Candidates for city council

The Olympian has two articles containing questions from the public for city council candidates. The first has questions from the Olympian's reader forum; the second has questions from a public meeting held on Sunday (9/11).

In reading the first batch or responses, I have the impression that people, including the candidates, have a distorted perception of downtown:

Jim Bremner: “What are you going to do about the panhandlers, the squalor and the general deterioration in downtown Olympia?


I think teaching how to balan

I think teaching how to balance checkbooks and other everyday type money topics would be enough. At least providing a foundation for wise decision making.

Honestly, I agree with what you say completely. I think it should be this way too. Absoulutely. But it's not. So in reality non-profits have to get what they can, and the government has always been the biggest source. It's tough out there right now. I run a newspaper by myself, a couple of volunteers and TESC interns during the schoolyear is my only support. I do this on a shoestring budget. We also run a street library and adult basic/popular education space. We have no grants. The government doesn't offer money for this. So, I have to beg to the private sector. It's rough. The only consistant money supply is the government. Money from the private sector comes and goes due to the human element. A church will decide to give you money and then months later stop. This being the will of the church board, or the parishners.

Right now, I honestly don't see things changing away from reliance on government. The hurricane may have entrenched in people's minds even further that the government is responsible for taking care of people. That we are not responsible for one another. There has been glimmers of altruism throughout the whole mess, but no more than I would expect. There is still a disconnect from our own problems in our own communities.

So, as frustrated as it might make you, I think we are headed toward even more reliance on government for services. The democrats will most likely take power after the next elections. Presidential and Congressional. And they will foster the nurturing family model as opposed to the Republicans' and their patriarchal take care of yourself model. This where I think government has great power. By setting an example. I don't mean laws and ordinances. I just mean in practice. If you don't want the government being held responsible for every hard luck case, then you should agree with me on this. The government, more than just about anything else, has the power to move people to great action.

I would like some clarification: People with disabilities, either mental or physical, that prevent them from working or maybe even taking care of themselves. If they have no family, should they be eventually cut off?

Well, after watching el presi

Well, after watching el presidente's speech last night we're definately in an era of Big Government, regardless if you vote Democrat or Republican. As far as people with disabilities (mental or physical) who lack family to take care of them. Sticking firmly to my ideology I would say no, it's not the job of the government to take care of them. I do, however, have a great deal of humanity and that's telling me there should be SOMETHING done. That is one of those questions (and I ask myself these scenarios and questions all the time) I just can't answer. I think, at some level, government has a responsibility to take care of the lowest of the low. I cannot, however, define what that level of responsibility is. It's just one of those things that I go back and forth with. I'm not a cold individual and, in some ways, I think what I say helps people more than just using government. As you said, though, government is at least going to be there (whether it's inept or not) while the private citizen and private group may or may not be. Do you think if the people were able to keep more of their income they would donate more? I realize this may be wishful thinking on my part but I like to at least hope, in theory, that if the individual was allowed to keep more of their income (I think right now we lose a little over 50% of our incomes to various taxes) they would invest that into the community? The only reason I think that is because people see so much of their tax dollars right now go to government-sponsored social programs so instead of rushing out to also donate to private organizations, like yours, they are likely inclined to think "Well, my tax dollars are already going to fund social programs. Why should I donate even more to private organizations?" If allowed to keep a greater percentage of their income, though, they may think "Government is not doing it but this organization is so I'll donate" either financially or with their own time. Just a hypothesis.

I think you are right about t

I think you are right about this. It's hard to give now, but there is a desire to. People do give. They can't give money all the time, but they give what they can. Plenty, a restaurant on the corner of 4th and Columbia, doesn't give us huge money donations, but they once donated thier space and all of the food for a speaking engagement. They've also loaned us tablecloths and sponsored a radio ad for other events. It would be nice if people would just give us money and we could spend it, but it is definetly heartening to see that people are willing to give what they are able to.

I want to thank Mark Foutch f

I want to thank Mark Foutch for not feeding into the hype. I also want to say to the candidates: People will not vote for you if you tell them that the city that they live in, work in, play in, and love, sucks. I go downtown every day. I don't see urban blight in empty storefronts. I see an opportunity for new businesses to come here. I don't see squalor. In fact I'm really not sure what people mean when they use that word. For a candidate to use that word, is an admission that our downtown is "in a state of being extremely dirty and unpleasant, esp. as a result of poverty and neglect." Is this the platform you want to run on? Are you saying that you are going to save us? Save us from what? It must be ourselves. The citizens of Olympia must be to blame, after all, we vote for our mayor and city council. I would ask that you give the readers of OlyBlog and your fellow Olympians some clarification as to what you mean by this. I refuse to support a candidate that would speak of my home in such a way.

