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Thursday, March 21, 2013

Homeless baggage and the General Plan

We survived another interesting Council meeting last night, although, again, a long one. Perhaps the City could accommodate citizens watching their government in action with a “Council Meeting Survival Kit.” It should include water, especially for those who wish to comment on every item. Another essential is a Foley (urinary) catheter kit so observers won’t have to miss a single erudite comment by the comment prone.

The deliberations and agenda have been reported by the Pilot. (Homeless belongings) and the Register (Lobby designHomeless belongings). Some observations follow.

Redirection just for practice 

One of the usual complainers practiced a common propaganda technique; redirect attention. Saul D. Alinsky (Rules for Radicals, 1971) would have been proud to hear her use the cliché “kick the can down the road” to redirect attention to an ancillary matter, a particular legal expense for the City.

Actually, this expense is in response to a claim by the unions that a mistake was made in a Union-contract-mandated procedure. And, we’re paying the bills as we get them so we’re not passing them on to future citizens; that means we’re not “kicking the can down the road.” 

Unions (or Associations) are business enterprises that attempt to grow larger and more powerful, much like a grocery chain. They don’t sell produce; they sell employee benefits and seek increased membership. They use legal delaying tactics, just as Samsung and Microsoft do. So, the legal bills are being paid, and they’re in response to a nuisance tactic common in business conflicts.

Chastises like a sergeant

While that speaker addressed the Council maternally, another chastised them paternally.

The point this critic made was valid and poignant; crime and law-enforcement expenses are concentrated in a few spots in Costa Mesa, which he calls “slums.” He’s correct, of course, but loses points for berating the council. (With eyes closed one could imagine a military NCO chastising his troops for getting lost.)

Black bag blight

On the subject of homeless belongings becoming blight, discussion seemed to fit into either “be compassionate” or “give us our parks back.” One commenter asked that the homeless in Lions Park be held to the same standards as her two year old; that is, be forced to pick up after themselves. The ordinance being considered would be a motivation to pick up after themselves; it asks the police to confiscate belongings left on City property. According to State law, the personal property would have to be held for ninety days.

Another speaker suggested tongue in cheek that she’d just clean out her garage and leave the detritus in plastic bags on City property. That way her trash would be removed and, of course, if she changed her mind and wanted something back in the next 90 days, well . . .

The most rational citizens’ input last night was by a Consortium Director who invited the audience to participate in implementing solutions to the homeless’ belongings causing blight. Her comments were incisive, informative, and concise. “Get involved” was also promoted from the dais – “roll up your sleeves, get your hands dirty and help us get this resolved.”

The Mayor did a "no no" she said

A frequent and usually critical speaker chastised the Mayor for violating her sense of the government officer ethics code. She said he voiced an opinion in a radio interview before the Council addressed the issue. This was a good example of applying an assumed grasp of a complex code to what she thought was happening.

This is certainly a valid, and sometimes useful, exercise of First Amendment rights. To be effective, though, it has to be based upon an understanding of the issue instead of on only one’s opinion.

I resent what I think you'll soon be planning to do

An even better example of not understanding the question before protesting the answer appeared later. Several commenters stated their opposition to “re-zoning”, appealing to the Council to refrain from using zone changes and eminent domain to deprive them of their property.

The issue at hand was a proposal to study the City’s General Plan. It alluded to three separate and sometimes conflicting plans for a particular area of the City that should be consolidated. It’s a proposal to study; no changes are even defined yet. That fact didn't stop protests and appeals, though.

We've talked enough, let's do something

Studies of homeless problems and crime niduses abound. A root cause of the problem is evident; the so-called slums and the problem motels. Maybe it’s time to do something, as the speaker promoting slum clearance said. The Mayor and the Mayor pro Tempore both frequently mention the need to replace the trouble motels... As the Nike ad advises, let’s “Just Do It.”

Diversion and blather

Some speakers at Council meetings are practicing Alinsky techniques by trying to divert attention. And some are just looking for attention, especially televised attention. Unfortunately, some Council discussion seems to share the same attention seeking focus. Fortunately, the unfocused blathering to increase face time is only a small part of the discourse.

A long, and at times frustrating meeting, but one that was well run and got the job done. Kudos to the Council members who work together to get the work done, and disagree politely and astutely. And thanks to the commenters who spoke briefly and to the point – and infrequently.

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