Just when I thought the people running the city couldn't get more lame I read the article in the Ludington Snooze about the officials playing Whack a Mole with the Homeless Men in the city parks. 

Let me get this straight. A group of homeless men, have been "gathering" in the parks for YEARS every summer and sit all day and smoke as they surf the internet? Hmmmmm? Let me guess what they are looking at online since a high percentage of them are sex offenders. Not the view the condo owners counted on when they put down A LOT of money for their homes or boat slips.

Wow ! This is really great for our image and the safety of the children who play on the awesome playground a stone's throw away. 

So the city manager's solution to the trash, noise, cig butts and the all around nastiness of them lurking around our beautiful park is to shut the WI Fi off for everyone? Seriously?

This is the ultimate of throwing the baby out with the bath water or the teacher taking away everyone's recess because of one bad actor in third grade math class.

How about this City Council and the head of Downtown who seems to be flailing at every decision made lately, pass a no loitering ordinance in the downtown area ? Kick them out! Police Chief Kozals' comments should be alarming to many. He says they cannot site the men because they cannot afford a fine? Did I just really read that? Is that a metric he uses for the rest of us? 

Build it and they will come. Well folks, the city officials are building a Utopia for the homeless, alcoholics , sex offenders and drug addicts and they are enjoying their summers here on our tax dime. 

Tell them to move along every day until they find an appropriate shelter or move on to another city that doesn't have the courage or the desire to deal with them properly. 

Pentwater and Frankfort don't have this problem. I wonder why? I frequent both towns now for the day to shop and visit and they are bustling , vibrant and fun! Their leaders seem to know what they are doing and have the courage to make the tough choices for the well being of ALL the citizens.   One wonders why the businesses here do not go to the chamber and ask why we are not following Pentwater and Frankforts plan?

In the long run, they and the downtown homeowners will suffer the most. Heaven forbid we make the homeless  layabouts more uncomfortable.

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Very interesting and thought-provoking discussion, LL. Can you paste the article from the LDN? I can't access it, but based on what you say, I think you are right ... the responsibility lies with the community leaders to "move loiterers on" and possibly invest in homeless shelters if affordable. Same thing goes on all over Florida in the winter and it seems until a community humanely moves the homeless on, they will take advantage of the resources, why not? Homeless lives matter. St. Petersburg even made a fenced area under a bridge with burn barrels and allowed them to pitch tents, etc. The homeless had a set of rules and limits. And many received mental help and drug counseling as needed.

I'm surprised (a little) that it's taken so long to be a topic for discussion at the COLDNews, Annette Quillan brought her concerns to council 2:00 into the second June meeting and I wrote about it in the recap article of that meeting.

I haven't seen the COLDNews take on it yet, hope we can get that uploaded, but I do know one thing.  It's a matter of public policy what city hall plans to do about this problem and decisions shouldn't be relegated to administrators and arguments made at the advisory committee level.  At that last June meeting, and the meeting on July 12th, the issue has not been discussed by our elected officials out in the open.  

The reason why they don't do so is that they are cowardly in nature and incompetent in practice.  If Councilor Serna was still in the mix, she would drag Mayor Miller and the six other waterboys reluctantly into facing the issue forthright at a LCC meeting; these guys have learned that being vanilla ice cream will keep you the favorite among the people (gaining you re-election) and a person of honor among your peers.  Vanilla is great if you just want to keep afloat, but when you have a Rocky Road, you need a Superman to emerge and fix it.

Here's the article as it appeared on the COLDNews E-edition, written by Justin Cooper:

A public Wi-Fi hotspot at Waterfront Park was turned off earlier this summer in an effort to deter a group that frequently spends all day under the bandshell.

City Manager Mitch Foster asked that the hotspot be turned off “temporarily,” according to Dominic Hasbrouck, general manager of SyncWave, the Wi-Fi provider. No other public hotspot is available at the park.

About five-to-six men, assumed by some officials to be homeless, have often spent all day at the bandshell for the last three-to-four years, said Joe Stickney, superintendent of the Department of Public Works.

They make some other visitors uncomfortable and leave cigarette butts “all over the place,” Stickney said. While the group has been asked to leave less of a mess, some haven’t complied, he said.

The recurring messes attributed to the men pose a “nuisance” to the city workers who clean them, said Kirk Caithamer, parks crew supervisor.

“There could be 60-70 cigarette butts just right underneath one of the picnic tables,” Caithamer said. “It just gets to be disappointing, that’s all.”

Cleaning messes is part of these workers’ job descriptions, but given their limited resources, a greater sensitivity to litter left behind would be welcome, Stickney said.

“It’s pretty simple to not throw your cigarette butts on the ground,” he said.

Ludington Police Chief Tim Kozal said there haven’t been reports of behavior that would warrant police involvement. And if there was a littering violation to enforce, it wouldn’t be a good use of the department’s time, because they likely couldn’t afford to pay the fine, he said.

