Decide for yourself if this blog comment, posted under my own name, should have been flagged and removed from the Bellingham Herald Online Edition. (The below comment is a draft of what I posted, so it will be similar but not identical to my post.) The article I was responding to can be read here.
Much like the eviction process itself, the City’s analysis of costs is extremely flawed. Much of the “clean-up” costs could have been avoided if the City had provided Occupy Bellingham with more than 24 hour notice during a period of heavy rain. As the City itself notes, the campers effectively minimized any damage to the park, and they would have had time to clean up after themselves if the City had granted their request for a 24-48 hour extension on eviction.
The City has no basis for including the riot squad as a cost resulting from the encampment. It was not necessary and not legally appropriate. The City Code treats overnight camping as a civil infraction subject to a small fine and possible restitution. And technically, there was not even a violation. Because the encampment was allowed by the City (which makes it an authorized use under the City Code), no violation occurred because the riot squad cleared out the park before any unauthorized night camping occurred.
The cost of the riot squad resulted not from the encampment, but from the City by-passing the camping regulation, and using instead the deadliest tool in the Parks Department’s arsenal. In cases of potential hazard to park property or public safety, the City may close down an area of park, and arrest those who trespass. Again, however, there was no violation. The City admitted that the negligible damage from the encampment consists of the need to reseed the lawn, which is a normal maintenance activity at many City parks.
However, the City should include the litigation costs resulting from the eviction as a public cost. If, as I believe, there was no misdemeanor violation, the public might also be responsible for an award for civil damages. The City is calculating these costs as a diversionary tactic for the public, and to convince a judge to impose restitution. I bring these facts up so the public will know at whom to direct their ire for the irresponsible management of public funds.
I think the City’s time would be better spent explaining its reckless handling of this matter.
UPDATE: The Herald has reposted my blog comments in their orginal spot. However, a blog comment I posted complaining about censorship and removal of my comments has itself been removed.