By Emerson Drake
Last night by a vote of 6-1 one of the most poorly written ordinances in Modesto’s history was enacted (okay, it takes 30 days to be in effect). Mayor Garrad Marsh was the only council member to support Personal and Private Property rights of individuals. Councilman Gunderson almost stood to be counted. He anguished over his vote for a few moments, then he bowed his head, acquiesced, and went along with the herd.
Councilman Lopez is the Chairman of the Safety and Communities Committee this poorly considered ordinance came from. NONE of the Council or Committee members were aware of the home camping limitation of the “one consecutive night” provision that would have made you and your children criminals if you allowed them to campout two nights in a row. It seems that the Modesto Police Department conveniently over looked that sentence in the provision during its Committee presentation. This was exposed when I went to the agenda meeting Monday afternoon, which is in preparation for the Tuesday Council meeting. Otherwise it is very likely the three alternate versions of the proposed ordinance would not have been made available. This ordinance also made a sleeping bag illegal paraphernalia, which Chief Harden tried to deny until they ordinance was read to him from the podium. Unfortunately this portion was not changed. At least now you are allowed to let your children camp out 5 nights in a row.
As bad as this unnecessary intrusion into your personal life and family decisions you might choose to make is, there is a larger cause, and that is Modesto’s War on the Homeless.
A little Background is in order
Councilman Joe Muratore’s main platform plank when he ran for office in Council District 4 was to remove the scourge of the homeless. He said the homeless needed to be “eliminated” in a campaign speech he made which was since removed from his campaign website. Notice Muratore wanted to eliminate the homeless not homelessness which in my opinion provides some insight to the man. You can find a breakdown of the BRCH members in an earlier article here on EyeOnModesto.
Councilman Muratore went to this same Safety and communities Committee (pre Councilman Gunderson) for permission to create a the so-called Blue Ribbon Commission on the Homeless. This commission was composed of, according to the words of Chairman J. David Wright, “people who had been effected by the homeless.” This was true but he failed to mention effected in a negative way.
Councilman Muratore’s particular appointee was La Loma Neighborhood Association President Mike Moridian who, since his involvement in the “association, which is not officially recognized as a nonprofit because of its advocacy of Muratore for Councilman during the council race, has been an outspoken critic of the homeless and has publicly professed a desire to chase them out of Modesto.
Last Night’s Council Meeting and Criminalizing the Homeless
I met many extremely thoughtful and generous people last night who spoke out for the homeless who were not there to speak out for themselves. From former Council candidate Jenny Kenoyer who is also an advocate for our mature citizens to Annette Mott from the Angels for the Homeless and many more who spoke passionately in defense of the homeless. All questioned the council’s desire to make the homeless criminals in these dire times. Ed Brearden Modesto’s Poet Laureate Emeritus was strident in his concern. I’ll thank them and provide more of the names of those good people when the council video is posted to help with accuracy.
Brian Du Bois spoke and questioned the Council’s sworn committment to the U.S.Constitution regarding our allegedly protected personal rights and freedoms. He also questioned why the Council overlooked the fact Council member, Joe Muratore, took $62,500 illegally on a NSP2 scheme with his business partner Ryan Swehla. Councilman Muratore returned the money and some how avoided potential charges from the U.S. Department of Urban Housing (HUD).
Homeless advocate and Mayoral and Council candidate Robert Stanford took Councilman Muratore to task calling him ‘Nazi Joe Muratore’ as was noted in Ken Carlson’s story in the Bee. He reminded everyone of Muratore’s spoken desire to raze the airport district’s homes and level the ground with heavy machinery. Hopefully, then candidate Muratore meant after the people had been thrown out of their homes and into the streets and not before. Muratore never made a distinction of his preferences in that regard.
We have a serious homeless problem but criminalizing it won’t make it go away. We need effective programs to combat homelessness and several were proposed last night. But unfortunately the council (lead in this instance by Muratore, Cogdill, and Lopez) has its own ideas on the subject and instead of offering a helping hand up, their plans seem to involve a right cross to the jaw followed by a kick to the groin.
What we as a society do to the least of us we do to all of us.
And we need to do better if we want to improve Modesto’s image around the County, the State, the Country, and around the World.