Liberal Cities Embrace Homelessness [VIDEO]
Liberal Cities Embrace Homelessness [VIDEO]
A toxic combination of tolerance and greed has created a crisis in liberal cities like San Francisco and Seattle, where homelessness is fast becoming an acceptable lifestyle to the local governments. Homelessness, you see, allows those leftist city officials to claim that they are “tolerant” of whatever issues have driven people to live on the streets. The greed comes in when they start taxing everyone else to pay for the homeless.
As laid out in an article detailing a tour of San Francisco’s homeless encampments, Federalist writer John Daniel Davidson shows just how the homeless in the area are being enabled by local government to continue this lifestyle.
Homelessness has always been a feature of life in the Golden Gate City, but the encampments—and the concentrations of used needles, feces, and urine that come with them—are new. Dozens of tent camps now line freeway underpasses and sidewalks throughout the city, despite a 2016 ordinance authorizing city officials to clear them out. The best the city can do, according to Mohammad Nuru, director of the city’s Department of Public Works, is stay in “firefighter mode.” “When you have needles or you have poop or you have places with the stench of urine, those are the priorities,” he said in a recent interview. “In Public Works land, that’s like a 911 call.”
The tent camps have increased visibility of the city’s homeless even as the homeless population has remained relatively stable. A recent survey found there were about 7,500 homeless people in the city, about the same as the last count, in 2015. That’s the year the tents first showed up in large numbers, during citywide cleanup efforts ahead of the Super Bowl. Housing activists feared the cleanup would result in forced removal of San Francisco’s homeless population—and for good reason. “They are going to have to leave,” said the late Mayor Ed Lee at the time. “We’ll give you an alternative, we are always going to be supportive, but you are going to have to leave the streets.”
But they didn’t. Activists and homeless advocates protested, and distributed hundreds of tents to the city’s homeless in open defiance of the Super Bowl cleanup push. Since then, tent encampments have become a permanent feature of the city, despite aggressive efforts to clear them out. Municipal workers will clear an encampment and confiscate tents and property, only to have them pop up elsewhere. Part of the problem is that the tech boom is fueling the development of areas once populated by the homeless. Increasingly, there’s nowhere for them to hide, so they just camp out on the sidewalks and near the freeways.
I heard the problem had gotten so bad that the Target store downtown keeps its tents in a locked glass case. A quick visit confirmed the rumor: not only were the tents under lock and key, so were the camping gear and backpacks. While I was there, a homeless man in a trench coat loitered in front of the tent case, muttering to himself and pawing at the glass.
The article is worth a complete read, if to only get an overview of how homelessness has been allowed to consume an entire city, resulting in San Francisco being a city of the uber-rich (who can get the homeless away from their residences and businesses) and the working poor – all run by Democrats.
In other words, San Francisco is rich and beautiful—and it doesn’t care what Republicans think. Like many large U.S. cities, Democrats here preside over a political monoculture. Less than 10 percent of San Franciscans voted for Donald Trump in 2016, and the city hasn’t had a GOP mayor since 1964. The Board of Supervisors (the city council) is technically nonpartisan, but every seat on the board is occupied by a registered Democrat. The top four candidates in the current mayoral race—an African-American woman, an Asian-American woman, an Hispanic woman, and an openly gay man—will all be “firsts,” no matter who wins the special election in June. Also certain: the winner will be a Democrat.
The absence of any organized political opposition, combined with its vast wealth, makes San Francisco a kind of proof-of-concept for progressive governance. If there’s anywhere progressives should be able to enact their schemes for a perfectly-ordered society, it’s here. A booming tech industry has made vast new resources available to the city: the 2017-18 municipal budget exceeds $10 billion, nearly a third larger than the budget was a decade ago. City government now spends roughly $11,500 per person each year, more than any other city in the country (including New York) and almost double per capita state spending.
That’s why the housing and homelessness problems besetting the city open it up to more than mere mockery from conservatives but substantive criticism of progressive governance writ large. It’s not just homeless encampments that bedevil San Francisco, but also the flight of the middle class and the emergence of a kind of citywide caste system: the wealthy, the service class, and the destitute. In some ways, San Francisco is becoming something progressives are supposed to hate: a private club for the super-rich.
Seattle, my hometown, is bound and determined to be the San Francisco of the north. All the right ingredients are present: tight Democratic control of the city (we even have an actual elected Socialist!), an inane acceptance of allowing people (even in this wet weather) to live exposed outside, a lack of enforcement of existing laws until something truly terrible happens, and a city council that has no plan except to collect as much money as possible to hand out to their cronies to “fight” the ongoing homelessness.
No, seriously. The Seattle city council’s newest idea – put a “head tax” on all businesses within city limits to pay for “their fair share” of the homeless problem.
The Progressive Revenue Task Force recommended the City of Seattle pass legislation this year to generate $150 million per year in new progressive revenue, including $75 million from an Employee Hours Tax or “head” tax.
The task force recommended the city develop the head tax on businesses to raise revenue to fight the homeless crisis and housing shortage.
The proposal has a range of tax options, based on employer size and type, plus a “skin in the game fee” for small businesses.
The task force recommends the city establish the head tax to go into effect Jan. 1, 2019.
There’s an urgency from city leaders to pass the head tax by this May, but 300 furious business owners sent a letter to the city council saying the proposal would undermine their livelihoods.
Of course, a large business like Amazon could afford a “head tax” per employee. Small businesses will leave.
“That stresses me out every single night and to know that the city council is adding more hurdles to making sure I can actually go to sleep every night is really frustrating,” said Peel and Press owner Dan Austin, who was one of the business owners who signed the letter.
Austin said recommendations like this head tax are the reasons why he opened his other business outside Seattle.
“It’s just another papercut on the amount of taxes that are slowly taking us down. There’s just been increase after, increase, after increase,” said Austin.
Wednesday evening Seattle’s city council chambers were packed with supporters of the proposal.
The task force admits the proposed amount won’t solve the entire housing crisis, but will be a solid start to solving the problem through affordable housing programs.
Seattle has multiple cronyism issues, right down to currently trying to force Uber and Lyft to raise their rates to protect unionized taxi drivers at the moment, and protecting former mayor Ed Murray – who was most likely a child rapist – until his credibility was wrecked beyond all recognition – because he was their good ol’ Democrat crony. And yet this city is a wreck. Progressives here, as in San Francisco, have literally no opposition within local government. They can keep things clean and shiny for the well-heeled who pay the bills, and leave the homeless in their squalor in the name of “tolerance” and “compassion.”
There is no easy solution to actual root causes of homelessness (drug addiction and mental illness among those causes) but does that mean we just keep throwing money – and clean needles and “safe spaces” to shoot up! – at the homelessness issue to assuage the liberal conscience?
If you look at the shining examples of the progressive utopias of San Francisco and Seattle, who would really want to live amongst and pay for all of that?