Thursday, June 9, 2011

How Your Elected Representatives Work for You

I recently became aware of this porta-potty matter in Garberville, CA when Kym Kemp tweeted her article:  Even Laundry Nazi’s Get Hurt Feelings - Where she lays out the issue fairly well when it comes to dealing with homeless people and the mostly adversarial situation that exists with the business community. In Garberville, a community that prides itself by sustaining its viability and future on the illegal growing and selling of marijuana, these homeless people present a blight to those pseudo prosperous and upstanding folk. These fine people worry that putting a porta-potty in a small, rundown county owned dime-size park at the north end of town will somehow attract these vagrant folk to all flock to Garberville. So, the consequence are, since there are NO public facilities in town, unlike Crescent City where they have permanent facilities scattered all over town, they would rather have human urine and feces all over their town. This is what happens when you have an inbred political system that worries more about appearance, but never about smell. Point in fact, is their requirement for a "permit" to install and use a portable toilet.

Today, a couple of weeks later, Thursday, June 9, 2011, there appeared on the front-page of the Times-Standard this masterpiece by Thadeus Greenson:  Port-a-problem? Portable toilet stirs debate in Garberville - He starts out by saying, "Some deep-seated issues are bubbling up in Garberville, brought to a head by a single unpermitted port-a-potty. " Read the rest of what he says and you will find out that his words, "deep-seated issues" are profoundly accurate and encompassing.

What was not brought into the issue was the general public and what they want and I'm not talking about the "transient and the homeless population." Greenson says the town of Garberville, that being the business community, by and large, has a longstanding problem with what to do with the homeless people. So, when they started using the county owned, but veterans park overseen by a local chapter of Veterans of Foreign Wars and a concerned citizen, Debra Carey, using her own money had a porta-potty installed there she ran afoul of the local business people's weapon of last or is it first resort, NO PERMIT or permission. Personally, I'd think that under the circumstances the local veterans would WANT to see the park with toilet and water facilities.

What interested me what Greenson reported was the people's county representative, Supervisor Clif Clendenen said:
[S]everal things are clear: The area has suffered chronic issues surrounding homeless and transient populations, the community has taken a hands-off approach to the issue and the problems have persisted.

”If we don't do anything, we know what that looks like,” he said. “It looks like the last two or three years, which I don't think have been that successful.”

Clendenen said he's entertaining the park idea, but only if it's done right. The supervisor said he'd like to see a “tough love” approach, with the community agreeing to offer certain services -- a place for people to be, a bathroom and running water -- in exchange for a bit of cooperation, like folks agreeing not to loiter or panhandle in front of stores, to clean up after their dogs and to generally reduce their impact. To that end, Clendenen said, he's been encouraging chamber members and the two veterans groups to set aside their differences and try to come together with a cooperative solution.

Casey's port-a-potty, he said, wasn't part of the plan.

That's exactly what I had promised the chamber folks that we wouldn't do,” Clendenen said, stressing that whatever is done has to be coordinated and well thought out.
Wasn't part of the "PLAN"? Whose "plan"? He just said NO ONE had done anything in the past two or three years" and that "do nothing" approach was successful. So what "plan" is he talking about? Sheriff's Officer Swithenbank talks about a FIVE year problem.

Clendenen's whole approach to this problem recognizes only the interests of the business community. He wants the "homeless and the transients" to support the business community when THEY do everything to NOT support their needs. What's Clendenen's priority in the face of a local citizen that has the foresight, community concern and wherewithal try to deal with the problem in a minimal way by installing a porta-potty on public county property? The "county" represented by Clendenen removes it.

Then you've got the Sheriff's Department's Sgt. Kenny Swithenbank, a local, laying out their policing priorities, none which really has anything to do with the general public's concerns: 
[H]e said his office receives calls daily relating to the homeless and transient populations in town. It's generally nothing too serious he said, just drinking in public, smoking marijuana, loitering and things like that. (Comment: Which is exactly what people do when they are just trying to live in Garberville, California - "loitering and things like that")

”It has gotten to be way too big of a problem,” he said, adding that populations have exploded over the last five years. “People get that 'overrun' feeling.”

Swithenbank said he'd like to see the area open as a park and wouldn't oppose a bathroom, if it was run correctly and police could enforce the laws there. However, the sergeant said he would strongly oppose anything resembling a homeless encampment.

Word gets out and they come from everywhere,”
In those words, Officer Kenny Swithenbank speaks the truth and clearly defines the real issue plagueing that community, fear. - “People get that 'overrun' feeling.”

 "HE WOULD APPOSE"? Therein lies the answer to who really is running the county. "Anything resembling" is extremely vague and open to personal interpretation. Well, that fact is Kenny Swithenbank, you've already got a homeless encampment and it is called Garberville, California.

Local businesses sucked off the illegal pot people for decades and never bitched about how that class of people looked and comported themselves, as long as they had plenty of cash dollars and scurried off back into the hills once they paid their way for coming into town.

For more on this issue, Kym has a couple more blog posts worth a read. She belabors the solution as it apparently evades her. Take a look:
  1. Today: Homeless Camp or Park in Use?
  2. The Times Standard Pee–ks at the Porta Potty Issue
  3. …The More They Stay The Same
 To paraphrase Debra Cary, people have to live. A fact the the Garberville and surrounding businesses better get through their heads is that includes "transients and the homeless." That was the total justification for a generation of people to populate the hills and byways of Humboldt, Mendocino and Trinity counties and support themselves and their families outside the law, when they said there was no other way than grow, sell and export marijuana.

What this issues shows is how the county works for the people. At least that's the appearance they want everyone to believe in. All Clendenen worries about is "appearance." That's mostly all the Sheriff's department worries about too. Screw the common needs and the people, just don't look bad while trying to survive. Government is supposed to serve ALL people. That includes all those on the margins of society. This issue is really all about how you successfully "cut off your nose to spite your face."


  1. Symbolism over substance is efficiency. So get used to that lovely smell wafting up from the open air latrines and keep telling yourself this is the best damn government money can buy.

  2. That pottie was put there because nobody would do anything!! That was a gift to the whole community, business people, vet, tourist, everyone!! they also threatened to fine her 350.00 a day that it stays and she said that would be fine.She wasn't moving it, and she didn't the business people ( pam vanmeter & Ernie) went to the county and had them remove it.Then they complain the most about peoples bodies functioning.That woman has been physically assualted, life threatned...Wow this community is a mess and it's not so much the homeless.What would you do if no services were offered and this man John Casili stold everything you owned and you were ran threw the bush, maybe a attitude?? I would..