A recent ranking by WalletHub shows that, out of 149 U.S. cities, San Francisco ranks at the bottom for management. We who live and work here are not surprised. San Francisco’s troubles are self-inflicted. In aggregate, Mayor London Breed and the majority of the city’s 11 district supervisors have made the decisions that got us here.
Breed and the supervisors have allowed the Department of Public Health and the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing to become massive, inefficient fiefdoms. The chief medical examiner’s report showed that from January to May 2023, 346 people in the city died of drug overdoses—a 40 percent increase over the same period last year. Open-air drug scenes have led to crime, squalor, and drug tourism. City leaders claim to have made some progress with the drug problem, but residents don’t see it, and they’re not buying officials’ attempts to spin the fentanyl and overdose crisis as proof that the city needs sanctioned drug-use sites. The mayor, the Board of Supervisors, well-compensated nonprofits, and city departments want such sites; residents do not. The disaster of the Linkage Center—a city-run site for addicts that opened last year and quickly deteriorated into a drug-consumption den—was just too damning. No one wants that chaotic mess on his block.
People from all districts have lost faith in San Francisco’s governance. A 2023 Probolsky Research survey found that the majority of San Franciscans (57 percent) have an unfavorable view of the mayor, and 73 percent believe that the city is on the wrong track. In a 2022 San Francisco Chronicle poll, a paltry 12 percent say that the Board of Supervisors has done a good or excellent job in making the city a better place.
There is no mystery about what needs doing. If the leaders in city government were to stop pontificating and start performing their jobs, the public would respond.
Officials need to listen to what law-abiding citizens want and stop catering to radical groups like the Coalition on Homelessness, which has made it nearly impossible to get people off the street and into shelter. The city needs to provide people suffering from mental illness and addiction with real care, not ever more radical harm-reduction methods. It must ensure a clean and safe commercial environment and take steps to inspire companies to come to the financial district (and stay), where they can employ thousands of Bay Area residents. No one wants to shop (or work) in stores and malls that are being looted, or to patronize restaurants and bars with outdoor areas filled with human waste—and wasted humans. And the city needs to shore up its thinning police ranks; it can start by dismantling the Police Commission, which works against law enforcement.
Mayor Breed finally seems to understand the magnitude of her constituents’ anger. The city has at last begun to crack down on drug dealing, with 58 people arrested in a recent ten-day span. A mere 8 percent of these arrestees were San Francisco residents. On June 22, Breed announced that the city would take firmer action against drug use and possession, too. Starting in July, the city will force people taken into custody into a special court that will refer them to drug treatment, mental-health care, and other necessary programs.
It’s a start, but if Breed and the supervisors don’t pivot hard and show voters a vastly improved city, they will be in trouble come Election Day next year.