Squid Speaks

Fake Out…Squid isn’t immune to a good viral video now and then, especially when it has to do with Squid’s underwater hometown. Like many thousands of bipeds, Squid watched the whale fall discovered in the Monterey Bay Marine Sanctuary on Oct. 16, by the research vessel Nautilus for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Squid watched as Squid’s cousin octupuses—as well as other sea citizens—made a good meal out of the carcass of a young baleen whale. Squid is no ghoul about such things—circle of life and all—Squid has respect and compassion for all creatures. If Squid was wearing a hat, Squid would place it over Squid’s three hearts as a sign of respect for that fallen whale giving life to so many.

Speaking of compassion, Squid noticed that there’s a proposed state ballot measure that sounds like it’s an act that would help people. After a careful reading, however, it appears to be instead all an act, more about helping homeless people right into jail. It’s called the California Compassionate Intervention Act, submitted by former California State Assemblymember Mike Gatto, D-Los Angeles. 

“It is not humane to leave people who need help to fend for themselves on the streets,” Gatto writes in a cover letter to the California Attorney General Xavier Becerra on Oct. 10. “Certain acts by those people, which hurt society as a whole, should be treated as cries for help and opportunities to engage people to get them help. Doing so will also help law-abiding citizens enjoy the safe and clean use of our streets, and encourage respect for our laws.”

Squid sees what Gatto did there. Homeless people are “those people,” while housed people are “law-abiding citizens,” stated under the guise of being more humane. Squid reported on such talk recently by residents complaining about homeless encampments in Laguna Grande Park. Those speaking up to the Monterey City Council in August insisted that the homeless people living in the park were law-breaking “vagrants.” 

Gatto pretends to be helping homeless people by promising that his proposed ballot initiative will get them help through drug and mental health courts—called “Specialized Benefits, Treatment, and Therapy Court”—where judges would assign counseling—sometimes in jail, sometimes out of jail under terms of probation. Similar courts exist here in Monterey County for veterans who run afoul of the law. They have worked for many veterans, but the amount of professional and volunteer support necessary to keep them on a path toward wellness is immense.

The Western Center on Law and Poverty analyzed Gatto’s proposal and had a completely different take of Gatto’s ideas about helping.

“The initiative is an embarrassing attempt to make California more visually appealing to those who have no interest or knowledge in addressing the root causes of what is happening to people in our state and country,” according to a WCLP press release. “This proposal would take California back into the dark ages of mass institutionalization of people with perceived or real mental illness.”

The law center said the proposed measure as written is illegal under several civil rights laws and complained that its zero-tolerance approach to homelessness will only “exacerbate racial and class disparities through an overly aggressive criminal justice system.” It pointed out there is no funding mechanism in the proposal to finance all the counseling involved.

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In his letter to Becerra, Gatto pointed to “two sides,” in the debate over what to do about homelessness, one that “believes the government should be more aggressive in making our streets safer for all people,” while the other side thinks government should be “more lenient, believing that economic hardships are the singular cause.” The WCLP calls this view “overly simplistic.

“Homelessness is the result of rapidly increasing income inequality, but it is also the result of years of government mismanagement of resources and funding as well as institutionalized racism,” its release states. (Squid would add, and all those housed folks who have fought with vigor to prevent adding homeless services or more housing in their areas.)

Gatto’s submission of the proposed measure to the Attorney General’s Office is step one to getting placed on the state ballot. There are still other steps, like collecting more than 620,000 signatures of registered voters. 

If it does make it to the ballot, Squid believes there are some voters who will see “California Compassionate Intervention Act,” yes or no, and vote “yes,” not fully understanding what they’re actually voting for.

Here’s hoping the so-called California Compassionate Intervention Act dies a compassionate death, it’s carcass sinking to the ocean floor never to be seen again. On second thought, that’s a video Squid would relish seeing.

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