Wednesday, June 15, 2011

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 attende
d 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.

At the first one I attended - the second of this series - Smith, as Chair, heard a repo
rt 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.

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.

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.


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 har
d 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.

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.

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.

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Anonymous Jim Jungles said...

I hate to be negative, but I saw this from the beginning. Smith's article "An honest look at Costa Mesa's Homeless Problem" appeared to be anything but honest. Smith says he was told we do not have a homeless problem. Compared to who, Skid Row? Smith says, "Kids are safe at Lions Park". I guess safety is in the eye of the beholder because I would never bring my child to Lyons Park.

Homeless are a hugh financial drain to the tax payers and a long term safety concern to the southwest side of Costa Mesa. With the loss of Park Rangers and a 25% cut to our police force, this problem has already escalated and will get out of hand very quickly. Cutting the many services that bring homeless to Costa Mesa is the first required step to fixing this problem. The second step is shutting down the 19th street liquor stores who supply cheap liquor to the homeless.

It sounds like Smith's answer is to deny there is a problem rather than make the hard decisions.

6/15/2011 11:25:00 PM  
Anonymous take me out to the ballgame said...

Since there is a softball diamond at lions park maybe a solution is to start a homeless softball league. Think of the good that could do. We will give the homeless an activity to do instead of just lounging on the grass drinking rubbing alcohol or a 40 of Mickeys. We can also expand the league to include a team formed by 1st round of laid off city employees, 1 team for outsourced employees, 1 team for unhired firefighter positions, 1 team for police officers whose positions were eliminated, 1 team for officers who have already left the city voluntarily, 1 team for other employees of the city who voluntarily left, and finally we can have a city council/ OC GOP team which should come in last place because of the amount of alcohol they drink while not being able to hold it as well as the alcoholic homeless drunks. However, that gives us an uneven 11 teams so we can create team Hatch- although that team has only 1 person on it so all games will need to be forfeited. Because the majority of the people on these teams live in Costa Mesa the I believe the we can get field permits at the cheaper rate. PLAY BALL!

6/16/2011 06:01:00 AM  
Blogger Dave said...

The problem with the homeless policies: they are designed with good intentions and earnest hearts but little understanding of all the social, fiscal and other problems that these good intended, sincere plans bring about. Soon there will be thousands of felons released, without jobs in a competitive job market. They will congregate in cities that have a lot of homeless individuals and weak police force. CM is an ideal location for them to make their home, considering the cuts to police boots-on-the ground and ABLE, along with the great whether and proximity to the beach. Mr. Smith really needs to consider setting up all homeless charitable food distributions on the front lawn of the CMPD to deter felons and other criminals from joining the legitimate homeless. I also suggest that SOS relocate to Irvine or Newport Beach, these are wealthy communities with charitable people who can volunteer and donate to help many of our poor and down trodden within our society. Obama cut aide to the poor (the stimulus funds went to pet organizations like Planned Parenthood and ACORN). So, our charitable nonprofits that serve the poor are scrambling for funds to continue with their aid.

6/16/2011 09:08:00 AM  
Anonymous Homeless comment said...

You owe Steve Smith an apology. I have been involved with the task force from the beinning and can tell you that he worked much harder than anyone else there. He did his homework and told everyone to keep an open mind until the work had been completed. He was good and I am sorry to see him go.

6/16/2011 11:57:00 AM  
Blogger The Pot Stirrer said...

No, I don't...

6/16/2011 12:01:00 PM  
Anonymous Homeless comment said...

Yes you do! No, I don't. Yes you do! No I don't. Yes you do! No I don't. There - I just took care of the rest of the day's exchanges between us. Have a nice day.

6/16/2011 12:48:00 PM  
Blogger The Pot Stirrer said...

Homeless comment,
Thanks for giving me the last word. :-)

6/16/2011 01:22:00 PM  

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