Thursday, May 12, 2011

Dwight Smith: Hard Questions for SAPD Chief Walters

Subject: A Newsworthy question regarding Chief Walters suitability for his End Homelessness Presentation at 2PM on Thursday the 12th, 2011 at the SAPD Community Room.

SAPD Chief Walters c/o 2020 End Homeless Board

Dear Chief Walters,

I have great respect for you, and I very much wanted to see you defeat Marshal Carona in the race for Sheriff. My respect, however, is necessarily limited to your outstanding performance as Police Chief. It is for that reason I find it both misrepresentative and unfair that you will be holding your 2020 Presentation at the SAPD Community Room and presumably, in uniform. It is with great temerity, therefore, that I intend, as both a loyal supporter and homeless advocate of long standing, to call into question your fitness to end homelessness, since you, Mayor Pulido and the SAPD have done far more to destroy long-term opportunities for permanent housing than any other agency in America:

From the OC Weekly,

For years, Catholic Worker's Dwight Smith has railed against the exotic financing behind the opulent, $107 million Santa Ana Police Department headquarters and adjoining city jail—what one wag dubbed the "Glamour Slammer." The jail was partly built with a loan from the federal Housing and Urban Development (HUD) agency; the final installment is due in 2006.

The deal was perfectly legal, but with so many working poor in Santa Ana, using block grants from a low-income housing agency to pay off a loan for a marble-encrusted police/jail complex is shameful, Smith believes. Worse, he sees it as part of a pattern in Santa Ana to screw the poor. There was the city's infamous tent city breakdown in 1992, followed by ordinances that force the poor to move out of motels every month and forbid camping on public land. "Even their blankets are illegal," Smith said. Agencies like Catholic Worker are left to deal with the fallout.

So the 11th through 14th Stations of the Cross—the ones in which Jesus is nailed to the cross, placed in his mother's arms and laid to rest—were enacted with about 30 children, many homeless, sitting on the steps to the shiny Santa Ana PD. After the final prayer, Smith told the adults, "Now you all go on. The children are going to stay here for a moment and enjoy the housing the city purchased for them."

As the kids goofed around, adults lined up to kiss the cross propped up a few yards from the jail entrance.

"I want you to look over at all the children who are sitting on the steps of this building," said Leia Smith, Dwight's wife. "I want to remind you that on Easter Sunday, the armories close—all the armories close. And many of the people in this crowd know exactly what that means. People will not have a place to sleep. Look at the sky, feel the weather, and you notice it is cold, even though it may be the end of March. And we invite you to continue to ask some questions: Why—in a county that can afford a marble-covered building—are there men and women and children who have to sleep outside, exposed to the elements, for any reason at all?"

I have submitted to the OC Weekly and to Mike Anton of the LA Times, copies of those documents which show the result of your persuading Mayor Pulido and then HUD Secretary Cisneros to convince the Clinton administration to approve a 1996 Section 108 Transfer of $60 million dollars worth of subsequent low-income housing grants from Santa Ana's poor to the Chemical Bank of New York. This was to repay a $14.7 Million construction completion loan for your palatial HQ, necessitated by the OC BK. Had that $60 Million not consumed virtually half of all the low income housing funds sent to Santa Ana for the next decade, we might have built some long-term, low-income housing of the type you're going to be "presenting options for" in your talk today. All those millions, and pre-boom 1996 millions, to boot!

It's astonishing to me, of all the people in the OC, that you were handed the 2020 Board Role least suited to your CV. If I were to insinuate that you'd been set up by the very person who needs this to fail badly, that would probably be slander. What is self-evident, however, is that the OC Partnership is so dumb, and held in such little regard by the rest of OC's governance, that such really wonderful self-disclosing mistakes will continue to happen. I'm just sorry that you ended up the fall-guy for the OC Partnership's Karmic blunder.

I'm hoping that with this much advance notice you'll be able to completely address your role in the 1996-2006 debacle that robbed so many families of their "option for permanent housing" since you're now the one in charge of developing the same! Was there any thought, after the Chemical Bank loan was in place, to perhaps downgrade the quality of marble festooning the HQ is favor of squats for just a few tykes, or did the general "Cone of Silence" atmosphere surrounding the whole enterprise make charity problematic?

Does it still?

Or will your frank and disingenuous revelations finally let the voters know how important homeless children really are to Jim Palmer and the OC Board of Supervisors? Chief Walters, the real tragedy here is that, as always, really great public servants like you and the rest of the SAPD get "volunteered" by the likes of City Manager Reams and his good friend Jim Palmer. There's a reason that Mr. Palmer, until recently, publicly eschewed any association with Government, proclaiming loudly his utter reliance upon the Lord! He will never bear the humble "yoke" of public service. He will instead, rope the humble servants of the people into serving his selectively "anti-government" designs. The enduring problem, as demonstrated herein, is that he will do it badly. Jim probably isn't even aware of your involvement in the transfer of millions from the poor to the SAPD. That we would hold an "Options for Permanent Housing" presentation in the Community Room of the very "palace" that robbed poor families of their slim chances is ironic in the extreme. Perhaps no one would notice if you changed the venue to Jim Palmer's palace, and wore civvies.

Only in Partnership with the OC!

Dwight Smith

PS I'll be bringing a few students from the OC College Amnesty Chapter, and a score of homeless people.