I had a wonderful time in Memphis, Tennessee, during my Presidents’ Day weekend stay. The people were charming, the barbecue was outstanding, and the Memphis Pyramid was a joy to behold.

There were a few things the streets of Memphis were lacking: Used needles and human excrement. For those treasures, you have to head over to my home state of California and the city of San Francisco.

How dirty is San Francisco? An NBC Bay Area Investigation reveals a dangerous mix of drug needles, garbage, and feces throughout downtown San Francisco. The Investigative Unit surveyed 153 blocks of the city – the more than 20-mile stretch includes popular tourist spots like Union Square and major hotel chains. The area – bordered by Van Ness Avenue, Market Street, Post Street and Grant Avenue – is also home to City Hall, schools, playgrounds, and a police station.

As the Investigative Unit photographed nearly a dozen hypodermic needles scattered across one block, a group of preschool students happened to walk by on their way to an afternoon field trip to city hall.

“We see poop, we see pee, we see needles, and we see trash,” said teacher Adelita Orellana. “Sometimes they ask what is it, and that’s a conversation that’s a little difficult to have with a 2-year old, but we just let them know that those things are full of germs, that they are dangerous, and they should never be touched.”

The level of potentially infectious contamination rivals that of many third world countries.

The survey results led a University of California, Berkeley infectious disease expert to compare downtown San Francisco to slums in developing countries.

“The contamination is … much greater than communities in Brazil or Kenya or India,” Dr. Lee Riley told the station. Riley added that discarded needles could cause HIV and Hepatitis B and C, while dried feces can cause potentially dangerous viruses.

In part, the public health emergency is the result of the explosion in housing costs along the West Coast that has driven people to homelessness. Furthermore, Mohammed Nuru, Director of the San Francisco’s Public Works Department, estimates at least $30 million of the city’s street cleaning budget is used to clean up needles and feces from sidewalks and homeless encampments.

You would think a serious gubernatorial candidate would be poised to address this particular crisis. However, a Goggle search and scan of Facebook entries show that leading candidates in the state’s race for Governor this year have other priorities:

Gavin Newsom, Lieutenant Governor:

California Lieutenant Governor and 2018 gubernatorial candidate Gavin Newsom called on President Donald Trump to resign in the wake of the president’s controversial “shithole countries” comment.

“You’re a joke and a racist, President Donald J. Trump,” Newsom wrote on Facebook. The former mayor of San Francisco concluded with one word: “Resign.”

Former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa:

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Antonio Villaraigosa on Wednesday warned that the Trump administration’s vow to repeal the Affordable Care Act and renegotiate the North American Free Trade agreement could devastate millions of Californians and plunge the state into recession.

The former Los Angeles mayor also took shots at President Trump’s immigration policies, including his promise to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, suggesting he was trying to divide the country for his own political gain.

“We embrace our Latino heritage as every bit a part of our American heritage,” Villaraigosa said.

Treasurer John Chiang:

Given that California alone has at least $850 billion in new public works that must be built or repaired in the coming years — including 1,388 crumbling bridges and woefully deficient water infrastructure that deprives too many communities of safe drinking water — the President’s $200 billion national investment is no better than spit in the ocean. What he shamefully calls an infrastructure plan is really a cynical rouse for gutting environmental protections that keep our air, water, and communities safe.

In a nutshell: These three leading candidates are unhappy that Trump called other counties a shithole, are more concerned about Mexico than California’s public health issues, and are making it difficult to partner with the White House on potential solutions for our crumbing infrastructure that will prevent our state from becoming more of a shithole than it already is.

Little wonder, then, there is now a mass exodus of Bay area residents to other parts of the country, including Tennessee.

The Golden Gate City is now the Shithole by the Bay.


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