Greg Ridge's Take On The Homeless Task Force
In response to my solicitation of input from the Costa Mesa Homeless Task Force launch meeting yesterday, Westsider Greg Ridge gave me his take on the meeting. He was one of the many interested attendees, each of whom had a chance to speak during their "introductions". I tinkered with the spelling and some of the names and added some formatting features (The titles are mine), but this is Greg's take on the meeting as he sent it to me this morning. His note to me was too long for a "comment" on my previous entry. His observations track very closely with other telephone calls I received about the meeting.
It was a start. Talk about a mix of oil and water.
TASK FORCE MEMBERS
The task force members are as follows. Sorry If I miss anyone.
Larry Haynes (Facilitator)- Director of Mercy House
Steve Smith -Elected Chair- Daily Pilot/ Freelance writer
Judi Berry - Vice Chair- Resident
Muriel Ullman- CM Housing Coordinator
Kim Pederson-Parks and Recs Commissioner
Christian Eric- Westside Resident
Colin McCarthy-CM Planning Commissioner
Jeff Mathews- CM Parks and Recs. Commissioner
Cambria Briggs- 3R Committee
Lisa Locke- Teacher @ Access, Friends of the Library, Mesa Verde Resident
Mike Brumbaugh- Halecrest Association( Former, sadly) Parks and Recs. Chairman
Wendy Leece- City Council Member, County Library Board
Ed Salcedo- Planning Commissioner
Russell Carter- Saddleback Church
Beck Heghoe- Representing, Lighthouse, Rock Harbor, The Crossing, Churchs
Karen McGlinn- S.O.S.
Ken Babcock- Public Law Center.
Also in attendance were the police in charge of the Lions Park area and our new interim Chief of Police, Steve Staveley, many members from Illumination Foundation and a smattering of residents. Oh, and Jim Fitzpatrick made a little speech at the beginning of the meeting about how we shouldn't be afraid of getting sued. This was during an awkward period where Larry Haynes had the audience introduce themselves.
I didn't recognize the City Attorney, but she was very cognizant of the minefield we are attempting to walk through. In fact she addressed, Fitzpatrick's comments, (he had already skedaddled out), saying that there is only so much you can use the courts. Courts will not solve this cities homeless problem. It makes judges really angry. She gets threatened to be sued three times a day, and her job is to know when they will lose. That created a great dialogue with the Public Law Center attorney, Ken Babcock. They addressed the value of "Homeless Court" and it's uses that can be applied to our situation. http://voiceofoc.org/countywide/county_government/article_239b9baa-49f7-11e0-a1b5-001cc4c002e0.html
SUB-COMMITTEES AND THE BROWN ACT
After discussing Brown Act rules they set up three subcommittees:
Each one has about 7 members to safely stay below a quorum. They were warned about chain e-mails, and telephone calls.
COMPETING FACTIONS & "TRUST"
There was a telling back-and-forth between Cambria Briggs from the 3R committee and Karen McGlinn from S.O.S. At one point, while members were joining sub-committees, Ms. Briggs complained that she didn't think the services board shouldn't be stacked with just service providers. She then went on further to complain that we all know there are two sides here. Karen McGlinn, from S.O.S., made some great comments, about how first the task force must work together in a "trust". They are fact finding, looking for solutions, and must then come together for recommendations that are workable. The first thing this group must do is have "trust". Not so sure it sat well with the "handpicked citizens" on the Force.
WHAT ABOUT THE DATA?
Larry Haynes (Mercy House) immediately jumped in to control the Data sub-committee. Steve Smith was jumping at that bone also. I have some concerns because from listening to Larry speak about this issue, I disagree with his Data. Seems to me he is controlling the actual facts to fit a more streamlined agenda that addresses Mercy House's ability to be the one to fix it. Time will tell where this goes.
EGOS AND APPREHENSIONS
The group is large with many egos, and many set-in-stone viewpoints and opinions.
One staggering exchange was with the people who feared holding the next meeting at the Downtown Community Center. Tim Peterson suggested Balearic as an alternative to assuage some of their fears.
At the end of the meeting in public comments, I spoke out.
I told them they would need "courage" if they plan on moving forward with this. The Estancia Girls Water Polo team just held their Awards Dinner at the Downtown Rec. Center. It was a beautiful evening and a great event. If you are afraid to even go down there to see the problem or explore the need, you might not be the right person to sit on this task force.
The issue of homelessness has many moving parts. It's messy, complicated, emotionally charged, takes long term commitment. There are no "quick fixes". The longest journey begins with the first step. We'll just have to wait a see if this "herd of cats" can move in the same general direction and actually go anywhere.
THANKS TO GREG RIDGE FOR HIS VIEWS
My thanks to Greg for taking the time to attend the launch and for providing us with his viewpoint. If there are other opinions please just send them as comments. If they are too long send me an email.
HERE'S MY VIEW...
This issue is a tough one or it would have been addressed long ago. In my view, it begins with how we define the "problem". My definition of it is, "The City of Costa Mesa is infested with homeless people who, by their presence, render valuable public assets - parks, libraries, community centers - less usable by the residents of the city. They are attracted to our city by a number of factors, including weather, availability of services to them and an unwillingness of local officials to address the problem." That last part has changed, so we'll just have to see if this esteemed group can pool their intellectual resources and come up with workable solutions that please folks on both sides of this subject. I'm not holding my breath...