How do you define “Ethics”?
How do you determine the morally correct path at the intersection of honor and dishonesty?
Now, I’m not asking for a philosophical debate here, but I think it’s essential to periodically reset our moral compass, and to give serious thought to the personal, situational and organizational principles that are important to us.
You know, the process for making decisions about what’s right and what’s wrong.
Each of us are faced with these choices every day. From little white lies to protect someone’s feelings to padding an expense account; or larger, more enduring personal and professional decisions that require true moral courage, like reporting a colleague’s misdeeds or our fidelity to a relationship or cause.
I’m probably the biggest scumbag you know. By any measure, just a weak-minded, self-absorbed misanthrope and egotistical asshole. Not something I’m proud of.
But I have my principles – a strong sense of right and wrong – and my hypocrisy has tight boundaries.
At least I’m willing to admit it.
Typically, when faced with a moral conundrum I tend to use a duty-based framework to find the right answer:
“What are my obligations in this situation, and what are the things I should never do?”
“Are my actions simply self-serving and intended, consciously or subconsciously, to avoid a moral duty or ethical obligation?”
Essentially, it boils down to a simple question: Am I doing the right thing, for the right reasons?
Most of the time this analytical decision-making process works for me. But sometimes I still fail to live up to my personal expectations.
What pisses me off is when our elected and appointed officials, and the power brokers who have bought and paid for them, conduct themselves in a manner that is so outside the lines of ethical conduct and common human decency that it calls the very moral fabric of an entire community into question.
Then just walk away from it.
Obviously, I’m referencing the City of Daytona Beach – and to a larger degree, the County of Volusia – and their respective failed interventions into our growing homeless problem.
I’ve written about this before. Ad nauseum, in fact.
But it bears repeating.
This Circle of Doom began last winter when a group of street people took up residence at the county administration building in downtown Daytona Beach. The occupation at 250 North Beach Street began when the city – in a poorly orchestrated control strategy – abruptly closed restroom facilities and removed bench seats from Manatee Island Park.
This began a no-win standoff between the homeless, their so-called “advocates,” and local/county government that played out very publicly in the media and brought hell and havoc to local small businesses who have struggled for years with the city’s half-assed policies and failed strategies for a sustainable “downtown.”
Ultimately, after irresponsible and counter-productive threats, bullying and ultimatums from the county council, Daytona Beach found a short-term solution in the Salvation Army.
This quick fix took the unwashed hoard off of Beach Street – and the front page – to the relative obscurity of an improvised shelter on nearby Ballough Road.
And just in time for Special Events Season here on the Fun Coast!
It also allowed our so-called “leaders” at the County of Volusia to simply wash their hands of the situation, abdicate their sworn responsibility, make ridiculous suggestions, and snicker as city officials flailed and skidded like pigs on sheet-ice as they legitimately struggled for a more permanent solution.
Ultimately, all good things come to an end.
When the Salvation Army was no longer an option, Daytona Beach opted for a self-styled “housing first” strategy that put some 70 homeless people in city-subsidized motel rooms on Ridgewood Avenue. The city accepted this responsibility knowing that it would result in a weekly nut estimated between $6,000 and $16,000.
At the time, I opined that the warehousing of indigents – people who are either unwilling or incapable of contributing to their own needs – in the absence of social, medical, psychological and nutritional support is probably counter-productive.
In my view, this strategy simply exacerbates the long-term problem – while sustaining and promoting the corrosive blight inherent to Ridgewood Avenue’s fleabag motels, while doing nothing to change the core contributing factors.
But once you take on the role of caregiver – responsible for the well-being and interests of a dependent – you can’t simply wash your hands and walk away.
It doesn’t work that way.
When government insinuates itself and openly accepts responsibility for correcting entrenched social problems, we expect it to live up to its obligations.
(Note to Volusia County – doing nothing to avoid political exposure or financial responsibility is not an option either. The sin of omission is just as wrong as abandoning a duty once accepted.)
I still think the best analogy here is the person who goes to the Halifax Humane Society and adopts a puppy – a vulnerable being whose life now relies on that individual for its shelter, nourishment and protection.
