The ACLU needs new guests
We find ourselves increasingly gobsmacked by Anchorage’s homeless camps problem. We have come to wonder: When is a law not really a law?
It simply is unarguable that the numerous eyesores in parks and greenbelts – complete with human waste, garbage, bottles and hypodermic needles – are a public health menace and a danger to everyone. They also serve as gathering spots for very dangerous people bent on lives of thievery and drug use. That something must be done also is unarguable.
What to do? Assemblyman Christopher Constant proposes the city declare “cleanup zones” for multiple camps across swaths of public land rather than target them individually on a piecemeal basis driven by prioritizing complaints.
Our urban sportsmen nowadays get a 10-day eviction notice on their camp and then they can simply move to another, nearby unposted camp. Constant’s proposal would give modern-day homesteaders in the targeted zone 15 days notice and then all the camps in the zone would be sacked – meaning, we suppose, their inhabitants would have to walk further to set up a new camp.
Again, as in the past when the city tried to address the growing problem, the American Civil Liberties Union – its undies perpetually in a bunch and dutifully aghast- is tut-tutting about this and that and decrying a lack of long-term solutions – solutions, mind you, it will not have to pay for.
Like so many Anchorage residents, we are confused. If it is illegal to camp on city property, why are such camps tolerated, even for a minute? We wonder: Why does it take notice of any kind to evict illegal squatters and camps? If we were to set up in the City Hall parking lot, would we get 10 or 15 days notice before being hustled off? How about the Town Square or Delaney Park Strip?
In trying to protect the rights of those who willfully break the law, the city and the legal establishment are ignoring the rights of the majority, the rights of those who go to work every day, act as responsible citizens and dutifully pay their taxes. Allowing the camps, even for a minute, denies residents safe access to the parks and greenbelts they are paying for so that many who simply want to lead a criminal lifestyle can do so in peace.
Allowing the camps to exist also is a financial drain on the city. A recent Anchorage Daily News story reported 15 parks staff members are dedicated to camp cleanups this summer. Fifteen. That does not count the police or other city workers engaged in the cleanups. All of that costs money.
Perhaps the thing to do is pack a bus with some of our urban sportsmen – and their truckloads of accoutrements – and deposit them on the doorstep of the ACLU. Let’s see if it takes 10 or 15 days to get them run off.