Mugged By Reality

I have not previously followed the work of San Francisco political reporter Benjamin Wachs of SF Weekly; apparently he’s an increasingly cynical and disenchanted liberal following the ever-appalling doings of San Francisco city government. Thanks to the heads-up from Josh Trevino, it’s worth taking a little time to look over Wachs’ uproariously acid farewell to his beat, which practically defines “going out in a blaze of glory.” Seriously, read the whole thing.
The real meat, though, is in a lengthier article by Wachs and Joe Eskenazi from December on how San Francisco is, in their view, “The Worst-Run Big City in the U.S.”:

It’s time to face facts: San Francisco is spectacularly mismanaged and arguably the worst-run big city in America. This year’s city budget is an astonishing $6.6 billion – more than twice the budget for the entire state of Idaho – for roughly 800,000 residents. Yet despite that stratospheric amount, San Francisco can’t point to progress on many of the social issues it spends liberally to tackle – and no one is made to answer when the city comes up short.

The article is a long one, and filled with horrifying detail of the city’s incompetence and dysfunction, like this one, which manages to combine reckless overspending, bait-and-switches with the voters, and head-poundingly foolish naivete in dealing with dangerous and violent people:

Back in 1999, San Francisco voters were pitched a $299 million bond to “save” Laguna Honda Hospital as a 1,200-bed facility for the city’s frail, elderly population. Who doesn’t want to help the frail and elderly? A decade later, the Department of Public Works project is still incomplete, its price tag has swelled by nearly $200 million, and the hospital is slated to hold only 780 beds – so the city is going massively overbudget to construct a hospital only 65 percent as large as promised, which is four years behind schedule.
Amazingly, this gets worse. After securing the bond funding to save Laguna Honda as a hospital for the elderly, the Department of Public Health began transferring younger, often dangerous and mentally ill patients there and mixing them among the old people. This went about as well as you’d think: A 2006 state and federal licensing survey noted numerous instances of elder abuse, staff abuse, and patients toting drugs, alcohol, and even loaded weapons. One patient was assaulted four times in four months; to address this problem, staff erected signs reading “No Hitting.” (That didn’t work.) To cap it off, elder activists now worry that a 2009 Department of Public Health-commissioned report will pave the way for even more relatively young, mentally ill patients heading to Laguna Honda. The massively overbudget, behind-schedule hospital may not even end up primarily serving the elderly population that voters were promised it would.

The accounts of shreiking outrage from nonprofits and unions at the idea of measuring results or holding people accountable are equally familiar. For all of liberalism’s pretensions to being “reality-based,” the recipients of its largesse are remarkably shy about letting anybody test whether any of their ideas actually work. All of this supports a conclusion that is wearyingly familiar to any observer of American big-city liberalism in action:

The intrusion of politics into government pushes the city to enter long-term labor contracts it obviously can’t afford, and no one is held accountable. A belief that good intentions matter more than results leads to inordinate amounts of government responsibility being shunted to nonprofits whose only documented achievement is to lobby the city for money. Meanwhile, piles of reports on how to remedy these problems go unread. There’s no outrage, and nobody is disciplined, so things don’t get fixed.

Ask residents of Detroit, or Oakland, or Washington DC, or Memphis, or Baltimore, or pre-Giuliani New York, or pre-Katrina New Orleans, or any number of other big American cities, and you’ll hear a similar refrain; San Francisco may well be the worst, but it’s hardly alone. And as Wachs and Eskenazi note, San Francisco can in some ways get away with things other cities with fewer natural advantages can’t (see: Detroit). That said, Wachs and Eskenazi have produced an unusually detailed and comprehensive indictment of their city’s one-party government. Read it and pass it on to anyone you know who hasn’t yet digested why the rest of the country traditionally mistrusts giving more money and power to big-city liberals.

13 thoughts on “Mugged By Reality”

  1. Shame on you Crank! Their intentions were good-isn’t that all that matters?
    Only conservatives try to hold people accountable for their actions. You know those mean, heartless conservatives.

  2. Its just fascinating living in this country and seeing that every city, county, state that has serious financial issues has them due to the ridiculous salaries and benefits of municipal employees, benefits paid to retired municpal employees and out of control social spending and then listening to the endless jibber jabber of lefties.

  3. The inability to get elected as a Democrat in most of the country without the support of the public sector unions is the party’s single biggest flaw, since it makes it essentially impossible for Democrats to be fiscally responsible unless they are part of a divided government. That’s worked out semi-well in some places that have had that (like NYC in the last twenty years), but in places with a one-party monopoly, like Detroit, DC, or San Francisco, it’s a huge problem.

  4. San Fran’s a real dump, isn’t it? The residents there seem quite unhappy with their idyllic locale. Mass exodus from its disastrous city limits.
    Crank, you are the biggest douche on the planet. You will spin any crumble into fake bread. Non-story, non-issue, I’d live any day in SF over NYC, dude…

  5. Actually your average San Francisco liberal, like most liberals, are miserable angry little people who preach tolerance while going into a wide eyed frothing at the mouth at the whiff of any opinion they don’t subscibe to. San Francisco proper is a beautiful city that, unfortunately, is being run into the ground by their soviet style political system. Comparing San Francisco to NYC is like comparing the SF Giants to the NY Yankees. They both play baseball, but…

  6. fkuc, sounds like SF is where you belong…with all the other bitter, small minded liberals. Yes, liberals have all the answers and SF is a great example.

  7. *snaps fingers* – ah, it’s coming back to me why I moved my family from SF to the Atlanta suberbs. Not a regret in the world.

  8. SF is where conservatives stop with the “free-market” bullshit they’re always spouting about.
    If not, they’d have to explain why the worst city in the history of mankind has such high costs to live there.

  9. High taxes and rent control, which invariably produces an artificial shortage of housing stock, would be a good place to start. Add in the fact that SF lives off its history (e.g., why it was always a pictureasque city) and geography, which were there before the place went nuts.
    Those aren’t the only reasons, but you get my point.

  10. The SF Bay area is so expensive because they don’t let people build houses there. The higher the home prices the more restrictive the housing development. (Marin County resident)

  11. Crank,
    Seems to me, people would stop paying the high rents and just move to a place that’s cheaper and better—pretty much every other place in the country if consevatives are to be believed (always a perilous prospect). Yet they don’t. What’s that say about your supply-demand axis schtick?

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