Transparency, crime & homeless
■ By Rusty Strait / Senior Reporter
“The operation of government should be open and plain to see,” so says Hemet City Councilwoman Karlee Meyer. More plainly put, it should be as crystal clear as a pristine Canadian lake. She does not discriminate or favor one kind of government over another.
“From the top down. From Congress to the City Council. There is no reason to hide things if you are doing the right thing,” she said on Saturday at her monthly Coffee with Karlee meeting, which this month was held at Destination Coffee Bar and Bistro. Meyer alternates the meetings between Destination and Downtown Deli & Coffee Company on North Harvard Street.
I recently interviewed Hemet City Councilman Michael Perciful, who expressed the same viewpoint.
Karlee’s “Coffees” do not indulge in a strict format. She is casual and friendly as one might expect in a small town coffee facility. Ordinary citizens attend and present to her questions and problems of regular guys and families.
Homelessness in Hemet kicked off the morning discussion, a subject in which Meyer is well versed. She sort of haunts Weston Park on Florida Avenue, where she mingles with those without homes who know her by first name, as she does most of them. She explains that being homeless is not a crime nor does it indicate that you are a nobody.
“There are some who simply don’t want a home. They’ve been unemployed or on the streets for long enough time that they’ve adjusted to being there,” she said. “It has become a way of life and truthfully, many of them have lost all confidence in themselves.”
It is up to the community to come together, she says, to help them regain their self-respect.
“Giving them food or clothing or other handouts will not get them off the streets back into a meaningful life,” she said. “Find a chore for them. Pay them minimum wage if that’s what you can afford. Grass needs cutting, trash cleaned up. You have no idea how much most of these folks appreciate earning money instead of handouts of old clothing or left-over food.”
She agrees that becoming self-sufficient again gives these folks a sense of decency and belonging. “If you don’t feel good about who you are and people keep knocking you down, who wouldn’t think about giving up?”
Someone in the gathering suggested that if there was a way of providing them with a mailing address they would be better able to look for work; that employers aren’t going to accept a city park as a mailing address.
Meyer agreed. “Even a mailbox address would work. If the community would come together and provide a place, I believe it could be done, but we as fellow citizens can’t just say ‘somebody’ should do it.”
Someone said they saw a guy walking down the road with a backpack and thought he ought to be searched because he was probably carrying drugs or something. It was pointed out that there has to be probable cause before someone’s property can be searched.
“That person has civil rights.” Meyer pointed out.
“What about my civil rights?” a woman asked.
“You have the same rights as we all do.”
The lady continued, “I call the police when I see something suspicious and they say they’ll get there, but they never do.”
It was further explained that the local police are understaffed and overworked.
“When they are busy with real crime, you can’t expect them to drop everything to investigate a suspicious person,” explained Meyer.
Of course, Measures E and U came up, along with the newly legislated gasoline tax and vehicle registration fee increases.
“We are collecting money now,” someone said, “so when are we going to get all those new cops?”
She was given a good explanation by Meyer.
“You are talking about one of the most difficult situations in government. There is a shortage of local police, not only in California, but throughout the country,” she said. “Every community is competing for the workforce available. It takes time to train police officers. Hemet has some of the most desired police officers in the state and there is always some other community trying to hire them away.”
She entertained the idea of obtaining a two-year commitment once a new officer is trained and on duty, pointing out that such a situation recently occurred in Hemet. “I believe it would be a good idea,” she said, as she made notes on a pad.
If there was a gripe or complaint about anything in the city, it came up and Meyer handled each one as though it was the most important thing she had to do today. The audience warms to her because they see themselves in her efforts to make the city more livable.
The meeting drifted on to Weston Park where she met up with some folks known as “The Risen King,” who were doling out food to those in need.
“This is all well and good,” Meyer said, “But it is more important that the homeless be given incentives so they will be able to earn money to buy food.”
Karlee understands the park people and speaks to them in their own lingo. They seem to respect her because they believe she is the real deal who wants to see them back working, living in their own homes with their children.
Whenever I cover one of her events it gives me hope that something really is being done to improve our city. And what have you done lately to offer a step up for someone who has fallen below their normal level?