Monday, March 16, 2009

Sac'to anti-scavenging ordinance gets attention of L.A. Times columnist


Gregory Rodriguez
"What's really wrong with the anti-scavenging picture? It's that as times get tougher, the middle-class mores that inform such ordinances don't fit the reality of the growing number of people in our towns and cities who will be obliged to find innovative and, shall we say, quasi-respectable ways to survive," writes Gregory Rodriguez in his column in the Los Angeles Times, today, titled "Punishing scavengers? It's un-American: Ordinances meant to discourage the practice fly in the face of our values of self-reliance and resourcefulness," which was specifically about the Sacramento council and its approval of an ordinance that harms area homeless.

[See item #14 (pg 5) on summary of March 3 Sacramento Council meeting.]

Rodriguez tells us, "Not long ago, British historian Simon Schama wrote that 'American resourcefulness is one well that won't run dry,' and for the most part I think he's right. But these days we're more likely to define resourcefulness as high-end technological innovation rather than low-level scrappiness. We tend to celebrate the successful entrepreneurial maverick who cuts corners or goes against the grain, while denigrating the hard-nosed survivor on the other end of the social spectrum."

And: "Of course, we'd rather not have people scavenging through bins to find recyclables to sell for money to buy food, not to mention the fact that scavenging can undercut city recycling programs. Naturally, we'd prefer that all retail businesses adhere to some sort of regulated standards. But barring outright criminal activity, in times like these when more and more Americans are losing their homes and their jobs, it seems counterproductive to discourage anyone from finding relatively innocuous ways to help themselves.

"Punishing resourcefulness? It's downright un-American."

Rodriguez's bio tells us he's "an Irvine Senior Fellow and Director of the California Fellows Program at New America Foundation, a non-partisan public policy institute. He has written widely on issues of national identity, social cohesion, assimilation, race relations, religion, immigration, ethnicity, demographics and social and political trends. His book Mongrels, Bastards, Orphans and Vagabonds: Mexican Immigration and the Future of Race in America, was named one of the "Best Books of 2007" by The Washington Post.

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