Pinch of Salt Graphic (English)

I've been writing about NIMBYism literally for decades — for so long, in fact, that I once thought I was the one who coined the term.

You know NIMBY. Not In My Back Yard. It's pretty much the knee-jerk reaction any time anything is proposed anywhere near people's homes.

It's always seemed a selfish attitude to me; an "I've got mine and I don't care whether you get yours" sort of thing. But I, like most people, typically noted the issue, then moved on.

But no longer.

I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore.

Elsewhere in this paper, you can read the story about a lawyer who has filed a lawsuit against WomenShelter, apparently to stop them from creating an emergency shelter for women and others fleeing domestic violence. The attorney is said to be representing a neighborhood association near the site for the shelter.

(Note: I am current chair of WomenShelter's honorary board, and the Grunion has conducted a gift card drive to benefit WomenShelter for the last 14 years.)

I call BS on this man, and the association, assuming it exists. This is what the attorney, Todd Fuson, says in the story:

“If (they) wanted it to be private, they should have either put it in a place where nobody’s really going to pay attention to it … (or) they should have quietly come to the affected neighbors and said, ‘This is what we intend to do,’ ” Fuson said. “Now, basically, they’re too late, and there’s no reason for us to trust or believe them.”

Again, BS. How would they have known who to file the lawsuit against if they didn't know the purpose behind the renovation? There's more, but I won't break a confidence.

Look for just a minute at the function of an emergency shelter for domestic violence victims. The number one concern of the victims is being sure the abuser can't find them. That calls for, you guessed it, an undisclosed location.

This use for this piece of property is allowed in Long Beach's zoning code, with no need for public hearings or notifications. Someone in government actually grasped the concept of confidentiality and put it into play.

I suspect Mr. Fuson and his clients have been watching too many made-for-television movies, where the abuser becomes a relentless stalker who's also smart enough to dig through protected government records. Or maybe they have a copy of Stephen King's "Rose Madder," which takes that stalker scenario to the extreme, at their bedsides.

The fact is, in the more than 40 years WomenShelter has operated in Long Beach, there hasn't been a single incidence of a confrontation at the emergency shelter. Get a grip, people.

These sorts of half-truths and falsehoods are what drives the NIMBYs in almost every case. But at the end of the day, it's always about "those people."

Here's another Fuson quote.

“I don’t know any security measures they might have,” said Huson, referring to shelter officials.” I don’t know what kind of people they’re bringing in.”

That's as close to being honest about motives as this situation gets.

Long Beach has had plenty of experience with NIMBYism, from a mental health facility for homeless people to affordable housing for the working poor. It is the primary reason why the city struggles each year to find a place for a winter homeless shelter, and one reason why there still are no concrete plans for a year-round shelter.

It isn't a local phenomenon, either. Look at what Los Angeles and Orange County are going through trying to create some temporary housing for people in need.

I could talk about the distressing trend in national immigration policies, or the poison implicit in the America First sloganeering, but I won't. It's just too depressing.

Instead, I'd like to ask, to plead, for people to think at least for a second about someone besides themselves. This lawsuit has the potential of pouring nearly $1 million and years of work down the drain.

For what? To protect the block from traumatized women? To make sure Jimmy and Sally don't interact with children in shock after experiencing violence and being forced to leave home? Or maybe it's the counselors attempting to help put lives back together.

It seems that we as a society have lost our ability to be shamed by our selfish, protectionist attitudes. How have we let that happen? How do we push the pendulum the other way?

For a start, throw this "case" out of court. Have neighbors willing to tolerate, if not embrace, something that helps others.

Or we could just not take it anymore, and call BS.

Harry has been executive editor of Gazette Newspapers for more than 26 years. He has been in the newspaper business for more than 35 years, with experience on both weekly and metropolitan daily papers in Colorado and California.

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