committee that backed sit/lie ordinance in berkeley violated local election laws

by Tim Phillips

A sit/lie law on the ballot in Berkeley last year would have made it a crime to sit on sidewalks in the city’s commercial districts between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m. The proposal, which involved citations and a possible maximum sentence of six months in jail, was ultimately defeated in November 2012. Yesterday the East Bay Express reported that the Yes on Measure S committee backing the ordinance violated local election laws:

The campaign violations also have stirred controversy in Berkeley because some of the payments handed out on Election Day allegedly went to homeless people who were paid to distribute fliers in favor of an ordinance that would have made it illegal to sit on city sidewalks. Opponents of Measure S say that homeless workers were duped into thinking that they were campaigning for President Obama’s reelection.

Berkeley’s ethics commission plans to fine the Yes on Measure S committee for failing to report more than 50 cash payments to people to hand out fliers on Election Day. The man who made the payments, a member of the Berkeley Democratic Club (which endorsed the proposed ordinance), said he paid cash because he thought many of the people did not have bank accounts.

The proposed sit/lie law also would have criminalized activists for sitting on commercial district sidewalks between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m. during, for example, unpermitted demonstrations or encampments. Similar laws exist in approximately three dozen cities across the U.S.