San Luis Obispo City Council candidate promotes change

October 25, 2012

Matt Strzepek

OPINION By MATT STRZEPEK

Greetings. My name is Matt Strzepek and I am a candidate for San Luis Obispo City Council. Strzepek means “cloth” in Polish and I am running to weave our community back together. Like many of you, I am concerned about the homelessness in our midst and, in particular, the recent arrest of Richard Kirenga, a young, homeless man from Africa.

I met Richard several weeks ago and found him to be a peaceful, well-meaning, and soft-spoken individual. I have never seen him act in a threatening manner toward anyone, nor have any members of the homeless community with whom I interact. Since his arrest, I have been contacted by several citizens who know Richard and deem him a polite, respectful man. Like most homeless people in San Luis Obispo, it seems that he has been misunderstood and misinterpreted. It is my sincere hope that our community reaches out to Richard and helps him obtain access to food, showers, and mental health services.

After carefully reviewing a video of the arrest and speaking with several witnesses who state that Richard was not acting aggressively toward anyone, I have concluded that Richard was not acting in a threatening manner before or during his arrest. By all accounts, he was simply waiting with his hands in his pockets on McMillan Avenue for a friend to bring him a meal, as he had been denied a meal by a martinetish employee at the Maxine Lewis Memorial Shelter.

Our police officers have a difficult job and deserve credit for their usually courteous behavior. However, they sometimes abuse their power. I have been aggressively approached by police officers seventeen times since February for taking shelter in my vehicle, usually in the middle of the night.

At about noon on April 30, I was wrongly charged for camping in French Park even though I was just munching on a stalk of celery and reading the Tao Te Ching. On October 1, the police played a role in denying people food, showers, and beds when they reported the names of homeless people on McMillan Avenue prior to 5 p.m. to employees at the shelter. (Surely it is illegal to ban homeless people from being on a public road any hour of the day.)

Then, on October 2, immediately following the city council’s passage of a new parking ordinance which will ban people from taking shelter in their vehicles after proper signage is displayed, a police officer verbally abused me and two female citizens and ridiculed us for being without housing. He proceeded to issue Chris and Madison, the female citizens, a 72-hour impound notice for being uncooperative when in fact they were cooperative. Fast forward to October 18 and Richard’s harsh treatment at the hands of the police, which included confiscating his only belongings (his backpack and sleeping bag), and a disturbing pattern emerges.

While any police officer abusing power must be held accountable (I still have not received a response from the mayor, city council, or police chief regarding my formal complaint), there is a more pervasive problem here. Dee Torres, who contradictorily called for the ticketing and fining of homeless people instead of advocating on their behalf, wrongly blames the crisis on Oprah Winfrey’s “America’s happiest city” moniker.

I hold the mayor and city council members responsible. The abusive police behavior stems from the divisive tone that the mayor and city council members have set. Their failed attempts to scare homeless people out of our city have caused much division and mistrust.

Council members have forgotten that people come before policy and their policies have pitted neighbor against neighbor. Several of them have publically referred to homeless people as those who “want to,” those who “cannot,” and those who “will not.” I find such labels, along with Adam Hill’s recent suggestion that dignity must be earned, demeaning and downright appalling. People deserve to be treated with dignity and respect no matter what their socioeconomic status.

There is a solution, however, and it involves you, the citizens of San Luis Obispo. You have a voice. You have the power to replace the incumbents and vote for candidates who will champion the rights of all residents be they homeless or housed.

I am the only candidate for city council who has offered practical, common sense solutions regarding the issue of homelessness in our city, including: creating a practical parking program at interested businesses and houses of worship in addition to designated city parks located away from residences and businesses; making some bathrooms accessible overnight; restructuring the services offered at the Prado Day Center and Maxine Lewis Memorial Shelter so that they are more efficient and transparent; and getting those with mental health issues the assistance they need.

As a former counselor with sound interpersonal and mediation skills, I will bring understanding, empathy and compassion to the city council.

My generation, known as Generation X, is weary of the current council’s tired, worn-out approaches which have proven to be so ineffective. It is time to reinvigorate the city council with new energy and implement new ideas that will actually work. I am running for city council to make this city whole again. I believe that the only way we succeed as a city is by working together in a spirit of cooperation, inclusivity, and unity. If you honor me with your vote, you can be sure that I will place People before policy. Learn more about my ideas to unite us at mattforslo.com.

As I addressed the city council on May 1: “Our city’s greatness does not lie in its wealth, power, image, prestige, nor its moniker as ‘America’s happiest city.’ Rather, our greatness is measured by how we treat those whom are least among us: the poor, hungry, homeless, unemployed – those without a voice.”

