- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 18, 2016

ANALYSIS/OPINION

Let’s be transparent. All of you out there who are homeowners, live in strictly residential areas and want to welcome a 50- or 80-bed homeless shelter, please, raise your hand.

Next, give your name and address to D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, along with the definition of the word “transparency.”

Homelessness is a fact of life that every American community reckons with — and some communities more than others, of course.

D.C. is one of those more-than-others communities.

The mayor has proposed closing the city’s largest family homeless shelter, a former public hospital, and building smaller homeless facitilies. The hospital, D.C. General, is wracked with health, security, crime and other problems. None of you would want to stay there for a week to tell others how deplorable the conditions are.

So, in the name of humanity, the mayor is doing the right thing by proposing to close the site by 2018, right?

Yes, she is.

The problem, however, isn’t whether the shelter should be closed. The problem is the mayor’s replacement-plan process.

The public was nowhere to be found while The Bowser Clique drew up plans to wrap the city in homeless shelters as if they were behind those dark-tinted windows on motor vehicles. And when The Bowser Clique starting making the rounds to get the public — i.e. voters, homeowners and other stakeholders — to buy into her plan, they hid behind the tinted windows.

1) Who owns the properties where these smaller shelters will be built?

2) Who would stand to gain contracts once the properties are rebuilt, renovated or retrofitted?

3) Will these new shelters address the “affordable” housing issue?

4) Could homeless folks use Section 8 and other subsidized vouchers to rent units?

5) Which for-profit or nonprofit groups would operate the shelters?

6) Which for-profit or nonprofit organizations would provide health and human services?

The Bowser Clinque has said, “How dare you!”

How dare you question her plan to end — end — chronic homelessness in the nation’s capital by 2018. Her plan includes using “housing navigators” to help homeless families find houses.

Can you imagine?

“Hey, Siri, help me find a four-bedroom, open-concept Victorian home near an excellent school.”

Siri asks: “What’s in your wallet?”

Mom of four responds, “A Section 8 voucher.”

What played out in the minds of The Bowser Clique is anyone’s guess.

What homeowners do know is that The Bowser Clique essentially has said the plan is a done deal.

But it cannot be.

Every corner of the District is complaining that the tinted-window “process” employed by The Bowser Clique smells far worse than the poop the Fenty administration left in City Hall and as bad as the leftovers of the Gray administration.

Ward 3 protested about the site and the process.

Ward 5 protested the site and the process.

The mayor told me she heard the same complaints and more when she traversed the city last week.

So The Bowser Clique has gotten an earful. Yet answers and compromises are few and far between the mess they created.

When Ms. Bowser ran for mayor in 2014, the Women’s Campaign Fund said one of the reasons it supported her was transparency — Ms. Bowser and the D.C. Council “increased transparency in government contracting.” (Revisit questions #1 and #2.)

Indeed, Ms. Bowser made “transparency” a huge part of her campaign. Alas, blame is being chauffeured behind tinted windows for the incestuous policy decisions.

By the way, here are two definitions of the word “transparent” that do not apply to The Bowser Clique regarding homeless shelters: “free from pretense or deceit; characterized by visibility or accessibility of information especially concerning business practices.”

Deborah Simmons can be reached at [email protected]


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