Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Jane Doe at City Council

Last night, the City Council voted to authorize the City Manager to execute the Charter of the Mid-Willamette Homeless Initiative.  Councilor Bednarz, in moving to adopt the staff report, assured the Council that the Initiative brought together knowledgeable people who would "solve, or reduce, or do something to homelessness in our community."  Video at ~1:00. 

Jane Doe
During the public comment period, a woman identifying herself only as Jane Doe commented on the City Manager's approval of the Homeless Initiative saying she hated to "break the momentum, but I'm really disappointed in this -- you're way far behind [developing strategies to address housing and homelessness strategies], I don't see what you could do in a year, this should have been done five years ago...there are people who have those answers immediately, and it should not take a year to go over this when cities have gone over it and over it and over it before
and there are mayors' alliances doing this."  In closing, she added, "to exclude [from the Initiative Task Force] anybody from that [homeless] community is really kind of all the more insulting."  Not a single question from the Mayor or Council.

Of course, Ms. Doe was entirely correct, as both Councilors Bednarz and Bennett acknowledged, though Councilor Bennett was the only one to reiterate the need to include the perspectives of people experiencing homelessness.  The Mayor, as usual, missed Ms. Doe's point, and responded defensively, insisting that much had been done and grappled with, and citing the lack of resources.

If there's one thing that the Mayor and her colleagues on the task force need to understand, it's this: no one is saying nothing was done.  Everyone knows that things were and are being done to help people experiencing homelessness, so there's no need to insist on that point.  The charge is not that you're not doing anything, the charge is that you haven't been paying attention to what's being done, you don't really understand the problems in your community, and you're not prepared to do what it takes to keep things from getting worse.

We think the only way to answer such a charge is to (shut up and) pay attention, do your homework, start making a few hard choices, and stop making excuses. 

Ms. Doe remained in chambers after making her remarks, but we couldn't tell if anyone spoke to her afterwards.

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