Now pay attention, city officials, because it is my turn to educate you. The above statement means that you cannot continue to harass Richard, Chris, Madison, and all of the other people who, for whatever reason, have found themselves without a home. It means that you have to do the hard work the voters hired you to do and come up with solutions. Since you have failed to do so, it is time for you to vacate your offices and go.

Voltaire said, “With great power comes great responsibility.” Remember, voters, you have an ace in your pocket – you wield the power in your hands.

 


16 Comments

  1. ReelView says:

    What the homeless services needs to do, is make it a requirement for the able-bodied men and women, to seek employment. One of the policies states “No Drugs” and anyone who tries to check in under the influence, even on prescription meds, will not be allowed to sign in, but see, there’s a problem with that. I have seen numerous Prado clients, leave the day center property to head out to the bus stop on Prado Rd. to smoke pot, meaning that when they enter the day center property, they are under the influence.

    On McMillan, I have seen those who sleep at the shelter, park their car, and finish their beer or vodka, just before checking in! How does that happen? Because the homeless services staff tend to take preferences.
    The homeless services needs a big revamp.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  2. ReelView says:

    There are certainly many of the homeless who do not even try to seek employment, but rather collect free money every month, because our government makes it easy for them to “claim” bi-polar disorder, or a back ache. They would rather smoke pot all day, do drugs all day, or drink all day. Some of them I know are receiving SSI, even walking around with a cane once in a while, has no trouble making multiple trips to Chevron for his beer, and can be seen at meadow park playing basketball! Yes there truly are some winners out there.

    But, then there are a few, who are trying to gain employment, they are trying to gain at least a part of the life they once had, and Mr. Strzepek has certainly been “pounding the pavement”, one of the few who seek to have a better life. Yes, you see him in a shirt and tie, he always dresses nice, but, even for some one like Matt, people still are not satisfied. No matter what someone does or does not do, they still get run down.

    First Mr. Strzepek was called a liar, that he made up the story about the cops harassing him, but see, there were 5 witnesses, and 2 are not even homeless.

    So, I guess no matter what you do in this world or don’t do, someone will always try to find fault with you.

    Yes, the police can do some very nasty things. They will pick someone out in a crowd, and say “there’s something wrong with that one, I don’t like him”, or “hey, let’s go have some fun with someone”, yup, they do it for kicks. Why? Because they can! Afterall, who will go against a cop?

    As much as I hate to admit it, even those flithy, smelly, mess-making homeless, deserve to be treated with dignity, and professionalism by a “peace” officer of all people. Our Constitutional Amendments even extend to illegal aliens….and even to the lazy, filthy, and smelly homeless.

    Mr. Strzepek is someone who wants to do good for a community, and I can’t see how some people can see that as a bad thing. That young man has done very well for himself. He has my vote!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 20 Thumb down 0

  3. slosheepdog says:

    Well you have certainly demonstrated that you are qualified to be among the current members of City Council. You have no job and it appears by all accounts that you are not overly interested in finding one. You have a bunch of great ideas on how to spend other peoples hard earned money to further enable those who have no desire to work to better their own situation. Most importantly you take a situation (arrest of Kirenga) of which you have very little information and based on a poor quality video and the slanted opinions of a few “homeless residents” and conclude that the police abused their power in arresting a poor peaceful man waiting for a handout. I’m sorry, I said handout, I meant to say sandwich. How insensitive.

    You make a very enlightening comment the your generation “is weary of the of the current council’s tired, worn-out approaches which have proven to be so ineffective. Let me be perhaps the first to tell you that my generation, you know, the ones who drive by you early in the morning on their way to work, while you are fast asleep in your car, the generation that continues to work daily to be taxed more to support the entitlements that many of your generation are so fond of, is weary of your entitlement generation who thinks that we should all work a little harder so you can continue the lifestyle you choose.

    But hey if you are lucky you can follow Andrew Carters lead and take a decade of unemployment into a part time gig on City Council with full benefits, retirement, and salary, only to complain that you need to be paid a living wage. You might want to ramp up your rhetoric against the police and throw a few of the buzz words into you campaign mantra. Let me suggest a few , thive, transparency, accountability, unfunded liability, head of household jobs, economic vitality, and my own personal favorite, sustainability or any variation of sustainable.

    If the political aspirations fall short you can always resort to the worst case scenario and GET A JOB!

