Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Saturday, January 04, 2020

Missing the point about tragedy as a call for action: Texas Governor Abbott, President Donald Trump

In the articles about the tragic attack with a machete on a group of Orthodox Jews in Suburban New York, the mother of the perpetrator lamented how more than anything, her son is mentally ill, and there is no real system to help such people.

The point then, in responding to such events, isn't necessarily to term them "domestic terrorism" but indicators of a tragic failure to provide mental health care. Police departments and prisons have by default become the country's "community mental health care system," a much different one than was prophesied as part of mental health care "reforms" in the late 1960s.

Some of the murders in DC this past year were random acts by mentally ill people ("Killings in District reach decade high as leaders struggle to reduce gun violence," Washington Post). According to the Austin American-Stateman, the response by the governor to a random killing in Austin was "‘I bet you’ll learn that the killer was a homeless man’." From the article:
Hours after a person stabbed a man to death Friday in South Austin, Gov. Greg Abbott speculated on Twitter that the suspect was homeless.

"When all facts are revealed I bet you’ll learn that the killer was a homeless man with prior arrests," Abbott tweeted. "If so Austin’s reckless homeless policy puts lives in danger to murders like this. Austin leaders must answer for their perilous policies."
Probably. But ultimately this problem is much bigger than Austin.

 A homeless man who is mentally ill and hasn't received the care he needs to be sane--both because of too strong "individual protections" so that people have a right to be crazy more than the public has a right to be safe and because of a failure by the State of Texas to provide adequate services--providing this kind of care should be a state function, not a local function.

Talk about lack of understanding and lack of leadership.

Of course, the same goes for President Trump in the way that he calls Chicago ("Trump calls Chicago 'embarrassing to nation' during first visit," Guardian) and Baltimore ("Trump calls Baltimore 'disgusting ... rodent infested mess," Baltimore Sun) cesspools and threatens to step in on California homeless issues (""California's homeless: Trump policy has state officials wary," USA Today) or wildfire in California, completely ignoring climate change ("California wildfires: Trump threatens to cut funding to fight fires," USAT), Puerto Rico ("Trump's Vendetta Against Puerto Rico Is Still Going Strong," Vanity Fair).

Ideally, the federal government would be motivated to "help" rather than to rail.

 E.g., cities need more funding in the modern era than antiquated property tax revenue systems generate. Lax federal gun laws with no interest in changing them contributes to high rates of murder in cities like Baltimore and Chicago. Homelessness is a function of failed mental health care systems as well as a failure to build more public housing, and the constant decrease in federal funding to help provide it.  Puerto Rico's wrecked economy is largely a function of various changes in federal policies.  Etc.

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