California is Dying

c.a.

The Living Force
FOTCM Member


Read a smattering of national and even international news headlines and you can see it: San Francisco has an image problem.

It’s not just conservative media slamming the city. The New York Times, the Economist, even British-based publications like the Independent and Sunday Times have run recent stories on the state of San Francisco, ranging from its highly visible housing issues to its shoplifting problems.

“Why San Francisco’s city government is so dysfunctional,” reads a headline from the Economist. “Crime is basically legal in San Francisco,” says another headline from the Daily Mail. The New York Times, meanwhile, just ran an article stating that “the mundane crime of shoplifting has spun out of control in San Francisco, forcing some chain stores to close.” (SFGATE has published a deeper investigation into this claim.)

Ian Davis, a professor of media studies at UC Berkeley, told SFGATE, “Yes, San Francisco's progressive image in the American mind makes it a prime target for conservatives to criticize. It often functions as a symbol of liberal or Democratic policies.”

Indeed, a cursory search of Fox News headlines from the past week displays an obvious bias in coverage. “San Francisco families no longer 'feel safe,' hire private security amid crime spree,” reads one headline published last week. On the same day, the media site ran a story reading, “San Francisco prosecutors quit progressive DA Chesa Boudin's office, join recall effort.”

Davis cited a Fox News story from 2019 on the crisis of the unhoused that he said named its bias outright: “In the summer of 2019, Fox News embarked on an ambitious project to chronicle the toll progressive policies have had on the homeless crisis in four West Coast cities: Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Portland, Ore.,” a note at the top of the story reads.

“All fair points about housing policy failures aside, the Fox piece frames the issue as a failure of ‘Democrats’ and the progressive ideology SF has come to symbolize in the American imagination,” he said.

“In stories like this, the city is used as a symbol of progressive policy failures,” he continued. “The city is a character in a narrative that confirms the correctness of conservative politics. Selective quotes also permit the reader to see the problem of the unhoused through the eyes of those inconvenienced and made uncomfortable by the ‘scary’ people in the streets.”

The biased media problem is a historical issue. Davis said that until the 1980s, “Americans lived in a low-choice media environment,” which “had the benefit of putting Americans on the same page about the major problems we faced as a nation.”

“Scholars and journalists could identify something like a unified, mainstream public debate,” he explained.

But in the current high-choice media environment, a paradox has emerged.

“The diversity of available perspectives was supposed to be more democratic and empowering, but the high-choice media environment paradoxically allowed us to insulate ourselves from opposing views and information,” Davis said.

Twentieth-century journalists considered news to be “a sort of schoolhouse, offering information to foster educated voting and self-governance,” he said, noting that “the 21st century has shifted the role of news in public life.”

“The schoolhouse metaphor has given way to another metaphor: the church. Americans increasingly use news as a way to endorse a common ideological faith,” he said. “Conservatives look to Tucker Carlson to confirm the evils of Nancy Pelosi and commiserate about the dangers of ‘creeping socialism.’ MSNBC viewers tune in to see if Trump will be indicted for his role in the Capitol riots following Biden's election.”

“In many ways, our choice of news is a choice of world view,” he continued. “The faithful don't go to church to learn something new about what happened to Jesus. They go to participate in a community of shared values.”

In an interview with SFGATE, Sam Singer, one of San Francisco’s top communications strategists, approached San Francisco’s image problem from a PR perspective. A former journalist, Singer has worked with Chevron, Airbnb, Disney and the San Francisco Chronicle, among others (SFGATE and the San Francisco Chronicle are both owned by Hearst but operate independently of one another).

“Perception is reality,” he said.

Singer thinks San Francisco’s image in the media and beyond “is somewhere between ‘The Wire’ and ‘Squid Game.’”

“San Francisco has a deep-rooted and significant image and reputation problem,” he said. “In fact, I would say that the city is in crisis mode.”

Singer said San Francisco’s publicized corruption issues at City Hall and the Department of Building Inspection contribute to the city’s reputation. He noted what he called the city’s unwillingness to arrest and prosecute criminals, which leads to viral videos showing thieves running out of Walgreens with their spoils or tearing through Neiman-Marcus with stolen designer purses. (The mayor’s office and the Chamber of Commerce did not respond to SFGATE’s request for comment.)

Singer also said the city’s housing crisis, as evidenced by its visible homeless population, makes San Francisco appear inhospitable to tourists and locals alike.

“You’re looking at a city that is beyond the pandemic, that has a pandemic of mental health, drug abuse, crime and corruption issues. And the city needs to start to address those issues or it will fall further and further behind,” he said.

Jennifer Friedenbach, the executive director of the San Francisco Coalition on Homelessness, pushed back against Singer.

“Homelessness is not a PR issue,” she told SFGATE. “It’s an issue of poverty. It's an issue of racism. And it’s an issue of disablism and homophobia. These are huge systemic issues that need correcting.”

For Friedenbach, the question is not necessarily why does San Francisco have such a severe issue of homelessness, but why does such a wealthy city have such severe poverty?

“For a lot of folks visiting, what I hear from them constantly is, ‘Why don’t you have guaranteed housing?’ And it’s a great question because almost every other westernized country does,” she said.

While viral videos such as those mentioned above inflame the perception that crime is increasing in San Francisco, that’s not exactly the case, crime statistics show.

At a July press conference, San Francisco Police Department Chief Bill Scott noted that rape cases, robberies and larceny/theft are all down in San Francisco. Homicides and aggravated assaults were fairly stable between 2015 and 2021, but the number of gun violence victims was almost double in 2021 compared with the past two years.

