On April 19, during his excursion into one of California’s countless drug infested neighborhoods, a man on the street asked our governor a very explicit question.
Question: “Gavin, tell me what you’re going to do about the fentanyl epidemic?”
Newsom’s answer: “What should I do, JJ? What do you want me to do? You tell me what we need to do.”
There are plenty of answers that could have been offered, since what has been allowed to happen in San Francisco and almost everywhere else in California is one of the most appalling cases of political malpractice in the history of the world.
Two days later, on April 21, the governor announced that he “is directing California Highway Patrol and California National Guard to identify personnel and resources to assist the city in combatting fentanyl trafficking.”
That’s a start, but absent a more comprehensive strategy that involves every afflicted region and affects the consumers along with the distributors, it isn’t going to solve the related problems of addiction and homelessness.
So if you’re serious about handing California back to law abiding citizens, here’s what you can do next, Governor Newsom:
You should now announce that you will extend this “public safety partnership” throughout the state, and send the California National Guard into every remote county and overwhelmed rural municipality in California and root out the drug cartels. Flood the zone. Smoke them out. Lock them up.
Next, you can clean up the neighborhoods throughout California’s cities that are overran with the “unhoused.” It is in these lawless enclaves where drugs like fentanyl find their way to retail distributors and end users. To do this, begin by instructing your attorney general to identify and aggressively challenge every court ruling and misguided statute that prevents law enforcement from getting vagrants, addicts, drug dealers, thieves and violent thugs off the streets. Wage lawfare. Don’t quit.
Meanwhile, and remaining in compliance with existing law, construct low cost, minimum security detention facilities, and classify them as “permanent supportive housing.” Locate them on state owned land in rural areas with mild winters, and set up at least three types. One for criminals, one for drug addicts and alcoholics, and one for the mentally ill. The remaining small fraction of homeless individuals who are none of the above will be easily accommodated in already built shelters and already built supportive housing in urban areas.
By taking this approach, you will create a deterrent. A sizable percentage of the entire homeless population in California will melt away once this program is implemented. Once they aren’t permitted to sell drugs and consume drugs while having access to free social services including needles and “safe injection” sites, they’ll find family or friends to stay with. Once they can’t steal without facing certain incarceration, they’ll stop stealing.
There will be plenty of money to pay for these facilities, as well as to pay for supervision and counseling personnel. As it is, California’s taxpayers spend, on average, well over $500,000 for every unit of “permanent supportive housing.” This money, with the full complicity of politicians, goes into the hands of politically connected real estate developers, often to build on some of the most valuable coastal real estate on earth. The magnitude of this corruption defies description. End it. End it now.
Why, governor, does a methamphetamine addict from Tulsa have a “human right” to a free apartment in an expensive neighborhood on the California coast? Instead, give them free housing in a tent. Since a spacious, durable tent will cost under $1,000, that leaves $499,000 to pay for other amenities including supervision and counseling. If you did this, governor, even in a state as corrupt as California, most of that money could be given back to the taxpayers.
Consult with the UN Commission on Refugees to learn how to construct tent cities at minimal expense. The work they’ve done in Syria, for example, shows that semi-permanent encampments, providing all of life’s essentials, can be built and managed at a reasonable cost.
There is a fundamental moral imperative here that eludes almost every progressive politician and analyst. It is not compassionate to let people die on the street. If you accept this, there is only one solution: build low cost tent cities on inexpensive real estate and move the homeless off the streets and into these encampments. Force them to withdraw from drug and alcohol addiction. Compel them to take their anti-psychotic medication. Hold criminals accountable by making them pay their debt to society.
There is no way around this. Everything else costs too much, takes too long, and won’t work anyway.
The reason you don’t solve the problem of homelessness in California, Governor Newsom, is because you’re afraid to stand up to the Homeless Industrial Complex. And until you do, they are going to take all the money, corrupt all the laws, and California will remain a magnet for every junkie in America.
Housing without behavioral conditions creates unquenchable demand, whereas housing with behavioral conditions reduces demand. And to build publicly funded housing at a cost of $500,000 per unit, when that amount of money would pay for 500 tents (or more), is a scam. You don’t just give drug addicts housing units that are better than the housing units that working people scrap their lives away to pay for and can barely afford. When you do this, you turn society upside down. You reward indolence, and disrespect diligence.
The reason the fentanyl problem just keeps getting worse, governor, is because you haven’t been willing to prosecute and convict the people who manufacture, traffic, and sell hard drugs. Harsh penalties are a deterrent. You don’t have to lock everyone up. Once a few thousand of the hard core culprits are locked up and doing hard time, the rest will decide the risk outweighs the benefits.
This is how you attack the truly genocidal impact of fentanyl, and salvage the lives of countless victims of this epidemic. If you want to ever become U.S. President, Governor Newsom, you’d better quit using your Twitter account to incessantly complain about the phantom menace of MAGA, and actually fix something.
The fentanyl epidemic, and the homeless crisis, are fixable. Get busy.
This article originally appeared in the California Globe.
Edward Ring is a contributing editor and senior fellow with the California Policy Center, which he co-founded in 2013 and served as its first president. He is also a senior fellow with the Center for American Greatness, and a regular contributor to the California Globe. His work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Economist, Forbes, and other media outlets.
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