…But not before wasting $300,000 of the city’s money. The Occupy Eugene camp underneath the Washington-Jefferson bridge has now become essentially a transient village, abandoning all the lofty demands of the several months ago to focus on the single issue of homelessness.
Last Wednesday the city council voted 5-3 to extend Occupy’s camping exemption to January 11 and spend up to $300,000 to pay for Occupy-related police expenses and fund several homeless initiatives, such as $100,000 earmarked for “wet-bed” facilities and warming centers similar to the Egan Warming Center. They were locked 4-4 until ol’ polecat Mayor Kitty Piercy cast the deciding vote. Councilors Farr, Clark, and Poling opposed the extension and funding on the grounds that “most of the funding would come from funds meant for parks maintenance, pothole repairs, and gang prevention efforts.” Also, the fact the city council continues to cater to the whims of a single group of questionable “activists” is embarrassing for everyone. (If it’s this easy to get exemptions and cash for whatever policies one desires, what is the OC waiting for? Occupy Rennie’s until all beer is free forever!)
Councilor Poling expressed his (and our) frustration at the voting outcome, telling the Register-Guard, “It’s time that we actually stepped up and did what we have to do to reclaim that park, reclaim the city and reclaim what we, as a council, should be doing, and not be guided by somebody else.”
The council did hold firm on the city mandate that outlaws fires in public parks, which the Occupiers requested in order to warm themselves during these bitter Eugene nights. Occupy organizer John Monroe accused the councilors of being “uncaring,” but a rational human could also accuse them of having “reasonable forethought” and being “park-fire-averse.”
The Occupiers themselves seem split on the ruling. KEZI reported that Occupy Eugene feels the city is “wasting money” on them, saying that the problem is the city council’s view that the camp is comprised mostly of homeless who need funding for a smooth transition out of the park and back to rustling around in your dumpster at 5 AM.
“This is not a homeless camp,” Occupier Alley Valkyrie told KEZI, “until they get themselves out of the mentality that this is a homeless camp, we’re just stuck in this lost-in-translation place,” backing this up with, “I am not homeless. I am at this camp.”
This stands in contrast to, well, all evidence, and the words of their own spokespeople. In a press conference this past Monday the speakers from Occupy emphasized that “the camp is home to hundreds of homeless people who are finding ways to sober up, catch up on sleep and contribute to the intentional community.” Sounds like UO students the morning after a post-finals celebratory binge.
The “official” Occupy Eugene website called the city council’s ruling a “milestone” to be celebrated, but were “disheartened” by the council’s decision to use some of the $300,000 to pay the police for their services. Right. It’s not like there have been 296 police calls to the park this year (as of December 11th) compared to 139 in 2010. That guy who almost got his fucking leg chopped off with an axe? Well, “everything that happens here, happens everywhere in society,” according to Occupy Eugene spokesperson Mike Elliot.
Yeah, we at the OC have totally been there, man.
As Jim West advised Dr. Arliss Loveless in the cinema classic Wild Wild West, “it’s time for you to stop all this foolishness.”
Occupy Eugene: you’ve made some waves, had some marches, and nearly chopped some legs. You have $100,000 for some nice, wet beds and new warming centers. Homelessness is not a problem that is ever going to be “solved,” at least not until our mental health and addiction treatment system is “fixed” (but no one gives a fuck about that, right?) Quit while you’re ahead.
And City Council, yeah, you: it’s a nice gesture to throw money at the problem, but the police costs are really just going straight down the toilet. Woman up, Piercy, and let the police clear out what used to be OUR CITY’S park. Once the police start making arrests and writing tickets the Occupiers will scatter faster than freshmen at a busted party.
As the Register-Guard observed:
A 22-year-old man who called himself “Skeeter” said he would leave the camp rather than risk a citation.
“How can I pay for a ticket? I don’t have any money,” he said, adding that he’d likely just leave Eugene.
Making the connections, yet?
Only time will tell if, come January 11, the council holds firm in their decision to evict the camp. Until then, its up to Santa to take care of business: