Caz…almost but no cigar

money

This is an editorial piece from Mike Cazalas, Editor of the News Herald. As is common knowledge, the News Herald treats the issues of the impact of the PCRM on our downtown with bias towards PCRM management and as a normal practice whitewashes over the details of the  impact that the PCRM brings to our downtown. With that mindset, he has offered this editorial to our community in his publication;

It will be interesting to see what happens next with the Panama City Rescue Mission.

Whether feeling pressure from city government and nearby residents, from those who fund the mission or about his paycheck, which for the year 2010 was $84,000 base salary plus benefits, payroll tax and insurance easily drive the cost of his employment package to well over $100,000. This does NOT include the salary that MRS. FOX receives as an employee of the mission as well. Her salary is not part of public record but does come out as executive pay being drawn from the $850,000 in PAYROLL expenses alone for that same years. The combined compensations for Mr. and Mrs. Fox easily pushes their household income in the $175,000 plus range putting them in the top 1% of  household incomes in Bay county. The “homeless business” seems to be rather lucrative if one can find that kind of work. mission director the Rev. Billy Fox and his crew are making changes after years of debate.

Most notably, as reported by The News Herald’s Valerie Garman in Friday’s edition, the “center no longer will serve as a shelter for the homeless during the day, but will instead serve as a ‘support service center’ for those seeking to change their lives, according to mission communications manager Taylor Muma.”Why is the mission management spending donation dollars for a “communications manager”?

“We’re trying to refocus on the pathways of life change,” Muma said in the story. “There are people who are choosing a vagrant lifestyle; we’re choosing to focus on people who want to make a life change happen.”

That’s great news. Almost Caz, but really this “change” is nothing more that a public relations stunt on behalf of Mr. Fox. If you will note from the quotes by Mr. Fox in your own publication, Mr. Fox was quick to imply that because the PCRM is no longer providing this service that our community will somehow be overrun by wandering vagrants. This is a scare tactic by Fox to create the allusion that his organization is the “only” solution to a problem that quite frankly his facility created. Fox would have us believe that the “solution” is to have our community dump MORE money into his organization…wait, let me correct that, it is NOT Fox’s organization, it belongs to our community and Fox is just an employee who has taken advantage of his position .  What Mr. Fox is is crafty manipulator. Again in your own publication as well as WMBB, you both were all over the story during the Christmas holidays of a young woman and her sixteen year old daughter who had found themselves homeless and through the actions of the PCRM were able to get back into an apartment  furnished with used furniture from the thrift store. This made for a dramatic and heartfelt success story of what the PCRM does for our community. But lets take the emotion out of this story for a second and look at the details. This young woman had no issues having to do with mental illness, chemical or alcohol dependency or lack of mental capacity to provide for herself. She is employed and basically is able to provide for herself and her daughter but had just run across a speed bump in life that she needed outside help to get over. If you were to take a snap shot of 100 people who were labeled homeless, this young woman’s situation would fall at the far extreme of easiest ones to resolve to get her out of homelessness. To help this woman probably cost the PCRM ,through donations by the community, less than $500.00 to get her back on her feet. This was the easy one and quite frankly this is what they are SUPPOSED to be doing with our donation dollars. So the question arises, “Why the fanfare Caz? “Why did your publication buy into the PR stunt? You were scammed as usual into telling only one side of the rescue mission story and this is a shame. One of the big knocks against the Rescue Mission has been that it had turned into a magnet not for people who have hit a bad patch and are looking to turn it around, but for those who have no intention of doing better short of winning the lottery or who continue to make choices that put them where they are.

But like most issues involving humans, there is nothing simple about this. It involves emotion and economics, quality of living and the right to have a quality life, private property rights versus government involvement. It makes us examine our basic moral beliefs toward other humans.

It is easy to vilify the mission at a cocktail party or barbecue, to decry the “leeches” with comments that they are too lazy to work and looking for handouts. Every community in every city in every state in the nation has a percentage of our population that would prefer to just mooch off the system. Caz, the true outrage is not these few individuals that would be part of our community if the PCRM did not exist, the OUTRAGE is having an organization maintain a facility that compounds the problems ten fold all the while thumbing their nose at the surrounding community who have been impacted by the negative effects of the facility.It’s easier if you are with a receptive or like-minded crowd, and you don’t have to put your name to it outside of that group.

It is just as easy to canonize the mission at a fundraiser or a trip to Shell Island with friends, praising the mission’s outreach, its desire to put food into the empty bellies of those “poor people” and provide them shelter on cold nights.

Philosophically, for some of those who oppose the mission doing what it does at its current location, there is that battle between how involved government should get. I have good friends on both sides of the mission issue. My experience has been that my friends who want the mission to move or at least curtail its current activities tend to be a conservative lot. Those who support the mission are more liberal.Again Mr. Caz, you have missed the mark. This is not an issue of governmental participation, it is an issue of public nuisanceFor those of us “conservatives” who believe in less government involvement, none of us believe in NO governmental involvement. NO government is chaos. Small government allows for structure for citizens to live in harmony with simple rules . In this specific issue, governmental involvement on the city level has become necessary as the the balance of harmony has been lost with the PCRM taking advantage of our community creating a toxic effect on neighboring properties and businesses.Additionally, this issue has nothing to do with one being a Christian (unless you are not one and need the services of the PCRM) or if our community should provide services to those in our community who just need a helping hand (which we should). The ISSUE is how we do this, who we have doing it and what oversight we are given by those who use our donation dollars (almost 3 million annually for the PCRM) to provide needed services to our community.

So those who oppose it who I know also tend to oppose too much government interference … but in this case they seem OK with government sending Fox on down the road. That doesn’t make it wrong and it doesn’t make them hypocrites. It makes them human.

It is an issue that continues to tear at me. I want people to get help when they need it. But I don’t want to help those who won’t try to help themselves if they’re capable of doing so. I think the overall “mission” of the mission is worthwhile, necessary and a true gift to local governments that otherwise would have to deal with the problem.Our community would function just fine without the PCRM. Without their heavy recruiting from outside our local community to support the large numbers needed to continue receiving larger and larger grants (read that as more money), our homeless numbers would be substantially smaller allowing a variety of other private, religious or governmental agencies to easily help those in need and assimilate them back into our community. To call the PCRM a “gift” for creating a nuisance and then being either unable or unwilling to limit the nuisance is no “gift” by any standard of the word.

Fox is privately funded, Incorrect. “privately funded” is to imply that money just shows up without any strings attached for Fox to do with what he wants. An even better definition of “privately funded” is that someone took money out of their savings account and opened a business using their own money and carried both the risk of failure and the potential of success entirely on their back. Your comment additional implies that he is not using tax payer money. The fact is he does. On the PCRM’s own website they say the “use no DIRECT taxpayer funds”. DIRECT is keyword in that sentence. They DO receive substantial moneys each year from other organizations who DO take tax payer money, repackage it and then provide revenues to organizations like the PCRM. But past the taxpayer money, he should be using the communities money, through donations, to provide a community service. The mandate of the PCRM should be to provide services but do it in a way that is open, transparent and respectful of the changing needs of both those they serve as well as the community at large. Mr. Fox has failed at this mandate . so what he makes is a moot point. Even those doing God’s work have bills, and he has bosses who determine what that compensation ought to be.

