Dear Governor Newsom:
There’s a saying that the definition of chutzpah is the man who kills his parents and then asks the court for sympathy because he’s an orphan. Today you displayed that sort of temerity in your letter on the subject of homelessness to President Trump. In what will go down as one of the most shameless examples of buck-passing in the annals of American political history you asserted, “We all agree that homelessness is a national crisis decades in the making.”
You and the rest of California’s political class have been bludgeoning this expired equine for the last year. You push the notion of homelessness as a national problem with ephemeral causes dating back decades not because it’s accurate but because it absolves you and California’s political class of accountability.
Let us be crystal on a few critical points, Mr. Governor. First, no one outside the Sacramento echo chamber is buying what you’re selling. While homelessness is by no means exclusively a California phenomenon, this state’s crisis is entirely self-inflicted. You should stop claiming otherwise, because you’re embarrassing yourself and the state in front of the entire nation.
Second, the rot of California’s homeless crisis is a direct result of conscious policy decisions by you and your party over the last half century. In that way the crisis is decades old, but it’s strictly of your party’s making, a party forever finding new ways to make life in the Golden State more expensive and less livable. You impose costs on small businesses with empty gestures like the plastic straw ban, only to turn around and hand out millions of plastic syringes to addicts. I don’t know about you, Mr. Governor, but I’ve never worried about impaling my foot on a plastic straw at the beach or park. And if you ask Flipper, I’m guessing he’d rather contend with straws than infected needles. Meanwhile, the purported benefits of these so-called “needle exchange” programs – to the extent there are any – have been negated by official incompetence.
Which is one of myriad examples of how your policies and those of your Party created the homeless crisis. For starters, you’ve made it easy for people to destroy themselves with addiction. Thanks to legislation and litigation – not to mention relentless pressure by a hydra-headed confederacy of “progressive” nonprofits, foundations, activists, consultants, lawyers, unionistas, and others – today in California a person can get high in public, wander drunk down the street, and relieve themselves on the side of a school building, all without fearing so much as a sideways glance from a cop. No intervention, no action, move along, nothing to see here.
As a consequence, a person can waste away in a tent on city property without anyone noticing. That’s not hyperbole: Two weeks ago on nextdoor.com, a Hollywood resident posted pictures of a place where that exact scenario played out. A man expired inside his tent in the parking lot of a city of Los Angeles senior services center, literally 25 feet from the front door. I spoke with a number of homeless people in the area, and they told me the person was there for less than a week, and that he never came out of his tent. It was 95 degrees the day I spoke with those folks, meaning it would be at least 120 inside a tent. Yet according to a woman who identified herself as Aquarius, none of the city workers bothered to check on him until he started to decompose. It wasn’t professional responsibility or common decency that prompted city employees’ attention. It was the stench of death.
In fact, Aquarius told me that another homeless person had been camping in the parking lot a couple of weeks earlier. One day she brought him a bottle of water and some food. The staff at the senior center rebuked her and told her that if she continued giving handouts they would bar her from the center. “I can’t help wondering if I could have helped that person,” she told me, nodding at the bouquet of flowers she and a friend had placed at the site. A flash of pain showed in her blue eyes.
In short, as a direct result of your Party’s policies countless thousands of people are slowly dying. Nearly 1,000 homeless people perished in Los Angeles last year, a number that’s sure to increase this year. This is the situation in the richest city in the richest state in the richest country in human history.
Meanwhile, under anodyne-sounding euphemisms like “prison realignment,” your Party has released tens of thousands of felons onto the streets – including violent sex offenders – with no plan for integrating them back into society. Many of them have ended up homeless, contributing to an epidemic of criminal behavior.
Or at least, their behavior used to be criminal, but your Party has taken care of that, too, hasn’t it? Rather than acknowledge the catastrophe of policies like AB 109 you and your Party have effectively decriminalized dozens of felonies. You unilaterally put a moratorium on the death penalty, and now you’re pushing for parole reviews for murderers. The chaos on our streets is a mystery to no one but you, Mr. Governor.
Your Party has imposed other outrageous policies like “Complete Streets,” which have contributed to snarled traffic and gridlock that, again, impose the greatest costs on the state’s most vulnerable. I’m a lawyer and a journalist, Mr. Governor. I can make $500 an hour sitting in my car taking phone calls. The Mexican immigrant in the pickup over in the next lane? Not so much. He’s trying to get from his house in Pacoima (the only place he can afford to live thanks to the state’s outrageously warped housing policies, another Democrat gift) to his landscaping gig in Brentwood. The 90 minutes he’s on the road is nothing but wasted time and extra expenses. At some point those added burdens could break him.
And that’s the central point you and your party have missed: Every traffic jam costs you support. Every smashed window, every night of disturbed sleep, every assault, every tax increase, every trash pile, every wildfire, and every petty indignity is another Californian walking away from you and your party. Every new homeless encampment, our very own Newsomvilles, weakens you and your party. Eventually the people will revolt. If the election of Donald Trump has taught us anything it’s that conventional political wisdom is no longer a reliable indicator of outcomes, much less the public’s attitudes.
If I were you, that idea would keep me awake at night. We know you don’t lose sleep over the issues affecting actual Californians – that much has been clear since your feckless turn as San Francisco mayor (Brittanie Mountz, Mr. Governor, really?). When you were a supervisor you saw a mayor in the mirror, when you were mayor you saw a governor, and now that you’re governor you see – God help us – a president. If I were you I’d be staring at the ceiling at 3a.m. terrified that tonight will be, excuse the pun, the last straw. That tonight will be the night reality catches up with you and your party. That tonight will be the hundred thousandth smash and grab, and that will be the tipping point. Or worse, that tonight will see an atrocity even worse than the ones you and your party already have unleashed.
Last week I wrote that California is a failed state. I was not being hyperbolic – after a half century of virtual one-party rule nearly every public institution is collapsing from within, from our schools to our streets to our courts and our jails. Atop it all sit you and your party, surveying the devastation and then begging help from a President you openly loathe.
Which raises the final critical question: Even if the federal government were to open its till and send you the billions you request, why should anyone in California – much less the rest of the country – have a scintilla of confidence that you and your Party will spend the money effectively, much less wisely? Looking at the Democrats’ handiwork in the state – Failed school systems, mass poverty, rampant crime, crumbling infrastructure, public corruption, out-of-control living costs, illegal immigration, the destruction of the middle class, crushing taxes and regulations, bloated bureaucracies – how can you expect us to believe that you’ll solve a homeless crisis you created? When we look at the nearly $2 trillion in debt and public liabilities for which you and your party have us on the hook, why should we have any faith in your policy discipline? In short, how can we possibly believe that after 50 years you’re finally going to get it right on this one?
The answer, of course, is that we don’t. Which is why a reckoning is coming to Queen Califia’s land, Mr. Governor. There are already innumerable examples of citizens taking what’s left of the law into their own hands. Trust me when I tell you that vigilante justice is already here, and it’s entirely understandable and rational under the circumstances. You and your party have lost control.
You can only push people so far – every tin pot dictator in history eventually learns that lesson. You will, too. Only it will be too late for your political career. You’ve already lost the center, the right was never in play, and now you’re even losing the left. The only question is how it will end: Recall, electoral defeat, legal action. Perhaps a full-on revolution.
Meanwhile, the rest of us can only pray it won’t be too late to rescue what’s left of our once beautiful state. California deserves so much better.