Anaheim City Council Creates Working Group to Study its War on the Homeless

These days, Anaheim city council meetings are about as exciting as Angels baseball, complete with the same shoddy attendance. City staff set up chairs in the overflow room with an expected vote on Anaheim’s controversial anti-camping ban Tuesday night, but they weren’t needed. Meetings have devolved into bore-a-thons, with councilwoman Kris Murray’s soulless technocratic talk squaring off against councilman Jose Moreno, Ed.D.’s equally soulless academic gobbledygook. And this week’s votes on two homeless agenda items proved no different.

“What we would like to see happen is a campsite opening up for us,” Mildred Aufenkano, a homeless woman, pleaded during public comments. “I’ve been ticketed twice because I was on the trail where I had no other place to go. We’re human beings, not animals.”

Earlier in the year, Moreno ordered a review of the city’s ordinance that passed unanimously in 2013 and banned daylight camping and storage of personal property in city parks—a move aimed at homeless encampments that sprung up in places like La Palma Park. The city later expanded the ban, introducing a list of possible infractions and misdemeanors enforceable by police in the parks. Homeless activists pushed for a repeal of the ordinance, but got every-other-meeting updates from city staff instead thanks to Moreno.

Bringing the vote back to the camping ban, Murray sought to reaffirm Anaheim’s ordinance and troll Moreno. City staff touted the opening of the Bridges at Kraemer Place shelter, while reporting that the ban resulted in 36 citations in 2016 and 17 so far this year—none of which have been misdemeanors. When a candidate, Moreno shamed then-incumbent Jordan Brandman for not saying he’d repeal the ban. Now on the council, Moreno had an out from having to vote on it with his proposed Homeless Policy Working Group.

“I don’t know how we would say we want to keep doing the same thing…without knowing what the best practices are,” Mayor Tom Tait said. “I’m going to make a motion that we table this until after we get results from council member Moreno’s working group.” The Tait-majority voted in lockstep 4-3, outmaneuvering Murray. Could the same vote have overturned the anti-camping ban? Not a chance!

Instead, discussion turned next to creating another study-buddies group in the city. The outline included a roster of 10 potential members, ranging from the American Civil Liberties Union’s Eve Garrow to Anaheim Police Department Captain Eric Carter. “We do want our parks used for their intended purpose, but again, we need to something more serious than we’re doing now,” Moreno said to applause from the audience. “That will be the ethic of the work of this group and hopefully will bring some recommendations that the council will duly consider at the time, but at the end I want to remind everyone that no ordinance has been overturned tonight.”

Murray deemed the roster, which includes members from Anaheim’s Anti-Poverty Task Force and People’s Task Force, to be a “veiled effort to assemble a vocal group” against the city’s ban. She asked Moreno if he had answer as to why a representative from Assemblywoman Sharon Quirk-Silva’s office was included, but not former Anaheim mayor and Assemblyman Tom Daly. “I do!” Moreno, a stern Daly critic, said. “I just didn’t want to make it too large.”

But grow the working group did with West Anaheim council members Denise Barnes and James Vanderbilt pledging to join along with a commitment to reach out to Daly’s office. A member from the County is also yet to be assigned. After an hour’s worth of discussion adding to another marathon seven-hour meeting, council voted 5-2 to create the Homeless Policy Working Group. Once fully staffed, they will meet publicly for three months over the scorching summer while the camping ban remains in place.

“The longer we wait to do that,” Moreno said, “the longer it takes.”

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