I don’t like to see government force any private landowner to change the use of his property or move. Caz, for the purposes of this discussion you are misleading your readers. There is no “his” that is relevant when discussing the ownership of the PCRM. Billy Fox is nothing more than an employee with zero financial ownership in the mission facility or any of its assets. Additionally he has no personal financial responsibility for any debts incurred by the mission. The Board of Directors also have zero financial ownership in the mission. So who does “own” the rescue mission as “private landowners”? Legally it is structured in a way that if all principals , board of directors and administration were to no longer participate in the missions operations that the courts would get involved and allocate those resources to another organization that had a similar call to duty for our community. But in a more general perspective, the mission belongs to you, me and the rest of the community and as owners should we the community not have a voice in how the mission serves both the needy and the community at large? But I don’t like what has become of the area around the mission.

I cannot think of another residential area where one single entity — that could be moved — would cause me not to even consider living near it, and I don’t think that area will ever improve while the mission is there in its current capacity. Mr. Fox is well aware of this fact and uses it as leverage to remain relevant to the community.If in the eyes of the community, Mr. Fox is the only solution to such a terrible problem, they just give him the keys to do as he pleases. The reality is the problem is one created by Fox himself and seems to always be the last one to show up as part of the solution.

If you’re starting to think, “Caz has no idea what to do,” you are right. It is not your job Caz to come up with solutions. Your job is to report all of the facts  of the problem so our community can offer input and guidance to those whose job it is to come up with solutions. On this task you have failed.

But here’s what I believe: For the first time in a long time there is progress on an issue that has been around for decades. I believe that is a direct result of a focused Panama City government via its task force appointed by Mayor Greg Brudnicki. who have acted on behalf of the citizens of our community who have tired from the attack on our community by the PCRM management. It may have failed to “move” the mission, for the time being.. but it’s apparent to me they have gotten Fox’s attention. Getting Fox’s attention and changing his core behavior are two different things. Fox so far has only given up ground because of the overwhelming voices that are becoming louder and louder in protest of how the mission treats our community.

The task force should continue, as should the pressure. Not pressure to “move” the mission, but pressure to resolve this issue. For downtown Panama City to ever regain its status and again become a beacon, that has to happen. Caz, there are solutions to the problem, actually there are great solutions. But everyone involved has to be on board to first recognizing that there are problems and be willing to “man up ” to admitting that they have been part of the problem and then jump in with both feet to the solutions. The Bay area resource center which is the culmination of the task force’s efforts could potentially offer our community a facility that provides the resources needed by our communities needy. The proposed facility with involvement by over twenty organizations would be able to provide resources that the PCRM just simply does not have the resources, expertise or even will to address. When will the Board of directors of the PCRM step up to the plate and become part of the solution?

http://www.newsherald.com/opinions/mike-cazalas/a-welcome-change-in-the-mission-1.74529

UPDATE:

After posting this blog post, our bloggers received this email from Mr. Mike Cazalas:

To whom it may concern,
This appears to be an unapproved use of copywrited (sic) material.
Please contact me and remove the content immediately. This site also appears to include other material protected by copywrite (sic)and produced by Halifax Media Group and we ask that all such material be removed.
Thank you in advance for your attention to this serious matter.
Sincerely,
Mike Cazalas
CC: John Bussian, Esq.Mike Cazalas

Editor
The News Herald
850-747-5094
Mr. Cazalas still doesnt get it. Instead of reporting on this issue in a way that is unbiased providing all the facts, he would rather send out a form letter asking us to remove information that is posted under the Fair Use act and the basis for a rebuttal to his commentary. Information that is posted  on our blog has no commercial application and is solely provided as an informational venue for our community to obtain additional facts on the topic of the PCRM that the News Herald fails to report. Our response to Mr Cazalas was, perhaps it would be a better use of his time being a responsible journalist to our community instead of sending out emails in attempts to suspend the posting of information that he refuses to report on. Furthermore, it may become unnecessary for our blogger to make post profiling information from the News Herald if they did not make it policy to delete anything and everything from their online forums that are less than a flowery compliment of the PCRM. This activity on behalf of the News Herald is simply censorship and does our community an injustice by not providing all the facts to the readers allowing them to make good decisions about our community. Shameful is the word to describe this action.