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November 13 2019

Coastal Civic Decline and San Francisco's New DA

by Charlotte Hays

The Los Angeles homeless man who emptied a bucket of diarrhea on the head of Heidi Van Tassel, who was returning to her car after an evening with friends, is already out and back on the streets.

Van Tassel described what happened to her to a Los Angeles TV station:

"It was diarrhea. Hot liquid. I was soaked, and it was coming off my eyelashes and into my eyes," Van Tassel said. "Paramedics who came to treat me said there was so much of it on me, that it looked like the man was saving it up for a month."

Van Tassel was rushed to Hollywood Presbyterian Hospital after the grotesque attack, where she was tested for infectious diseases caused by contact with feces. She'll need to be retested every three months.

The man who attacked Van Tassel was found incompetent to stand trial because of mental illness, according to an informative item in Hot Air, and sent to a mental facility from which he already has made his way back to the streets. A quick return to the streets is not unusual:

The NBC4 clip [on the diarrhea attack] points out another case in which a homeless man with four previous felonies attacked two random people on the street in the space of a minute. He was given a citation for battery and released. A few months later there was a very similar attack in the same area, though the person responsible wasn’t arrested in that case, not that it would have mattered much if he had been.

I’m not conflating Los Angeles with San Francisco, but it does seem that the two once-fabulous coastal cities are seeing a breakdown of civic order. 

This could get a lot worse for San Francisco after the election of a new District Attorney, who promised not to prosecute quality of life offenses. The Wall Street Journal cleverly captures the ironic circumstances surrounding the election of San Francisco’s new DA:

The deterioration of the City by the Bay has been tragic to watch. From the Tenderloin to Mid-Market to the Mission, open use of narcotics is commonplace, homeless encampments dominate public spaces, and human feces dot the sidewalks. The middle class has fled punishing housing costs, and neighborhoods are increasingly plagued with burglaries and property crimes.

Last week San Francisco voters said, “more, please.” Weekend ballot counts clinched the election by a thin margin of far-left public defender Chesa Boudin as district attorney.

Mr. Boudin has been described as part of a wave of “progressive prosecutors,” like Philadelphia’s Larry Krasner, who are winning elections in liberal cities. These prosecutors lecture the public about racism, take an adversarial tone toward police, and often oversee a spike in crime, especially in poor and minority neighborhoods.

No surprise, shortly before the election, Mother Jones, the lefty magazine, had an article questioning whether Boudin is “radical enough.” Just barely, apparently. The magazine found him very much in line with the progressive wing of the Democratic Party.

Boudin, as you probably know, has an impeccable radical background.

I was struck at Mother Jones’ attempt to describe how Boudin has been formed by this:  

Boudin’s earliest memories, he likes to say in stump speeches, are of waiting in long lines full of Black and Brown women and children and going through prison gates to visit his parents. In his telling, his youth was shaped by these confrontations with the mass incarceration machine.

He has witnessed how the criminal justice system tears apart communities and families, and exacts a brutal, asymmetric toll on communities of color.

First off, just to clarify, Boudin’s parents were not in prison because of some mass incarceration machine. His family had been torn apart by injustice all right—but not injustice of the prison system. His parents were convicted of a heinous crime.

Chesa’s parents, Kathy Boudin and David Gilbert, were members of the Weather Underground. They were in prison because in 1981 they drove the getaway car in the armed robbery of a Brinks armored car that led to three murders (the Brinks driver and two policemen).

Kathy Boudin was released from on parole in 2013 and is now an adjunct professor at Columbia University. 9The three who died in the Brinks robbery are still dead.) Mom isn’t the only member of the new DA’s family to have Ivy League credentials. San Francisco’s new DA is a Rhodes Scholar who studied at Oxford University in England and has a law degree from Yale University.

I can’t help thinking that there are better lessons that he could have drawn from the sad experience of visiting his parents in prison. Such as that, much as one might love one’s parents, it is wrong to kill two policemen and a Brinks driver.

Chesa Boudin apparently plans to ignore offenses that make life difficult for regular folks. Here from City Journal are some of the offenses he will not prosecute:

Boudin pledged to stop taking first-offense drunk drivers to trial, providing they didn’t injure anyone. He promised to end gang enhancements, part of a California law that adds additional prison sentences to defendants who participate in violent street gangs.

As for quality-of-life crimes that harm communities, hes been open about ignoring them, stating that “crimes such as public camping, offering or soliciting sex, public urination, blocking a sidewalk, etc., should not and will not be prosecuted.”

Boudin has said that he will end the “criminalization of poverty.”

In my experience, the poor are not especially prone to public urination, blocking sidewalks, and soliciting sex. 

Ignoring such offenses will lead to more civic breakdown. 

And this will harm everybody, the law-abiding poor, who don't have the means to escape, most of all.

 

 





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