At a press conference last week, California Gov. Gavin Newsom responded to claims that clean-up projects in San Francisco were only occurring because of the upcoming Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit. San Francisco Mayor Breed and others chuckled as Newsom admitted, “I know folks say, ‘Oh, they’re just cleaning up this place because all those fancy leaders are coming into town.’ That’s true, because it’s true.”
Breed and Newsom unabashedly admitting to this is a slap to the face of every San Francisco resident. They find it funny to announce they care more about foreign dignitaries than their own citizens.
Though leaders overlooked their plight, San Francisco residents should nonetheless consider themselves lucky. APEC has finally compelled state and local officials to clear homeless encampments, clean streets of heroin needles and human feces, and wash graffiti from walls. Of course, not every problem has been fixed overnight, as evidenced by the armed robbery of a Czech TV crew present to cover APEC. It remains to be seen how long the improvements will last, but many problems were at least temporarily solved as the result of state and city officials simply choosing to act.
Related: Allowing people to suffer on our streets is a policy choice
Residents of cities like Los Angeles, Baltimore, New York, Chicago, Washington, DC, and many others run by progressive politicians are not so lucky. Crime, homelessness, drug use, and the physical deterioration and defacement of infrastructure are ubiquitous problems across our nation’s major cities.
For example, property crime jumped by over 100 cases per capita between 2021 and 2022, according to FBI data released last month. Solving these issues does not require exceptionally complex plans and exorbitant government expenditures. They simply require action. Yet, inaction is the norm for state and local officials who, like Nero, are content to watch their jurisdictions burn.
This degree of incompetence borders on contempt for tenets of civil society: law and order, individual liberty and responsibility, and thus for the health and well-being of the citizenry. They allow riots, declining to enforce criminal statutes despite rising crime, and accepting homeless encampments overtaking public.
Some mayors and governors tolerate inaction in the name of ‘racial justice,’ knowing full well they will never confront or resolve the high crime, drug addiction, and destruction and defacing of property that has occurred. Newsom and Breed, like other officials, have security details to protect them.
Most mayors and governors live in fenced-off mansions, free of homeless encampments. They are not forced to live with the effects of their inaction. They also believe they will never face electoral consequences because they represent deeply blue areas focused on disregarding these problems in the name of “anti-racism.”
Newsom and Breed will only clean San Francisco when the cameras are there for President Biden and Chairman Xi.
When the elites leave town, it will be a return to business as usual for residents.
It does not have to be this way. Everyone should be able to live safely in urban areas. Accomplishing this, however, requires that voters stop allowing officials to ignore problems like safety and cleanliness in cities. Citizens need mayors and governors who will solve pressing issues, and not just when their city hosts a gathering of “fancy leaders.”
Benjamin Whearty is a research associate at Landmark Legal Foundation
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