“We now have to work with the individuals to try and be able to help them,” Kozal said. “I think that’s the best thing you’ve got to think about.”

The Waterfront Park situation was discussed during a meeting of the city council’s cemetery, parks and recreation committee on June 15.

According to the meeting minutes, the men arrive in the morning, plug their phones into the bandshell’s power outlets and can sometimes be found drinking from bottles in paper bags or napping against the building.

Turning off the Wi-Fi, disabling the outlets and prohibiting smoking were discussed as deterrence methods at the meeting, according to the minutes.

Caithamer said he’s wary of turning off the power outlets, as they’re often used by park visitors. The outlets remain usable for now, Caithamer said.

Officials are considering adding a sign asking visitors not to vape, smoke or drink alcohol near the bandshell, Caithamer said. A similar sign currently stands near the playground.

Foster said the goal isn’t to “kick these folks out of the park,” but to let families be comfortable using the area.

He said it’s too early to tell whether the group has been warded away, and that’s harder with the Offshore Classic fishing tournament being held at the park this week, but the parks department is “keeping an eye on” it.

Whether to re-enable the Wi-Fi — and whether to impose other rules — will be discussed at the cemetery, parks and recreation committee’s next meeting at 3 p.m. on Wednesday, July 28.

Foster said he’s working with local organizations to address issues of poverty and homelessness that could be driving the group to Waterfront Park.

“We have to look at it holistically and how to help these folks,” he said.

He said there is an “ongoing conversation” with United Way of Mason County about what some non-profit organizations targeting poverty and homelessness have to offer.

The hotspot was one of three set up in Mason County at SyncWave’s expense in April 2020 to help with remote school and work during the pandemic.

One hotspot still remains near Scottville Optimist Hall, while another at the Lakeshore Resource Network’s parking lot was shut off “early this year,” Hasbrouck said.

The Lakeshore Resource Network did not request that SyncWave shut off the hotspot, according to Lynne Russell, executive director of United Way of Mason County. She said SyncWave either deactivated it or it is malfunctioning.

“We are currently working with SyncWave to purchase the equipment so this service can still be provided,” Russell said.

Thanks X for the article and Lake Lady for the term I've never heard "whack-a-mole." Fits perfectly. And also vivid and memorable terms, X. Angela Serna certainly is not a "waterboy" and current council are mostly followers struggling to lick up their melting vanilla icecream cones while playing the games of groupthink and yesman. Meanwhile our DDD and parks crew is getting a taste of what it means to serve the underprivileged. Too bad they didn't think out of the box of catering to downtown with a grant almost half our yearly income. Such money and opportunity in MEDC grants obviously means little to the privileged class that lives off and skims from the city taxes that come from the hard working people of the city ever struggling to survive the water and tax increases.

Whack a mole was a game I used to play at Chuckie Cheeses with my kids when they were little.  We loved it as a game , but somehow it does not translate as well to small town politics. I agree though that it is a perfect fit , but  claim no credit for it's creation! 

Let us all speak to each city council representative in our wards about this issue and maybe we can get some traction for real solutions to help the homeless group AND the rest of the community who has patiently tolerated their bad behavior. Hold your councilor's accountable and start expecting more of them. 

Their lack of respect for the hardworking crews trying to keep our parks clean really does deserve attention and to dismiss such behavior is both embarrassing and lazy. Let us hope this message will also reach our City Manager who is now in lock step with the lazy bleeding heart liberals and the new Chief of police who seems a bit over his head keeping the drug trafficking and usage at bay.

"Whack-a-mole" has made its way into the internet dictionary: "used with reference to a situation in which attempts to solve a problem are piecemeal or superficial, resulting only in temporary or minor improvement.
"the site's security team has an ongoing battle against spammers, but it's a game of whack-a-mole."

This intervention to cut out wifi is superficial and short-sighted.  Sounds like the COP or agents didn't even speak to the "offenders."  Maybe they are not homeless, and what's the difference of someone enjoying public facilities in a resort town?  But, if a few men can leave three packs of cigarette butts behind and afford bottles of booze, they must have some money.  Lazy thinking by COP but a hard social problem in a town that caters to drinking in "social districts" if you are of the "right" class.  How ironic.  If you've been to our library, you see it is sometimes also becoming somewhat a repository for those needing services and facilities.

Interesting topic. When those new low income apartments downtown were in the planning stage, I mentioned that any and all low income people could qualify to live there. I don't think these people are homeless. I wouldn't be surprised if some of those men, if not all,  live in the new apartments and come out to visit the park on nice days. Who is paying for Syncwave anyway. I hope not the taxpayers. Why provide WiFi and electrical outlets if only tourists can use them? As long as the men are not breaking the law there is nothing the police can do. If they are littering then they should be receiving citations. This would be one way to get their ID and home address. Enforcing a loitering ordinance is not the way to go. How can someone loiter at a park that is meant as a place to do just that. The police would have to arrest or ticket most of the people in the park and the beach. Just turn off the WIFI, electricity and enforce the littering ordinance. The taxpayers should not be paying for others folk's WIFI and electrical usage.

