San Diego Sports Icons Bill Walton, Randy Jones, Speak Out On Local Homelessness

The NBA legend calls out Mayor Todd Gloria on social media; Former Padres star pitcher complains on local TV news

It's been a busy and unusual week on TV airwaves and social media for high-profile local sports figures discussing the issue of homelessness in San Diego.

Both Randy Jones and Bill Walton made surprising comments about the hot-button issue.

Jones is a former San Diego Padres pitcher (1973-80) who won the National League Cy Young Award in 1976. He's in the Padres Hall of Fame, has been an active restaurateur and a local sports radio figure.

On September 15, Jones appeared on KUSI-TV to complain about drug use and prostitution stemming from a hotel near his home in Escondido.

The hotel participates in San Diego County's voucher program for people experiencing homelessness.

COVER PHOTO: Bill Walton, during a college basketball broadcast in 2021. (Getty Images)

Padres legend Randy Jones, photographed in 2016 at Petco Park. (Getty Images)

Days after Jones went public with his beef, Walton, an NBA legend and San Diego native, posted on Twitter and Instagram about a surge in homelessness near his home.

Those social media posts–and emails to the mayor–were first revealed by news website Voice of San Diego.

Walton, who was born and raised in La Mesa, won three NCAA basketball championships at UCLA and two NBA titles playing for the Portland Trail Blazers and Boston Celtics.

After his professional career, Walton, who currently lives close to downtown San Diego, became a color commentator for ESPN.

Here's what Walton posted on Instagram on September 19, 2022:

“I can no longer say that my hometown of San Diego, is the greatest place in the world, I can no longer say that SD is a safe, healthy, clean, and beautiful place, I can no longer urge my family, friends, tourists, and businesses to come to SD to live, work, and play, I can no longer say that our neighborhood for the last 43 years is still my dream, I am brokenhearted, Mayor @toddgloria —clean up our city, and let us reclaim our lives, we must fix our homeless crisis, we need engagement, rehabilitation, and constant enforcement, and we need it now.”

Those comments are out of character for Walton. Yes, he's often outspoken about causes, but rarely does he offer negative thoughts about San Diego, or Democratic/progressive politicians.

Walton's unspecified call for "constant enforcement" caused a backlash on social media.

It prompted San Diego homelessness activist Michael McConnell to post a photo on Twitter of the city's standard "Notice of Cleanup and Property Removal."

The standard city posting before a sweep of the area. (Twitter)

The city's public posting serves notice it will sweep the section of Balboa Park (3200 Park Boulevard) that was the focus of Walton's complaints. The sweep will take place on September 22.

McConnell wrote on Twitter:

Here you go Bill, you got what you wanted. This community will be swept per your orders. Almost all of the folks here are working with outreach and some are just waiting on their housing being available. They keep the place as clean as they can and you just don't seem to care.

Whether or not it was related to Walton's concerns about homelessness, Mayor Gloria recently posted a long Tweet thread touting his administration's outreach and successes on the subject.

On September 18, Gloria posted an 18-part thread that began:

Homelessness is a complex problem that people crave simple solutions to. The truth is real solutions take time and are often difficult to implement. That’s why the successes we’ve had this week are worthy of highlighting.

His thread discussed: outreach, shelter and housing; a new 150-bed shelter in Midway; efforts to convert the Old Central Library into housing; extended hours for a safe-parking program; and other specifics and some generalities about plans to address homelessness.

Like Walton's posts that decried inaction by the mayor, Gloria's thread garnered little online support.

San Diegan David Peery tweeted in response:

@MayorToddGloria needed 18 consecutive Tweets to explain his lack of compassion or humility in even acknowledging the exponential increase in homeless residents and thousands more at their tipping point.

Homelessness continues to be the region's number-one area of concern. The introduction of big voices like Jones and Walton may attract others and serve notice that the issue calls for daily political action–in real life, not on social media. SDSun


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