Credit and incredulous

One of the conservatives broke from the ideologues to help homeless folks

It’s time to give credit where credit is due. On Tuesday evening (Oct. 2), during the Chico City Council’s regular meeting, Councilman Andrew Coolidge (the only incumbent seeking re-election) broke from the conservative ideologues—and Vice Mayor Reanette Fillmer, who has a hard time grasping complex issues and instead simply follows the herd—to support a shelter crisis declaration.

Doing so will allow Chico service providers the opportunity to apply for one-time state funds that will buoy existing programs and help launch new solutions to get people off the streets and into stable housing (see Ashiah Scharaga’s report on page 9).

More good news: Fillmer and Councilman Mark Sorensen have less than a handful of meetings left to represent Chico. Four to be exact—and that includes the first meeting in December, during which they will take their leave as the winners in the Nov. 6 election are sworn in.

That can’t come soon enough for many members of the public and—from the looks of it—Sorensen and Fillmer. Both have become increasingly acerbic—the former regularly launching into smug diatribes and the latter attacking members of the public in her trademark valley girl, run-on-sentence way. They typically do so following public comment—to get the last word.

Their behavior was disappointing generally, but especially so considering what was at stake. We’re talking about potentially millions of dollars’ worth of services that will aid marginalized people and in turn help relieve a community burdened by this epidemic.

Many service providers and public agency representatives talked about how a shelter crisis declaration presents an opportunity for their organizations to better address local homelessness. I’m referring to social workers, the Jesus Center, Chico Housing Action Team, Caminar and a host of others with bona fides.

One representative of the Butte County Office of Education noted that there are at least 1,300 homeless students in the county, including more than 500 in the city of Chico. You may have seen Ashiah Scharaga’s coverage of that topic in our Sept. 13 issue (“For the kids,” Newslines) or watched the Action News Now piece that chased our story.

Each speaker made compelling arguments for the funding.

Still, Sorensen remained incredulous. It was a little jaw-dropping to hear his conjecture that accepting money from the state would result in “more policies that will enable, promote, support and attract all of the bad behaviors that we’ve all been trying to figure out how to get under control.”

What a slap in the face to all of the professionals and volunteers working to better people’s lives. Moreover, it’s clear that the policies he and the conservative majority have put into place over the last four years have done little to nothing to address this crisis.

Nobody billed the money as a panacea. However, members of the public calling for the council to reject a shelter crisis designation kept repeating the mantra that money won’t cure homelessness. Their opposition seemed to stem from the ill-informed notion that boosting services will attract additional homeless folks.

In other news: We’re now about a month shy of the general election. Starting this issue, we will publish only a single political-themed letter per author. So, make it a good one. And if you haven’t done so already, register to vote.