The increasing size of the homeless population downtown has become a hot button political issue for Chico, and one that divides the candidates for the City Council election tomorrow. At the League of Women Voters forum on October 15th, I saw two very distinct points of view represented.
The first was best illustrated by the comments of Sean Morgan, perhaps the most plain spoken conservative of the group advocating for new laws against objectionable behavior. In response to a question about what the city should do about the homeless “situation” downtown, Mr. Morgan replied, “My take is to give the police department the tools it needs—the misdemeanor vagrancy and panhandling laws they’ve asked the council for before and been denied. We have terrific resources for the disabled—the Jesus Center, the Torres Center, that help people get traction as long as they’re making progress, and they do a great job. To the others, I would like Chico to send a clear message, if you want to come to Chico to learn, add value and make progress, you’re welcome here, but if you’re here solely to party or bask endlessly in the generosity of our nonprofits, we ask that you move along.” That’s how you say “run ‘em out of town, boys” in 2012. The audience reacted with hushed gasps of shock on one side and beaming pride on the other.