Pro & Con: Homeless services, education need help

January 14, 2013 

Zaf Iqbal

JOE JOHNSTON — The Tribune

The issue: What are your top 10 predictions or concerns for 2013?

Click here to read a conservative's perspective »

Here’s where I hope to see progress in 2013:

1. Education. California’s educational system is in dire need of additional funding and systemic reforms. Those suffering the most are students and faculty. Tuition fees have reached the level where many California residents find it cheaper to pursue their educational goals in other states.

Because of the cuts in faculty positions, the faculty have to teach larger classes, carry heavier teaching loads and spend more time on committee assignments. The problem is exacerbated by an ever-increasing number of administrative/ management positions that consume scarce resources and increase bureaucracy.  Gov  . Jerry Brown is planning on reforming the system.

2. Homeless Services Center. Though the planned facility won’t solve the problem, it should help alleviate it. Businesses in the vicinity have raised credible and valid concerns that need to be addressed; owners of these small businesses are important stakeholders. They are responsible, respectable and caring community members as well as employers and taxpayers.

The homeless center must not affect their operations adversely. The City Council and the Board of Supervisors should designate a liaison in their respective areas for timely corrective action in case of a problem. Installation of a self-policing mechanism by the center’s clients, similar to a neighborhood association, should be explored.

3. Mental illness. This health care area deserves much more attention and support than it receives.

4. Resources and referrals. It would greatly help if there were one telephone number that the needy could call to receive information on, or referral to, the appropriate resource. Dozens of programs exist for meeting different needs. Two staff members with expert knowledge of the resources in the community could handle this.

5. Consolidation of services. Many cities in the county are in close proximity. It should be possible to consolidate at least some of their public services to reduce costs and possibly increase efficiency.

6. Local heroes. We are fortunate to have individuals among us who took initiative to improve thousands of lives in the community. For example, Lisa Ray, a single mom, started an organization to provide free clothing, books, school supplies, back packs, Christmas presents, etc., to needy children. Last year, her dedication and donor generosity put smiles on the faces of 3,000 poor children.

After investing a lot of his time and money, Dr. Ahmad Nooristani opened a free clinic. Their examples should inspire rest of us. Each of us can make a big difference in improving many lives.

7. Board of Supervisors. The county supervisors should keep in mind that their job is to serve the people. The taxpayers, who hired them and pay their salaries, expect nothing less. No time should be wasted in foolish games for boosting own egos, power grabbing, displaying pettiness toward colleagues, exposing the county to financial liability or compromising objectivity by personal misconduct.

8. Controlled growth. There has been a lot of speculation that the board has a “pro-growth” majority now. Growth is fine as long it is controlled. Tourism being our top industry, the board must not kill the goose that lays golden egg.

9. Trailer courts. Some trailer courts in the county are blighted. The owners of trailer courts with health and safety hazards should be ordered by the authorities to clean up their act. If inhabitants own the trail er and cannot afford to make necessary repairs, assistance should be sought from nonprofit organizations and/or public agencies.

10. Cuesta College. Let us hope that Cuesta College receives accreditation. The problem is not the quality of its education but rather incompetent and complacent management. They should be relieved from their responsibilities if they cannot improve performance.

Zaf Iqbal is past associate dean and professor emeritus of accounting at Cal Poly’s Orfalea College of Business. He volunteers with local nonprofits including Habitat for Humanity, the Retired Senior Volunteer Program and the Children’s Resource Network. He is past president of the San Luis Obispo Democratic Club.

Editor's note:

Democrat Zaf Iqbal and Republican John Peschong write monthly about issues of local, state and national importance. If you have comments or suggested topics for future columns, email

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