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Milpitas
Wednesday, September 28, 2022
OpinionOn the Project Homekey issue, Mayor Tran has brought a chainsaw to...

On the Project Homekey issue, Mayor Tran has brought a chainsaw to a knife fight

My ongoing study of Mayor Rich Tran’s psyche took a turn for the decidedly curious last week as Tran began to bash current mayoral candidates (and Councilmembers) Anthony Phan and Karina Dominguez on Facebook for their support of Project Homekey. (Note: I supported it myself.)

First, for the uninitiated, what is Project Homekey? Essentially, what used to be an Extended Stay America over on Hillview Court has now become a residence for the unhoused. It was put in by Santa Clara County. The Milpitas City Council never had a say in the matter. However, at one point, Mayor Tran bandied about the idea of suing the County before they started the project, a strategy that legal experts and even the governor branded as a heartless non-starter, saying such a lawsuit would end before it even began. So whereas Council had initially voted to sue, eventually Councilmembers Phan, Dominguez, and Bob Nuñez led up a majority vote not to

Now, almost two years later, the project’s up and running, and its existence is leading to increased calls to the Milpitas Police and Fire Departments. Since Tran wanted to sue initially, he feels vindicated by what the unhoused residence has turned into. No, not a residence where unhoused people can live – an area prone to making 911 calls. So he’s been attacking Phan and Dominguez online for having voted against the lawsuit, which incidentally the City of Milpitas would have never won (yet could have wasted a ton of taxpayer money on).

For example, six days ago, Tran posted

 

 

First of all, let’s address the elephant in the room: the fact that our Mayor is warning residents about “more homeless projects in Milpitas.” Who is he talking to, exactly? Are we a city of scoundrels? “More homeless projects” is supposed to sound an alarm bell? What’s next, more schoolteachers and soup kitchens?

More to the point, Tran’s being a tad, let’s say, “indelicate” in his approach. It’s as though he’s been invited to a switchblade showdown yet has shown up wielding a chainsaw. Like his political opponents had invited him to come ride bikes, but then he sped in and ran them over with a truck. Meanwhile, they’re not even his opponents: Tran’s being termed out and Phan and Dominguez are running against each other. Is Tran attacking them because he’s endorsing Vice Mayor Carmen Montano in her mayoral bid? If so, shouldn’t he have brought up Montano’s name?

Another way Tran could have handled it would have been by saying, “I always sensed Project Homekey wasn’t the right solution to the homelessness problem for our community. Many residents were concerned about rising crime, and I’m heartbroken to have seen their concerns come true. I’d like to shed light on the fact that my hands were tied; this was a County project, not a City one. One which, I’d like to add, Anthony Phan and Karina Dominguez blindly supported from the start.”

See how persuasive one can be when one’s leveling instead of enhancing? If the age of Twitter has taught us anything, it’s that bombast and heightening tend to work against one’s intended message while often helping one’s opponents. 

Tran’s body slams were also unfolding a day earlier on Facebook, with him posting:

 

 

In the comments section, Dominguez came in and fired back:

 “Please stop spreading #fakenews. Mayor Rich Tran you have been warned by our attorney the city can be held liable for your false statements that can continue to cost taxpayers money. Please stop lying 🤥 . I also want the city to know a letter was submitted right before the budget cycle ended to the county by individual council members. Therefore they are already exploring what can happen. The mayor didn’t attend the county budget meeting and missed the conversation and updates. Supervisor Otto Lee is already looking at ways to help Milpitas. I have been attending the county meetings to share these concerns. We are past a letter we need a petition mayor why don’t you invest time in that instead of posting misinformation. These elections shenanigans are what we need to end Milpitas. #fakenews🚨”

Let’s be clear: there is crime at the Project Homekey site. It’s real. The police are being called on the reg. That’s not what anybody wanted. But it’s what we have to deal with. I haven’t checked Tran’s numbers (we just got back from a holiday, for heaven’s sake) but I’ll take him at his word. What I’d like to push back against is the idea that Phan and Dominguez somehow caused Homekey to happen, as though without their individual or collective will it never would have happened. The County was coming, tool belts strapped on. No lawsuit could have stopped it. Not even the sudden, spontaneous occupation of Milpitas by a 100% demon population could have stopped it (and we would have other concerns at that point anyway). 

The homeless problem in Milpitas is a real and urgent one. No attempt at a solution will be perfect. In the case of this one, the residence houses very few actual Milpitas residents and does not offer an on-site professional to help address people’s mental health and substance abuse problems. However, any effort toward a solution is better than doing nothing. It shouldn’t hit us as some major plot twist that housing an assortment of people with financial, mental health, and/or substance abuse issues would lead to some volatility. Let’s not nurture the hallucination that Milpitas – or anyplace on Earth – is some sanitized, flaw-free country club. The unhoused are real. The unhoused are here. Police calls or no police calls, I prefer to see them living under a roof.

 

This article has been updated.

 

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Eric Shapiro
Eric Shapiro is a writer and filmmaker. He has won awards for journalism (CA Journalism Award) and screenwriting (Fade In Award), and has served as a ghostwriter, speechwriter, or script doctor for over 3,000 clients. His first novel is a dark political thriller called "Red Dennis" (2020). His first nonfiction book is a guide for helping writers be more productive called "Ass Plus Seat" (2020). He co-hosts the "House of Mystery Radio Show" on NBC News Radio. Eric's books can be purchased here.

