Mike Morowit — if elected to the District 4 City Council seat — intends to push for a homeless commission.
“The building is of no consequence to me,” Morowit said of the homeless navigation center.
From his perspective, the navigation center is a done deal. The city now owns the land. They also have more than $16 million on hand to build it.
“As an elected official, my job is to make sure projects are implemented and are done correctly,” Morowit said.
It would be a standing commission much like the Parks & Recreation as well as Planning commissions. It wouldn’t be a one year and done type of thing.
Morowit said that allows three key things to happen.
*It makes sure the community has maximum input into the type of programs offered at the navigation center and operations instead of relying solely on the perspective of one staff member.
*It would provide a venue for community members to bring forward specific issues with homeless in a forum designed to work to collaboration with the public to find solutions.
*It assures staff follow thorough.
The last observation, Morowit said, wasn’t meant to criticize present staff but reflects the reality that has been the case for Manteca for years.
“If staff doesn’t make it a priority, it doesn’t get done,” Morowit said.
The homeless issue is a perfect example.
When Morowit was previously on the council, staff proposed assigning just one police officer fulltime to addressing homeless issues and working to get them off the streets.
That meant only four day staffing.
Morowit quizzed then Police Chief Nick Obligacion as to whether two officers assigned would be more effective as it gave the city seven day a week coverage and overlap.
The chief agreed but then City Manager Karen McLaughlin countered saying the city lacked the funds to do so.
Morowit pressed the issue noting that it was high priority in the community to address homeless issues. The balance of the council concurred.
McLaughlin found money in the budget for a second position and still keep the city’s spending plan balanced.
But the second position was never fully staffed.
And it wasn’t because of “difficulty finding the right person” as staff keep saying each time they were questioned about it not being filled
“They (staff) didn’t make it a priority,” Morowit said.
That is what he doesn’t want to see happen given the amount of money and resources the city is committing to the navigation center as well as the fact homeless concerns are perceived as Manteca’s No. 1 issue.
The makeup of a commission as Morowit proposes would consist of five people — one appointed by each council member from their district and a mayoral appointment.
The member could perform much the way that South San Joaquín Irrigation District board members function. They are the go-to people if you have a concern with water deliveries and such within their specific district. That board member then brings the issue forth to staff.
The same would be true of homeless concerns.
“The city may not know about specific issues with the homeless behind SaveMart on North Main Street,” Morowit offered as an example.
A commission would be a high profile option where people can turn to and have a large degree of confidence their concerns will be addressed and not lost in the shuffle.
Staff that Morowit believes should be at the meeting includes the homeless and affordable housing coordinator, someone from the police department as well as public works that handles homeless vandalism and cleanup issues.
The commission might meet monthly for a year or so and then reduce the frequent of meetings.
He proposed the meetings be broadcast on various social media platforms to assure the fullest public access.
The meeting would have agenda items as well as a period for public input in general on homeless issues around the community. Staff could provide feedback as well as do follow-up as needed.
It would also serve as a way to keep the public informed and educated about what the city is doing.
“This is too important of an issue to leave in the hands of one staff person (when it comes to shaping what the city does,” Morowit said.
He also would like to see Manteca coordinate periodic meetings with nearby cities to keep communities throughout the South County abreast of what each other is doing.
Morowit noted the homeless summits the city has serve basically as a Q&A session for the public while much of the time is devoted to business on how various organizations are coordinating their efforts to assist the homeless.
Morowit noted other cities have such commissions to keep the community engaged and abreast of homeless efforts.
It also assures that the council isn’t overwhelmed with homeless business and that there is adequate opportunity for the public to express concerns in a forum that could lead to solutions to neighborhood level issues. Morowit stressed that wouldn’t mean the commission would set homeless policy or control expenditures. That would still be reserved for elected leaders.
Instead, it would focus on the nut and bolt issues to make sure the navigation center is as effective as can be while assuring community interaction on homeless issues is kept front and center.
Morowit said he hopes those that are adamantly opposed to the navigation center location will now shift gears and work with the city to make sure the city delivers on promises and takes all steps it can to get homeless off the streets while reducing homeless issues around town.
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