San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer offered a common sense approach to the continuing homeless crisis in California and in so doing he dares to take a stand against the political correctness that often creates obstacles to solving the problem.
Faulconer announced that he is forming a committee to develop a ballot initiative to deal with the homeless problem from many angles. He intends to give back to cities the power to encourage the homeless to accept treatment or shelter beds. He wants to undo some of the laws that he feels have permitted drug use and criminal activity, boldly saying in his State of the City speech that voters were “sold a bill of goods under the guise of criminal justice reform.”
He pointed to the successful ballot measures, Propositions 47 and 57, that amounted to what Faulconer termed a “slap on the wrist” for drug use. Excessive and out-of-control drug use is one of the driving forces behind the homelessness epidemic, Faulconer contends. “These laws are letting people slowly kill themselves right in front of our eyes.”
“California has lost its way on homelessness,” the mayor said in announcing his committee effort in his city speech, “and it’s up to us to find our moral compass once again. We have to be honest with ourselves about why so many people are living on the street. We have to speak the truth about what causes homelessness, no matter how uncomfortable it is.”
In taking a stand on the responsibility of those homeless who are often excused for their behavior and for objecting to the consequences of laws passed under the justice reform umbrella, Faulconer sets himself up to challenge prevalent politically correct positions.
Politically correct attitudes often chill debate by trying to shout down alternative ideas. That shuts off possible solutions to serious problems and even constructs barriers to compromise.
Faulconer was moved to do something about the homeless crisis in San Diego when there was an outbreak of hepatitis. For the mayor, the homeless issue became a public health concern not only for the people in the homeless encampments but for the population at large. Common sense said the problem must be attacked head on.
Faulconer said the city deployed nurses and paramedics to every riverbed, canyon and street corner, and vaccinated more than one hundred thousand people; educated the public; sanitized the streets and sidewalks; and built four bridge shelters. According to the mayor, San Diego County is the only county in the state that saw the homeless population drop last year, falling 9 percent in the city while homeless populations exploded in other major California cities.
The organization Faulconer founded, “Rebuilding the California Dream Committee,” is working to take Faulconer’s homeless solutions statewide.
Will he succeed? A statewide ballot proposition is a daunting task. Faulconer said he was not on the ballot this year (his term as San Diego mayor is ending) so he can say anything he wants. Might he, as California politicians in the past have, attempt to use the ballot initiative as a platform to seek another office in 2022, when all the state constitutional offices and the Kamala Harris senate seat are up for election?
Faulconer’s common sense approach has a familiar ring. George Deukmejian, California’s highly successful governor in the 1980s, called for “a common-sense approach to running government.” Deukmejian’s chief concern was law and order and public safety. Faulconer’s approach to the homelessness problem falls under that broad canopy of public health and public safety.