Sharon Byrne (left) and Isabelle Walker
Paul Wellman

The Milpas Community Association’s (MCA) new executive director, Sharon Byrne, is an enigma. She’s brassy, confrontational and politically savvy with aspirations for the City Council. She knows how to use statistics to make her arguments and never backs down. Yet, when we met at the Cabrillo Ball Field for lunch last week, what did she have tucked in her bag? A slice of birthday cake for the formerly homeless and current ball field regular Ed Mannon.

It turns out not only does this leader of the decidedly pro-business MCA (which has made loitering, panhandling homeless people on Milpas a rallying cry) know Mannon by name, they are actually, and astonishingly, quasi-friends. Indeed, the cake is an acknowledgement of the February birthday the two just happen to share.

Go figure.

Byrne and other MCA leaders, like Alan Bleecker of Capitol Hardware, inaugurated their organization last fall with a press conference focusing heavily on the problems homeless people have caused along Milpas. When George Ied was murdered on Salinas Street, their list of issues broadened to include gang violence. They held a well-attended march down State Street, had a community-wide meeting to solicit more members, and took a field trip to Oxnard to study that city’s way of dealing with gangs. To read more, see


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