The moms and dads of San Rafael kid themselves if they think they can control public protests by city ordinance.
Here are the new rules in San Rafael.
- You need a permit for events, which are defined as “public parades, processions, marches and assemblies.” You’ll need to work in advance and secure proof of insurance that holds the city harmless in case something gets out of hand.
- “Event permits will differ from ‘expressive activities’ — now defined as conduct by participants to communicate opinions or ideas. Any event meant to demonstrate viewpoints will require a permit with more than 100 people on city property, or 50 or more people at San Rafael City Plaza,” the Independent Journal reports.
- “Spontaneous events on ‘recent public affairs’ will not require a permit if conducted at City Hall, the City Plaza or on city sidewalks, as long as traffic is unaffected.”
Sayeth Vice Mayor Maribeth Bushey: “I know this seems like mundane trivial detail, that isn’t sexy and isn’t cool. I think that setting out our standards by which we’re going to evaluate these (activities) helps tremendously.”
I don’t know about that, Maribeth. Seems more wishful than helpful. The very nature of public protest defies control. When you go out for the evening, do you leave a note in the living room instructing the pets upon which pieces of furniture the dogs may sit and the cats may scratch? Trying to control spontaneous unrest in advance is pretty much the same idea.
For example, is San Rafael suggesting that if something should happen like the downtown Portland occupation last summer, it would be OK so long as the misbehavior is confined to the City Plaza?
Truth is these kinds of events will be judged in the heat of the moment based on safety issues for people and private property. They will not be controlled by city code. If you don’t believe me, consider the Black Lives Matter protests in Oakland last year. Is a clerk from the City Council’s office going to chase down a sea of pissed-off humanity and explain to them the finer points of the city’s ordinance on spontaneous protests on recent current events? I don’t think so.
If you need a rule on how to handle spontaneous events, how about this: If you peaceably assemble and make your grievance known, then fine. It’s America. Do your thing, baby. But, if you hurt people or break stuff, you will be arrested, jailed and held accountable.
Seems like a better approach to me.
WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT, ALGAE?
With apologies to Burt Bacharach and his earworm song “Alfie”, may I ask what is it with all the horrific news these days. Now comes a story out of Santa Rosa that there are killer algal mats on the bed of the Russian River in Cloverdale. If you drink the water near the algae, you will die.
The Press Democrat reports that the Sonoma County Environmental Health and Safety has posted signs warning about the mats.
The “rug of algae range in color from bright green to orange, brown or maroon. While most algae is harmless, officials suggest an abundance of caution and generally (advise) avoiding algal mats.”
Gudgawdalmighty! Between COVID, wildfires, San Rafael gang shootings, white supremecists in San Anselmo and now killer algae, I’m afraid to leave the house.
DEAD OR ALIVE
I don’t want anyone to get the wrong idea. I’m not one of those people who thinks the government is as useful as teats on a boar. But, it must be said that the bigger the bureaucracy, the chances of greater inefficiencies.
Here’s a case in point on this rubric from the Bloomberg news wire:
“Long before the Treasury Department sent $1.4 billion in stimulus checks to dead people last year, the U.S. government struggled to keep track of the deceased.
“Dead farmers received about $22 million in crop subsidies over five years. The Federal Emergency Management Agency sent Hurricane Sandy disaster benefits to 45 people who died before the agency received their assistance applications. The Agriculture Department incorrectly paid $35 million in rural housing rental assistance because it didn’t know whether tenants passed away.”
ONE MORE THING
— Don’t tell me about your childhood problems. I was forced to watch Lawrence Welk as a kid.
— MTV turns 40 this year. Thank you for 15 years of music.
— Law of Probability Dispersal: Whatever it is that hits the fan will not be evenly distributed.
— By replacing your morning coffee with tea, you can lose 87% of what little joy you still have left in life.
— Everyone has heard of Karl Marx. But no one has heard of his sister, Onya, who invented the starter pistol.
— I regret nothing!
OK, that’s enough. As always we appreciate you tuning in to Marin’s most delightful newspaper. We hope it’s been an informative and joyful experience. Until next time, live free, exhibit kindness in all that you do, and always question authority.
(Sherman Frederick is a Hall of Fame journalist and owner of Marinscope Community Newspapers. You can reach him by email at email@example.com, or by phone at 415-408-1073.)