More than 20 years too late. The New York Times article implies that the focus of the ban is on the homeless, however, it is using homeless in its broadest definition. It is a too easy characterization by the news media and citizens. The sidewalk sitters that one sees in downtown areas of Berkeley and Portland are for the most part not homeless by choice - they are there to tweak your noses.
Berkeley was the first to have these individuals lying about on the sidewalk with their dogs and personal effects scattered about. Then, as today, these wasted humans gave no concern about the difficulty that others had in getting by them. Ironically many of them 20 years ago were spoiled children of the wealthy who always knew that daddy and mummy would come when beckoned.
Aggressive panhandling is another key factor for sorting out the truly unclean. Here again Berkeley led the way (followed closely by Portland). Panhandlers were not content to stand on the sidewalk with their hands outstretched - they would come into the coffee shops and go table to table demanding money. Business people became the police.
To characterize these sidewalk sitters and panhandlers as homeless disparages the efforts of those who are in fact homeless and without a job because of circumstances, not choice, to regain their lives and dignity. If one were to offer a job to these sitters and aggressive panhndlers - it is unlikely that there would be any takers.
But I find it interesting that Berkeley now wants to do something about these sidewalk sitters, and feel compelled to put it to a vote. I lived in Berkeley for a long time and the businesses and nearby residents long complained to the city about these sitters, especially along Telegraph Avenue.
In those days, it was the city's refusal to address the issue - liberal politics getting in the way of common sense - that led to the closing of the famous Cody's bookstore. But that was a time too when the Berkeley police had to put the arrested in the front seat - apparently placing them in the back seat was counter to 'innocent until proven guilty.'
Cities like Berkeley and Portland too often fail to recognize that there are people that are just the shits. They have no value to society, much less to themselves, and they couldn't care less. Granted it is difficult to distinguish the good from the bad - but that doesn't mean the effort shouldn't be made.
The true homeless - by circumstances not choice - need our help, it is an obligation. I submit that the sidewalk sitters and aggressive panhandlers are not worthy of our concern. Refusing to 'donate' to them is a civic duty.
Those in need are being served by the many charitable agencies extant especially in cities like Berkeley and Portland. It is those agencies that deserve our money, and it is in their hands that our money should go.