At this week’s meeting, the Lubbock City Council heard from a number of citizens on issues of homelessness, and on the Timothy Cole case.
Around 18 citizens were scheduled to speak to the council and the packed council chambers on the issue of homelessness, though a few chose to speak, saying that their concerns had already been addressed by previous speakers.
The Council voted 5 to 2 to approve District 3 Lubbock City Councilman Todd Klein’s resolution which will create a Homelessness Committee to evaluate and oversee issues relating to homelessness in Lubbock. Mayor Tom Martin and District 4 Councilman Paul Beane voted against the measure. The 17-member committee requires no initial financial commitment from the City of Lubbock, and allows the city manager to appoint a city employee to the committee, to act as a liaison between the committee and the city.
Both District 5 Councilwoman Karen Gibson and Mayor Martin preferred reducing the committee’s basic deadlines and would rather have a member of the City Council on the committee, rather than a member of the city staff. Gibson’s amendment to the resolution failed for lack of a second.
The committee is expected to have an initial recommendation to the City Council within fifteen months of the creation of the committee; a time frame which Mayor Tom Martin says is too long. “If we’re really serious about this, fifteen months is kicking the can down the road. This needs to be done in two, and there’s not a reason why it can’t if everyone is really committed to doing something.”
Klein responded, saying that the deadline is “not an explicit date. 15 months represents a firewall saying that we need to be busy…I don’t feel comfortable changing it to two months because I think that becomes almost prohibitive to them [the committee] having the latitude they need as an autonomous group of citizens tasked with this issue…if they can do this in two days, then they need to do it in two days.”
Councilman Beane discussed his reasoning for opposing the creation of this particular committee. Beane said “The citizens have always stepped forward and solved issues, but this one is so emotional, that it seems like there’s no easy solution. And when there’s no easy solution, and it seems to me the answer is always to drop this orphan on the doorstep of the most convenient governmental agency, and in this case, it’s the City of Lubbock.” “It’s my position that this is an issue best left to the folks who know how to handle these issues. We have 120 churches in Lubbock, give or take a few, and I tithe to one every Sunday, and I think it’s their job” Beane continued.
The council decided to take no action at today’s meeting on the ordinances that would prohibit any person on the premises of the Lubbock Memorial Civic Center, Mahon Public Library, City Hall, or Lubbock Business Center between midnight and 5 a.m., and the prohibition of personal property being stored in a public area.
The ordinance which would prohibit people, specifically the homeless, on the certain city premises would also allow for a fine for up to $500 to those found trespassing, which is a Class C Misdemeanor. Councilman Beane disagreed with the inclusion of the fine. “On one hand, we’re going to extend this hand to the homeless with this committee and try to solve this issue, but on the other, we’re going to slap them with this fine if they don’t do exactly what we say. That was the portion that I found laughable and a little ironic.”
Councilwoman Gibson likened the ordinance to “putting a band-aid on a wound that needs stitches.” Gibson recommended allowing the newly created committee to review the possible ordinances before the council takes action on them.