California could learn something from President Trump’s slogan, “America First.” The state holds itself out as a model to the world when it comes to protecting the environment and social issues. But when it comes to taking care of its own, it fails miserably.
Whether it is homelessness, shoddy roads, overcrowded prisons, uncontrolled wildfires, horrendous traffic, or illegal immigrant crime, California has again and again demonstrated a failure to provide the most basic government services – despite being the wealthiest and highest- taxed state in the U.S.
And now another problem threatens to make the others seem like minor inconveniences. There has been a typhus outbreak in Los Angeles as a result of the city’s failure to keep its streets and sidewalks clean.
Los Angeles County officials said the outbreak was linked to overcrowding downtown of homeless people and generally unsanitary conditions. At least one employee at a city police station has contracted the disease.
In fact, city police stations are infested with vermin, including rats and fleas. According to a Los Angeles Times report, the LAPD’s downtown station is so unsanitary that the California Department of Industrial Relations has issued six violations against the police department.
This comes on the heels of a similar report of infestation at the Los Angeles City Hall last year.
The problem of trash, rodents and unsanitary conditions used to be relegated to homeless encampments in the city. And that remains no small problem.
According to the city’s Department of Public Works, there is a backlog on over 8,000 service calls for trash pickup around homeless encampments. There are reports that the garbage is also the result of illegal dumping by local restaurants and businesses seeking to avoid the city’s exorbitant new garbage and recycling fees.
Lest you think these conditions are unique to Los Angeles, San Francisco continues to struggle with its own problem of human feces on the streets. The number of reports of unwelcome deposits of human waste has grown from about 5,000 in 2011 to more than 25,000 last year.
And in San Diego, a recent Hepatitis A outbreak linked to unsanitary living conditions among its homeless population infected over 600 people, resulting in 20 deaths.
Rather than tending to these most basic problems, California is spending billions of dollars building a bullet train modeled after those in France. And Los Angeles is spending millions of dollars building bike lanes modeled after those in Copenhagen.
But California is looking less and less like the European-style utopia it seeks to be, and more and more like a Central American country.
The key leaders are absent. Mayor Eric Garcetti spent the last two years exploring a run for president. California’s new governor, Gavin Newsom, flew to El Salvador to inspect that nation’s poverty and crime issues within three months after taking office, pledging to help build up that country.
All of this leaves Californians to ponder: When will we be put first?