Daniel Callahan was recently ruthlessly kicked off the homeless issues committee and called a racist by County Executive Joe Parisi – but he is willing to fight back. Demands apology in the least, reinstatement or appointment of another homeless person ideally.
County Executive Joe Parisi Kicks Only Homeless Person Off Homeless Issues Committee in a Disgraceful Manner
On Monday, September 10th, after sitting through the Homeless Issues Committee meeting, I was informed by staff that I was no longer on the committee. Apparently the chair of the committee and the staff were notified that my name had been withdrawn by County Executive Joe Parisi. Later, I found out that on Friday, September 7th, the County Clerk and County Board Offices had been notified of the same thing. At no point prior to this, or since then, has the County Executive or any of his staff contacted me by phone, email or mail to notify me that I was being removed from the committee or to discuss why. Additionally, in none of the notifications received by others was there any explanation for the removal. I attempted for several days to get a meeting with the County Executive about my removal, but received no response until Friday afternoon when I was told that that County Executive Parisi has received my messages, that he was too busy working on that budget but was considering my request. Subsequently, I understand that about an hour after talking with County Executive Parisi’s staff that they sent notice that they have appointed a new person to fill the position, without even informing me if he will meet with me to discuss this matter.
Fellow activists, friends and supporters have been emailing County Executive Parisi and the county board in an attempt to get a meeting, an explanation, an apology and reinstatement. In responding to these emails, County Executive Parisi accuses me of being a violent racist based on a statement by a county parks employee about an incident he did not witness that occurred a few weeks earlier. County Executive Parisi has not heard my side of the story, I have not been charged with a hate crime and I have not been convicted of anything related to this matter. This is the reason I was requesting a meeting with the County Executive, to let him hear my side of the story and some potential extenuating circumstances that could potentially change his mind.
I feel that County Executive Joe Parisi owes me an apology for the manner in which he acted in removing from the committee as well as the accusation that I am racist. I am also requesting that he reinstate me to the committee as I am the only currently homeless person serving on the committee. Regardless of if he reinstates me, I still believe there are serious homeless issues in Dane County that need to be addressed and I will continue to be present at all homeless issues committee meetings and continue my work advocating for the homeless. If County Executive Parisi refuses to reinstate me, he should at least appoint a currently homeless person to the committee. We should not have a homeless committee with no currently homeless persons on the committee.
Please see attached letters of support.
Here’s my letter of support, there were many, many others . . .
from: Brenda Konkel email@example.com
date: Thu, Sep 13, 2012 at 7:54 AM
subject: Homeless Issues Committee Membership
Dear County Executive Joseph Parisi -
I am writing to ask you to meet with me in regard to your removal of Mr. Daniel Calahan from the Homeless Issues Committee. I know Mr. Callahan very well and I am dismayed that you have labeled him a violent racist based on an incident at the park. Mr. Callahan is 54 years old and I don’t know of anyone who would describe him as racist based on his actions in over half a century. In fact, as a Native American person, he has faced racism of his own throughout his life. I would ask that you consider some extenuating circumstances and the totality of the situation before appointing another person to the committee. Danny has faced many struggles in his life and it is awkward to speak of them on the record, but I think that there is information regarding this incident that you cannot be aware of that may change your mind. I can be reached via email or at 345-8720 to set up a time to discuss this matter. A face-to-face would be better, but we could also speak over the phone.
I know there are many politics surrounding your decision, but please consider that Mr. Callahan is already homeless and faces many daily struggles that we as people with homes don’t have to deal with. He already has no legal place to live as a result of this incident even though he has not yet been convicted. Despite you acting as the judge, jury and executioner, he has not been charged with a hate crime. He was the one who ended up being beaten up by at least three people who were much younger than him, he ended up with a black eye and suffered a concussion from the incident and continues to have complications from that – the others were not injured in the incident. He also spent two nights in jail (released on a signature bond) after a trip to the hospital and he is also facing criminal charges. The criminal justice system will take care of further punishment for the incident, once Mr. Callahan has a chance to have legal representation in that process and a chance to bring his own facts to the case. I think he has been or will be punished enough for this incident and will be further punished by the criminal justice system, I see no need for you to pile on.
Additionally, you have treated him with complete disrespect in not speaking with him to hear his side prior to removing him from the committee. You treated him with disrespect in not notifying him of your decision via mail or by phone. Your decision not to allow him to resign is also absolutely disrespectful. Those actions were all your own. I believe you owe an explanation to him for those actions, instead of labeling him with derogatory terms and blaming him for your disrespectful actions. As the County Executive, I would expect more professional behavior from you. It appears that Mr. Callahan was treated much differently than you may treat someone who has higher standing in the community.
As I am sure you are aware there are many reasons people are homeless and it is very complicated, not black and white. Part of the reason for having a Homeless Issues Committee is to work through those issues. Homeless people do not all come in neatly wrapped packages – it is a very diverse population with diverse needs and experiences, and sometimes it is not very pretty. I believe that Mr. Callahan’s voice at the table, as the only currently homeless person and who has experienced decades of homelessness, is one that is extremely hard to obtain and he is willing to come forward and share his experiences that are sometimes very difficult to talk about and we should be thrilled by that. We have a great opportunity to learn from him and why the system does has not worked in his case. Instead of pushing him away because he does not meet your expectations of who he should be, we should be embracing what he can bring to the table,, helping him learn from this experience and meeting him where he is at in his life – where many homeless people are in their lives – imperfections and all.
Please reconsider your decision and apologize to Mr. Callahan once you have met with him or others to further understand the totality of this incident – he feels awful about this incident and has been punished enough and we can’t waste this opportunity.
Brenda K. Konkel
Feel free to add your own letters of support . . .
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