Thursday, October 31, 2019

PETRIE-NORRIS HOLDS SOBER LIVING HEARING IN COSTA MESA

WAKE UP!
As most of you who read this blog know, I placed it into a coma many months ago, hoping to spend my time having fun with my wife - traveling and just enjoying ourselves.  However, I withheld the option to resurrect it if something really important seemed to justify it.  I’ve continued to express myself on local issues in Facebook snippets.  This event required slapping the blog awake - the issue is just too darn important to all of us.  So, here we go…
PETRIE-NORRIS HOLDS A HEARING
Assemblywoman Cottie Petrie-Norris, Chair of the Assembly Accountability and Administrative Review Committee, held an informational hearing in the Costa Mesa City Council Chambers today, the subject of which was Substance Abuse Treatment Industry Regulation.  Also on the dais were Assemblywoman Sharon Quirk-Silva and State Senator Pat Bates.
MEDIA STARS COVERING THE MEETING
Luke Money, Assistant City Editor of the Daily Pilot, and Teri Sforza, ace reporter on this issue for the Southern California News Group (Orange County Register) both attended.  You can read Luke’s story HERE.  You can read Teri's excellent piece, published Thursday morning, HERE.
NOT TELEVISED, BUT LIVE-STREAMED
This meeting, while not televised by CMTV, was live streamed by members of the State Assembly staff.  The archive of that nearly 3-hour streaming video can be found by navigating at THIS LINK.

EXCELLENT MEETING
From my position in the cheap seats - my old seat in the back row - I thought this was an excellent meeting.  Of the 60 or so attendees, I estimate that around 10 were residents.  The remainder were panelists, staffers or representatives of the sober living industry.  Following opening comments by the Chair and other elected representatives there were four panel presentations.  
IMPACTS?
The first one, long time, highly respected Costa Mesa sober living operator Nancy Clark and former addict and sober living operator Sal Landers shared their stories and wisdom on the issue - The Recovery Experience: How have clients, their families, and providers been impacted?  This discussion took about 40 minutes, including questions by the legislators.  I won’t attempt to cover all their comments - the streaming video is available for your review.  I will say, thought, that the predominant thread through it all was money - the fact that this industry generates lots of money.
REAL TREATMENT?
The second panel - the subject of which was Industry Experts: What is the real treatment? -  consisted of Jennifer Lohse, Vice President and General Counsel, Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation and Dr. Randolph Holmes, Chair, Public Policy Committee, California Society of Addiction Medicine.  Lohse spoke of the need for establishing mandatory standards for sober living operators.  Holmes emphasized that sober living operators should be licensed, not just certified.
During this segment Assemblywoman Petrie-Norris observed that California is the only state with total lack of oversight of this industry.
WHAT ABOUT BAD OPERATORS?
The third panel consisted of Costa Mesa Mayor Katrina Foley; Tracy Hughes, Senior Deputy District Attorney, Orange County District Attorney’s Office and Jeff Hallock, Assistant Sheriff, Orange County Sheriff’s Department.  The subject of this panel was Law Enforcement: How can we respond to unscrupulous operators?

Foley led off with an explanation of what Costa Mesa has been doing in this regard, augmented by an excellent PowerPoint presentation, which I have provided below.
Hughes explained the current status of enforcement within the District Attorney’s Office, including a discussion of the 7-person task force.  She discussed a couple cases of medical abuses, including one in which multiple unnecessary urine samples that generated $22 million in fraudulent insurance claims.
Hallock spoke of how bad operators, and their practice of curbing clients, has a negative impact on homelessness.  He addressed the growing Fentanyl addiction problem.
The common thread through these presentations was the need for stronger legislation on the subject to improve the ability of states and municipalities to regulate the sober living industry.

JARROD’S LAW
The final panel consisted of  Wendy McEntyre, Public Safety Advocate and founder of Jarrod’s Law and Jacklyn, a young woman who lost her twin brother to malfeasance at a sober living facility.  McEntyre spoke of her son, who died in 2004 in a drug-related incident.  She spoke of the need to change laws to make the State Department of Mental Health more accountable - the need for tougher standards for sober living operators.

HER DEAD TWIN
Jacklyn told us of her twin’s death - the misdiagnosis of his condition and improper treatment and lack of supervision of that treatment that caused his death.  She and McEntyre were on their way to Santa Ana to court on the case.
PUBLIC COMMENTS
During the final segment thirteen (13) people stepped up to address the legislators on this subject.  Unfortunately, Quirk-Silva and Bates left before they could hear the speakers.
The speakers included several parents who had bad experiences with the sober living industry, activists who cover this issue, a lobbiest who shills for the sober living industry, staff members from local and national legislators offices and Huntington Beach councilwoman Barbara Delgieize. 

MY THOUGHTS
Luke Money covered the issue well.  The thoughts I took away from this meeting is the need for stronger legislation and greater oversight to permit greater enforcement of the rules on Bad Operators.  It is clear that greed is driving many of them, not the care of their “clients”.  

