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Letters, Aug. 12

Save the pitchforks

The new ID ordinance is an attempt to solve a problem: The Oregon Supreme Court ruled that in some circumstances an individual may refuse to give their name or birth date. OK. The problem created by this ruling is that people accused of violating the law are using this ruling to avoid being issued a citation for a minor violation.

In Ashland, it appears that the annual summer horde of the hobby homeless have been using this ruling to avoid being written up for violations. Recall that the Ashland City Council has been wrestling with the problems caused by scofflaws and aggressive “travelers” for some years now, and the series of ordinances the council has promulgated, in coordination with the Police Department, has helped substantially reduce obnoxious, aggressive and illegal behavior in Ashland, without violating anyone’s civil rights.

Along came the no-ID loophole ruling, and the council responded with a solution. I am at a loss to see how this requirement to identify oneself, upon being apprehended for breaking the law, is a threat to LGBT, persons of color, or the genuine homeless. It is not even a threat to the lawbreaker — one may not break the law with impunity.

There is no record of the Ashland police targeting or violating the civil rights of people based on their belonging to any group or class. If the police wanted to harass LGBT, or any group, they would be doing it already.

I dispute the contention that the ordinance criminalizes refusal to identify oneself. The ID part is a step taken when confronting a person who has already committed a crime. The revised language restricts requiring identification to a situation where a person has already committed a crime or violated an ordinance. Maybe the people who protest the new ordinance ought to consider the benefits: controlling illegal behavior downtown, and making the downtown safe and welcoming for the citizens of and visitors to Ashland. And they could consider whether this creates a genuine threat to themselves or anyone else.

I am no apologist for the police or the government. Many of us have had received a very chicken traffic ticket, me included. But folks, we have a pretty good, fair and community-oriented police department, and a council that is trying to correct the problems in the city. Let’s save the pitchforks and torches for the real thing.

Art Buck


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