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I can’t say that I wasn’t told that this Liberal OC, “Occupy OC Costs Irvine Taxpayers $8,600,” story was coming, but now that it’s here — well, I’m not sure what to make of it.
It doesn’t surprise me that the presence of Occupy OC has cost Irvine at least $8,600, if that’s the figure, nor that the costs include legal counsel and electronic signs to discourage honking. Of course, one question one might ask is: what have other Occupations that have not involved peaceful and respectful cooperation between municipal government and protesters costs other cities. As usual, Wikipedia gives us a first approximation of an answer. We find a List of Occupations in the United States. With citations, we find some estimated price tags (all of which are footnoted, most of which are outdated and by now higher):
Denver, $365,000. Atlanta, $652,000. Boston, $575,000. Raleigh, NC, $1500 per day. Cincinnati, $128,000. Portland, $785,000. Seattle, $625,000.
But what about ones in California?
Oakland, $2.4 million. Los Angeles, $200,000 — as of Nov. 23, before the mass arrests.
So while I suppose that while one could criticize the Irvine City Council for handling our protest — which could have become much bigger and more contentious in the absence of constructive cooperation — for a relatively small expenditure, in the grand scheme it seems to be awfully wise choice.
Beyond that, there’s this question: how much of what the City spent would have had to be spent even without the City’s cooperation? The City’s cooperation involved our ability to stay there overnight. Those signs discouraging honking mostly apply to our being in a public park during the day — which is our right. It is also our right to be on the sidewalk at night. The fact that our presence leads passers-by — without our instigation — to honk and disturb the neighbors is not our intent. (We don’t honk.) Shutting the protest down because others do honk is unconstitutional — it’s called a “heckler’s veto.” So those signs don’t belong on the tab.
Meanwhile, some City Attorney time drafting contracts is nothing compared to the amount that would be required for what would have been a serious civil liberties case — as some other cities may yet discover. One question is: how much has Irvine saved? The answer: plenty! For one thing, the City obtained concessions from us, some involving noise abatement, that it would not have otherwise obtained.
Meanwhile, Irvine has been getting great nationwide publicity for its handling of our protest — as we protesters have gotten for our handling of Irvine, which leaves us one of the longest continuing occupations in the country — so much so that when the Cleveland City Council voted to recognize its own Occupation, one of the examples cited of how to make things work was — placid little Irvine! Was that worth $10,000 of good PR?
But perhaps the complaint is that we protesters would better not protest at all, even in the light of the way more than $8,600 than the corrupt objects of our protest have cost the county, including Irvine residents. (It’s probably more than that per household, I’d guess, once you factor in the boom, bust, foreclosure cycle.) That seems to be the thrust of this paragraph.
The latest agreement to allow the Occupy movement to camp expires on Dec. 21. The OccupyOC group is not engaged in voter registration, has not endorsed any candidates for local, state or federal office and has not raised any significant money to back candidates or ballot measures that support the 99 percent.
That (except maybe for the voter registration) is true. The Occupy protest is not a partisan effort, despite the presence of many partisans like myself within it. So I will concede the point. I just don’t understand the point. If it’s that only partisan politics leads to change, my question is: well, haven’t we tried that, and didn’t we end up … here? Maybe we need more than one tool in our shed, eh?