NOW LET’S GET THE LEGISLATION NECESSARY
Thanks to Assemblywoman Cottie Petrie-Norris for holding this hearing locally, to permit those of us directly impacted by this scourge to attend and participate.  I was pleased and impressed with the presentations.  I was also impressed that the Orange County District Attorney’s Office sent a half-dozen staffers to this hearing - they sat adjacent to me.  Let’s hope the necessary legislation can finally be passed that permits us to exercise the necessary control over this industry.
SNOOZE TIME AGAIN
I'm putting the blog back into a deep sleep again.  Thanks for reading.  You cannot comment here - you'll have to return to my Facebook page if you wish to comment.  Good night, all...


Thursday, May 09, 2019

A New City Manager And The Pride Flag Will Fly

I’M BAAAACK!
I’m back again - two days in a row after months of absence - to wrap up the issue of my previous blog post.  That one, about flying the Pride Flag over Costa Mesa City Hall for 5 weeks beginning this year, generated lots of heat.  In fact, I attended the City Council meeting Tuesday night specifically for two reasons.  1 - To meet our new City Manager, Lori Ann Farrell Harrison and, 2 - to watch the discussion on the Pride Flag issue.
WELCOMING LORI ANN FARRELL HARRISON
First things first…. I was the first person to greet our new City Manager before she entered the meeting room at the Senior Center.  She is VERY impressive.  She has an outstanding background - strong academically and excellent work experience.  We were told she is known for her “kindness”.   
HEAPING PRAISE ON LETOURNEAU
When it came time for the discussion of her new contract things got more than a little embarrassing for Acting City Manager, Assistant City Manager Tammy Letourneau.  Several speakers, including council members, heaped much-deserved praise on her for the great job she has done for the city.  
MANSOOR THE BUFFOON
Sadly, our resident buffoon, Allan Mansoor, could not simply take the high road and welcome Mrs. Farrell Harrison and vote with the majority.  No, horses butt that he is, he had to tell Mrs. Farrell Harrison that he thought she was a good candidate, but the City should have chosen Letourneau, who didn’t even apply for the job!  Even worse, he looked straight at Mrs. Farrell Harrison and wondered out loud why we paid her $1,000 per month more than her predecessor, Tom Hatch!  What a low class jerk!  Anyhow, the council affirmed her contract on a 6-1 vote.

PRIDE FLAG DISCUSSION
Then we finally got around to the final item on the agenda, the discussion of whether we should fly a Pride Flag for five weeks every year beginning May 22nd (to honor murdered gay San Francisco supervisor Harvey Milk) and for the entire month of June - Pride Month.
MANY LINED UP
After a short staff report and a brief discussion by Councilwoman Arlis Reynolds, who put this idea forward, public comments were invited.  This was VERY interesting.  Twenty-one (21) people lined up against the wall to come to the podium to address this issue.  All were passionate on the subject.  
LEAD-OFF NEGATIVE COMMENT
The first person, who identified herself as a MAGA supporter, was dead-set against flying the flag.  She was in the minority.
SUSAN MEYER
Among the others who spoke was my friend, Susan Meyer (who posted a comment on my Facebook page in response to my previous post and who greeted me with a big hug in the parking lot before the meeting)  She used her three minutes to describe her life as a gay woman, and what this step would mean to her in terms of acceptance of who she is.  It was very moving.
COSTA MESA LATINA
 A young Latina from Costa Mesa told us of her life as a gay woman in a culture that doesn’t embrace her.  She, too, was very passionate on this issue.
INTOLERANCE IN THE SOUTH
A 40 year-old black man spoke of his life as a gay youth in Alabama, and how moving to California changed things for him.
RELIGIOUS ACCEPTANCE
Pastor Sarah Halvorson-Cano, with her infant son in tow, expressed the position of her local church on this issue, and how they embrace everyone, including gays.
A YOUNG REPUBLICAN’S STORY
A dapper young man, Ben Chapman, stepped up and told us that he was gay and a young Republican.  He explained how the Republican Party has given him more love and support than the gay community, and that he questioned the value of flying the flag. He said, "I support one flag, the American Flag.  I don't need a Rainbow flag to tell me who I am."
A MINISTER’S TRAVAILS
Craig Chapman, who it turns out is Ben's husband, stepped up and described his travails as a minister and a gay man.

JUST A FEW EXAMPLES
These were just a few examples of passionate folks who stepped up to share their stories.  Several mentioned the high suicide rate among gay youth.

