An open letter to Rep. Jeff Miller
I welcome you, Chairman Miller of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs. I understand that you are coming for a visit soon. Let me tell you about the homeless in my neighborhood. Yes, the homeless are already entrenched downtown as they are in all metropolitan areas. They come downtown because there is a concentration of services downtown (medical, public transportation, libraries, parks, and safety with lit streets and police presence). The services for the homeless, therefore, need to be where the homeless actually "reside." They don't reside in West Little Rock, Mr. Chairman. To move downtown and complain about the homeless is like moving to Florida and complaining about all the retired people.
Although opponents of the Vet center clinic rattle the chains of free enterprise and ridicule government bureaucracy, their first strategy to keep the clinic from moving to our neighborhood is to use government in order to block the clinic through rezoning. It appears that we want to have it both ways. As a bureaucrat, we will shun you if you don't do what we want but revere you if you do!
The downtown neighborhood associations have indeed worked hard to rejuvenate Main Street. We had some help, however. Although some neighbors have publicly chastised you and the VA for its "palpable disdain for local government," the city website says that we're happily spending federal dollars from the following: Department of Housing and Urban Development, Department of Homeland Security, Department of Justice, Department of Commerce, Department of Labor, Department of Interior, Department of Energy, Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Health, Arkansas Employment Security Division, Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism, Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department and the Arkansas Department of Heritage. Thanks for that, should we fail to mention it.
By the way, I can find no empirical data to suggest that property values decline when homeless services are in the immediate proximity. In fact, in Austin, the Four Seasons, expensive condos and commercial as well as residential properties are within half a mile of a huge complex for homeless services. The same can be said for Santa Monica, Calif. Some of my neighbors may argue that the homeless on the Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica distract from the beautiful retail establishments, but check out the price per square to rent one and you'll see that the presence of the homeless has not detracted from property value.
Aside from the practical (financial) debate about this project, one must sometimes make decisions based on what is right. The VA runs a very tight ship (please go visit while you're here) in the existing Day Treatment program. As a representative of the government that sent these men and women off to war (some without body armor), you should be proud that such a fine program exists to assist them. It provides mental health services, job readiness and assistance with permanent housing. To qualify for these services, the vets have to follow a set of rules and be good citizens. As citizens and as veterans of our armed services, we owe them no less than to welcome them into our community.
Super PACS and hockey goons
Some folks have pointed out that President Obama has changed his mind and will now enlist the support of Super PACs. Some are disappointed because he championed the law, pre-Citizens United, on controlling these groups. Others point out he's a flip-flopper for changing his mind on a point he held so dear and hit others over the head with. The president knows that presidential politics is not bean-bag, but even bean-bag has rules that you have to play to.
The best analogy I could think of is the NHL rule of allowing fights in hockey. There are teams that are for it, teams that oppose it. Teams for fighting say it's tradition and fans love it. Love it so much that you can hire guys known as Goons for your team to hit the ice looking to take out players who may be causing you problems. Not really sporting, but it's perfectly legal under the rules of the NHL.
The teams that oppose fighting and the use of Goons would love to play hockey free from influence and rely on skill alone. "Goon Free" hockey is a great thing to watch, with the best example being Olympic Hockey. (Using most of the same players the NHL uses by the way.) But these teams can talk about removing the fighting and the Goons all they want, as long as they remain part of the rules of the game in the NHL, a Goon with minimal hockey skills can take out your best player with one blow.
And so, like President Obama, the coaches and teams of the NHL that are against fights must still hire a Goon or two to carry out punishment to the opposing team because the rules allow it and to win they must use every tool allowed by the rules.
Unlike the NHL however, the Goons of political action committees are not under the control of the coach or team owner (candidate or party).
If they are, then the "coach" or the "team" is breaking current rules as laid out by the Supreme Court.
The only hope for the NHL is to get a rule change by the owners. The only hope for the U.S. election system is to change law or Constitution so that the goons are under control again. Maybe the "owners" (us) will be willing to make that change after this "season" is over.
David Koon's "Mind over meat" (Feb. 15) piece had me grinnin' big and laughing out loud. I liked it so much I tore it out and will send it to my kids in Australia. Thank you, Mr. Koon, for sharing your talent, and thanks to the Arkansas Times for making it possible for me to read his work. I'm also a fan of Leslie Peacock and The Observer.
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