There’s a new group in town called “Respect OB” and they are calling for a community meeting tonight – Tuesday, April 24th – on the grass at the foot of Newport Avenue. The individuals organizing the gathering have distributed fliers all over OB and have even gained some media traction.
Originally growing out of a sub-committee of the OB Mainstreet Association a couple of months ago, the group has evolved. And now it hopes to bring together all the disparate elements of the community, the homeless, the businesses, the residents, and the churches – in an effort to address what some see as the deterioration of relations, friendliness, caring for the village, etc., – hence the emphasis on “respect”.
The flier asks: “What is happening to the OB I Love?” and then: “ARE YOU BOTHERED BY” with a list of issues:
- Graffiti, stolen bikes, hit and runs, slashed tires,
- broken bottles and litter on the beach?
- Abandoned dog poop or uncleaned-up vomit?
- Hearing people being rude or mean to each other?
- Dealing with robberies or crimes?
And then, it declares: “COME TOGETHER. . . as we pull together in finding solutions!”
I just got off the phone with one of the main organizers – and the MC for tonight’s meeting – Andy Taubman, who has owned a computer business in OB since 1999. Andy says he was “inspired” to work on these issues after three homeless people who slept in front of his business for years were “kicked out” by “travelers”. Andy relied on the homeless trio to help protect his business in fact. But since they were removed, he has found vomit, human feces, … and needles in front of his door.
Andy loves OB and cherishes the village atmosphere. He hopes tonight’s meeting will bring folks together in a good way, and he hopes it does not turn into a “media circus” due to mainstream media attention. He actually thinks that the group Respect OB will change into several organizations that will then address different elements of the problems.
I asked Any if the meeting tonight would address other problems that OB is currently facing – like gentrification – which was not listed as an issue in the flier. Taubman told me that yes, gentrification is an issue, and then proceeded to explain to me why he thinks it’s all related.
“The main issue is crime,” he replied, “but we’re talking about the transmission of cultural values.” He explained.
Some of his friends who have been long-time OBceans are so dismayed at what OB has become in their perception, that they’re thinking of leaving. If people who care about the community leave, Andy said, if people lose faith in OB, then that allows developers to come in and do their thing – develop, and that leads into more gentrification.
Some of the speakers at tonight’s meeting include Pat James of the OB Historical Society, Noah Trafolla, and maybe Mike Hardin. Tonight’s meeting starts at 6pm, and is on the grassy area just south of the Lifeguard Station, and will only last for an hour.