 4-1 to approve the aggressive panhandling ordinance over the objection of Mayor Davis.
—David M. Greenwald reporting