If he's talking about cleanin

If he's talking about cleaning up the area around the Percival bathroom I could definately support that. I haven't been downtown at night in a while so I can't comment about the crowds there but, in my own personal experience, there is a lot of activity which shouldn't be going on (and I don't just mean loitering or urinating in public).

Is the area around Percival b

Is the area around Percival bathroom dirty? Maybe the city should get a pressure washer.

I'm going to make an assumption, please, please correct me if I'm wrong. I'm going to assume that the "cleaning up" you speak of involves homeless people. I hope I'm wrong.

Let me tell you, I work in the stereotype destroying business. I can spot one a mile away. When you use phrases like "cleaning up" in reference to homeless people, you propagate the idea that homeless people are dirt. You don't clean up people, you clean up filth. You clean up dirt. People are not dirt to be swept under a carpet.

I'll let you correct me now.

Nope, you're absolutely corre

Nope, you're absolutely correct in assuming I was referring to the "homeless." Here's my question (I'm not expecting an answer but, if you have one, that would be great): How many of those who are homeless in Olympia are in such a state by circumstance and how many are by choice? I have a great deal of sympathy for the individual (or family) who is homeless because of circumstance. I do not, however, have sympathy for those who choose to live such a lifestyle. And by choice I do not mean they "choose" to wake up each morning with nothing. By "choose" I mean these individuals continually participate in activities which are not condusive to furthering themselves in the work force.

TFI: Have you looked at the v

TFI: Have you looked at the videos of people living on the streets that I've posted here? I think that you'll find that the reasons why people are (and stay) homeless have less to do with choice than with options. Look at Jeremy's video. He describes the catch-22 of needing to work to get a home, but not being able work because he doesn't have a home. Or Karen, who was essentially evicted because of the termination of a relationship. Now she has nothing to start over with. As Brother Ray said, "You got to have something to get something."

Beware the terrible simplifiers.
Jacob Burckhardt

I'm curious which employers w

I'm curious which employers will fire an individual for "not having a home?" By chance, did you ask Jeremy how he ended up in the position he is currently in? Also, I don't think by any stretch of the imagination that moving from a homeless situation to one of employment is easy. I am sure the road is very, very difficult. Difficult, however, does not equal impossible.

It is not illegal to discrimi

It is not illegal to discriminate against someone for being poor or being homeless. It's a fact. At the Voice of Olympia I meet people all the time who are qualified, clean and want to work, but no one will hire them. For example a gentleman and his pregnant wife had some financial difficulty while living in southern CA, LA I believe. They came up here to start over because the cost of living is less. He applied for a job at the gas station on the corner of Plum and State, the interview was going very well, the applicant had been a manager at a service station for years, he was way overqualified for the job. At one point in the interview, the employer saw the man's wife, waiting, with their luggage. He asked where they were living. The man informed him they were with friends for a couple of weeks until they can get into a rental that was opening up for them. The manager either didn't believe him or didn't care. He told him to "Come back when you're more stable." That was the end of the interview.

Can you possibly try to imagine having nothing, coming to an new town, with a pregnant wife and the responsibility that being a husband and a father brings, and then not being able to get a job at a quick stop gas station? A job that you are more qualified for than the guy interviewing you is?

This is not an uncommon story. Except usually an interview isn't even granted. What I'm saying, is that being homeless is not conducive to furthering themselves into the workforce.

One of the common stereotypes of homelessness is that "these people need to get jobs". This is assuming that not having a job is their only barrier. People can develop severe depression and anxiety just from being homeless. It's also assuming that the person has the ability to work. A vast number of the folks I run into have a physical or mental disability, recieve benefits and are not permitted to work by either DSHS or Social Security.

95% of the homeless people you see are not homeless by choice. This is an unfortunate myth that, in my opinion, people propagate to make themselves feel better about allowing poverty to exist. I'm sorry, there is just no truth to it. Does being homeless sound like a fun life to you? It doesn't to me. I don't romanticize about it at all. There are people who are nomadic and choose to be that way. They don't use up resources. They aren't really homeless by popular definition. People don't choose to be homeless.

If you don't want to take my word for it, go down to 121 State Ave, kitty corner to the Transit Center, go talk to people at the Bread & Roses Advocacy Center. Talk to the folks checking their mail or waiting to use the phone. You could write volumes in just one afternoon.

I know people with problems you couldn't make up.

