Alright! We’re in the home stretch! In part one we discussed how the Elgin homeless problem threatened to reverse all of downtown Elgin’s hard-earned gains. In part two we covered the steps City Hall is taking and will take to address this growing problem. Now, let’s tie it all together in part three!
But again, I want to be perfectly clear that we’re not talking about those rendered homeless by a series of unfortunate economic circumstances. We’re talking about those individuals who, as a result of mental illness or persistent addiction, have become chronically homeless. And as much as Elgin does for the least of our brothers and sisters, the City has neither the resources nor the manpower to solve what may well be an unsolvable problem.
So, how did it get so bad that the downtown business owners had to revolt to finally get the City’s attention, and why did it require yours truly to finally communicate the eminently reasonable measures City Hall conceived to mitigate this complication?
The majority of this trilogy may have been a bit of a journalistic slog, but I can answer that simple question without any hesitation whatsoever. The City of Elgin is suffering from a massive leadership vacuum and a crippling CYA mentality as a result. More often than not, the City succeeds despite themselves, typically due to the efforts of few stellar individuals who understand how to get the rest of the folks on board.
Those leadership suspicions first surfaced during the interminably drawn out Elgin Police Lieutenant Chris Jensen saga where no one seemed willing to put their neck on the line and do the blitheringly obvious right thing. That “process” took three times longer than necessary, and the four separate investigations were two too many, particularly when the outcome was inevitable. All that dithering did was present the protesters with more of an opportunity to make the situation so much worse.
And those suspicions were confirmed while performing the due diligence this series required.
It all starts with City Manager Rick Kozal who is, bar none, the least effective city manager I’ve ever encountered. When reading that statement, please consider that, not only have I covered dozens of city managers in the past 14 years, but my three-year Elgin radio show co-host, Larry Jones, was a former city manager.
Kozal absolutely refuses to get out in front of anything to the point where he won’t even talk to the press. And this is not the kind of scenario where you can successfully lead from behind.
Think about it. A public employee making $230,000 a year with commensurate benefits won’t allow himself to be held accountable by the citizens who pay his salary!
Rick! If dealing with your public through their Fourth Estate representatives is simply too much for your delicate sensibilities, might I respectfully suggest another career path, perhaps something along the lines of building barns with the Pennsylvania Amish. That kind of endeavor really does seem to suit you.
And Mayor Dave Kaptain, who clearly has the cojones to confront an issue head on, hasn’t been any better in the Jensen or homeless regard, either, which makes him even worse than Kozal! Though to be fair, Dave doesn’t get nearly the remuneration Kozal does.
It’s not that the Mayor is weak as a former City Councilman likes to say, it’s just that he’s not willing to risk taking on a liberal cause. Why? Because innumerable sources have said he’s afraid of alienating his ultra-liberal wife Sandy. And, trust me, Sandy is one of those crazy liberal loons who, by adopting extreme stances, only does damage to the cause.
So, Dave’s gonna be no help in the homeless and many other regards.
Then there’s the City Council who, while actually getting along better than most similar bodies these days, aren’t exactly setting the world on fire. Terry Gavin was right! Tish Powell is a major problem and she’s a blatant racist. Corey Dixon is far too busy buying votes with free backpacks and turkeys, Toby Shaw has apparently devised a cloaking device he shares with John Steffen, Carol Rauschenberger is afraid of her own shadow, if Terry Gavin isn’t unduly annoying protesters. he’s regularly breaking the law, and if it wasn’t for me exposing his antics, Baldemar Lopez would already be running for state rep. So much for serving on the City Council, right Baldemar?
Sources also said the more liberal faction of the Council is beyond terrified of the ACLU suing them over any homeless measure much like they did over the TLC mobile ultrasound unit fracas back in 2013. So, they’re gonna be no help whatsoever.
As far as the utter dearth of effective communications goes, to be fair, Elgin is in the process of hiring a new staff member to fill that gap, which is a really good thing because, between the Jensen and homeless issues, it couldn’t possibly get any worse. Really? A foul-mouthed, immature, intemperate, non-fool suffering, moderate IQ, pain-in-the-ass, and ancient opinion columnist can frame and communicate a message exponentially better than everyone at City Hall combined?
And just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse, those “amazing” Elgin pastors insist upon entering the picture.
Since I’ve already gone on far too long let’s cut right to the chase! The problem with the pastor-penitent dynamic is, without penitents, there’s no pastor, so those self-proclaimed righteous religious reps have absolutely no incentive to improve their congregants’ lots in life and make them more independent.
Why, if they did that, there’d be no one left to put cash in the collection plate.
Yes! Christian or not, we are all conferred with an inalienable responsibility to care for the least of our brothers and sisters, but that “care” never means enabling them. There’s a reason I give money to homeless shelters and not directly to the homeless. Because when these churches offer the downtown homeless food handouts and nothing more, it does nothing to improve their lot and only puts that business district at risk.
Those unfortunate folks would be far better served by lobbying the state to finally deal with our dire mental health issue. What’s the point of incarcerating the mentally ill at ten times the cost of treatment? Those pastors should also spearhead of a movement to bring more rehab centers into our communities so no addict reaches the point of no return.
But those kinds of initiatives take guts, and local rehab centers aren’t exactly popular with their congregants, now are they?
So, there you have it! Though this three-part series doesn’t nearly begin to describe, address, or provide a solution to Elgin’s chronic homeless problem, it certainly serves as a conversational starting point. So, what do you say Elgin?