The right call

Leaders made a wise decision voting down a sit/lie law

There’s absolutely no question that there are more destitute people in Chico the past couple of years. All one has to do is walk down Fourth Street in front of the City Council chambers. There, on the grass out front, is an encampment of sorts: many people lounging about, often sleeping among all of their belongings, including dogs in some cases.

It’s a pretty stark image, especially considering how empty this area was just a couple of years ago.

Some of these folks may be the same people who make their beds in the doorways of downtown businesses at night.

We feel for the owners and managers of these businesses. Any amount of time doing the cleanup they must undertake to simply be able to open the doors in the morning is too much time. Business people should not have to clean up human filth on their doorsteps.

But creating a sit/lie law would not solve this problem. As was noted during the last City Council meeting (see “Pull up a sidewalk,” by Robert Speer, Newslines, Aug. 22), the law would create a burden on police officers. That’s because they would end up in court each time the subject of the infraction chose to challenge it. Talk about a waste of resources. Moreover, even if the people cited should lose, the odds of them paying the fine are extremely slim.

In other words, what’s the point?

And there are other problems with the ordinance—namely the fact that prohibiting people from existing in public spaces is a violation of a fundamental civil right.

City leaders must dig deeper to get to the heart of the matter. They need to understand why these folks are living on the streets, and why here in Chico. Most important, they must determine what the community can do to help them transition out of homelessness.