Out of Patience in California
Residents are fed up with officials’ blatant disregard for the public interest.
Political atheism is spreading across California, and cynicism is taking hold. Reviling policymakers is not new, of course, but the current disdain is particularly intense. As elected officials’ disregard for constituents and the law becomes ever more evident, all but the most stalwart loyalists are turning against them.
Mistrust is worsened by Covid restrictions “for thee, but not for me.” In September, the unmasked Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, visited a San Francisco hair salon closed under strict emergency pandemic orders. Business owners had been forced to cease operations and the public was restricted from getting haircuts, but Pelosi made herself an exception. Her claims of a “setup,” and a demand that the salon owner apologize to her, did little to restore trust.
More recently, Governor Gavin Newsom instructed citizens to stay home for Thanksgiving and Christmas and avoid all contact with friends and family members from outside their households. Flaunting the rules, he dined at the luxurious French Laundry restaurant with a large group of associates. The result, reported Carla Marinucci in politico.com, was a blow to his approval ratings and inspiration for newfound vigor for his recall. County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl voted to ban all outdoor dining, which she described as “a most dangerous situation”; news soon emerged that she had dined outdoors, at Il Forno Trattoria in Santa Monica. San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo spent Thanksgiving at his parents’ home, apparently skirting health guidelines that urge the public to avoid such gatherings.
In San Francisco, trust in local government has reached a nadir. Mayor London Breed maintains some support, but it’s primarily due to her perceived success in keeping Covid cases down. It’s certainly not for increased quality of life, since the city grows filthier and more dangerous every day. Companies, small and large, are leaving. The decline of San Francisco is particularly distressing to those who stay.
Most city supervisors pander to extremist homeless activists, alienating the rest of the community. Supervisors Dean Preston, Matt Haney, and Shamann Walton are especially vilified for ignoring the plight of their districts. In the Bayview neighborhood, the city permitted a homeless camp to set up in front of several thriving businesses, blocking workers from entering. Violent crime is on the rise. When business owners pleaded with Walton for help, the supervisor refused to make any adjustments.
“I don’t trust supervisors to put us as their priority anymore,” says David Eisenberg, president of Micro-Tracers Inc., located adjacent to the campsite. “They want to keep everything secret. There is no consideration for the damage they’re doing. There’s a strong likelihood that 200 jobs will leave the city, all for 18 tents.”
District Attorney Chesa Boudin ran—and won—on criminal justice reform, assuring voters that the city would be safer. Instead, serious crimes spiked while prosecutions plummeted. SFPD data show that in one year, homicide has increased by 40 percent, burglary by 45.3 percent, motor vehicle theft by 32.7 percent, and arson by 33.3 percent. Victims are left without justice or recourse. Boudin blames a staffing shortage for the problem, but demands for his recall are escalating.
Los Angeles is also suffering with Eric Garcetti as mayor. Since November, hundreds of Black Lives Matter activists have been protesting outside Garcetti’s home to oppose his potential nomination to President-Elect Joe Biden’s cabinet. Protesters are calling Garcetti the worst mayor in the nation. “There is zero trust in him anymore,” says Kevin Dalton, who plans to oppose him in 2022. “Garcetti is a joke. He hasn’t been here for the city. It’s disheartening.” During Garcetti’s tenure, L.A.’s annual homeless count has steadily risen. Today, 66,433 people live on the city’s streets, up 12.7 percent from 2019. Dalton epitomizes the zeitgeist of Southern California. He’s a father, a small-business owner working on an app for tourism, and a yoga instructor. With about 75,000 avid Twitter followers, he’s generating buzz, mainly due to a reaction against the current administration’s failures.
A few California politicians are restoring hope. California assembly members James Gallagher and Kevin Kiley sued Newsom over his executive order that allowed him to enjoy one-man rule during an emergency. They won. Kiley was a vocal opponent of AB5, the law that decimated California’s gig economy. Dalton believes that people involved in the community should run for office—and, if they win, fix a few problems and get out. “That’s what the system was designed for,” says the politically independent contender. “Our forefathers didn’t think people would be in office for half a century. If your only goal is to defeat the other side, you’re already lost.”
Government officials have created an atmosphere of scorn in California and in great cities around the country. It won’t last. Everything has a bottom, and we’re scraping it. Americans deserve honesty, transparency, and accountability from their leaders. I’m confident that, in time, candidates offering those qualities will appear.