11 October 2007

Frisco Bloody Frisco

I'm in receipt of an email from the legendary Dallas Denery of the even more legendary band Sweet Baby, in which he admonishes me, "Please stop bashing the Bay Area in your blog. I love it and would live there in a heart beat. THE WEST IS THE BEST BABY!"

Well, I don't know if I can completely go along with that sentiment, though it was one I wholeheartedly shared for many years, say from 1968 until at least the early 90s. But since Dallas puts it that way, I do have to acknowledge that perhaps I've been a bit hard on the Bay Area, especially Berkeley and San Francisco. I've often explained that my feelings are not ones of actual loathing or even dislike, but rather more of disappointment that what I once unhesitatingly thought of as the best place on earth to live had become, well, not so much the kind of place I'd want to live at all.

But still, like Dallas, I would live there "in a heartbeat," the only difference being that in my case certain conditions would have to be met, most of them having to do with Baghdad By The Bay becoming a little less like, well, Baghdad. For instance, getting its crime rate down to at least something like New York levels (not too much to ask from what is essentially a small town, is it?) and putting an end to the practice of allowing its main streets to be used as an open-air asylum (and toilet, and shooting gallery) for the desperate and deranged.

Perhaps I gave up on Frisco just a minute too soon, for it seems as though the worm is finally turning and local residents reaching the end of their tethers with regard to the loony fetishization of feral behavior that has gradually transformed the City of Saint Francis from a welcoming bohemian haven to North America's most overpriced (albeit beautiful) slum.

The Chronicle has been running a series of articles on the problem of the "homeless" (the real problem of course being dysfunctional and antisocial people who in many cases do have homes, or could if they chose to). Nothing new there, but what has changed is the volume and vitriol of reader comments, such as these and these. It kind of reminds me of the way New Yorkers were feeling when, after 20 years of spiraling crime rates and a collapsing quality of life, they finally laid aside their traditional ultra-liberalism and tolerance and turned to Rudy Giuliani to sort out the disaster their city had become.

San Francisco's Gavin Newsom is as far from being a Giuliani as Frisco is from Manhattan, though you wouldn't know it from the squawks of the city's dwindling band of far leftists who see every attempt to maintain even the most minimal standards of civil behavior as jackbooted assaults against "the poor" and/or "people of color."

Never mind that it is only in their ideologically skewed world that a shortage of cash or a surfeit of melanin are inextricably linked with criminal and antisocial behavior, and that most poor people don't find it necessary to crap in doorways or roll around in their own drug or alcohol-induced vomit. The far left needs victims to act as poster children for its indictment of capitalism, and if that requires keeping thousands of damaged individuals on the streets and in turn destroying the social fabric that makes community possible, so be it.

My guess, though, is that the nihilists and Guardianistas (I refer, of course, to the SF Bay Guardian, whose scabrous rabble rousers make those of London's traditional left-wing paper look like pillars of the establishment) have finally had their day. Unable even to mount an opposition candidate to Gavin Newsom's re-election bid (whereas four years ago their boy Matt Gonzalez very nearly became mayor), they're swimming against the tide of prevailing political currents and now, it seems, popular opinion as well. I see big changes in store for Frisco in the next couple years, most but not all for the better.

On the downside, I might never be able to afford to live there again, though that might be an upside for certain San Franciscans who were glad to see the back of me. More importantly, I'm cautiously optimistic that sanity is finally returning to the city I once loved so much and - yes, I'll admit it - in my heart of hearts, still do.


Anonymous said...

I don't know if New Yorkers "turned to Guiliani"- it was lesser of two clowns. The crime rate was already dropping and did so nationwide and Rudy walked into the curve as well as a booming economy, just like Bill Clinton riding the upswing in the late 90's. Yes Rudy implemented different methods w/ Bratton his police chief. But at the same time, how many unarmed non-white men were killed (Amadou Diallo,Patrick Dorismond, etc), or detained under the "stop and frisk" procedures, which allowed cops to stop and frisk people without any real cause. Due to his illegal methods, he left the city paying out large sums in court cases of which my taxes go to. He's a petty bully and his methods were not unlike the "prevention" methods our current president has cloaked himself in. As you didn't live here during his reign, I think you are a bit mistaken on how he was as a mayor.

Larry Livermore said...

Are you sure you were here during the Giuliani era? If so, you might at least know how to spell his name.

But assuming that's just a typo, you're repeating a popular leftist myth, i.e., that Giuliani just happened to show up when things were already getting better and that he personally had little or nothing to do with New York City's dramatic turnaround.

The problem with that narrative is that it leaves you having to explain why, while New York was becoming one of the safest and most livable cities in America, many other American cities were standing still or - as in the case of San Francisco - going backwards.

New York crime rates are still dropping; those in San Francisco and Oakland are soaring. What's the variable? The Bay Area economy is in excellent shape, probably even more so than New York's; what's different is that the Bay Area is still suffering under David Dinkins-style government, a lethal cocktail of incompetence, corruption and misplaced tolerance for what should be intolerable.

You ask how many nonwhite men were killed in New York during the Giuliani era? By almost any calculation, hundreds, far, far fewer than died under the Dinkins administration. You cite two black men who died under tragic circumstances at the hands of the NYPD, but somehow overlook the thousands who would have died had New York's murder rate remained where it was. And who still are dying on a nearly daily basis because the San Francisco and Oakland police departments are incapable of enforcing the basic rule of law in large parts of their cities. Are those black men any less dead because their killers weren't wearing uniforms?

The fact is that life in New York is far safer today for people of all races, especially including African-Americans: they were disproportionately the victims of murder and violence in the bad old days, and they are the chief beneficiaries of the huge decreases in crime brought about by Mayors Giuliani and Bloomberg and their respective police commissioners. No, Giuliani was not perfect, but New York was very nearly a basket case when he took office. A milder-mannered, more temperate man probably wouldn't have been able to accomplish what he did (witness the genial but largely ineffectual Gavin Newsom in San Francisco). On balance, he did far more good than harm.

Anonymous said...

"New York crime rates are still dropping; those in San Francisco and Oakland are soaring. What's the variable?" This brings up an interesting question as when Rudy was hired by other cities to replicate his success in NY, he couldn't.

I don't think that he had nothing to do with the way crime was handled in New York, just that it crossed the line. Do the ends justify the means? NYC paid a lot of money in out of court settlements for serious violations of civil rights. I don't think things should have been left as they were, but he supported methods that weren't legal and I think that cost is high for all of us.

mzmeg said...

Nice blog, good discussions!

Um, but you can't call it "Frisco". Nails, chalkboard, the whole drill.


Larry Livermore said...

Yes you can. Herb Caen, rest his soul, gave the all clear before shuffling off this mortal coil.