Having been born in San Francisco I have a special affinity for the town that only a native can have. Now that affinity has turned to ashes in my mouth and I’m about to choke on it.
When I was born the town was run by the Republicans, and had been for most of the century. That didn’t matter all that much because The City was always Bohemian at it’s core and a workingman’s town. In fact, the city looked like the photo to the right in 1958, and it was taken probably 500 feet from my boyhood home.That was my view on a clear day, looking straight down Market Street. I never knew how lucky I was, nor how terribly wrong it could all go.
The City danced to a different drummer back then, it always had even back to the Gold Rush days. All were welcome in San Francisco… well, except maybe not the blacks, but that’s a different story. There was a bustling port and downtown was the West Coast hub of finance and industry . Bank of America and Wells Fargo began here. Chevron, Bechtel, Swinerton Construction, the Pacific Stock Exchange. Southern Pacific Railroad built their massive corporate headquarters at #1 Market Street. That building still stands, called today “Landmark at One Market”. The company I work for has offices there.
There was always a Castro, it’s at the bottom center of that photo in fact. I can remember my parents and their friends talking about it and some of “the people” who lived there who helped make San Francisco a more unique place to live. As I grew there was the beat generation, the hippies, the Summer of Love, an amazing outpouring of music and artistry that made San Francisco rock. There were protests of conscience that made it roll. There were crimes of self styled revolution committed by spoiled white kids and poor blacks who’d fallen under the spell of Chairman Mao that shook The City to it’s core. Over time tourism took root and today millions of people visit San Francisco every year pumping billions of dollars into the local economy and city coffers. Then there was Multimedia Gulch south of Market as animation houses and software firms catering to them sprang up. Now is the high tech revolution as giants like Salesforce.com, Twitter and hundreds more minor players have come to call The City their home and begin to reshape it in their own image.
But through it all, there was always San Francisco. Even though I had moved away I always longed to go back. But I don’t any longer.
Starting in the 1960’s San Francisco began to tilt to the far left politically. It started out well enough with tough minded, old school, union backed Democrats slowly taking charge from the Republican establishment. As the old guard aged a new guard, made up largely of younger eastern and middle western radical leftists who came west, took over. They brought with them words like tolerance, political correctness and diversity. And it wasn’t long before a lot of people who thought and voted the same way they did had come to town. The power base became solidified and the politics of European style social democracy took root and, ultimately, took over. San Francisco became, in many ways, an old fashioned machine city, run with an iron political fist by one political party largely for it’s own benefit. And because the political power in California has almost always come from the San Francisco Bay Area that social democracy way of doing things has pervaded the state capitol and our state’s Congressional delegation. Our governor, lieutenant governor, our US senators and the always lovely and charming Rep. Nancy Pelosi are all products of the San Francisco machine. Go figure, right?
In an effort to be tolerant, welcoming and inclusive “The City that knows how” became “The City where anything goes”. The gay community suffered a nearly genocidal epidemic in the 70’s and 80’s furthered, in some part, by their own unwillingness to step back from that which was killing them. The homeless, drawn by a plethora of free (to them) social services invaded much of downtown leading to the kinds of street scenes below. Those scenes are everyday life in San Francisco, as are the constant smell of urine and feces left in doorways, on sidewalks and in public areas by those who choose to not take advantage of government shelters and live on the streets. Efforts to try, humanely and otherwise, to bring the problem under control are always met with protest, anger and resentment from “homeless advocates” who “respresent” the “homeless community”. More like perpetuating a permanent victim class to enrich themselves on grants and donations, if you ask me.
In 1989 a well meaning Board of Supervisors under then Mayor Art Agnos, who had himself at one time been a victim of an attempted murder by terrorists in the guise of black revolution, declared San Francisco to be a sanctuary city. While on face a noble idea it was always considered something of a dilettante play without much real effect.
