The Venice Stakeholders Association issued a press release today which questions Councilman Bill Rosendahl’s press release from May 2nd regarding the homeless encampment on 3rd street, aka the nationally discussed “Skid Rose”.
The Venice Stakeholders Association today released an opinion letter from a leading First Amendment attorney that concludes that Councilman Bill Rosendahl misled his constituents when he claimed that: “The Ninth Circuit Court has ruled that people or organizations have a First Amendment right to distribute free food.” The councilman made the statement in a “FAQ” (frequently asked questions) on May 2, 2012.
The opinion letter, prepared by attorney Gary Bostwick (attached), concludes: “Our opinion is that the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has never ‘ruled that people or organizations have a First Amendment right to distribute free food’ as he states. The fact that there is no basis for the Statement is admitted by the City Attorney’s Office.”
Rosendahl’s FAQ also says that “During litigation … the court insisted that the City set aside two spaces on Ocean Front Walk for food distribution. We are legally required to do that …” In fact, the City was never ordered by any court to set aside spaces for food distribution. Rather, the City (with Rosendahl leading the way) agreed voluntarily to bind itself to do so in a settlement agreement with the plaintiffs in the case, and then amended its sidewalk vending ordinance (L.A.M.C. section 42.15) to set aside the spaces.
“Rosendahl gave that away because he’s stuck in a 1950s social worker mindset about how you help the poor, not because any ruling, holding or order by any court ever required such action or held that there is a First Amendment right to distribute free food on public property,” VSA president Ryavec said.
“With this revelation we renew our call for Rosendahl to amend the vending ordinance to remove these public food giveaway stations,” Ryavec said. “It’s not an accident that Santa Monica ended its public feeding programs years ago; these stations are dysfunctional, enable people to stay in squalid conditions, and act as a magnet.”
Ryavec noted that after seven years in office, Rosendahl has yet to put in place effective programs to help the poor get off the street and into housing.
“Bill’s spent a lot of time getting his picture taken, but that doesn’t seem to have resulted in a decrease in our transient population,” Ryavec said. “And in that population we have witnessed murderers, rapists, muggers, burglars and thieves. The residents are really done with the risks to life, limb and property this population represents.”
Attachment: Opinion Letter from Gary Bostwick to Venice Stakeholders Association