It was one of those days. I was at Verizon’s Broadway location for issues with my cell phone. Thirty minutes of staring out their window at the full gamut – homeless pushing shopping carts; trimmigrant young travelers with backpacks looking to make their fame and fortune in the dope trade; AB 109 released druggies with neck tattoos from their time in the joint riding their small bicycles; to folks with mental illness walking aimlessly into Broadway traffic (AKA: Highway 101). I had that look on my face and the gal from Verizon just shrugs and says, “Yeah, we see that all day, every day.” In other words, a typical day in Eureka.
It doesn’t have to be this way.
“Well, we can get a grant here for this and a grant there for that…”
Stop. Do you really think that’s working? Can you imagine what people think the first time they drive through Eureka between the flop-house motels on south Broadway, to all the shopping carts being pushed throughout town, to people begging on the corners?
Someone told me recently that Eureka has an image problem and low self-esteem issues and they’re right. When your business district appears more like a casting call for extras of The Walking Dead it doesn’t bode well for tourists, locals and potential investors coming to Humboldt. If you wanted to locate a business in Humboldt County, would you do so after having lunch in Old Town? It’s time to think outside the box, ’cuz what we’re doing now ain’t working.
Eureka is the County seat. That means the courthouse, jail, probation and social services are all centered in Eureka. With Arcata being the “progressive city,” I’ve offered to move social services to their town. Funny, but they all smile and politely decline. They may be progressive, but they ain’t stupid.
In 2011 Governor Jerry Brown signed AB 109 into law (AKA: prison realignment or what I call the “shell game”– moving prisoners from the overcrowded state prisons to the overcrowded local County jails). He said it was a “huge success” and it was for the State. Unfortunately, it’s been a disaster for every county jail in California. The goal was to transfer the non-serious, non-sexual, non-violent (non-non-non) criminals back to the local jails where they were convicted. However, that was only their last conviction. The prisoner could have committed assault and rape previously, as long as their last conviction was non-violent.
Did I mention there is limited space at the local county jails, so they’re using the “Ohio Risk Assessment” to evaluate the severity of the offenders? If you’re arrested for a non-violent offense, odds are you’ll be released before law enforcement has completed your arrest report.
Now to add insult to injury, Proposition 47, the “Californians for Safe Neighborhoods & Schools” just passed (by almost a 2-1 margin in Humboldt County). All this is going to do is release additional low-level (under $950) offenders (drugs, petty theft, breaking & entering, vandalism, etc.) back to our streets to commit additional crimes, get released, to go commit additional crimes, get released, to go commit additional crimes, get released… ya get the jist.
While some have told me we need the Soylent Green people scoopers to rid society of the bottom 5%, that’s not a realistic solution. “Pleasantville” was a movie for a reason. We need to try something different and not worry about failing, because it’s hard to imagine it can get worse. We should seek innovative ideas, if only for a year to see if it makes a difference.
Street Outreach: I’ve been out walking the streets of Old Town these past few weeks in my bright yellow neon T-shirt with Charlotte McDonald of Eureka Main Street and other Old Town business folks along with our EPD escorts. It’s making a difference; however, it takes time and a commitment from local community members. We’re out shaking the bushes and looking (literally) at every nook and cranny in Old Town offering services and moving along the sleeping druggies and citing (via EPD citation) those committing crimes (drinking, drugs and smoking on the Boardwalk) and/or anti-social behavior. I’d recommend the Henderson Center Merchants and the businesses on Broadway get organized and do the same.
Laura’s Law is a California state law that allows for court-ordered forced anti-psychotics for people with a history of violent outbursts or behavior. Thadeus Greenson recently wrote a great timeline on Bodhi Tree’s probation report at the North Coast Journal blog. Bodhi Tree was recently convicted and sentenced to 105 years in prison with no chance for parole for murdering two young people in Arcata. Twice before, he (and his father when Bodhi was a minor) declined anti-psychotic medications, which could have saved two lives, and maybe a third – his own.
Here’s something to ponder. We, the taxpayers, will be paying $50,000 a year for the next 50 years to keep Bodhi Tree in maximum security prison. That’s $2.5 million, when there’s a 25¢ option. Take him out behind the courthouse and put a bullet in his brain and save the $2.5 million. I’m betting if we did a Humboldt poll it would be 50/50, on KINS probably 99/1.
