About our story-of-the-year choices:
We had a voicemail message from someone chewing us out good for featuring the wildfires on the front page the day after New Years Day.
They declared they were sick and tired of all the fire stories, and why can’t we leave those poor fire victims alone? Meanwhile, we have fire victims and advocates who worry that we’ll too soon forget about them.
While we don’t mean to be a bother to fire survivors, their issues (and the issues belong to all of us) will live on and on.
The actual story, however, was more about the institution by Pacific Gas and Electric Co. of using power shutoffs. It was a long, long fire season this past year, with area residents (especially foothills residents, businesses, schools and all) worrying every time the wind kicked up that their power would be shut off.
The larger issue is not going away. The effects of wildfires that burn away communities will be long felt and need to be dealt with.
And the ongoing issue for all of us is the solvency of our major utility provider, PGE, which is now working through bankruptcy court, as well as the utility’s use of power shutoffs whenever they deem that conditions merit it.
Criticize or compliment the company for taking those measures, periodic power shutoffs is a serious, ongoing issue. So is the continued heightened threat of wildfires. We will continue to live half of every year with trepidation.
Surprising to us, we haven’t had any argument about our second choice for story of the year: Homelessness. In fact, every time we query readers about what they think the big issues are at present, homelessness is most often cited. The issue has occupied a lot of space on Page 1, and a lot of time for governments, and wears on most local residents.
We were thinking of the evolution of the logic applied to the issue over the last several years:
– Homeless people are noticed, mostly those who panhandle. Keep them moving along.
– Even if you keep them moving, some are moving here from somewhere else, where they were kept moving. It starts to dawn on us that there will be no end to the movement of transients and campers. And there are hundreds of homeless families that stay out of sight.
– But there’s nothing we can do because they like that lifestyle.
– Wait a minute ... there are too many homeless campers and they’re lowering the quality of life for all area residents. We have to do something. Can’t we keep them moving?
– Wait, who wants to be homeless? Maybe they have mental health problems. We should show some compassion.
– Or maybe they just can’t afford housing, because it’s very expensive and there is very little in the way of low-income housing.
– But we don’t want to spend money on this problem ... it’s their problem.
– But wait, they’re here and that’s everyone’s problem ... and it’s been decreed that you can’t punish someone for sleeping in a public place if there is no alternative place for them to sleep ...
– OK, we’ve got some alternative places ... now we can make them move on, right?
– Or not?
We have come a long way and provided alternative living spaces, have put programs in place to help people get out of homelessness, and have started to look at the big picture. There are a bunch of local officials and volunteer organizations that deserve praise for all they’ve done so far.
We need to do something to encourage growth in the inventory of cheap housing; and we need to probably look at hosted temporary camping spots of some sort. We don’t want to have to pay for it ... but is there an alternative that will work?
Look up or down river at any bridge you cross ... the campers are always going to be out there until we provide a better place for them to camp.
It’s going to cost us some money ... what else do we do?
Our View editorials represent the opinion of the Appeal–Democrat and its editorial board and are edited by the publisher and/or editor. Members of the editorial board include: Publisher Glenn Stifflemire and Editor Steve Miller.