I effected government this week! There was an emergency city council meeting for community feedback about erecting an apartment building for seriously disturbed and/or addicted people a couple of blocks from the schools and public library. I had misgivings and went to city hall to find out more.
I didn't have much notice so I couldn't research anything to form an opinion. No one else had much notice either. All were outraged council tried to slide this by without public input. The emergency meeting was only held due to quick actions by 2 council members. I've never seen city hall so crowded. People were jammed shoulder to shoulder, butts to tummies, and most couldn't even get in the room -- but they shouted and clapped from the jammed lobby. It was hot in more ways than one, but we all stood for hours in a crowded room without air conditioning during suffocating high temps and humidity.
The pretty spokeswomen for the project appealed to our empathy. Sick people need a place to live. Are we a hard-hearted community who would turn these unfortunate people away? I think most of us care about mental health and caring for those who need help, but the pretty women lectured us so long the angry horde started yelling at them to shut up with their sales pitch. This is unusual in my town. We're polite, not like our neighboring city and my hometown. Those council meetings are legendary.
It turned out the residents would be very minimally supervised and could come and go as they pleased. The city would get a 1-time payment of $100,000, no property tax would be charged. No income tax would be earned as the residents would be too sick to hold jobs.
The citizens were allowed to speak, and some spoke really well. I felt a sense of community with people who've lived here for decades and even generations. At the very end, I spoke up and said I'd listened to what everyone had to say. Others had voiced my immediate concerns when I heard about the proposal and I summarized their points, dinging the mayor for his lack of research and community involvement.
I raised a point others were too nice to say about the geography of my town. We're close to the big city, but just inside the county line of suburbia. With easy freeway access, we already struggle to deal with the drugs and crime leaking over the border. We're a tiny city and our police have too much to handle. (The police chief loves me now.) The money offered by this for-profit company would be gone in no time for police, roads, etc. The company didn't offer guarantees the residents would take their meds. If one of them committed suicide, it would be our people cleaning up the mess.
The pretty women spoke about how we should care for the troubled in our community, but these weren't "our" people. We're happy to take responsibility for those in our small city, but we can't take on the big city's problems. I talked for my whole 5 minutes, and I'm pretty sure everything I said was on point. The council president nodded as I spoke and I got a round of applause from the angry horde. I'm patting myself on the head for speaking well at the right time. Yay!!! I was flushed with the joy of accomplishment, or maybe heat stroke? Did I mention there wasn't any AC? Plus, I hate public speaking.
The police chief gave the grim stats of another city with one of these facilities. He reemphasized my point the company wasn't offering enough to cover our costs to host them. Then, it turns out the property is a cemetery without head stones. You want to dig up a graveyard to put unsupervised severely mentally ill people by a school?!
Some councilmen still voted for this mess despite the angry horde. I think they got together with the company's pretty women over drinks and forgot politicians work for us. Now I know who to vote against next time, but the majority of council voted it down. Yay for the people!!!
Let me add a point about caring for mentally ill people. We should. It's the right thing to do. People who need help should have a place to get it. It's just city planners need to use their brains about where such facilities are placed and listen to the people.