Considering almost half the daily arrests in the Lost Coast Outpost are for Drunk In Public (and DUI), we have to rethink our policy. If you get arrested two times a week, each and every week for Drunk In Public, you’re not failing society, society is failing you. Let’s put these alcoholics in a forced lockdown detox/rehab about 50 miles east of here so I don’t have to read about these same vagrants being arrested two more times next week. Give ‘em a choice. We can send them 50 miles east or 50 miles west.
We need a whole lot more of detox/rehab beds here in Humboldt. The only problem is it ain’t cheap to build, staff or fund these facilities and then we got the NIMBY issue as no one wants one of “those homes” in their neighborhood.
When I was growing up, if you did the crime, you’d do the time. Not anymore and the petty (non-violent) criminals have figured this out. So if you’re tired of “catch & release”, let’s build additional jail space so if a criminal is caught, they stay in jail.
How about work camps for non-violent offenders? Where’s Sheriff Joe when you need him? Think of an expanded SWAP (Sheriff’s Work Alternative Program). Yeah, I can already hear law enforcement and the ACLU screaming, “The liberal California judges ruled we have to provide special dietary meals along with 24/7 medical, dental and psychiatric care to prisoners or it’s cruel and unusual punishment.” Cruel and unusual punishment is having our homes, cars and businesses ripped-off by the same criminals over and over again.
I’m thinking Islamic Sharia law has some validity here. If you commit theft and it is witnessed by at least two people and sworn before a judge, cut off the thief’s hand. Problem is, there would be hundreds of Humboldt lowlifes walking around with no right hand and a short time later, no left hand either. Would that be a bad thing?
Homeless parking lot: An amnesty parking area was on the table for the homeless to park their cars at night (near the Samoa bridge parking lot) so they’re not parked on our streets.
Homeless camps: Either give them an area to put up tents or move ‘em on … to the next town. The private sector or faith-based community can step up and offer locations. Problem is no one wants to take on the legal/environmental ramifications. There’s a fine line between being compassionate and enabling anti-social behavior.
Affordable micro-housing: I was one of the estimated 200 people who attended last weekend’s public forum on affordable micro-housing at the Women’s Club. Andrew Heben, a young, energetic architect has been traveling around the country finding housing solutions for the homeless. Andrew was the driving force behind Eugene’s Opportunity Village. With only 28 homes at an average 64 square feet, one homeless advocate called these “enlarged doghouses”; however I believe that a roof (no matter how small) over your head is better than sleeping in someone’s doorway.
So here’s my latest gauntlet to our local Progressives:
- Form a 501(c)(3) non-profit.
- Lobby the Arcata City Council to donate public land for homeless housing.
- Get your CUP (Conditional Use Permit) approved by the California Coastal Commission.
- Raise $100,000 in private donations (no taxpayer funds).
- Organize HSU, local builders and volunteers to build four pre-fab micro-housing units every Saturday and Sunday.
- Once you work out the bugs in Arcata, we can roll this out in Eureka and SoHum.
Keep in mind, this homeless village would only house 35 pre-screened people (no alcohol/drug abusers and no mental health issues, which would eliminate 65% of the homeless off the top) and still leaves 965 homeless on the streets of Eureka.
We desperately need additional SRO (Single Residence Occupancy) homes, basically a converted hotel room with a mini-fridge and a microwave, so the homeless have a bathroom to use during the day and a place to sleep at night instead of loitering and sleeping in the business district. There would be a long waiting list of low-income people wanting to get into SROs. It’s not like we don’t have enough rundown buildings in town that have been vacant for years.
Many cities, including Eureka, have enacted a shopping cart ordinance with the idea that the shopping carts stay at the businesses and not be pushed all over our streets or worse yet, left behind the Bayshore Mall or on our streets. It would help to get the business community’s buy-in on this issue and have them take the steps to deter the theft of shopping carts (wheels lock beyond certain radius). It’s a one-time cost versus spending $20,000 per year, (every year) on new shopping carts. (If you spot a shopping cart on the streets, call Eddie Wilson, the EPD Shopping Cart Czar at 707-441-4060.)
