Friday, June 11, 2010

Dave Neumann Should be Ashamed!

This is shameful!




I don't agree with the community's stance on permanent supportive housing in their neighborhood. I believe it to be based on unfounded fears and stereotypes about homeless people that are unfair and unkind. But they have a right to object and voice their objections.

What I have a problem with is Dallas City Councilman Dave Neumann's uncharitable characterization of the appearance of two homeless women before the council. It infers that people have a right to voice their opposition, however vociferously or viturperously, without being 'inconvenienced' by having the objects of their derision present among them.

Was the council, or Mr. Neumann to be 'warned' that Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance's Mike Faenza was going to have the temerity to actually bring two women as representatives of the type of residents who would occupy Oak Cliff Manor to the city council meeting? Was he concerned that residents in his district would not have the freedom to bash the homeless without being embarrassed by their presence among them? Did he really consider their presence an 'ambush'?

An ambush of whom? Don't these women have the right to speak before the council and talk about their need for shelter and services to enable them to get on their feet and have another opportunity for a life of productivity? For a public official to treat citizens like this is unconscionable and frankly Dave Nuemann should be ashamed of himself for treating these women so discourteously.

There are people in Dallas, and elsewhere, who are very comfortable with the poor and homeless being the objects of charity. Such an objectification makes it very easy to disregard them as human beings, much less citizens. Were they dressed in business suits, wearing make-up, with 'respectable' jobs, already living in the area, they would be lauded for their courage and determination for 'overcoming' their mental illness. These are women who, for whatever reason, have lost the network of relationships which have helped some of the rest of us avoid or overcome such obstacles; obstacles which many, in a fit of self delusion, believe they have overcome or avoided on their own. The Dallas Housing Authority and MDHA, are trying to help give them the chance to begin again and because they have no money, no job (as far as we know) and don't look as nice as some of the rest of us, it is assumed that they and others like them will be detrimental to the economic viability of a neighborhood.

Of course, a couple of miles down the street, are motels that are serving as little more than flop houses for homeless people who have no supervision or services to help them get on their feet. Flop houses about which Mr. Nuemann is doing very little, if anything. And there's the rub.

It's so easy, too easy, for politicians to 'make their bones' stoking the flames of suspicion, feeding the fears and enhancing the stereotypes of the poor, of minorities, the homeless in order to score points with a constituency that pays very little attention to what little they are doing elsewhere. The emerge from this battle against people vulnerable people who only want an opportunity, as 'champions' of the 'community' because they have 'stood up' for the neighborhood.

It's easier to do that, than it is to point out to those same constituents, that the loss of a job; a wrongful arrest; an expensive, extended illness or injury; a natural disaster or a wrong headed choice could place them, a child, a brother or sister in the same position as the people against whom they now protest.

It's far easier to feign indignation and insult and talk about an 'ambush', than it is to call for reasonableness, calm rational discussion, need and negotiation. If, indeed, Mr. Neumann was told about this a year ago, why couldn't he have prepared this community through information and education. If he didn't do that, then he's guilty of ambushing his own district!

Near the end of the clip, Dr. Vociel Hill and Mayor Tom Leppert, are seen speaking to these women, apparently, respectfully. Grand standing? Playing to the camera? You can accuse them of that if you want. But a prefer a theater of feigned respect than one of actual meaness and disregard.

The last time I checked, there were no residency rules to be considered a citizen of Dallas. There are no quotas in terms of income for communities. There requirements that one pay income and property tax, as well as sales tax, in order to be able to attend a city council meeting and be treated as a citizen. The assumption by a public servant that all people are worthy of such treatment and regard, should be a rule of thumb, rather than a qualified posture.

I do, however, agree, that Mike Faenza made a mistake in bringing these two women to the council meeting...

He should have brought 30 of them.

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