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Activists, city leaders debate November ballot measure to address homelessness

If passed, Measure O would give the city the power to authorize new emergency shelters and clear encampments

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Voters gathered in East Sacramento for a tense, but mostly civil, debate over a ballot measure that would give the city the power to authorize new emergency shelters and clear encampments. 

Daniel Conway, chief proponent of Measure O, argued for a 'yes' vote on the initiative to "send a message to our elected leaders that this (homeless crisis) is unacceptable. 

Arguing against the initiative, District 4 Councilmember Katie Valenzuela said Measure O "does nothing to address the problems we're facing."

Conway said it would require the city to establish new temporary shelters, help move people toward permanent housing and require people to accept the offer of help or move. 

"You can’t camp here, we have places for you to go, but we’re no longer a city that lets people live and die in public places," Conway said. 

Valenzuela said the measure wouldn't help with no new funding, new housing, or mental health or substance abuse services. 

“I’m not going to find a place to move 10,000 people in this county tomorrow," Valenzuela said. "We could move heaven and earth to build as much housing and services as we want, there will still be encampments under this freeway tomorrow.” 

Even if it passes, implementing Measure O depends on a legally-binding partnership agreement with the county.

"I’ve heard from county leadership, I’ve heard from city leadership, and all you hear is more of the same, in terms of why we can’t do things," Conway said.

There's broad agreement between the two sides that the status quo isn't working; voters will decide if Measure O is a step in the right direction this November.  


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