■ By Rusty Strait / Senior Reporter
As promised, it began promptly at 9 a.m. on Saturday, Jan.14th. Newly elected to the Hemet City Council to represent District 1, Karlee Meyer addressed the nearly two dozen ordinary citizens gathered at Downtown Deli & Coffee Company on Harvard Street.
Meyer may have the face and stature of a model striding down some high fashion runway, but make no mistake, she is no weeping willow. She gained national fame three years ago when she tackled a prowler in her yard with a club and became locally known as a no-nonsense woman with some moxie.
“I will be holding these informal gatherings every month, alternating between Downtown Deli and Destination Coffee Bar & Bistro, next to the old Hemet Depot,” announced Meyer. “These get-togethers are for you. It is a chance for ordinary folks in the community to meet with their council person one-on-one and discuss their problems.”
She promised to try to answer any questions the assembled citizens might proffer, and if she didn’t have them, “I will get them for you.”
One middle-aged woman alleged that she was a lifetime resident of Hemet, and that “In all my years in this valley, this is the first time I can remember anyone from the City Council meeting like this with the people they represent.”
Heads nodded in agreement and so the give and take proceeded with a wide array of questions from the audiences mixed in age, gender and status: A former Hemet police officer, now serving in a neighboring city; a Councilman from San Jacinto, businessmen and women mingling with plain Joes and Janes. The setting was intimate and personal.
For more than an hour Meyer fielded questions with ease. As to small business owners’ complaints about code enforcement, she was open to holding a town hall to address concerns. “I’ve heard complaints. As you know, I am fairly new on the council and I welcome all issues that require attention, and that is something I will be looking into. If you have a problem, pick up the phone and call my office, or text me. You can also contact the department where the problem exists.”
There was lengthy discussion about overcrowding at Ramona Animal Shelter when the Riverside County Shelter right next door has many vacancies for incoming pets. Although the matter is really outside Meyer’s purview, she promised to look into it.
In defense of Measure “U,” which passed in November, she said the council was getting a head start on programs to be funded under the Measure.
She strongly supports increasing the number of police and fire officers and stated her full support for Hemet Police Chief Dave Brown.
Questioned as to the propriety of involving the City of Hemet into the wrongful death suit filed against Deputy Chief Charles “Rob” Webb, which is currently set for trial in July 2017, she strongly defended such an action because, “when an officer takes an oath to become an officer of the law, he is on duty 24 hours a day, not just on his shift. It is the same as the military.”
There was some debate as to whether soldiers off base were defended by the military when they were involved in actions not military-related.
Councilwoman Meyer showed a great interest in solving Hemet’s homeless problem. She doesn’t just talk about it, she does something, including trying to find them housing and jobs.
“I am a regular visitor to the parks where they congregate,” she said. “The major obstacle is that they have no permanent address to receive mail or act as a place they can be contacted. Without a mailing address, there goes the prospective job.”
Someone asked what is police protocol when an officer stops a homeless person? She said they usually get a ticket, however, without ID, they might be arrested.
Meyer agreed that there should be a consolidated gathering place so more help can be provided and better data collected. She said some organizations are trying to find a central organization to issue ID cards and mailing addresses for those displaced. Many have criminal records, which presents another obstacle in finding jobs.
Many reasons why an employer will not take a chance on the homeless were discussed, and the bottom line is that the homeless problem exists because of the economy, recession, drugs, alcohol and, the fact that “some people are happy on the streets.”
One of the attendees stated that Valley Restart, a local organization that provides housing and job assistance to both families and singles, “has a long waiting line to get in.” A study shows that their facility serves some 500 square miles.
Meyers debunked the rumor that other cities have contracted with the city of Hemet to dump their homeless and parolees here.
“There is no such agreement. If someone goes to prison or jail from here, they are returned to the location where they were arrested and convicted. Many come here from Los Angeles and other urban areas because of lower housing costs and that is easier to get by on less.” Others, she said, have family members or friends here.
Meyer readily admits that Hemet, like other communities, has serious problems and that she is ready to be part of the solution.
She may have come in with boots on the ground, but most folks at this unique “Coffee with Karlee” went on their way with a feeling that she will need a good pair of running shoes, because she will be busy. Sounds like a lady out to make a name for herself and improve her community. Most importantly, she listened. Just sayin’.