Wind the clock forward to 2007 and enter this guy, then San Francisco Mayor and now Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom. Well remembered for forcing the gay marriage issue into the public consciousness here in California, he should also be remembered for signing Executive Order 07-01 which put teeth in The City’s sanctuary policy specifically with respect to illegal immigrants. It commands all city departments and officials to not cooperate with federal authorities regarding immigration issues. His action was in response to raids conducted by federal immigration agents within San Francisco which were, of course, immediately denounced by “immigrant advocates”. All things considered, advocacy seems to be on thing The City is never short of. Unfortunately, and like most social democracy policies, the law of unintended consequences has brought it’s hand into the game.
San Francisco quickly became known, along with several other large cities up and down the coast, as somewhere that illegal immigrants… and particularly criminal illegal immigrants, could live largely without fear of La Migra. Illegal immigrants who committed crimes were handled like just everyone else. No calls to Immigration and Customs Enforcement. In some cases illegal immigrant juvenile offenders were warehoused from San Francisco out to other counties to keep them off the feds radar. Such was the story of MS-13 gang member Edwin Ramos who murdered Tony Bologna and his two sons in 2008 before the ink on Mayor Newsom’s order was barely dry.
Ramos didn’t intend to shoot down the Bologna family in the street like he did. He thought they were members of a rival gang, who he did intend to kill but what’s that? Oh well, I guess. Never mind that he had a juvenile record two yards long. So what that he already had one gang murder under his belt? He needed sanctuary, damnit!!! Mayor Newsom’s response was to amend his order to allow juvenile immigrant felons to be brought to federal attention. For his part Ramos got a 183 years to life prison sentence because then District Attorney, now Attorney General and preparing to run for US Senate, Kamala Harris refused to pursue a death penalty because she is morally opposed to capital punishment.
But after the Bologna murders began to fade from local consciousness things got pretty much back to where they were before under the Newsom order and the sanctuary ordinance. Particularly after Governor Jerry Brown signed the Trust Act in 2013 which gave California cities with sanctuary policies more leeway under state law to give the feds the finger.Such is the world of social democracy, after all… giving the finger to whomever or whatever it is that is found disagreeable to the agenda or to the permanent victim class.
So let’s move forward again to just a few days ago. A sunny afternoon in July along what was once San Francisco’s industrial waterfront but has become a mecca for locals, tourists, the homeless and the odd criminal illegal immigrant or two. It was at what is still called Pier 14, a public promenade that juts out into San Francisco Bay just north of the Bay Bridge.
We still don’t know fully what happened but the facts of the matter seem plain. Kate Steinlee; a bright and beautiful 32 year old Bay Area resident was walking with her father when she was shot without warning. She died a short time later while police were finding and arresting her killer. That turned out to be Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez, a criminal immigrant originally from Mexico, with seven felony convictions in the United States and five prior deportations. At the time of the shooting he had been released from jail after a drug charge was dismissed. Even though immigration authorities had placed a detainer on him, and had requested the San Francisco Sheriff’s Department notify them when he was to be released so they could take simply take custody of him. That call was never made as it is the policy of the sheriff to not honor any immigration detainer requests.
Now that the poop is in the fan the engine that is the government we so richly deserve has swung into high gear. The sheriff says his hands are tied by the city’s sanctuary policy. The mayor’s office says the sheriff has discretion under the policy and that the mayor himself is “concerned”. DHS ICE says they didn’t want the guy held for them, they just wanted a phone call when he was going to be released, eh? The federal Bureau of Prisons shuffled him off to the sheriff to stand trial on a drug charge that wound up getting dismissed, rather than notify DHS ICE that he guy was good to go for deportation. The White House says it’s all the Republican’s fault and questions about procedure should be directed to DHS, thank you very much. At the end of the day all I could think of was the classic Thomas Nast cartoon of New York’s infamous Tammany machine that pretty much ran things there for decades.
Meanwhile, Mr. Lopez-Sanchez will not face a death penalty beef because the current San Francisco DA, former police chief George Gascon, is morally opposed to it just like his predecessor Ms. Harris is. So in the end this guy will get life, which means he’ll be eligible to get out in seven years. And when he does parole the odds are pretty good that no one will pick up the phone and call the feds.
Think about that for a minute and try not to throw up in your mouth.