Back in June, a CityLab headline, and a quote within the story, really struck me. The headline said “To Fight Homelessness, Long Beach Turned Meetings Into Action” and within the story was this quote from Steve Be Cotte, president of the Long Beach Area Coalition for the Homelessness: “A lot of times in homeless services, people [have] meetings and meetings, and not a lot gets done.”
Endless meetings on homelessness and coordination, but no action. Sound familiar?
Last year, we named the downtown homeless population our 2016 Voice of the Year — they had provoked the most intense civic discussions about the city and where it was headed. Soon after, Mayor Kevin Faulconer insisted he was listening, and ready to do something. He made homelessness a centerpiece of his State of the City address, and pledged action.
Forget for a second that Faulconer had already been mayor for about three years at that point, and that homelessness was a major issue that had gone unaddressed that entire time. Even after that big speech and acknowledgment that it was finally time for Faulconer to take legitimate steps to address homelessness — something other than throwing jagged rocks in their way, and lying about it, that is — not much happened.
Even local business leaders, typically Faulconer’s most loyal constituency, grew impatient and frustrated.
The great irony of all this, we now know, is that in those months following Faulconer’s State of the City address, with nothing happening to address the problem, a deadly virus was beginning to take hold and spread through the encampments that months and years of inaction had allowed to flourish. Once again, it would be months before anyone did anything significant to address the problem, even as people began to die.
Now, however, city and county officials seem to have finally kicked into an appropriate gear.
In a story this week, Lisa Halverstadt laid out a comprehensive timeline of the hepatitis A crisis. One thing the documents and emails she gathered made clear: Officials’ response took a dramatic turn only once we published a story revealing a lack of urgency in the response to the crisis. That’s at once incredibly heartening and insanely disappointing.
If the mayor had given the homelessness crisis the attention it always deserved, he might not be in crisis mode now, forced to run promoted Facebook posts assuring the public he’s addressing the problem. He could have been addressing it all along.
What VOSD Learned This Week
Using emails and interviews, Lisa Halverstadt chronicled how public officials’ response to the growing hepatitis A crisis went from a slow burn to a four-alarm fire. Even some of the smallest-scale efforts to address the outbreak, like hanging informational posters, took weeks of back-and-forth emails and other bureaucratic hoop-jumping before becoming reality.
Ex-superintendent John Collins isn’t the only one at Poway Unified who racked up more vacation days than allowed: Some Poway Unified School District employees have racked up several years’ worth of vacation time.
Though police body cameras were billed to the public as a transparency tool, it’s virtually impossible for anyone to see the footage they capture – even after a trial has wrapped. Ashly McGlone spelled out the incredibly narrow set of circumstances, and all the steps you’d have to take, to see footage.
We’ve got a new member of the VOSD newsletter family, The Environment Report, helmed by Ry Rivard. It’ll appear every other Monday. I’m guessing it will include a lot of tidbits on the epic, ongoing feud between the San Diego County Water Authority and the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California. The latest twist in the saga is a huge win for Metropolitan.
Many schools have begun to experiment with personalized learning, where students play an active role in deciding how they learn material. Vista High is taking the experiment to a new level thanks to a $10 million grant to ramp up its personalized learning efforts. Maya Srikrishnan plans to keep a close eye on how Vista’s effort is going.
Maya also tackled a reader question this week regarding what parents should do if they spot alarming social media posts written by local educators.
What I’m Reading
• It’s been a long time since a piece struck such a deep nerve with me and so many women all around me – my friends, strangers on Twitter, etc. (Harper’s Bazaar)
• Someone wrote the narrative of the crazy assassination of Kim Jong-nam by two unsuspecting young women that I’ve been waiting for. (GQ)
• This discussion of Hugh Hefner’s legacy is incredibly interesting and thoughtful but is also noteworthy for Amanda Hess’ accomplishment of getting the phrase “butt stuff” into the paper of record. (New York Times)
• Is Disneyland paying its fair share to the city of Anaheim? This excellent investigation shows how the company benefits from some sweet deals with the city, and has backed local candidates willing to cut the company breaks. (Los Angeles Times)
Line of the Week
Shot: “I am going to do what I never thought I would do. I am begging, begging anyone who can hear us to save us from dying.” – San Juan, Puerto Rico Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz on the response to Hurricane Maria
Chaser: “The loss of life, it’s always tragic. But it’s been incredible. The results that we’ve had with respect to loss of life. People can’t believe how successful that has been.” – President Donald Trump on the response to Hurricane Maria