Mr. Smith And The Homeless Task Force
Columnist Steve Smith, apparently reeled back in from the bowels of the Saturday Real Estate section of the Daily Pilot for another full-run column today, provides us with his perspective of the homeless problem in Costa Mesa, HERE. His perspective comes from having been the Chairman of the Costa Mesa Homeless Task Force, a position he held for three of its four meetings until he resigned to, as he tells us, stay home with his family.
I have attended half of the task force's four meetings, including the most recent one this evening at the Emergency Operations Center of the Costa Mesa Police Department. Each of those meetings was enlightening.
SMITH BARKED, BERRY BAILED
At the first one I attended - the second of this series - Smith, as Chair, heard a report from then-Vice Chair Judi Berry about information she and her team gleaned from business owners near Lions Park. When she was finished Smith, arbitrarily and without consultation with other members of the Task Force, told her she and her team had to go back out into the community and re-canvass the businesses to gather more information. Berry resigned from the Task Force within a day or two. It was clear to me that Smith was going to have trouble building consensus with such a diverse group if he decided he was going to be the final arbiter of any of the decisions. At the next meeting Jeff Mathews was selected as Vice Chair.
MATHEWS ELECTED CHAIR - EVENTUALLY
This afternoon the first order of business was to select a new Chairman to replace Smith. Unfortunately, Mathews - who would have been expected to run the meeting and handle the election, was late. He finally showed up and was promptly elected Chair by the Task Force members.
GOOD PRESENTATIONS AND EXCELLENT QUESTIONS
I watched the presentations by members of the Task Force and heard the excellent questions posed by many members of the public in attendance. There were around 40 people in the room. After two hours the decision was made to cut-short the presentation by the legal team because there had been so many good questions that the meeting was running long. They will pick it up where they left off in July.
LITTLE PROGRESS HAS BEEN MADE
It became clear to me as I sat there observing the proceedings that not much progress has been made since the last meeting I attended two months ago. Certainly, with the leadership of the group in flux, it's hard to keep a focus on the direction this group has taken. The sub-committees that had been formed appeared to have done little on their own since the previous meetings.
In his last paragraph Smith says, "... the kids are safe at Lions Park.", a peculiar statement to make when part of his column recounted the recent event of a child being hit and injured by a homeless man who threw a ball. And, it certainly does not jibe with the comments made this evening by young mothers who have recently been accosted at Lions Park as they tried to use the facility with their children and others in attendance with their own first-person stories.
BETTER WITHOUT HIM
Once again, Smith demonstrates to us that he's living in some kind of alternate universe - like the one he used to write about in which his family lived in a television-free environment. Whatever the issue is that took Smith away from the Homeless Task Force, I hope it does not involve anything serious with a family member. I do think the Task Force will be better without him.
AN IMPOSSIBLE JOB
I'm left with the feeling that this Task Force is faced with an impossible job. Based on the briefing presented by the Task Force legal team, the legal roadblocks that are in place today seem destined to hamper any serious attempt to fix this problem. And, with a diminishing police force, the chances for serious and aggressive law enforcement activities around Lions Park shrinks by the day. This will be another consequence of the decisions of the Costa Mesa City Council to gut the CMPD. I found myself thinking this probably should be called the Hopeless Task Force - that's how it seemed tonight.