By Lou Binninger
As Sutter County Administrator (CAO) Scott Mitnick ramped-up efforts to establish first a tent city and a 6,000 square foot permanent living facility and then a ‘repurposing’ of Whitaker Hall for 60 people, he emailed 29 key county employees to all do their part.
Plots maps, surveys of illegal campers, lists of products needed, costs estimates, sources for funding, arguments to establish a village of vagrants, oral presentations and power points were all choreographed to inform the five Supervisors. Let’s call the emailed 29 the $5 Million Club. That’s the approximate total of their annual salaries and benefits.
Not only have taxpayers spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to lodge people in hotels rooms and provide them benefits but the $5 Million Club has been laser-focused waging the War on Homelessness. And, that is an expensive Club for the citizens to fund.
Using hours-worked-per-month estimates, when the $5 million Club is engaged on this project its costing taxpayers $2,894 per hour. If Club Members spend 6 hours per week it is $17,364 and for four weeks $69,456.
All the while law enforcement declared “We can’t arrest our way out of this.” And, consultant on homelessness Scott Thurmond would not promise that the massive mobilization of resources would even solve the problem.
It’s a lot of expensive hoopla when Mike Johnston, local attorney and resident near the homeless camps, offered some common sense. Johnston urged the county to adopt a “one problem at a time approach.”
He challenged the use of euphemisms to describe the issue and the people. Johnston emphasized, “They are not homeless. The legal definition of a squatter is: ‘An individual who settles on the land of another person without any legal authority to do so, or without acquiring a legal title.’ In the past, the term specifically applied to an individual who settled on public land. Currently it is used interchangeably with intruder and trespasser.”
He then quoted County Counsel Jean Jordan in urging the enforcing of the camping ordinance now. Johnston maintained there is no legal requirement to build a shelter other than ‘government charity.’ Johnston said, “My belief is that Sutter County has a wealth of outstanding charitable organizations that provide services for the homeless, and the County should not become a charitable donor of taxpayer funds.”
In spite of Johnston and other citizen protests, the county will build 42-units for ‘homeless’ people and Supervisors Dan Flores and Ron Sullenger will assemble an 11-member citizens panel to pick an unnecessary shelter site. The county will also clean-up tons of garbage left behind in the camps.
Meanwhile, homeless people continue to get arrested for rape, weapons, warrants, and various other felonies. They are not cited for blocking traffic on Hwy 20 and 70 rather than using crosswalks or for guiding their bicycles against traffic and red lights.
Cities allowing squatting and law-breaking are in trouble. They are experiencing Hepatitis A outbreaks. The San Diego crisis has killed 20 people and hospitalized more than 370. As of last week, the county tallied 544 people infected, and new cases continue to surface. It’s one of the worst national Hep. A episodes in decades.
‘Homeless’ people and street drug users represent the majority of cases and are considered most at-risk. The virus is spread from feces to mouth so unsanitary conditions, particularly among San Diego’s growing ‘homeless population,’ make it more likely to spread. San Diego is trying to sanitize the streets and sidewalks to stop the virus.
Visitors to San Diego and 17 food-service workers have also been affected. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say nearly 40 percent of those who contract Hep. A require hospitalization, but it’s rare for someone to die from the disease. Death is more common among individuals who are over the age of 50 or have underlying liver problems.
Symptoms include fever, fatigue, and nausea, loss of appetite, yellowing of the eyes, stomach pain and vomiting. The usual time period from exposure to showing symptoms is 15 to 50 days.
Unfortunately, it’s rare for the public to know much about those who have contracted the disease. Health officials are hesitant to release specifics on where cases are concentrated and who has been exposed, citing state and federal health privacy laws. Taxpayers are intentionally put at risk by poor public policies.
That’s no comfort when both Marysville and Yuba City have become sanctuary cities for transients and vagrants.