Link to Anderson Valley Advertiser: www.theava.com
On November 9th the Fort Bragg City Council recognized various volunteers serving on city wide commissions, committees, and advisory boards. The council continued the Stage 3 water emergency and approved a land swap for eight acres of land on the former Georgia-Pacific mill site. Any of those items would normally be significant matters on their own merits, but the story in Fort Bragg continues to circle around a ballot initiative aimed at restricting the use of social services in Fort Bragg's Central Business District (CBD); more specifically the target of the proposed ballot measure is the Mendocino Coast Hospitality Center's mental health services and transitional housing units within the Old Coast Hotel on the northwest corner of Franklin and Oak Streets.
The immediate headline is that the Mendocino County Registrar's office has confirmed at least 469 signatures on the petition that calls on the city government to forbid all social service organizations within Fort Bragg's Central Business District that were not in place prior to January 1, 2015. That 469 number crosses the 15% barrier of registered voters in Fort Bragg, thus creating the need for an up or down election on the measure. The proponents of said initiative want to go ahead with a special election as soon as possible. Indeed, the leaders of the initiative drive wrote to Fort Bragg's City Clerk and Elections Officer last week, requesting that the City follow government codes that supposedly mandate a special election for either the first Tuesday after the first Monday in March, 2016 or the second Tuesday in April, 2016.
However, Fort Bragg's City Manager, Linda Ruffing, and the five member City Council is not having it. They brushed aside requests for a special election in March or April, citing election codes that provide for consolidating the local initiative with the June 7, 2016 presidential primary.
As has become the norm in the past few months for only a small number of citizens in favor of the initiative to appear at city council meetings. This time they numbered three: Rex Gressett, Judy Valadao, and Jay McMartin-Rosenquist. Apparently the actual authors of the initiative and many of the signatories to the petition are boycotting City Council meetings at present.
The Council itself voted 5-0 to accept the certification of the signatures by county election officials. They also concurred 5-0 to accept the advice of city staff to consolidate the election in June, 2016. The City Council chose not to write an official ballot argument against the initiative. All five councilmen, in one form or another, expressed the belief that they had previously announced and recorded their disapproval of the initiative.
Councilmember Doug Hammerstrom reasoned that members of the town's current social service organizations might offer the most persuasive arguments against the initiative. Vice-mayor Lindy Peters did make a brief, but rather adamant statement, more or less directly aimed at the three proponents in attendance, to the effect that the initiative proposal, if passed, would preclude veteran's assistance groups from opening up shop in Fort Bragg's Central Business District.
The initiative's backers appear heedless to such scoldings, believing it is their god given, patriotic right to question the establishment of mental health services at the Old Coast Hotel site. Meanwhile both proponents and opponents of said initiative largely ignore the prior and ongoing problem of serving forty meals a day to every type of homeless person at the Mendocino Coast Hospitality Center's (MCHC) flagship enterprise, Hospitality House. The Board members of MCHC seem convinced that simply by serving meals to the hungry and homeless they have done their good deed for every day, their neighbors be damned because MCHC has for years refused to monitor the folks it serves meals to; refusing even to keep the late afternoon diners on campus at Hospitality House. The long running inaction and inability of MCHC's Board to control its own clientele for an hour or so each day is the root cause of much of Fort Bragg's homeless (large subgroup = mentally ill) problems. Those behind this ill-fated initiative would do better to document the messes (human, animal, food) created by the unmonitored clientele of Hospitality House dinners, then file a class action suit against said MCHC. At this late date in this fiasco, only undeniable legal action will wake up the MCHC Board from their fantasy world of do-goodiness, in which the aforementioned Board gives no appearance of real world understanding regarding the unintended consequences brought about by their one good deed, feeding the homeless.