Tuesday, January 10, 2006

The right wing of the left in Bologna---and SF

During the Dec. 8 left-liberal bull session at the last HANC (Haight Ashbury Neighborhood Council) meeting, Calvin Welch cited Bologna, Italy, as an example San Francisco should follow. Leftist mythology holds that city in high esteem, because it is allegedly ruled by Communists, or at least Marxists. According to a squib in The Week ("Finally, a Leftist Who's Tough on Crime," Jan. 13, 2006), this is an oversimplification of the politics of Bologna:

Bologna is no longer the poster child for leftist government, said Roman Arens in Frankfurt, Germany's Frankfurter Rundschau. Its mayor may still be a socialist---no other party stands a chance in the left-wing university town---but he's tougher on crime and illegal immigration than any neofascist from Forza Italia. Sergio Cofferati, long nicknamed "the Chinaman" because of his narrow eyes, has recently acquired another moniker: the "red sheriff." His law-and-order tactics ape the "zero tolerance" model of Rudy Giuliani's New York. First, the squeegee guys were banned. Then Gypsy camps were dismantled. And now, Cofferati is sending in the cops to boot deadbeat youths out of the graffiti-covered buildings they've been squatting in. His measures are hugely popular with local citizens, even if the other main political parties in town, the Greens and the Communists, are not on board. This willingness to buck politics and enforce the law is rapidly making him into "an Italian icon"---and someone to keep an eye on.

This is what we need in San Francisco: someone who's on the left on economic issues and on the right on law-and-order and quality-of-life issues, like homelessness, the pot clubs, graffiti (the Singapore Solution), guns, Critical Mass, and dealing drugs on the street. Someone, in short, who represents the right-wing of the left, but he/she will be a Democrat, not a Republican like Guliani. I thought Newsom might be that person, but early indications are that he wants to be liked too much to fill the role properly.

San Francisco is still Waiting for Lefty/Righty.

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Graffiti/tagging: The Singapore Solution

Writing in today's NY Times, Clyde Haberman deplores the recent rash of graffiti on the windows of New York's subway cars ("A Stain on Subways and on the City," NY Times, Jan. 10, 2006):

...Lots of subway cars are being scarred by this new barbarism, which some with sensibilities more refined than ours would have us believe qualifies as an urban art form...The new outrages, confined for now to windows, are done in what looks like white paint. It isn't. It is the kind of etching acid used by artists who work with glass. In the hands of the new Visigoths, the acid is liberally sprayed or brushed onto train windows so that it eats into the glass, impossible to erase.

A transit spokesman tells Haberman that the system can no longer pull the vandalized trains from service until they can be cleaned---the tactic used by the city during earlier epidemics of vandalism---since "This stuff doesn't come off." The transit system now has to leave the trains in service until the window gets so bad you can't see through it; it's then replaced at a cost of $130 per window.

Haberman regrets that there are no immediate solutions to this kind of vandalism, and so do we. But he suggests an idea we floated last year, The Singapore Solution:

A part of us kind of hoped for a Singapore-style response. Singapore has mandatory caning for vandals. Sure, there may be a temporarily sore buttock or two. But graffiti is not a problem there.

Here in Progressive Land, the SF Bay Guardian's political editor, Tim Redmond, is on record as liking graffiti/tagging. And former District 5 Supervisor Matt Gonzalez famously allowed a tagger to deface his office walls in the name of "art." With progressives doing this kind of enabling, it's not surprising that the city spends millions every year dealing with this form of vandalism.