CHAVEZ LEAD THE COUNCIL DISCUSSION
When it came time for the council to consider the two issues at hand - a new Flag Policy and whether to fly the Pride Flag -  young councilman Manuel Chavez took the lead and made a motion, which was bifurcated to split the issues.  The decision on the Flag Policy passed with a 5-2 vote - Mansoor and Sandy Genis voted NO.
HIS POIGNANT STORY
Then came the discussion of the Pride Flag.  Chavez told a poignant story about growing up in Costa Mesa and his best friend was gay.  He spoke of what he observed in his friend’s life.  It was very moving.
MARR’S NAVAL STORY
Councilwoman Andrea Marr, a Naval Academy graduate who served aboard ships for five years, spoke of being a 22 year-old officer in charge of 17-19 year-old sailors, working in the bowels of ships where conversations sometimes turned to the fact that some were gay - and likely to be booted from the service if “outed”.
REYNOLDS SPOKE OF HER PARENTS
 Councilwoman Reynolds, who placed this issue on the agenda spoke of growing up in Costa Mesa and of gay friends.  She spoke of her parents - both in the audience last night - who were outstanding educators.  She spoke of her father in glowing terms, speaking about his creation of a counselor position to help gay youth at his high school in Santa Ana.
MANSOOR’S BIGOTRY SHOWED
Earlier Mansoor spoke against the issue.  At one point he said something like, “I know of no scientific evidence that a person is born gay.”  Many in the audience and on the dais noticeably cringed, including Marr, who covered her face and later looked like she was praying for him.
A GLIMPSE OF THE SANDY GENIS OF OLD
Finally came veteran Councilwoman Sandy Genis, who spoke with great compassion and eloquence, describing the obligation of the council to make residents feel welcome and safe.  For those fleeting few moments I harkened back to the Sandy Genis of old.  It was the best moment of leadership - maybe the only moment -  I’ve seen from her in a couple years.
MOIST EYES ALL AROUND
As that discussion went on it was easy to see moist eyes on the dais, particularly among the young members.  I’m OK with that. 

STILL CONCERNED, BUT MOVED…
While I still don’t know exactly where I stand on this issue, I was moved by the passion of the speakers and the compassion showed by our elected leaders - except one.
STUBBORN AND STUPID
When the vote was called each member except Allan Mansoor voted Yes.  His No vote was unnecessary and, while it may have demonstrated to him the steadfastness of his opinion, it clearly showed the fracture on the dais.  Mansoor is as stubborn as he is stupid, which he demonstrated more than once last night.
THE FLAG WILL FLY
So, the 6-1 vote means we will begin seeing the Pride Flag flying at City Hall beginning this May 22nd.  It will continue to fly through the month of June to recognize Pride Month.  I’m still not happy about that.  I don’t feel it is appropriate to fly the flag over our city honoring Harvey Milk  What about a flag for Martin Luther King, Jr.?  Heck, what about a flag for Costa Mesa Fire Captain Mike Kreza, who was killed by a dope-addled driver last year?  You get my point, right?  Mansoor implied that he was going to ask for something to be placed on a future agenda about other kinds of flags that might be flown.  The mind reels at the thought!
ADDING “QUEER” TO THE MIX
In my original post I mentioned LGBT - Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender.  During the testimony by speakers it was frequently mentioned as LBGTQ - adding the term “queer” to the discussion.  Each time a person - and several did - use that word it actually startled me.  As I grew up - way back in the dark ages - that word was meant as a pejorative, a negative slur that didn’t necessarily mean a person was gay.  Now it apparently has become a term of honor among the gay community.   I filed that in the folder with all the other things I don’t understand these days.
SMALL TURNOUT
I kind of thought there might be a bigger turnout for this issue.  At no time Tuesday night was there more than about 60 people in the room and, by the time this item was introduced there may have been 40, not counting City staff.  More than half of those in attendance spoke to the issue, but it was a pretty small sample of our population.  Perhaps folks were just not interested.  Or, maybe, they were afraid of speaking out - one way or the other - before the council and their neighbors.   Or, maybe they were just in the next room playing Bingo!
GLAD I ATTENDED, BUT…
So, I’m glad I attended.  I have a better perspective on alternate lifestyles now.  Although I held no animus toward gay people before, I think I have a greater sense of compassion for their plight now.  But, I still don’t like the idea of flying the flag for five weeks every year.  

IF WE’RE SERIOUS WE NEED TO DO MORE
Yeah, if a young person dealing with being gay looks up at the flag and it dissuades him or her from considering suicide, then it’s worth it.  As a couple speakers said last night, if the City is serious about providing real support, then more than a flag flying over City Hall is necessary.  There should be a more concerted outreach effort, to help those struggling with this.  I don’t have a solution, but I think I have a better understanding of the problem.

AN INTERESTING SIDEBAR
I thought it was interesting that, almost before the crowd had dispersed last night, both Mayor Katrina Foley and Mayor Pro Tem John Stephens had posted a Facebook entry announcing the approval of the Pride Flag and used this image - which is a cropped version of the official City photo of the council - which eliminated Mansoor and included a rainbow border at the top.  Yeah, I smiled, but it did seem just a little over the top.

ANOTHER INTERESTING SIDEBAR
Immediately after the meeting ended and the euphoric crowd was milling around, hugging each other, I noticed Allan Mansoor made a beeline to young Ben Chapman and spent a few minutes chatting him up.  I don't know what that means... it was interesting to observe.

VIEW IT ON CM TV/YOUTUBE
Here's the link to this meeting on the City YouTube Channel HERE.

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THAT'S IT.... FOR NOW
I don't expect to post more on the blog - unless something really special moves me.  You just never know.  If you want to comment on what I wrote here you'll have to migrate back to my Facebook page to do so.  Thanks for reading...

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