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The QueQue

The QueQue: Science fair: SA teacher petitions the TCEQ, Despite headlines, fracking not out of the woods yet

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A U.S. Department of Energy subcommittee released its own report a day after Grout’s announcement saying companies aren’t doing enough to cut pollution and contamination risks.

 

Criminalizing homelessness downtown advances

A bolstered “aggressive panhandling” ordinance is destined for a speedy approval at Council this Thursday, expanding a radius of no-fly zones around ATMs, bus stops, and busses from 25 to 50 feet, while also adding to the list restaurants, outdoor patio and dining areas, public parking garages and pay stations, parking meters and converted “donation station” meters collecting change for Haven for Hope. The City’s Public Safety Committee took up the item Tuesday after it stalled in Council earlier this month when downtown’s District 1 Councilman Diego Bernal, a former civil rights attorney, attempted to change the panhandling language already written into city code which prohibits people from asking for cash or “another thing of value.” The language, he feared, was overly broad, possibly criminalizing behavior like asking for food, a cigarette, clothing, blankets, or maybe even a job. With noticeable ire from Police Chief Bill McManus and several other council members, the change was quickly dismissed, and the ordinance sent back to the Public Safety Committee, of which Bernal is not a member.

Tuesday’s short exchange seemed nothing more than procedural — especially given the head-spinning scheduling trick (before Tuesday’s committee meeting, the posted November 17 Council agenda featured the ordinance, referencing the committee meeting that had yet to even occur). Many of the same pro-ordinance voices — Marco Barros, CEO of the San Antonio Area Tourism Council and Olga Kucerak, a downtown resident who says she’s been hassled and threatened by downtown panhandlers — spoke up again Tuesday, asking officials to push through the policy as originally written. (QueQue kept scanning the room for Occupy San Antonio, to no avail.) Bernal promised to support whatever changes the committee made, which were none, on the caveat that the city review the policy in six months. And a contrite Bernal pledged this would be the last time Council had to put up with his concerns over the matter.

The stricter ordinance comes on the heels of the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty’s report “Criminalizing Crisis”: an analysis of local policies in over 200 major U.S. cities that reveal a “startling trend toward criminalizing basic acts necessary for homeless persons’ survival, including eating and sleeping in public,” the group says. Since its 2009 report, the center noted a 7 percent increase in measures targeting begging or panhandling, a 7 percent increase in measures against sleeping outside, and a 10 percent increase in policies against loitering.

It’s bad enough that the banksters sent the world’s economy teetering in the first place, but now those most damaged by the system will find themselves doubly bruised by their neighbors in city government. •

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