Kraemer Project: Spitzer should replace his advisers.


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The “Kraemer Project” is what the County is now calling its proposeduntitled Homeless Shelter in Anaheim. It takes the charged connotation off technical discussions. One of the components of this project, according to this County website is “a series of community meetings to receive input on the potential site acquisition and use”. The first meeting took place on Friday June 26th, at the Evangelical Free Church in Fullerton, in the border with Brea, seven miles away from the proposed site. Let’s assume that there were no churches available near the Kraemer/Canyon area on Friday to facilitate the attendance of the most concerned residents living near the proposed site.

These community meetings are presented as a ” forum open to the public and will be structured to give residents, businesses and other interested stakeholders the opportunity to interact with a variety of representatives at table stations. Information and discussion topics will include Public Safety, Good Neighbor Plans, Transportation, Service Coordination, Shelter Advisory Board, Operator Selection and the Commission to End Homelessness.”

The table stations discussions at the EV Church were limited mostly due to time constraints, but also due to the inadequate information provided by the presenters. For example, the operators of the small Laguna Beach shelter, a 40 beds one, were the presenters at the Operator Selection Process, and they could not answer the question of the impact and management of a 200 beds shelter. The Real Estate Due Diligence Process facilitators did not know whether Supervisor’s Steel’s request of looking up at existing County facilities before purchasing the Kraemer building had been done, and they were hesitant to answer whether the OCTA Bus Terminal mentioned by the VOC (see here) is county property or not.

I don’t blame the presenters, they were genuinely trying to provide  information and were not prepared to answer the more specific questions being asked.  Even Supervisor Spitzer seemed to be taken aback by the questions, the main one being about the capacity of the shelter and the consequences of its overflow. The only avenue available to provide input, was to write down questions and leave them in boxes.

These community forums are designed to legitimize the establishment of the shelter. The general public, beyond the neighborhoods close to the site, will support it and will praise Supervisor Spitzer and the cities elected officials supporting his proposal. The residents of the impacted neighborhoods have not, and may not, been able to have our concerns considered by both county’s supervisors and cities’ council members.

The policy makers’ goal of not “kicking the can” anymore, after the rejection in Santa Ana and Fullerton, adopted “the end justifies the means” approach. They have opted for not communicating with the neighborhoods impacted by the shelter, they have ignored the multiple letters and e-mails sent to them, they have packed the city council and board of supervisors’ chambers with homeless advocates.

This inadequate solution may be implemented anyway but there was, and there is, no need to have adopted a flawed process. There are alternatives solutions which could have a lesser impact on both communities, the homeless and residents. If not alternative is currently feasible, the impacted neighborhoods should be informed and they would likely present less resistance to the Kraemer location.

Spitzer needs to have a serious talk with his advisors. It started with choosing the option of a single, large shelter in a distant location as a realistic solution. Once they made that decision, he came across as being  detached from knowing basic aspects of the location of the site, such as the river. The river does not separate the shelter from the neighborhoods. They chose to ignore the concerns of the neighbors, which has resulted in undermining their trust in the political process. They must have calculated that losing a few precincts in East Anaheim will not affect political careers.

They have generated resentment against no only the homeless but also against advocates of the non-profit and faith based organizations. Having a county supervisor and city council members discussing and determining policies in their capacity of public officials at churches, would’ve made the process even more questionable. These community forums became an exercise in formality. The use of the Kraemer site had already been pre-determined, since Spitzer first announced his proposal.

tent-1I have talked to several of my  homeless advocates’ friends, and off the record they acknowledge that this is not the best solution. However, the need to do something about this problem makes them accept this proposal that has so much support   from local governments and churches. They understand that the neighbors concerns and fears should be addressed, but they are not the policy makers.

Choosing the city council members mostly connected to the business community as the main backers of this proposal, is another questionable decision. Kris Murray and Jordan  Brandman from Anaheim, and Jennifer Fitzgerald from Fullerton are perceived as polarizing politicians that have consistently demonstrated their support for business-subsidized projects and connected to the controversial lobbyist Curt Pringle.

It would’ve been smarter to have released Mayor Tait from potential conflict of interests’ constraints, and allowed him speak up on this issue. Advocates have invoked his “City of Kindness” appeal anyway. Especially when the Dalai Lama is going to visit Anaheim next month.

It is at the city council level were the Kraemer project finally took off. It is here, at the city councils where we may have the best shot at having it reconsidered. The county proposals in both Santa Ana and Fullerton failed because the city councils were split. In Anaheim it was unanimous.

As the neighbors ’concerns had been dismissed at the city council meetings, I had suggested to Chris Vance, one of the business owners  more at risk of a negative impact by the shelter, to request a meeting with council members. He was not familiar with city politics, so when I told him that the council members strongly supported by the business community are the ones spearheading the shelter project, he wouldn’t make the connection.

Until Friday, when he heard Kris Murray and Jordan Brandman at the EV Church. Almost half of the meeting was taken up by speeches by city council members and county officials. I had reminded Chris that the operator of the website opposing the shelter is very close to these council members, and that this person should be able to arrange a meeting with Murray and Brandman.  This person had announced  that he could not make it to this community forum, and then he sent this follow up message:

“If you would like me to facilitate a meeting(s), let me know. At the same time, keep in mind they are very committed to this shelter proposal, so expectations for the outcome of the meetings should be scaled accordingly”

Matt

A meeting may finally take place with some council members. I will ask Mr Vanderbilt again to also meet with the neighbors. In the meantime let’s hope that supervisor Spitzer continues listening. He is a likeable guy, at the community forum he was tough first, he did not want to engage in conversations but he softened up later and he was listening to the questions being presented at the tables. But it is not a question of being likeable, hopefully he will make wise policy decisions.

Whoever is advising Spitzer’s  needs to present him a plan that reflects both the needs of the homeless population and the concerns of the residents .

Related posts here and here.


About Ricardo Toro

Anaheim resident for several decades. In addition to political blogging, another area of interest is providing habitats for the Monarch butterfly. http://www.orangejuiceblog.com/2013/12/caterpillars-crossing-in-a-city-at-a-crossroads/