The Politics of San Francisco's Homelessness Problem

About a year ago, in January 2017, Leilani Farha visited the city of San Francisco and was appalled at the extent of the substandard housing conditions suffered by San Francisco's homeless population.  Leilani works for the United Nations as a special rapporteur on adequate housing.  She travels around the world to investigate housing conditions and called the housing conditions of San Francisco's homeless "unacceptable."  She concluded that California "is allowing, by international human rights standards," conditions are that "deplorable." 

This is particularly disturbing when one considers that California is the most populous and the wealthiest state in the wealthiest country in the world.  San Francisco has made some effort to deal with homelessness.  The city spent $275 million on homelessness in the fiscal year that ended in June 2017 and is expanding that to $305 million for the year that ends in June 2018.

But that is not enough, since there is a long waiting list for nighttime shelters.  Visitors to San Francisco are appalled to see persons on sidewalks committing drug crimes such as injecting themselves with needles.  And the city has areas now fouled by the smell of human waste. 

One has to wonder what San Francisco, which has some of the wealthiest citizens in the nation, is doing with all their money.  After all, the major tenet of liberalism, which San Francisco declares is its guiding public policy, is to help the disadvantaged and poor. 

In order to understand the lack of financial commitment to helping the homeless, it may be helpful to review the salaries of San Francisco County "public servants."  Their jobs, and their professed mission, is to devote themselves to helping the needy.  There is no shortage of money, but there appears to be a shortage of commitment to allocating public taxes to helping the homeless. 

The money goes to those who are dedicated to helping the homeless.  There are many examples of salary extravagance.  For example, according to the website TransparentCalifornia. com, Madonna P. Valencia, the manager of the Dept. of Public Health, had a salary of $275,395.65 in 2016.  In addition to that, she received benefits of $65,154.15 in that year for a total compensation package of $340,549.80.  Another manager of public health, Theresa A. Dentoni, received $276,109.42 in 2016 and benefits of $64,073.87 for a total of $340,183.73.  And this in a city that cannot afford to make portable toilets available to residents.

The assistant medical examiner, Harminder S. Niarula, another person in public health, had a total salary in 2016 of $336,000.  Stephen C. Wu, a senior physician specialist, earned $336,000 in 2016.  Another supervising physician specialist, Catherine T. James, collected $333,000.  And nursing supervisor Patricia Carr got $333,000.

The list of those in public health working for the County of San Francisco goes on and on.  It appears that $300,000 is a benchmark for the top officials.  There are about 300 persons in San Francisco County's government who received a salary in the $300,000 to $400,000 area.  Then there are over 2,300 people working for the County of San Francisco who earn between $200K and $300K a year.

The point is, these people, numbering less than 2,300, took in about $575,000,000 in 2016 just in salary and benefits.  If you add those who made from $300K to $400K in 2016, that's an additional $100 million.  So in 2016, San Francisco County spent about $675,000,000 on just 2,600 salaried employees.  That's over a half-billion dollars taken by less than 3,000 people while in 2017 at least 12,000 persons lived on the streets, and San Francisco couldn't afford to provide portable toilets to them or overnight sleeping facilities.

This kind of economic argument is made all the time by Democrats, who say the top CEOs can afford to pay their employees more.  The voters of San Francisco have the right to ask why, if the top officials of San Francisco make this amount of money, some can't be set aside for the homeless of San Francisco, especially since San Francisco likes to boast that it is the most liberal and accommodating city to those in need. 

Perhaps someone should sue the City of San Francisco, using the argument that the primary function of government is public safety and health.  For once, a federal Judge might make a ruling to force pay cuts for these people and devote more of the county's resources to paying for facilities to meet the health needs of the homeless. 

So far, the liberal rhetoric of San Francisco has succeeded only in making public employees wealthy, not safeguarding the public health and safety of the residents.  Amid the wealth and luxury of San Francisco, there is a growing population of poor and destitute residents.  This argues more for the idea that liberalism is just good old-fashioned government greed: once in power, government employees make themselves wealthy at the expense of everyone else and create the traditional exploitive society where the few live by impoverishing the many. 

The facts are clear: in the most liberal and progressive and Democrat-controlled city in the country, one can find the largest homeless population living in the unhealthiest conditions of any city.

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