Commissioners aren’t listening
The Johnson City commissioners owe an apology to the city’s homeless population. April 19, at the City Commission meeting, proposed discriminatory anti-homelessness ordinance 4659-18 had a second reading and public hearing. Members of the public who spoke about the ordinance spoke out against it. Everyone included the needs of the downtown business owners in their address and believed, based on what other cities had done, more viable, non-discriminatory options were possible.
Before the commissioners voted, they lectured the community members, blatantly said their vote of affirmation was to benefit the economic growth of downtown — economic growth that is happening. They prioritized downtown business owners’ voices over the community and the homeless. Every commissioner, except Commissioner Fowler who abstained, voted in favor of the ordinance and promised to vote for it at the third reading. Effectively telling their constituents they had closed their ears and minds to further discussion or ideas.
After the meeting, city Mayor David Tomita said he didn’t have to listen to citizens who identified the ordinance as unconstitutional because we weren’t constitutional scholars or constitutional lawyers. He stated that the only person he had to listen to was Jim Epps, the city attorney — who isn’t a constitutional lawyer. He further said citizens of the United States were not qualified to speak on the constitutionality of any law.
It’s appalling that Johnson City would go to great lengths to discriminate against their own. It’s reprehensible that elected representatives would say to their constituents they didn’t have to listen to them. It’s time for a change in Johnson City. Two seats are up for election in November 2018 and we need elected representatives that will build coalitions and collaborate to find viable solutions that meets everyone’s needs.
Since when was the U.S. Constitution not for citizens?
Sleeping on streets isn’t safe
First of all, I tried to determine any Johnson City ordinance prohibiting “loitering,” unsuccessfully.
The subject of “homeless camping” on our streets, under bridges and in doorways is currently a hot topic. There are those that defend the individual's right to do so. A larger number of responsible citizens are asking better questions, such as, is this a safe action on the part of several hundred individuals? (BTW, the term “homeless” does not just define those sleeping on the streets.)
How much more responsible would our community be if we were to provide solutions to this problem? We do have a number of agencies that are available to individuals who are homeless. Perhaps not enough. Perhaps the individual does not, or chooses to not, seek these solutions. Homelessness is not just confined to an economic issue. Much more plays into this equation, such as mental illness and/or addictions.
One well-known local case is of a female retired military officer with retirement benefits. Her family tried everything possible to keep her off the streets, but she kept wandering back, sleeping in doorways not wanting to be confined. Allowing this action is encouraging the matter. No attempt to remedy this issue is, in fact, ignoring that there is one.
To date, there has not been a report of assault on a homeless individual, which speaks well of our community. Let's step up to the plate and find real solutions. To not do so is to ignore the problem.
PATRICIA A. MILLER
Keep an eye out each week for another Question of the Week, but you may send us letters about any topic important to you. Authors must sign their letters and include addresses and phone numbers for verification. Letters may be no longer than 300 words and will be edited for grammar, style and length. Send your submission to Mailbag, P.O. Box 1717, Johnson City, TN 37605-1717 or firstname.lastname@example.org.