Wednesday, January 18, 2012

2012-01-18 "Fears of ‘Occupy American Canyon’ prompt debate" by MICHAEL WATERSON
AMERICAN CANYON  — While no one expects to see tents surrounding City Hall anytime soon, American Canyon officials want to be prepared.
Council members wrestled with an ordinance Tuesday that would restrict camping in the city before ultimately agreeing the issue needed more study.
As written, the law would have limited camping on public and private property with the intent to “avoid an Occupy Oakland scenario,” as Councilmember Belia Ramos Bennett described it.
Councilmember Mark Joseph wondered if the ordinance wasn’t a solution in search of a problem.
“I’m pretty sure we don’t have an ‘Occupy Wall Street’ movement brewing (here),” Joseph said.
He wondered if the city wasn’t overstepping its bounds and whether existing municipal codes on public health and public nuisance were not sufficient to address any future problem.
City Attorney William Ross said other towns have found existing law insufficient in the case of the Occupy movement. The Napa Valley is a popular tourist destination, Ross said, and as a shipping hub for the wine industry American Canyon with its heavily traveled roads could be an attractive target.
Joseph also had a problem with placing restrictions on private property. “I’m not sure we want to go there,” he said.
Councilmember Joan Bennett agreed. “I don’t see a problem with (restricting camping on) public property.” But she said that trying to say how a property owner could use his or her land was too intrusive.
After a number of attempts to revise the law, council members decided to schedule a study session on existing codes, curfew on public land and camping on residential, commercial and public property.
“We’ve tried to rewrite laws on the fly in the past,” Joseph said. Those attempts never turned out well, he said.

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