Note: This is an old issue now, but the blog was never posted at the time. However, the homeless are still being targeted for the crime of being homeless. We are electing new councilmembers, and Ms. Sterling is termed out. Good luck in her candidacy for Fresno County Supervisor.
The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal bread. (Anatole France. The Red Lily)
But in the city of Fresno, anyone can beg in the street-so long as they can afford a permit.
The Fresno City Council voted a disappointing 6-1 on an ordinance that prohibits solicitations on a street median. (Thank you Cynthia Sterling, for your brave vote)
While many Frenans think of this as just an excuse to stop homeless people from begging, City Councilmember, Larry Westerlund supports his proposed ordinance. Said Westerlund, if “somebody wanted to, up to one time every six months, they would be able to come in and there would be a form they would fill out, a one page form. It would be like here is my name, here is the median I would occupy on this date, whatever that date would be.” Sounds simple, right? Also, the applicant would pay a filing fee, provide proof of insurance, and wear a brightly colored vest.
Here is my problem: Clearly this initiative is aimed at the homeless, who are unlikely to be able to provide the required insurance and filing fee, and even less likely to try for the chance to stand on a median from sunrise to sunset once every six months.
Why not just have the courage to admit it, instead of supporting, defending, and making weak arguments such as Westerlund’s comment, “There’s only one intention here, and that is to deal with people’s safety. There’s no discrimination here.”
But don’t worry-The Fresno Bee’s Kid’s Day and the Fresno Firemen are safe. They will be issued permits to solicit on medians.
Some opponents of the ordinance have pointed out that if it’s unsafe for the homeless, it’s unsafe for all.
Let’s try to solve the homeless problem. An initiative of “Housing First” for the homeless was dismissed in Downtown Fresno in favor of more profitable residences. Housing First has proved to be successful where it has been implemented (www.endhomelessness.org).
In reference to Blong Xiong, a TowerExchange Listserv member wrote, “How does anybody feel the Tower District is represented by our current city councilman? Personally I feel he has North Fresno best interest at heart.”
I’m disappointed in Perea, and Xiong. I call Westerlund a coward, and I applaud Sterling for her one lone opposing vote.
District 1-Blong Xiong
District 2-Andreas Borgeas
District 3-Cynthia Sterling
District 4-Larry Westerlund
District 5-Mike Dages
District 6-Lee Brand
District 7-Henry T. Perea