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 15 Thumb down 28

    • Laughlines says:

      Oh, my Lord, that is too funny!! Mr. Strzepek, I am also of Polish ancestry. But, you see, my grandfather came over, got a job and only left that job to go serve in the U.S. Army in WWI. To be brutally honest with you, as a Polish-American I deeply resent you tying your Polish ancestry to your current left-wing, “everyone owes me something” political ideology. For the love of God, man, grow up!! Haven’t I dealt with enough Polish jokes over my lifetime without you coming in and reinvigorating the stereotype? Please, please, please, get hold of yourself. You have stated as fact that you’ve been harassed by Eric Lincoln (whom I know personally) but have provided only hearsay and innuendo. Sheepdog has you pegged exactly; you just want a handout. God help us all if enough brain-dead progressive zombies actually vote you into a position of responsibility. Go and talk with someone, a priest if you’re still Polish enough to be Catholic. You need help, not power.

      Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 10 Thumb down 28

      • gypsycelt says:

        Are you seriously comparing running for city council in 2012 to serving in the army during World War I? This economy is cruel. I give Mr. Strzepek a lot of credit for trying to become a public servant while not having a home. He does not believe anyone owes him anything. He is simply offering fresh solutions to city problems, something the other candidates have neglected to do. What does being Polish or Catholic have to do with anything? I bet a lot of non-Catholic Poles would resent your insistence on speaking with a priest. By the way, what are the priests and ministers and rabbis and imams doing to help Richard Kirenga and other homeless people? Why doesn’t the current city council allow homeless people to park overnight at churches, temples, and mosques? This city is in for a lot of heartache if the zombies vote for the incumbents, who have not offered any practical solutions to any pressing problems. Mr. Strzepek has inspired me to vote for him because of his desire to serve all of the city’s residents, religious or nonreligious, rich or poor, homeless or housed (Strzepek’s words), employed or unemployed. As for abuse by the police, I spoke with Mr. Strzepek, the two women who were verbally abused by the police officer, and several of the witnesses. The officer clearly abused the homeless that night and deserves to lose his job. Don’t just take my word for it, though. Read last week’s New Times. A reporter interviewed several witnesses who confirmed Strzepek’s formal complaint against the police. Strzepek is the only candidate for city council speaking honestly about what is really going on in this city and the only one offering practical solutions. This honest, sincere man has my vote.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 25 Thumb down 3

        • Laughlines says:

          First of all, find me some non-Catholic Poles; there aren’t many. Mr. Strzepek is entitled to his opinion, as I am to mine. He chose to insert his ethnic background into this issue, so that makes it fair game. The SLO City Council race is becoming a ridiculous sideshow, with Strzepek on one side and the kooked–out 9-11 Truther on the other, with the hangnail incumbents in the middle. Only about 20% of “the homeless” are truly interested in working their own way out of their issue. Most are all too happy to absorb the endless handouts and generous services provided here by well-meaning but naive SLO dwellers. We have them coming in from all over; Oregon, North Dakota, Nevada, and on and on and on. We have lost the creek; I and the other local kids used to hike, swim and play up and down San Luis Creek in the 1970s but now it is a filthy, desecrated, dangerous place where no kid can play. What price do you put on that? If we keep making homelessness in SLO attractive, we’ll keep attracting homeless. Don’t like my opinion? Well, like my grandfather I joined the U.S. Army and went to a combat zone, so I have every right to speak. Lastly, I know Eric Lincoln and I call B.S. on these allegations as portrayed in the media. If he got short with someone it is a result of trying to solve a problem foisted upon him and all the other police officers (and firefighters, and parks workers, and water workers, and streets workers) by a public that wants everything, right now, with no effort. This is my town as much as anyone’s (and more than many) and it’s going to hell because we can’t or won’t hold “the homeless” to any meaningful standard of behavior. You can do all the crying; I’ve had enough.

          Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 23

        • Crusader says:

          “…I give Mr. Strzepek a lot of credit for trying to become a public servant while not having a home…”

          Pardon me? You ARE Mr. Strzepek! Give us a break!

          Your song-and-dance is getting mighty old. Why not go and munch on more celery and reread the Tao Te Ching because you’re not able to be elected to the SLO City Council.

          Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 23

          • Big Sir says:

            Pardon me? You ARE Mr. Rice! Give us a break!

            Your song-and-dance is getting might old. Why not go and attack the other community leaders you don’t like because you’re not able to be elected to the SLO City Council.

            Like or Dislike: Thumb up 20 Thumb down 3

            • Crusader says:

              I’m not running for public office…

              You need to get over being butt-hurt because Ashbaugh doesn’t have the personal integrity to follow the rules. Your whiny outbursts are only making things worse for him.

              Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 20

        • womanwhohasbeenthere says:

          Actually several local churches and the Jewish Temple in SLO provide overnight shelter to the homeless, mostly women and children, each taking one month a year to provide temporary, clean free shelter. They are living out their beliefs to serve others, love the unlovable, do all things for the glory of God. This has been going on for over ten years now. There are even volunteers who help children with their homework as part of the services. As you can imagine it is pretty hard to do homework when you don’t have a home. They provide a quiet space so the children can concentrate and get their homework done. People outside the faith community probably don’t know much about this onging program, but it is helping a lot of people every night. If you want to do something practical to help the homeless, this might be a good place to start! There is a lot of anti-Christian, anti-religion sentiment in the community but this is the real deal.

          BTW a few years ago we had an assessor who wanted to tax the churches and the temple for doing this! He claimed this was a commercial use of their property and they should pay property taxes on the use of their rooms, bathrooms, etc. for housing and/or feeding the homeless. Unbelievable!

          Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

      • ReelView says:

        5 people were witness to the harassment by Eric Lincoln and his partner, though Lincoln was the worst! All 5 gave their statements.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 25 Thumb down 3

    • hotdog says:

      Wow, you need some anger management. I guess you don’t read CCN very often. Matt was ON THE SCENE when Richard was arrested and Matt suffered some verbal abuse from the cops-as did others.
      Many of our homeless are not without housing by choice. Where have you been for the last four years of economic chaos?
      I don’t like subsidizing others who have chosen to wreck their lives either but many of our homeless do not fit that pattern. Many are not blessed with the same opportunity, drive and benefits you might enjoy. Many don’t even have the same amount of ‘marbles’ as some of us have. Would you just shove them off a cliff?
      Don’t blame Matt for your dysfunctional views, he is trying to be a part of the solution. This issue is tough, it won’t be easy but so far our Council has blundered time after time- maybe we need a fresh viewpoint.

      Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 29 Thumb down 8

    • gypsycelt says:

      Have you ever considered that Strzepek doesn’t sound like the other candidates running for city council because he is trying to bring new ideas to the discussion? Have you ever considered that running for city council is like a long job interview? Have you ever considered that perhaps Strzepek is out campaigning and bringing attention to important issues while your generation claims to drive by him sleeping? Of course you didn’t. If you are so unhappy about having to work, perhaps you should consider making a change. Maybe you could volunteer at Food Not Bombs like Mr. Strzepek does and help Richard Kirenga get a sandwich now that employees at the shelter have banned him from receiving services because they can’t tolerate his mental health issues. Maybe you could run for office yourself. At least Mr. Strzepek is involved in the process and trying to earn the opportunity to serve the public on the city council, probably not an easy thing to do without a home. I for one am voting for this articulate, thoughtful, young man.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 24 Thumb down 5

  4. hotdog says:

    Matt has my vote for one of two seats on the CC, I wonder who will get my second vote…
    The catastrophic assault on the homeless is beyond belief. The whole saga over some homeless living in their cars is really strange. After all this the best the City Council can do is arrange for 10 spots or so at a fantastic cost? Either there is much more to allowing someone a safe 75 square feet of space for the night to park their car or those in charge are on a different planet.
    I’m also alarmed by the so called ‘good neighbor policy’ the council has implemented, encouraging neighbors to rat each other out on so called ‘violations’. They have spent money to hire new staff to snoop on us while other programs go begging. Reminds us of the old movies wherein children turn in their parents for ‘anti government thoughts’, doesn’t it?
    This town is too corporate, organized and regimented. We have lost much of our charm and individuality. Those damn new parking meters give you five minutes per quarter! I can’t afford to stop in town for a coffee anymore; parking is way more than the cost of the brew! And the brainy idea of ending free parking on Sunday (at huge cost) doesn’t help make this town an inviting place.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 30 Thumb down 14

  5. r0y says:

    It’s an ideal time to run for anything, as most incumbents have failed dismally. That said, it is often difficult to unseat an incumbent because, let’s face it, most people are not well informed nor care about the inner workings of their government. Couple that with a general lack of situational awareness, and we end up with a voter too nervous to vote in someone new.

    Unless their lives have been directly upset, people are fairly robotic (especially in entrenched ideological strongholds) when it comes to voting.

    I wish you good luck in your race, and I will be voting for you – as well as holding your feet to the fire should you be elected. I don’t vote for change simply because it’s change.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 34 Thumb down 9

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