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Op-Ed: New Las Vegas Law Against Feeding Homeless Underscores City's Real MotivationsOp-Ed by: Tim King Salem-News.com
The city most efficient at creating homeless people now says they will arrest you if you feed them.
(SALEM) - The city council of Las Vegas, Nevada took down the town's typical facade this week, when they voted to make it illegal to feed homeless people in a park. No glitz, no neon, just the real heart of America's cruelest city laid open like a book.
Now I readily admit that I am no fan of Las Vegas, having survived five years in TV news there between '96 and '01 working for both the NBC affiliate and the FOX station. I think I could say that for the most part, I saw it all.
There just isn't a place that measures up to Vegas when it comes to certain things, like homeless people. The place is designed to create homeless people, and now the city is legislating the starvation of those who lose it all.
One of my favorite lines always was, "I came to Las Vegas in a thirty-thousand dollar car, and left in a hundred-thousand dollar bus."
Maybe all we have to do is consider the source and examine a little Las Vegas history. In the 1970's and 80's, when sin city was run exclusively by "the company," AKA the mob, the city council's fearless leader, mayor of Las Vegas, Oscar Goodman, was the attorney for Vegas mobsters "Tony" Spilotro and "Lefty" Rosenthal. He is now the subject of a book titled "Of Rats and Men" and it takes the flattery meter down a few notches.
Once when I was covering a fundraising event for Oscar Goodman's election, I was told not to interview a certain young man who was setting tables. "Don't interview the retard" was the exact phrase bumbled by this man who worked for Goodman. It turned out that the young man I wasn't supposed to interview, was the step-brother of Natalie Wood.
I hope those Las Vegas councilors can live with themselves, because you either would have to be conscience-free to make this kind of decision, or a person who never had one at all.
One of my unshakeable memories in Las Vegas goes back to a day when I was getting on the freeway on my motorcycle. Accelerating down the onramp, I looked over at the park off of Washington and saw a man with no arms just sitting there on the grass, sort of rocking. He didn't ask to end up like that, and I felt terrible for him, as I motored along my way with the other mindless Las Vegans.
Having spent years visiting homeless people in shelters in places like Vegas for news stories, I developed more of a sense for the system these folks live within. The St. Vincent de Paul way of doing things isn't bad for a person totally willing to give up their vices and adhere to a particular religion, but that is a tiny majority of homeless people.
The problem isn't very different here in Salem, Oregon, where several hundred homeless people live and exist. Those willing to follow "the program" at the mission are offered what they need to improve.
But if one out of three Americans suffers from mental illness, then isn't it logical to assume that most of these folks are the one out of three? Before Reagan, money existed to take care of people who were mentally and physically impaired. Now we kick them to the street, offer them nothing, and arrest people for feeding them. I can’t even believe I am writing about this.
Many are veterans. No wait, let me say that again, MANY ARE VETERANS! Vietnam did things to the healthy minds of young Americans that are unfathomable to all but the experts, those who served, and those who have tried to live with them in the wake of their combat service.
So I guess the Las Vegas, Nevada city council is anti-veteran too? That’s what it amounts to. They ought to have fun, because there are going to be so many scarred and psychologically damaged veterans from the current war for them to pick on in the future.
You really have to be there to appreciate the absurdity of the place. The school board for example, pushes the 'abstinence only' agenda like old Ralph Reed himself, while the city maintains the highest teen pregnancy rate known to man. I used to speculate that they only denied kids sex education to ensure a cocktail waitress and stripper workforce for years to come.
According to wire reports, the law defines a homeless person as an indigent "whom a reasonable ordinary person would believe to be entitled to apply for or receive assistance."
American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada lawyer Allen Lichtenstein has been with the ACLU in Las Vegas for years and believe me, his battles are uphill all the way. Lichtenstein says the language makes the Las Vegas law unenforceable, "The ordinance is clearly unconstitutional and nonsensical," he said. "How are you going to know without a financial statement who's poor and who's not poor?"
"It means they can discriminate based on the way people look," Lichtenstein said.
So now, as the homeless and landlocked ranks of "Lost Wages" cook in the stifling heat, they’ll have to keep a watchful eye over their shoulder if someone attempts to practice a random act of kindness by feeding them. I hope people there laugh at the law and take every opportunity to demonstrate that these types of governmental errors aren't right in this country, or anyplace for that matter, and they won't be followed.
Back to that Germany in the 30's thing I always talk about again…
The worst thing though, is that I always thought Stephen King had it all wrong with The Stand, with the way things are stacking up right now, I think he nailed it.
I would be willing to bet that the numbers in the homeless population won't dwindle over this law that doesn't just make feeding hungry people illegal; it demoralizes us as a society to know that our fellow humans could ever aspire to such levels of legislated mistreatment.
I know plenty of people are not sympathetic toward the homeless, but I'll bet that even they would agree that this is a sad day in history.
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