According to the recent On Guard column, the 9,000 Know-Nothings who voted for Donald Trump in June were concentrated in the Marina. It’s no surprise then that their supervisor proposed the local equivalent of building a wall on the Mexican border: Supervisor Mark Farrell, with support from supervisors Malia Cohen, Scott Wiener and Katy Tang, introduced a ballot measure to empower police to clear homeless encampments, which they were already doing.
The same four supervisors put a measure on the ballot sponsored by Supervisor Wiener to create a new police unit to crack down on “neighborhood crimes” like burglaries and homelessness.
What the Chronicle described as a “fractured” board is merely the indignity of Wiener being in the minority for the first time in his political career. The four supervisors sponsoring these measures serve as the Realtor Caucus of the board, and since they don’t like losing to the Progressive Caucus, they suddenly remembered to be temporarily outraged about homelessness.
You can recognize a wedge issue when the underlying problem is emotional, polarizing and intractable, but the proposed solution is unmoored from reason, evidence or history. Homelessness, just like gay marriage and the war on drugs, works well politically because it’s a problem that doesn’t get solved.
As the T-shirt slogan says, it takes the staggering overconfidence of a mediocre white man to introduce such legislation less than a month after the May report of the Budget and Legislative Analyst Office that The City squanders $20 million a year on police enforcement of such “quality-of-life” laws on homeless people with no discernible positive outcome for anyone. No change in the number of homeless people.
There was also the Budget and Legislative Analyst Office report that Farrell himself requested that showed how much money The City saves on health care by providing supportive housing to the homeless. My wife is a Department of Public Health clinician who worked for years in city supportive housing clinics. She tells me that guns, tasers and batons are contraindicated for homeless patients.
Policing hasn’t worked to reduce homelessness in San Francisco any of the many times over my life that politicians declared that voters had enough and wanted to see action. It just wastes taxpayers’ money and abuses homeless people. It is as helpful as sending thoughts and prayers.
Never mind that the SFPD as we know it, the one refusing to reform or even acknowledge its habit of murdering people, may not be the best first responders to people in crisis.
Yet we can’t get enough of finding new ways to keep criminalizing the same behavior. Farrell and Wiener want more policing of the homeless, even though The City passed sit-lie in 2010, which was supposed to solve this problem. It was both unconstitutional, selectively-enforced and didn’t work, as expected. In 2013, Wiener wanted to create hours of operation for city parks, even though camping in parks was already illegal. That hearing featured a fascinating debate on the subtle legal distinction between “sleeping in a park” and “being in a park while sleeping.” And in the May report, the Budget and Legislative Analyst Office identified THIRTY-SIX quality-of-life laws that are enforced by the police on homeless people. San Francisco has one anti-homeless quality-of-life law for each chamber of the Wu-Tang Clan.
So the question must be asked, preferably shouted from every corner: WHAT RATIONAL PERSON BELIEVES, WITH NO EVIDENCE, THAT OF ALL THINGS THAT COULD HELP BOTH THE HOMELESS AND THE HOMEFUL WHO DON’T WANT TO SEE THEM, MORE COPS ARE A GOOD IDEA?
In other news, we need more comedy venues in town, because we’ve lost several, most tragically the Cynic Cave. There are a lot of comics coming up who want to produce their own shows. If you have a back room anywhere you would let comedians produce free or cheap shows, let me know.