Why are citizens of Maple Ridge being demonized and intimidated for expressing their concerns about the degradation of the downtown core, and for many, their homes and businesses?
Anyone who expresses a concern about the influx of prostitutes, panhandlers, and various others are proving to be a menace and nuisance to people who live or want to use and enjoy parts of the downtown core is characterized as a social pariah.
Members of council, district employees, and representatives of the numerous non-profits are quick to cast these citizens as inhumane, uncaring knuckle-draggers.
When I observe such vehement and derogatory characterization, I look for what is behind the attacks. I also analyze the nature of the attacks.
It is interesting that those launching the attacks conveniently characterize these people as those who are unfortunately suffering from medical conditions and are truly in need of support from society.
This slight of word is disingenuous to those who have experienced the stealing, vandalism, threats, etc.
The people working at the recycle depot are not the people over whom citizens and homeowners are raising concerns. They are glad to contribute and support the care and well-being of the truly needy. They are not so inclined to support and welcome the thugs cruising around on bicycles on our sidewalks, smoking dope in our parks and on our street benches, rooting through our recycling, and being aggressive and threatening to the homeowner who asks them to leave.
This behaviour leads me to believe there is a concerted effort to protect what has become a local industry. It is not about helping those who need a hand up, it is about justifying and maintaining the flow of money to more than 20 agencies in Maple Ridge, some of which are supporting the less fortunate.
But the word is out that Maple Ridge is one of the places to go for those who have made an art form out of milking the system. Many of these people have challenges, but there are just as many people with equal or greater challenges who every day struggle to do better, make a contribution to the same society that happily gives support and hand up.
Most of the people causing the angst and misgivings to citizens and homeowners have learned to use and abuse the system.
Further, what do more than 20 agencies do? Why so many? What are they are doing? Are they really all necessary, or is it a matter that, without real life controls, such as a marketplace, they can all flourish and have little or no risk of being held to account.
I understand that they are very well coordinated in their efforts to secure funding from the senior levels of government. The 20 agencies all collaborate to submit applications, and then the non-submitting agencies send in letters of support.
But no one is taking a step back, looking at the big picture, and asking is this the best and most efficient way to provide the necessary services.
More than 20 agencies also make it easier for those so inclined to cheat the system. There are not enough checks and balances to stay ahead of these people.
So who else is benefiting from what is one of Maple Ridges true growth industries? All of these more than 20 agencies have offices, staff, executive directors, experts, etc. This costs money that is not going to clients they purport to assist.
The facilities do not come cheap, but they do come from the pockets of the taxpayers.
There may be an element of self-interest in shutting down or shutting up the critics. It seems anyone who critically looks at this issue is to be discredited.
But the reality is there are more and more people on the streets and in the parks who, when they are not getting their hand-outs from the various and sundry agencies, are hitting upon residents and making Maple Ridge a lot less enjoyable place to live.
A common response from the defenders of the situation is that we have to provide more policing, businesses and homeowners need to spend more to secure their business and homes from vandalism and theft, homeowners and citizens have to put up and shut up, and of course, the programs need more money.
Someone seems to forget that this money comes from the same source: those of us who still pay taxes.
Why do citizens and business people have to spend more and more money to protect their property and themselves from such misguided social engineering?
A wise man once said, Build it and they will come.
Such is what I and many others have witnessed in the downtown core in recent years. The more shelters, transition houses, etc. we provide, the more people come.
One only needs to look at the homeless statistics in Vancouver. After several years of more and more permanent and temporary housing units and shelters in Vancouver the number of homeless people on the street is increasing: Build it and they will come!
There is a serious and growing problem in Maple Ridge. Our downtown is being turned into a rural equivalent of the Downtown Eastside. The residents, the seniors, and those who want to use the area deserve better.
But first our Council has to acknowledge there is a problem. Citizens are not writing to the papers, to the District, and attending council meetings because they have nothing better to do. People like Mr. Ducharme [Mayors memory deficit puzzling, Nov. 22 Letters, TIMES] are trying to make a point: our community is in trouble.
We care about our community, and we are looking to our mayor and council to take meaningful and appropriate action.
As a first step there needs to be a review of the multitude of agencies providing social support. Are they all required? Are there adequate controls over who is using the system? Are there adequate controls within the agencies to ensure the taxpayer-provided funds are being used properly?
One of the underlying problems with all taxpayer-funded agencies, whether they provide social assistance, transit, or auto insurance, is that they are not spending their own money. This frequently leads to waste, inefficiency, lack of effectiveness, and opportunity for the dishonest to take advantage.
We cannot afford not to take action. The cost to us as taxpayers and to us as members of society is already too high.
To pretend it does not exist by demonizing those citizens who are willing to stand up and be counted is unsatisfactory.
John Kelly, Maple Ridge
@ Copyright 2013