Stop giving to beggars. When you give money to beggars, you are enabling the problem by financing their alcohol, drugs and cigarettes. Every time I go to Costco there are more vagrants begging with signs at the parking lot exits, sometimes one on the left and one on the right side of each exit. They actually have shifts where one person takes the morning and someone else takes the afternoon. Here’s something else I recently learned. These vagrants not only swap wheel chairs (when their legs work fine), but also kids. Yeah, that’s right. That homeless family you see standing on the corner begging with a sign in their hand may be “renting” those children to guilt you out of more money. If you stop giving money, they go away. Instead, give to the non-profit of your choice (Rescue Mission, Betty Chinn Center, Food For People, etc.) or keep giving indirectly to their meth/heroin dealers.
Eureka will soon be enforcing the motel ordinance as calls for emergency service are disproportionate to the run down motels and slacker management. When this ordinance was passed the Budget Motel on 4th Street pulled all phones from the rooms so no one could dial 9-1-1 anymore. Nice. Thank you, Budget Motel management. The goal is to track the high service usage motels that account for the majority of emergency service calls and fine and/or revoke their lodging permit.
There are probably around 50 folks out of 50,000 in the greater Eureka area that create havoc in our community (alcohol, drugs, homeless, mentally illness and petty crimes). For the record: there is a man who lives in a Broadway motel who generates over 300 calls for service (police, fire and ambulance) each and every year. One man.
Hire additional people for street outreach. Judging by some of the Humboldt County public employee salaries, I’d rather have additional outreach folks than the eight Humboldt County employees who made over $40,000 in overtime alone in 2013. To me that’s eight additional people that could have been hired to proactively work the streets to get the homeless, drug/alcohol abusers into programs so we can get them back into society or at least lessen the damage they cause.
Get involved in Neighborhood Watch. We’re all creatures of habit. Most mornings around 6:45, I take my 14-year old beagle/basset (large hot dog with ballerina legs) in my SUV to Sequoia Park for her morning walk, before heading over to Cal Courts Annex.
A couple of weeks ago while driving outside of my cul-de-sac I drove past a couple of tweakers with neck tattoos on mini-bicycles casing my neighborhood looking to “rip & ride” (rip off anything from cars left unlocked or anything left on your porch and then ride away fast) for their next meth hit.
Ah, hell no! Not my neighborhood. So I whip a uey and drove back towards these fine fellows.
They see me coming back towards them and take off down an alley.
So I hang another uey and go back around the street to the other end of the alley, turn into the alley and drive slowly down the gravel.
The tweakers see my SUV coming at them, skid, hang their own U-turn and head down the alley to Henderson Street.
They’re moving fast and I’m right on their tail. Game on, bitches!
They head west on Henderson and don’t even bother to slow down at the stop sign on S Street.
Me, I make a minimalist stop at S Street, look both ways before heading off after them.
They turn north on O Street and are moving faster than my car. I turn on O and keep after them.
They turn west on Hayes and up the pace. I stay on them.
Run Charlie, run!
Next, they turn north on N Street and once again roll straight through the Buhne Street stop sign without slowing down to check oncoming traffic.
Damn! For tweakers, they’re pretty smart. Anyone’s who’s done any neighborhood canvassing (political door-to-door) knows that N Street off of Buhne is a cul-de-sac that dead ends at a narrow dirt trail through the woods that leads to the other side of N Street east of Eureka High School’s Albee Stadium. I can’t go any further and they know that. Sorry N Street above Albee Stadium. The tweakers are all yours now.
The good news is I chased ‘em out of my neighborhood. The bad news is they’re still out there looking to rip and ride. Besides, if they do get arrested, it will be catch & release so they can go rip & ride again. Insane.
Yeah, I got asked why I didn’t just do society a favor and run over their asses. I could have gone all Walter White “Half Measures” on them, but that’s not me. I’m not God.
Taking out the gene pool trash – priceless.
Getting the auto collision repair bill for my front end - $ cha-ching.
I’m open for ideas without the ACLU suing everyone. And for those who demand additional rights for our homeless, please use your real name and address in the Comments Section below and I’ll have a couple of homeless people delivered to your front lawn tonight so you can lead by example.
What’s my point?
Lead, follow or shut up and get out of the way.
Get involved. Are you the type of person who rolls up their sleeves and does something or do you just complain on anonymous blogs?
Show up at City Council or Board of Supervisor meetings to respectfully let your elected officials know how you feel.
Write a Letter to the Editor or an Op-Ed in the Lost Coast Outpost including your ideas for solutions that can actually work.
I believe it can be better.