The jaw-dropping commentary on homelessness from the two council newbies
One of these days I'd like to take to this space without having the urge to rip somebody a new one. Today is not one of those days.
I still have a bad taste in my mouth from tuning into last week's City Council meeting, and once again watching our representatives—six out of seven of them—take the easy road when it comes to homelessness by essentially criminalizing it. In a twisted way, it was entertaining seeing the conservatives in particular rally behind the so-called Offenses Against Waterways and Public Property ordinance, and to couch the issue as an environmental one. It reminded me how the anti-marijuana right-wingers on the county Board of Supervisors a few years back suddenly took an interest in nature during their battle against the ills of growing reefer.
What a joke.
But the biggest jokes of the night were rookie Councilmembers Reanette Fillmer and Andrew Coolidge, who gave some stunningly insensitive and patronizing speeches while rationalizing their aye votes on the matter.
Fillmer actually claimed to have been “teetering” on whether to support it. She then told an anecdote about having recently visited San Francisco—more than three hours from Chico—as justification for her vote. “I stepped in someone's shit, and that pretty much threw me over the top on this ordinance,” she said. She went on to explain how she'd previously laughed off that same thing happening to people in Chico. “And now I need a new pair of shoes, so in saying that, I support the ordinance,” she continued.
Number one, what's up with cursing from the dais? I mean, at least when Vice Mayor Sean Morgan dropped the F-bomb during a meeting years ago, we heard it only because he made the mistake of forgetting his mic was on. Number two, how incredibly callous to talk about needing a new pair of shoes during discussions about people who have no roof over their heads, let alone a single pair of decent shoes.
Then there's Coolidge, who gave a rambling speech about how the city, state and federal governments weren't going to help solve homelessness. He implored members of the community to volunteer—“Do something, keep doing something till it hurts, over and over and over again.” Hurts. He actually said hurts.
Coolidge then had the audacity to make the issue about himself, asking what he was supposed to tell the mom who calls him and tells him that a homeless person defecated within the sight of her children as they walked through the park.
Good question. Here's his answer: Tell them homeless people are pooping outdoors because the city won't open its restrooms since elected leaders such as yourself don't think it's a priority to provide the down-and-out with sanitary places to relieve themselves.
If the council doesn't want people defecating in public spaces, it needs to direct city staff to open the public restrooms. For crying out loud, these are the same city leaders who recently voted to open the gates of Bidwell Park.
I'd think at least Fillmer could get on board with that. After all, I'd hate for her to have to buy another pair of new shoes.