9 COMMENTS

  1. Did Jamboree not commit to having a full time counselor for drug/alchohol/mental illness issues? I was sure I read that. Where are they?

  2. I agree with Eric. The mayor is Grandstanding (as he regularly does) about this issue. Milpitas would have invested our money into a frivolous lawsuit. The State has passed a law that allows government entities (like the County) to by properties and develope them into “homeless residences”. Per this law the County does not have to follow local ordinances or zoning laws. Therefore the City has no say in the matter. So the vote bu Dominguez, Phan & Nunez literally saved the City money.

    I am sure the number of 911 calls have gone up at the site, but has the ” Homeless Housing” caused crime to rise in the surrounding areas as the mayor claimed would happen?
    Not that I have heard.

    Thank You Dominguez, Phan & Nunez for NOT allowing Tran to waste our money on a hopeless lawsuit. Thank You Karina Dominguez for being proactive and keeping up on what the County & Supervisor Lee are doing to help those in our society that need our help.

    • Yes, it absolutely has. Block after block in our little town is being hit with break-ins and damage to cars with thieves taking the catalytic converters out of cars among other crimes. Robert Means, Republicans haven’t held power in California for decades upon decades and there’s been a flip flop of federal control for the last 40+ years since Regan so let’s stop with the divisive rhetoric. We have a governor now who is ruining our state and communities. With a hands off on crime and drug use agenda, it has only opened the doors for these societal issues to become gargantuan with no solutions pending. We have more homeless now wandering about in Milpitas begging, panhandling and dumpster diving along side an increase in crime and concerns for safety (who lets their kids out to play at the parks now the increase of addicts and mentally ill milling about?) that it is impacting not only our property values but more importantly the tranquility of our neighborhoods. Tell me, where are the project homekey facilities in the neighborhoods of Atherton, Saratoga and Menlo Park? Is this affecting their policing or the prosperity of their neighborhoods?

  3. We were sold this pig-in-a-poke as a place where homeless people could be assisted in integrating back into society as productive, independent, taxpayers. Exactly how many homeless have transitioned since it opened? That information will give us an indication as to whether these things actually work or are they just glorified taxpayer-funded resorts for the lazy. Certainly Dominguez and Phan would have those figures handy off the top of their heads since they were the primaries on this and would be waving the numbers as a victory flag if it was the case. So, how many homeless have transitioned? Also, what’s happening with Sango Ct.?

  4. Pat McAuliffe is right. There are serous addiction and mental health issues among the homeless. That’s where the need is the greatest. Are they getting help? Are these places the new Agnews?

    • Don, remember that the old Agnews facility that housed mentally ill was shut down by Republican Ronald Reagan while Governor, and the people were dumped on the streets to become our first wave of unhoused/homeless people. Likey whining Republicans that just complain about issues rather than attempting solutions, Mayor Tran has done little to solve – or even mitigate – the growing problem of unhoused Milpitans, which includes lots of children. Council member Dominguez may be fighting an uphill battle to address the problem, but at least she is fight the problem, not her colleagues.

    • My comment was not intended to focus on the issues that go along with some of our unhoused population, but rather to ask where the promised (IIRC) support personnel were. Was there not a commitment to provide at least one full time employee, on-site, who was to be a legit counselor?

  5. Our police department has done a great job of patrolling our small and relatively safe community. In over 20 years of living here, they do a fantastic job and I really do feel safe with them patrolling our streets. It is a well trained and very well funded police department. That being said they are ill-equipped to handle the the call volume and more specifically the types of calls that are coming from the Homekey site. When a site like 1000 hillview is shoehorned in without adequate planning and local input it messes up our budgeting forecast for fire dept and policing. That’s just common sense. Everything I’ve seen from Jamboree and the county makes it clear that they actually have no plan. They’re passing the buck off to each other and eventually the city. In my opinion, Santa Clara county should be providing resources to our community. Why aren’t there scc sheriff’s cars coming out and responding to Hillview court calls? Wouldn’t their resources be more in line with the needs of a county-run facility than our local PD’s? This maybe a silly comment and maybe sheriff’s can’t patrol Milpitas (could be infringing on territorial patrolling idk)….but Milpitas is a part of the county. Seems like the logical solution. At least form some type of partnership btw sheriffs and mpd. Share the load maybe?

    I can understand Tran’s frustration and feeling marginalized by a project this big coming to his backyard (how did he not see this coming months or years before things were already in motion btw?). It’s now draining our resources and becoming a burden on our taxpayers. We don’t even know when or if this site will pay dividends at all. Dominguez and Phan should’ve known better, but it’s clear that they both have political aspirations beyond Milpitas. For them this is a stepping stone to other things in their respective careers. So they’ll endorse other politician’s policies only if it benefits them.

  6. Dominguez and Phan should be ashamed. They bowed to politic pressure outside of Milpitas and allowed this messy Homekey project to come to Milpitas. How about caring about Milpitas residents and doing what is right for the residents. Last time I checked this is about Milpitas and what is beneficial for Milpitas and its residents. Vote them out.

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