I realize it is not illegal t

I realize it is not illegal to discriminate against a person for being homeless and, while I don't agree with it, I think a private company should have the ability to hire/fire whom they deem fit for their business. Again, not saying I agree with it but I don't think it's the job of the government to become involved with private matters. I sympathize with the man you described because, by the sound of the situation, he is a victim of circumstance (assuming his financial trouble was brought about by forces he could not control versus mismanagement). Most Americans are one severe injury/illness away from poverty. I certainly don't enjoy knowing such a statement is true and I doubt many others do, either. The problem is: What to do? Again, I think we're stepping into the realm of whether the government is responsible to take care of these individuals or whether private groups (The Salvation Army, Red Cross, etc.) are responsible. In my own opinion I believe it is more efficient and better served for private groups to handle these matters. Of course, this depends largely on private citizens giving their time, money and resources. If those of us in society who are more fortunate do not give then yes, unfortunately, the lowest (economically-speaking) of society suffer. As bad as this may be I think the alternative of taxing heavily and relying on government is a far worse option for everyone.

I wonder, do you really belie

I wonder, do you really believe government should not provide for the people, or are you saying that based on the government's track record it would be unwise for us to trust them to use our money honestly?

To me it seems that leaving people to fend for themselves is unwise. We have become so reliant on the government that as this war has sucked all of the fed money out of the states it has create great need. Everyone got so used to that money, now that it's gone no is willing to give. People assume that programs are still funded. Speaking from the here and now, we should put pressure on the government to develop, with community support, progressive policies that serve everyone's best interest.

I also want to mention that money management was not taught in my high school nine years ago, and probably wasn't taught before that. I can't comment on whether it's taught today. Money mismanagement is prevalent in our society. We are raised to spend money before we get it. It's gotten worse and worse over time.

To answer your first statemen

To answer your first statement: Both. Too much government, in the end, usually ends up as a disaster. Whether it's corruption, mismanagement, etc. there is always something wrong. Having worked for government previously I cannot tell you how much waste there is, especially when compared to their private sector counterparts. The private sector, while hated by some, is operated in a far more efficient manner. The bottom line is not how good you feel at the end of the work day but whether you accomplished the necessary tasks and are a step ahead. The private sector demands results. Regarding whether government should provide for the people, I think on some level there is an obligation to provide for citizens. I do not know, though, where that level is. I don't think it's as far left as providing housing, food, clothing, etc. but I'm not as far right as to say government should COMPLETELY sit back. I am more in the middle, leaning to the right, and believe government should offer temporary assistance. Beyond that, though, private citizens and groups should step in. As I said, if they don't the only people hurt are those in need but, unfortunately, I think that's the reality of how government should operate. Again, at the end of your post you appear to be blaming government for not teaching how to manage finances. Fiscal irresponsibility is not the fault of the government; it is the fault of the individual.

I'm sticking to my guns on th

I'm sticking to my guns on this one. Schools should teach finances. It would not be expensive to do so, and would be a huge step toward prevention of the money mismanagement of which you speak.

Do you think the government should draw a line in the sand, or would you say that the government should provide support for people based on need? (Focused on helping the neediest first)

I think if schools did the jo

I think if schools did the job they were supposed to and taught "Reading, 'Riting, and 'Rithmatic," financially applicable information would more than likely be included. So if you mean how to balance a checkbook then yes, I could go along with that. If you mean we should turn classrooms into lectures about watching out for credit card companies, etc. then no, I don't agree with that on the tax dollar. If a teacher wanted to take it upon themselves (or any other private citizen or group) to offer such material outside of school that would be more than welcome. I don't disagree with the message you want to send, only who should be the messenger. I think we should be less reliant on government and more so on ourselves. Now, about supporting people based on need. I do think the government should say, "Ok, you can only collect benefits for X-period of time. Once you have used all of these benefits you will no longer be able to receive help from the government." It sounds cold, I know. As I've said, though, this is where a private citizen or group would have to step-in. I was recently watching coverage on how those who have been displaced by Hurricane Katrina are coping. They showed one church which has taken in a few dozen victims, giving them bunkbeds, etc. (it's not nearly as bad but think military barracks-type). People are able to wash their clothes, take showers, etc. too. Anyway, the church has also been assisting in looking for housing and driving people to and from job interviews. This is what I am talking about when I say the private citizen and not the government should be taking the initiative to do this type of work. Granted, it's not as automatic as government (where your tax dollars are just taken to fund various programs) and relies heavily on community involvement but, as I said before, I think it's far more efficient and, in the long run, far more helpful than just having government give out a paycheck/food/whatever. This type of approach actually works with the person as an individual rather than as a number.

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