Sunday, April 6, 2008

B-Town’s Silent Majority

According to an Internet survey on, nearly 87 percent of Berkeley registered voters said the city should implement Mayor Tom Bates’ “Public Commons for Everyone Initiative.” However, this majority is considered a silent majority and rarely voices their opinions at council meetings. Instead, the public reaction to the Public Commons for Everyone Initiative has been negative with homeless activists declaring that the initiatives pick on the poor and criminalize the homeless.

The Public Commons for Everyone Initiative has several proposals for controlling the homeless problems in Berkeley. They include extending the hours of public restrooms and making sure there are enough signs directing people to them. Another is a law that would allow the police to ticket anyone who urinates or defecates in public instead of having to arrest them on misdemeanor charges. A third proposal is to ensure that police actively enforce existing antisocial laws, such as prohibitions against spending the night in parks or on city streets when there are shelter beds available.

Another initiative that may be most significant in affecting homeless behavior is the mayor’s plan to ban smoking in commercial districts. Studies have shown that homeless people are more likely to smoke. Therefore, this initiative may result in forcing many of the homeless off Telegraph and Shattuck Avenues. Interesting, this initiative met with the least resistance from homeless rights activists.

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