Friday, October 15, 2010

"The Sidewalks of San Francisco"

Thanks to C.W. Nevius for a link to the fine article by Heather MacDonald in the current City Journal on the conditions in San Francisco that led to the sit-lie measure on next month's ballot. 

MacDonald is wise to the "progressive" interpretation of what's happening in the Haight:

The homelessness industry instantly mobilized against the [sit-lie]Civil Sidewalks law. Its first tactic was to assimilate the gutter punks into the “homelessness” paradigm, so that they could be slotted into the industry’s road-tested narrative about the casualties of a heartless free-market economy. “Homelessness, at its core, is an economic issue,” intoned the Coalition on Homelessness, San Francisco’s most powerful homelessness advocacy group, in a report criticizing the proposed law. “People are homeless because they cannot afford rent.” 

Even applied to the wizened shopping-cart pushers of the traditional “homeless” population, this simplistic statement is deeply misleading. But applied to the able-bodied Haight vagrants, it is simply ludicrous, entailing a cascading series of misrepresentations regarding the role of choice in youth street culture. The Haight punks may not be able to afford rent, but that is because they choose to do no work and mooch off those who do. Further, they are not looking for housing. They have no intention of settling down in San Francisco or anywhere else. 

The affordability or unaffordability of rent is thus irrelevant to their condition. Shoehorning the street kids into the homeless category requires ignoring their own “voices,” ordinarily a big no-no among “progressives” when it comes to official victims of capitalism and other oppressions. They are not homeless, the “travelers” insist, and they look down on those who are...

Read the article and then check out the online comments. This one succinctly summarizes the situation: "SF is a one-horse town politically, and they get the government and city they deserve."

On the other hand, when voters citywide get a chance to vote on fringe left, "progressive" issues, they often make sensible choices. Too bad they'll never get a chance to vote on the Bicycle Plan.

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