As for automobile-related crimes, including break-ins and thefts, both saw increases from 2020. Scott also noted that burglaries, in general, were up in 2020 and 2021.

“There’s a lot of misinformation in San Francisco,” Scott said. “But at the end of the day we have to use this data to make decisions about our policies and our investments.”

An uptick in certain crimes isn’t an issue unique to San Francisco. New York and Los Angeles, among others, have also seen a surge in pandemic-era crimes, according to local media and police departments.

But for many, the question still remains: How does San Francisco fix its image?

In Singer’s view as a PR expert, the city must first admit to its problems.

“Anyone worth their salt in communications, PR, reputation management or crisis communications won’t try to tell you to sweep the issues under the rug,” he said. “You have a problem and you have to take action.”

He said he would call for the mayor to “declare a crisis not just on San Francisco’s streets, but on theft and petty crime.”

In Singer’s opinion, the city also needs to increase “accountability for results from city agencies and nonprofits as well,” and devise not just a better communications plan but an operational plan.

All major cities have problems, and sometimes highly visible ones at that. But as those of us who live here know, these issues extend far beyond the realm of PR. Can San Francisco fix its image to reflect the reality of life here? Time will tell. The issue, as Friedenbach noted, is entrenched.

“I think San Francisco is getting used as a symbol of a progressive left city by conservative interests, who are greatly exaggerating the situation here,” she said.

Snip: Podcast 6 min By Evan Symon, October 18, 2021 5:09 pm
SF crime continues to rise with many smaller crimes not being reported

“And now with over 100 officers gone, we are being stretched even more. No one seems to want to admit that they are at fault or anything like that. We’re doing the best we can under the circumstances, but it only goes so far when other parts of the government don’t want to follow through on it. We can arrest a guy, but then maybe they won’t prosecute or we release for time served or something.”

“Our motto is ‘Oro en Paz, Fierro en Guerra,’ which means ‘Gold in Peace, Iron in War.’ We still strive to serve by that, but lately it seems like that is now limited.”

While more and more local backlash has been yielding some results, such as increased community watch measures starting to deter crime independently and leaders being more scrutinized, such as DA Boudin going through several impeachment attempts, the city largely remains in denial of the current escalating crime.

“The city has to stop saying ‘everything is fine,'” added Ma. “Los Angeles, San Diego, even Oakland. When something goes wrong, very wrong, they’ll take drastic action. A lot of cities have cracked down on crime and have been actively recruiting more officers. LA took a huge step against homelessness recently in a way most people thought they would never do. Oakland is adding a new police academy despite many community members not being in favor of it. They may not admit making mistakes, but they’ll still correct them. I’s usually due to public pressure, but still, they’ll d it.”

“The public wants change here. They want less crime. But it is just not happening. The city has done a few things recently to try and stop the massive amount of retail theft, which just the other day the Mayor said is not happening. There are even proposals to pay people not to commit crimes. But there is no punishment, even though that’s what the city needs. They’re trying everything except the most common sense solution.”


Oh Sh!$ "Soylent Green" becomes reality ....🧐


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cholas

Dagobah Resident
As has been planned for a while now, we are permanently leaving California. To me it's sad. I had moved here from Appalachia 20+ years ago. and loved, and still do, the beauty of this land (NorCal anyway). We no longer consider it safe or ideal.

Our children, who are unvaccinated (completely) can no longer attend public schools, which are very good in our area. Our rivers look as though we are in July and the lakes even worse (serious drought)= guaranteed extreme wildfires again (my wife and children had to evacuate for the 2nd time last year). Most of our friends enjoy npr and all that goes with that entanglement. And the economic situation is clearly a disaster in the making. Etc, etc....

We've been in our current organic, off-grid location for 8+ years. I'll miss it. 3 weeks and we are gone. Likely not returning. I do wish all of you still here the best.

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Aside from all the social unrest, California has a horrible record of environmental destruction. I remember feeling an intense horror after hiking up to the rim of Lake Tahoe and looking down at the basin where all the trees had been clearcut. Here’s a quick article on one person’s top 10 environmental disasters.


It doesn’t end there though, the state has destroyed their coastal environment as well through over harvesting, abalone, tuna, yellowtail and the loss of acres of kelp forests. The Central valley has been turned into one of the worst places to live because of air pollution, mainly due to agriculture. It’s a real nightmare.
 

c.a.

The Living Force
FOTCM Member
The California exodus from a local perspective! The first tweet is from 2020, (that is, 1of 20 tweets documenting the decline and the reasons why he moved). Adam as of today. 🤔 Hmm?






See the current Asian crime report (as this state continues to spiral out control).

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Alejo

Ambassador
Ambassador
FOTCM Member
In my line of work, we used to ship a lot to California (though it has shifted in recent years), and I have actually heard from several clients who share similar stories, they simply left the state. For people who wish or want to have a long term livelihood, investing in their future or their homes, staying in a place where that isn't guaranteed makes no sense.

Not only that but, working with some local service providers in the state has become so difficult, I do not wish to generalize but whenever I have to call anyone in California to gather information or work some logistics out, I shutter, I am always left with the sense that people simply do not wish to work, they seem irresponsible and unprofessional, and all I keep thinking in is these diversity quota for companies, qualifications be dammed.
 

hlat

The Living Force
FOTCM Member
It's time to vote again. Votes are going to them, and I hope that's the right signal.
Governor Brian Dahle
Senator Mark Meuser

I was surprised Larry Elder isn't running again.
 
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