Monday, January 4, 2010

More on the Houseboat Saga

NBC26 opened it's post-Sunday Night Football broadcast with Jeff Jacobs' story. Not much new ground was broken about Jacobs' situation, but the story does give a stronger impression that, no matter how many people might be rooting for him, Jacobs probably won't be out on his boat for too much longer.

Unfortunately, the more I think about this, the more I have to side with the city.

Everyone has probably fantasized about living on a boat at some point in their lives and even though Jacobs' current situation is hardly ideal, there is something romantic, quixotic, even heroic about how he seems determined to make the best out of a bad situation. But there are legitimate safety issues here that just can't be ignored.

No one can say just how well the boat will hold up against the ice when the river becomes completely frozen since no boats have wintered on that stretch of the River in living memory. There's a very real danger that the ice could crush the hull and threaten to sink the boat. The fact that he's living on the boat exponentially increases the odds that he could be in the boat (and potentially sleeping) if or when that happens. It's like living in a building that could fall down: that building would be condemned, not open for occupation. I'm sure the boat is seaworthy, but that really doesn't matter all that much in the winter.

Then there's the issue of personal security. I'm sure the notion that he could be kind of a night watchman over a park with an image problem is well-intentioned, but it's ultimately unrealistic. I doubt his presence would deter crime so much as it would make him a target of it. And -- let's face it -- we're not talking about violent crime when we're talking about Rainbow Park, we're talking about cruising. Just because he might not be doing anyone else harm doesn't mean others won't want to do him harm (though you'd have to be the stupidest criminal in the world to go after this guy right now).

Even though he's not troubling anyone, Jacobs is diverting public safety resources from their otherwise normal courses of operation. The city needs to check up on the guy in some form or another: just imagine what the city -- both the residents and any government entities -- would feel like if something were happen to him during the winter? I'm afraid the odds of an adverse incident are just too unconscionably high to just "leave him alone."

Jacobs appears determined to get back on his feet again and there seems to be no shortage of people willing to help him out, so why not pool that energy into finding a long term solution. Giving him firewood is undoubtedly a kind gesture, but only gets him through the night. Why not help him seek short or long-term employment so that he can make it through the season living in more safe and comfortable surroundings? Jacobs has business experience and is clearly a resourceful person ... if he can't find at least temporary work given his recent exposure, then I'm afraid the economy is much worse than we all thought.

I'm rooting for Jacobs and want him to get back on his feet again, but there are serious safety considerations that need to be taken into account that force me to believe this is not a good idea. As much as I would like this to just be a case of "a guy minding his own business," it just isn't, and it unfortunately really can't be no matter how hard Jacobs tries.


CJ said...

That boat is going to bust up in that ice.

Jb said...

Exactly. Thus far the debate has missed this point entirely.