By editorial board • 

People in glass houses should learn cooperation

A decade ago, Yamhill County launched a 10-year plan to end homelessness.

Homelessness has since multiplied — especially around county government headquarters — to the point where irate citizens are demanding the McMinnville City Council usher the homeless off the streets forthwith. And one of those citizens is County Commissioner Rick Olson.

City councilors have the ability to act, but lack the political will, Olson said last week. But he is speaking through a set of glass walls.

Never mind the county’s forgotten plan to end homelessness. Olson served as mayor of McMinnville for eight years prior to being elected commissioner.

The homeless issue initially spiked in 2014, when people without shelter began camping on the grounds of McMinnville Cooperative Ministries, resulting in a confrontation between church leaders and city officials. If homelessness can be easily addressed, Olson certainly missed an opportunity, as he was holding forth as mayor at the time.

Olson suggested councilors take decisive action immediately and determined if it was justified later. “I would rather do something, and get it wrong, than do nothing,” he said. “If we get it wrong, we will learn from it.”

Very few social services are channeled through cities, compared to states and counties. Addressing homelessness thus requires cooperation at all levels.

City officials should have approached the county earlier and more forcefully. But county officials shouldn’t have stood idly by waiting for an invitation.

Homelessness is a crisis of global dimensions. No one can solve it immediately or in isolation.

Gioia Goodrum, president of the local chamber of commerce, chastised councilors this week for not immediately evicting squatters on the request of the business community.

Theoretically, councilors could move that quickly. They could direct police to round up people, confiscate their belongings and boot them out of Dodge. But that could result in costly ramifications in the form of lawsuits, especially if done with a quick trigger rather a well thought out plan.

Maybe the evil genie should grant the crowds what they want. Maybe it should teach them an expensive lesson about being careful with their wishes.

Then again, it could have city attorneys everywhere warning their councils about the dangers of the “McMinnville Debacle.”

Forceful and immediate action would make angry people feel somewhat less irate. And if it went badly wrong, we would, in Olson’s words, “learn from it.”

Then again, given the history of this issue, not bloody likely.


Don Dix

Lou Holtz (football coach) once said, "The man who complains about the way the ball bounces is likely to be the one who dropped it."

Who knew Lou knew?

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