Thursday, December 17, 2009

Subterranean Hometown Blues

Everybody is linking to this SF Weekly story about San Francisco being the "worst run city in America," so I might as well, too. Not sure how many people will care about it; most of the story deals with years old local issues like the library bond, the water bond, an incompetent Park & Rec director, and the like. Still, it's nice to see everything laid out in one place: The Worst Run Big City In The US

Despite its good intentions, San Francisco is not leading the country in gay marriage. Despite its good intentions, it is not stopping wars. Despite its spending more money per capita on homelessness than any comparable city, its homeless problem is worse than any comparable city's. Despite its spending more money per capita, period, than almost any city in the nation, San Francisco has poorly managed, budget-busting capital projects, overlapping social programs no one is certain are working, and a transportation system where the only thing running ahead of schedule is the size of its deficit.

It's time to face facts: San Francisco is spectacularly mismanaged and arguably the worst-run big city in America. This year's city budget is an astonishing $6.6 billion — more than twice the budget for the entire state of Idaho — for roughly 800,000 residents. Yet despite that stratospheric amount, San Francisco can't point to progress on many of the social issues it spends liberally to tackle — and no one is made to answer when the city comes up short.

The city's ineptitude is no secret. "I have never heard anyone, even among liberals, say, 'If only [our city] could be run like San Francisco,'" says urbanologist Joel Kotkin. "Even other liberal places wouldn't put up with the degree of dysfunction they have in San Francisco. In Houston, the exact opposite of San Francisco, I assume you'd get shot."

All too true, but ... worse major city in the US? In the entire US? Worse than Detroit? Worse than Oakland? Worse than DC? Worse than New Orleans? Worse than Baltimore? I don't think so.

SF may be full of smug liberals. Its voters may fall like a ton of bricks for every campaign ad pleading "for the children." Its streets may be full of drug addicts and panhandlers. The buses may not run on time. Etc. But compared to most other major US cities, SF is safe (crime is mercifully low, which is a good thing when the DA doesn't prosecute and the police are only good at directing traffic around traffic jams created by leftists "taking it to the streets"). It has cute neighborhoods. It has plenty of nice parks and open space. And, we have "only in SF" events like the fall Bluegrass Festival that would not happen in a truly dysfunctional city.

I know conservatives love to read any bad news about SF. But, it's not the hellhole on a scale that progressives have created in places like North Korea, Cuba, or Berkeley.

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