Frederick Mayor Michael O’Connor wants Mike Spurrier, executive director of the Frederick Community Action Agency, gone. And unless the Board of Aldermen steps in, O’Connor is probably going to get his way.
Spurrier has been something of a lightning rod in downtown Frederick for years because of his role as an advocate for the homeless. He has overseen an agency that has offered food, shelter, medical care and other assistance to some of our most vulnerable residents.
It’s a situation he hasn’t created, though it is one that he’s been passionately trying to address. But by offering these services at a center near Carroll Creek, widely seen as the gem of downtown Frederick, some have been critical that the center’s clients have been seen drinking, urinating, loitering and littering next to Carroll Creek, a popular spot for tourists and the community.
There have been calls to move the FCAA site, calls that Spurrier said he is open to considering if there was another spot in town where a soup kitchen and shelter would be welcome. It’s not an easy fix, to say the least.
But we’re not solely focused on O’Connor’s decision to remove Spurrier. As an elected official, he gets to make that call, and voters will get to weigh in on that decision and others should he seek re-election.
And while we want to know the whats and whys that went into O’Connor’s decision, we have a more pertinent, bigger-picture question for the mayor.
What’s the plan?
Surely, getting rid of the biggest advocate for this particular group isn’t a silver bullet to solve these problems. There must be more, right?
At Wednesday’s city workshop, the mayor said that no plan has been discussed with anyone in that room regarding the direction of the FCAA. Why not?
How does the mayor envision caring for the homeless in Frederick? How does the mayor balance the economic and tourism needs of a growing city along with the compassionate approach necessary to take care of our less fortunate?
Frankly, it’s an issue that we’ve debated here for years. But we’ve always seemed to dance around the issue of homelessness, whether for politically correct reasons or because of a lack of focus from our elected officials.
That approach, however, hasn’t been particularly fair to anyone. Yes, we’ve given some attention to homelessness, but clearly, it hasn’t been enough. We must have an approach that not only helps the homeless find health care, employment and transitional housing, but also addresses the crime and fear of crime that are associated with those who live on the street.
So, we ask again, Mr. Mayor, how do we move forward?
O’Connor has yet to comment on the Spurrier situation publicly, and in his defense, he can’t for the moment talk publicly about it. Certain employee privacy regulations and, we hope, respect for the years of service Spurrier has given to Frederick have kept him quiet.
We hope that, to build upon O’Connor’s comment Wednesday, there is something we don’t know and that he has a plan to move forward. We hope that plan includes involving the various stakeholders whose views should be heard. Part of the plan should include not only how he’s going to bring together the community, but also who might ultimately lead the FCAA.
Frederick was once a national leader in showing how to effectively revitalize a downtown.
If the mayor’s plan, whatever it may be, is done right, the city has a chance to again be a leader — this time in keeping a beautiful downtown, but also in showing compassion and presenting solutions to help our most vulnerable.