Rumor has it that these people are not exactly homeless. They are X Epworth residents.

That's a very good point, Willy, about whether the loiterers are from the downtown complex.  It really seems the most likely scenario since there are a few internet hot spots closer to where the bulk of Ludington's homeless population hangs out.  One would think the beat cops around Ludington would know a little bit more about their status, nevertheless, for it could have just been some folks from the rural part of the county discovering some free internet-- you know, the guys who don't have access to photocopiers according to Kamala.  

I was wandering through Legacy Park at dusk last night and ran into an older gentleman wanting to talk, being Tuesday we were the only souls around.  He related that he had been homeless in the area until he recently got a room at Carr Manor; the poor guy has a terminal condition and has been given about a year to live by the doctors' estimation.  He grew up in Ludington and just recently moved back, and it turns out he used to live less than two blocks from my house, instead of living a little over two blocks from my house now.  

Hearing of his ordeals and his redemptions was sobering and reminded me that without a little luck and without a little grace of God I could well be in the same boat with him, as could just about anyone of us.  I hope that someday we might be able to convert Foster School to some sort of community center to serve as a safe place for people down on their luck and those who have fallen from grace to get back up.  My new friend thought that was a good idea on my part.  

Poignant and humbling incident X. For sure an illustration of true needs of Ludington. Best wishes for his quality of life in his time remaining. If our city leaders, councilors and community development actually spent time with the greater part of the population as you have done in this example, they might better develop the community, not just the downtown. It seems the "build the downtown first and the the rest will take care of itself" mentality is not making a vital impact for the greater portion of basic needs of residents.  Are homelessness, vagrancy, and drugs any better than they were in Ludington 15 years ago?  Two million dollars plus would have been much better spent on a facility in Foster elementary or a community center anywhere or started to take care of infrastructure.  Now Ludington may have used up its grant gifts (because Santa has many towns to dole grants to). With that over bloated project what do we have but a more glorified James St. Plaza with a firepit benefitting a few stores and the greatest bicycle shop in Ludington with a better view for her apartments above. I think that project was conceived in the secret chambers of the DDA years ago and they were hellbent to gold-plated it with blinders on to all opposition and true needs for the community.

Well said, Willy, about loitering. How can a tourist city catering to rich loiterers enforce a loitering law upon the poorer? Littering is the way to go, but proving that a a few men dumped 60 cigarette butts a day is also going to be hard. I mean really? I think it may be a bit of an annoyance and exaggeration by the DPW. A way to Nancy-gate the Waterfront park from the poorer. That waterfront condo situation with a mix of public park and high income housing, imo, was a conflict waiting to happen.  If the Karens of Ludington don't like living with the riff-raff, smoking, brown-bag drinkers visiting Ludington, they should move and this reduces the value of the properties.  I hear Nancy Pelosi's complex has an opening.

I'm all for helping these people, however the truth is that the vast majority of them are in their situation because of drug or alcohol addiction.  Providing help for them would be nice if that help went only to locals with problems. If help centers were to open in Ludington, they would be swamped with drug addicts and alcoholics moving into the Ludington community. Just look at the cities that have an open door policy such as Seattle and San Fransisco. They pay hundreds of millions of dollars every year to take care of all the homeless who have made those cities their homeless home. If these people were serious about helping themselves all they need to do is apply for a job at any of the thousands of businesses who desperately need help. People with health problems not caused by substance abuse or those with mental illness should be taken care of because they cannot help themselves. 

Future look of Water Front Park.

I agree with Willy not with X on this one.

Yes, one has to feel for the poor gentleman on the Plaza that is sick and living in the Carr House. That does not mean that it is everyone else's responsibility to take care of him. 

If the city decides to become a sanctuary for the homeless, mentally ill and addicted we are done for. 

The "just let them come and we will figure it all out later" strategy never works. The way things are going , this city will be very divided between the uber wealthy living on the shore and behind gates and the very poor living on the streets and in run down rental homes and state owned high rises. The buffer middle class who has historically done the yoamans work to keep a community together is dwindling here. This is always the first step in the destruction of a community's strong character.  

The social services need to stop playing "Whack a Mole" and the justice system needs to actually apply the law. However, I suspect they are making a lot of money off the current strategy. If they actually help people and solve the problems, the free money train stops. 

We have layers of aid in this city, layers of counciling and rafts of social workers, but it seems they are failing or what they are doing is simply not working. 

Do we have true veteran's housing here?

Are there homes with full time councilors to help these down on their luck fellas find their way out of despair? There are countless places looking for people to work and they spend all day at the plaza napping, smoking and boozing? We are failing them and the community if we just allow this to continue without any effort to plan for or expect a different outcome .


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