When you accept this important and honorable responsibility – you agree to live up to the moral imperative that you simply cannot abandon your defenseless pup in the elements to fend for itself simply because it is no longer financially, socially or politically convenient.
I think most would agree that abdication of one’s responsibility in that situation would be ethically and morally wrong.
I think to do such a despicable thing to a defenseless domesticated animal would mark that person as a congenitally cruel and merciless asshole, right?
I’m not a very religious guy, but something tells me we probably shouldn’t treat helpless human beings that way either.
Perhaps I’m mistaken.
Late last week, after just eleven-days in the relative security of a city-subsidized motel room, the remaining 57 homeless people were summarily evicted by their guardian – the City of Daytona Beach.
Seventeen people were sent to a housing facility on Kingston Avenue in the blight infested no-man’s-land near Ridgewood Avenue, where zombie-like creatures roam the streets and congregate, urinate, defecate, smoke dope, drink cheap beer and loiter assiduously near parasitic convenience stores and flophouses.
Five others were sent to a church in Ormond Beach, while four United States military veterans – people who took up arms and defended our way of life – were placed in the care of the Salvation Army.
The dregs – the flotsam and jetsam – were disposed of at something called a “safe zone” near Clyde Morris and the Bellevue Extension.
Turns out, the safe zone (available evenings only) is a vacant, city-owned lot with an open spigot for drinkable water and portable toilets for personal necessities. Concerned residents who took the time to investigate found broken glass and other debris littering the lot, making the area anything but “safe” for human habitation.
To add insult to injury, the city has suggested it will look for additional “safe zone” sites around the city and “rotate” the location from time-to-time.
So don’t bother to get comfortable, folks. I wouldn’t erect any semi-permanent quarters.
To the contrary.
When you become a living eyesore and an inconvenience for the “Big Doing’s” over at Embry-Riddle’s brand new “Micaplex,” your benevolent caretakers at the city will just up and move your ass to another “safe zone” like a human shell game.
My God. What are we becoming?
I find it reprehensible that in 2016 a modern government entity would simply dump people they previously agreed to house in an overgrown vacant lot without food or shelter and consider it acceptable and humane public policy.
I also find it shameful that in the aftermath of a failed strategy, officials who are accepting public funds for public service would simply give up with the flippant statement, “The city needs to get out of the homeless business directly. It needs to be done by nonprofits.”
Look, I’m no humanitarian – and I don’t have a solution.
But I recognize basic callousness and governmental incompetence when I see it, and it is time for our elected and appointed officials to treat this problem as a priority, rather than a political can kicking contest.
Trust me – I’m not shilling for the self-described “homeless advocates” either.
Most of these pseudo-experts and “faith-based do-gooders” of dubious ordination siphon their living by convincing government agencies to throw more money at the enigma of homelessness; and right now these opportunists are in a feeding frenzy as municipal budgets are finalized.
Somehow, these shameless grifters can still look at themselves in the mirror.
The one bright spot is the fact that the excuses, infighting and flagrant abdication of responsibly have exposed our elected and appointed officials – and a few parasitic “advocates” – for what they truly are, and aren’t.
The question is, how long will we accept this train wreck as effective representation?
UPDATE: The Daytona Beach News-Journal is reporting that Volusia County Councilman Josh Wagner has proposed gifting Halifax Urban Ministries $1.5 million in public funds to operate a come-as-you-are homeless shelter at an as-yet-to-be-determined location.
Of course, County Manager Jim Dinneen thinks its a great idea.
The cash comes with a mandate to get the county off the hook on the issue of homelessness by requiring that HUM find alternative sources to make up any deficit in operating costs.
By the way, HUM’s Executive Director Mark Gaellis was caught flatfooted.
Seems he learned HUM was being considered for the tax dollars from a reporter. . .
No plan. No bids. No proposals.
Apparently, we’re just going to hand it to them, making a grand total of $5 million in cash and assets that HUM has received from Volusia County since Hope Place was approved.
Is it who you know? Just curious.