Recap for the liveblog-phobic

(Jeremy’s liveblog; Lee Hammel’s article)

There was a gentleman who sat in front of me in the gallery last night.  He, like me, lives in the neighborhood near 1398 Main Street.  He, unlike me, was opposed to the proposed triage center there. 

He overheard me talking with Jo Hart and proclaimed that I was “his kind of girl” because I sounded like I didn’t take crap from anyone.

When those who opposed the 1398 Main Street site tried to shout down Barbara Haller, he told the folks nearest him that that was inappropriate behavior for the Council chamber.  That took guts, even for someone on their side.  He was my kind of guy.

So much of the debate surrounding the proposed triage center has involved folks shouting others down (and worse).  I’d like to thank that gentleman for reminding me that folks can disagree without being disagreeable, and that people like us can shake hands at the end of a hearing.

Yes, the triage center will be moving to 701 Main Street.

But the real news is that we have rewarded folks for their anger, fear, and bad behavior.

Folks have a right to be angry.  I think the lack of communication is cause enough to be angry.

But anger does not give you the right to shout down people who are trying to speak at a meeting.

Folks have a right to be afraid.

But fear does not give you the right to spread misinformation and to stereotype others.

I have rarely been so disappointed in my fellow citizens as when I heard them shout down Barbara Haller last night, when she pointed out that the 1398 Main Street location had multiple community hearings (as a contrast to 701 Main Street, which will have had none).

Folks said that those weren’t community meetings because they weren’t allowed to speak.

But who didn’t allow them to speak — elected officials, or their own neighbors who acted in an absolutely uncivil manner?

I said this last week: “when things get ugly, it’s very easy for the Manager to ignore everyone, or to shut down a meeting.  And then the voices of the more reasonable or more quiet among us are silenced.”  And, as I predicted, plenty of us have been silenced by the shouts of our own neighbors.

The losers in this are not just the neighbors of 701 Main Street, but any of us who long for a real dialogue about homelessness, and for those of us who believe that civil discourse is an essential part of our democracy. 

An infrequent reader let me know that it wasn’t clear whether I was for or against the triage center in my neighborhood.  I apologize for my lack of clarity — I was not opposed to the triage center, for a variety of reasons.  I tried very hard to show how the lack of communication fanned the flames, and I tried (perhaps too well) to see things from the point of view of those with whom I disagree.

There have been so many little topics swirling in my head: whether neighborhood councils would have helped or hurt in this situation; why folks seem to (over-)emphasize the negative aspects of city living when there are so many positives; why more people showed up at these meetings than actually turned out to vote

…but it’s past my bedtime.

More to come, I’m sure.  And hopefully in a lucid manner.

For further reading: Mending Fences, as discussed a long time ago on P&C, and Opening Doors to Group Homes in Worcester

2 thoughts on “Recap for the liveblog-phobic

  1. Courtney Petrou-Bateman says:

    I agree with you about many points save one, 1398 Main, it was a bad location . The same problems are now thrust upon 701 Main. My heart went out to Councillor Haller last night. And she was right the motion was only formality.
    I am one of the driving forces behind the relocation of 1398 Main out of our neighborhood. Sadly, I admit fear on many levels drove this movement in our community. I handed out flyers, walked the neighborhood, talked to people, and passed around petitions. I am not going to lie there was some discrimination that I heard. However, on the whole the issue came down to trust! Do we trust SMOC, the City Manager, and those who are brought into the Triage? And should we? My eyes were widely open with what I found out researching theses questions. Unfortunately, our neighborhood has now been pitted against another. I agree that a victory for “us” is a loss for District 4. Many of those with me agree that is not the right location either. And we agree to support efforts there as well.
    You seemed to have a level head, I emplore you to look into some of these dealings. I would like to hear your oppion.

    • Nicole says:

      Thanks for commenting. We might just have to agree to disagree on the appropriateness of the location. (Full disclosure: I was Central Branch YMCA youth of the year in 1992, so I feel a certain protectiveness towards the area around 701 Main Street.)

      I hope this addresses some of your points —

      This is a community issue, and this needs to be dealt with as a community. That the city not talking to neighborhoods — whatever neighborhood — is always a problem. That this was presented within a two-week window is also extremely problematic.

      There’s a lot of bitterness and a lot of mistrust on all sides. The minute anyone (and I include myself in the “anyone”) hears the acronym “SMOC”, one immediately defaults to thoughts of limited community engagement, broken promises, and “my way or the highway.” (Whether or not that’s accurate, that’s what many people, myself included, associate with SMOC.)

      However, making a decision based on misinformation and fear — and without some sort of real conversation and real community engagement — is always wrong.

      I am concerned that in the shuffle to not have the triage center at 1398 Main Street, that we have missed some opportunities to have conversations about a lot of the things neighbors — and the whole city — are concerned about.

      As my friend Karl once said — “Conflating the issues of alcohol and drug addiction with homelessness (issues that are deeply connected, but also separable), diminishes the focus that each issue requires.” (One of my concerns with the flyers I saw distributed was that they conflated the issues.)

      So for me there are two questions — and they really are questions —

      1) How do we focus on the issues (beyond just the siting of a triage center) and tackle each of those issues in a way that shows respect to everyone involved?

      2) What is the correct process for identifying different constituencies, answering questions, and disseminating information? How can we make sure that we have conversations that are based on facts, that really address concerns, and that help us grow as a community?

      I don’t think the current process (if you can call it a “process”) worked, even though many folks got what they wanted. We deserve to have a real dialog with the city administration and with social service agencies. Continuing to operate in this way — meetings shut down quickly, deals made behind closed doors — does not benefit us as a community, even though there will be some immediate relief for our own neighborhood.

      I look forward to continuing the conversation.

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