Matthew Owen / Thursday, May 19, 2016 @ 5 p.m. / In the Middle, Op-Ed
MATTHEW IN THE MIDDLE: Going South
Let me first congratulate EPD Chief Andy Mills and all the EPD officers, Eureka city staff, DHHS support personnel, non-profits and the faith-based folks. You deserve our respect and thanks for the great job in clearing out the trespassers from the Palco Marsh. The EPD could have gone 1968 Chicago Police-style with full riot gear, batons, fire hoses and dogs and kicked some ass. Instead they went in with kid gloves, realizing that all eyes (and cell phone cameras) were on them. There’s an old acronym in law enforcement: A-T-M: Ask, Tell, Make. The EPD politely, but firmly moved the trespassers on in the most professional way. It was a tough situation and they were consummate professionals.
Wanna know why the GECOP (Greater Eureka Community Outreach Program), AKA: the HumCPR and Betty Kwan Chinn Foundation (along with the DHHS and a certain County Supervisor running shotgun) homeless conex project went from conception to relocating 40 Palco Marsh homeless to a warm, safe and dry place in just three weeks? Private money on private property. Period. The average cost to build brick and mortar is $75,000 - $100,000 per door (apartment) and years in the process. The conex boxes are just over $4,000 per door. These conex boxes are not only cost efficient, you can get around building codes as they are mobile and not on permanent foundations.
Would I like to see a whole lot more of these around Eureka and Humboldt County? You bet. So how many of you in the private, non-profit, and faith-based sectors are going to step up? Notice how I didn’t say government. For all you complainers out there - either lead, follow or get the hell out of the way as we already have way too many bitchers.
To see how things have gone south in our town, I recommend watching the May 3rd Eureka City Council meeting. This had to be the ugliest City Council meeting in memory. The first 49 minutes was business as usual: announcements, accolades, proclamations, etc. Then it turned into the AHHA (Affordable Homeless Housing Alternatives), homeless and homeless advocate bitchfest.
(click on the “download” button below the video and then open and watch in your favorite media player once it’s finished downloading)
At the 0:50 minute mark, Jimmy Worth, the homeless man now living rent free in the conex box housing complained to the City Council for not providing enough free housing, although he states on camera “nobody’s clean” (drug addiction). He failed to mention that there are plenty of beds available that are safe, warm and dry for the homeless to go, however St. Vincent’s De Paul, Eureka Rescue Mission, Betty Kwan Chinn Foundation, the MAC and Salvation Army will require folks to not use drugs and not drink until they pass out.
James Decker, the angry anarchist (1:08 mark), begins his public comment with “FUCK THE POLICE!” Check out his Twitter handle “radmul” for the real James Decker. Regardless of our political leanings, we should be able to have a civil discourse without yelling and cursing. It’s people like Mr. Decker that keep the average citizen away from public meetings. While yes, you have a constitutional right to free speech; no, we don’t have to put up with your abusive speech. I’d recommend the Mayor shut off the mic if Mr. Decker wants to go off on a profane laced public outburst. Submit a profane tirade to the Times-Standard and see if your “free speech” gets printed. Oh yeah, he also closed his public comment with another “FUCK THE POLICE!” Such a nice man.
The meeting then degenerated into the same dozen anonymous homeless advocates bitching, moaning and groaning over and over again, sometimes speaking bad poetry, giving me a headache. Whatever happened the speaker introducing themselves and stating where they live? Nowadays, many want to be “anonymous” and not give their names, nor the city in which they live. May I remind you you’re on camera for all of posterity. The reason most of these homeless advocates don’t state their name or where they live is the fact they don’t live, nor work in Eureka. Try submitting an anonymous Letter To the Editor to the Times-Standard or North Coast Journal. It’ll be thrown straight into the trash can, which is where anonymous comments on the Lost Coast Outpost belong.
While homeless advocate Nezzie Wade calls the homeless “campers,” I disagree and refer to them as “trespassers” as most were drug addicts illegally trespassing on private property.
Robin Donald (1:27 mark) began his first of his many public comments stating the Mayor and City Council were doing business “behind the Brown Act”. Then he just had to say, “Rex Bonehead.” He actually blamed “the developers” for building homeless housing and closed his comments stating to the City Council, “You’re a bunch of crooks.”
Reverend Brian Jessup (1:34 mark) said, “Though we did destroy people’s handmade shelters, we did not intentionally kill anyone… none of the current homeless have been massacred.” Wow, incendiary comments. How about our local churches provide parking lots for a sanctuary homeless parking spot at night? How about providing porta-potties for the homeless? You are either part of the solution or part of the problem.
At the 3:14 mark Councilmember Linda Atkins asked for members of AHHA to come forward and speak to the City Council. Nezzie Wade, Debra Carrey and another woman stepped up to pitch their proposal. While the City of Eureka specifically stated in the RFP (Request For Proposal) “no city funds, nor city land will be offered”, AHHA requested the city give AHHA $150,000 of tax payers money and asked for city lands for a sanctuary camp (tent city), a sanctuary parking lot (homeless able to park their car without being harassed by law enforcement) and a tiny house village. AHHA’s proposal was DOA, although AHHA was still talking 22 minutes later. Not sure whatever happened to the three minute time limit.
Many of these same speakers, like Janelle Egger (from Fortuna) came forward for the second and third time during the public comment period. FYI… twelve homeless advocates, the majority who don’t live in Eureka, do not “represent the City of Eureka”.
At the 3:59 mark (the meeting went four and a half hours due to the same folks speaking over and over again) Councilmember Natalie Arroyo let it be known that it’s not the smartest strategy to bite the hands that feeds you. “On a personal note, it’s been really, really difficult to… how should I say this? I feel that the relationship between myself and AHHA has been strained by the interactions in this space (city council chambers) and out in the community… I’m getting exhausted of being denigrated… I’m getting really sick of it… It’s hard to say yes to meeting with folks you think just might be really difficult partners.” At the 4:06 mark Councilmember Kim Bergel lets AHHA know just how she feels. “I’m so tired of the conspiracy theories.”
You can feel the frustration level of the City Council dealing with the same dozen angry homeless advocates in the audience who speak over and over even though most don’t live in Eureka. It’s stretched thin. However there was a silver lining. Everywhere I go, I talk to people how they feel about the panhandling ordinance and the eviction of the trespassers from the Palco Marsh. The vast majority of Eureka citizens approves of these two actions and asks the obvious questions:
What took so damn long?