Lately I was asked to tackle two issues: the homeless in Bonsall Park and the new security installed on the 4th floor of Glendale City Hall.

Homelessness is a complicated issue or it would have been resolved decades ago. The City of Phoenix has made a commitment to get every homeless veteran off the street. We all hope they succeed for it could be a strategic model for many other cities.

I moved to Glendale in 1968, 46 years ago. Our original Glendale home was close enough to Bonsall Park to allow our children to play there. They did frequently. Over the years, as the homeless population in the park grew it became unsafe to let our children go there. Just as there are “bad” people in the general population there are “bad” homeless people as well. I was once told by a professional who dealt with the homeless on a daily basis that the homeless generally fit into one of four categories: families with children, the chronic mentally ill, substance abusers and those who truly preferred the lifestyle of the street.

For cities it’s not an easy situation. It requires a balancing act, especially on public property such as a park. On the one hand, everyone is welcome to use a public park; on the other, it can be abused (and often is) in any number of ways by any demographic population – including the homeless population. Apparently that is what is occurring in Bonsall Park.

I appreciate the efforts of Pastor Craig Neuschwanger and others to minister to the homeless. It is the Christian thing to do but is Bonsall Park the right place? It certainly is not an appropriate place in which to sleep, a frequent occurrence in Bonsall Park. During my time on city council I received complaints about the actions of the homeless. The police and I worked hard to find safe shelter which was often refused. Therein lays the problem.

Providing dinner in the park acts as a magnet drawing even more homeless to the park as the word spreads. As more homeless congregate in the park it provides greater incentive for ministries to offer their services there. Over time, it becomes self-fulfilling cycle.

I don’t pretend to have the solution and I suspect Glendale does not either. I know that whatever steps are taken Glendale will act with sensitivity as it strives to find the right balance between keeping our parks open for everyone and keeping our parks clean and safe for all.

It was reported that new security measures have been installed on the 4th floor of Glendale’s City Hall. Who and what exactly resides on the 4th floor? As you get off the elevator the first set of offices are those of the City Council. Make a left, walk down the hallway and you will pass the Mayor’s Office, the City Manager’s Office, the City Attorney’s Office, the City Clerk’s Office and the Assistant City Managers’ Offices. At most maybe 60 people (that’s being generous) work on this floor. What was the cost of the new security? That hasn’t been revealed but we can probably assume somewhere in the $30,000 to $50,000 range.

The more important question is why? Several years ago Glendale installed security screening measures at all council workshops and meetings. One walks through a metal detector and one’s personal belongings are searched. It has become commonplace everywhere from airports to sporting events.

Unless the Glendale Police know something we don’t know Glendale has not had a major threat that warrants enhanced, “Katy bar the door” security on the 4th floor. Occasionally the city has had extra police officers on duty at some council meetings and nothing occurred. Were they a deterrent?  Perhaps. Was their presence enough or was there no severe threat to begin with?

Heightened security measures really took off in the wake of County Supervisor Wilcox being shot in her bum. A kind of rampant paranoia took over in nearly every Valley municipality. The thought became, “If it could happen there, it could happen here.” Although the passions of the citizenry sometimes ride high it has not resulted in serious, make the front page of the paper, safety incidents in Glendale. The citizens of Glendale tend to be a well mannered, polite bunch of folk.

Is it necessary? I don’t think so. Now, to get beyond 4th floor security one will have to be invited or have an appointment. Gone are the days when a citizen could drop by a councilmember’s office just to say “Hello” and chat. When I dropped by the City Clerk’s office to pick up FOIA material I had requested I would often stop by and chat with whomever was there and had some time to visit. Now, I can go to the sub-basement, thank you very much, to pick up material as I am now perceived as a threat. It makes policy makers, whether elected or senior management, more insulated from those they are charged with serving. We all have heard about the Washington, D.C. “bubble effect.” Does the city really need the “bubble effect” here?

Does it solve a problem? What exactly is the problem? If someone is bent on doing harm it can be accomplished the minute a person walks out of city hall or at any number of public venues. The city’s best intentions cannot protect from evil everywhere and all the time. Perhaps the dollars for 4th floor security are better spent providing a safe and secure environment at all of Glendale’s parks.

By the way, of those who have voted in my informal poll to the left of this column, 96% have said they would NOT hire Julie Frisoni as a permanent Assistant City Manager. To the right of this column there is an opportunity for you to sign up with your email address to receive notification every time I post a new blog. Nearly 100 extremely intelligent, discerning people have opted in…how about you?

© Joyce Clark, 2014


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