|On the Road in Southern California|
We begin with this our team captured while on the road in Southern California. It has also been quite a week but our team chose an excerpt of a dispatch by the team at CityLab about Homelessness as It has been quite a week in our World.
As noted by the team at City Lab, "....Some 553,742 people experienced homelessness in January 2017, according to HUD’s 2017 Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress. That marked the first nationwide increase in seven years. The challenge is particularly acute in some of the largest and most expensive cities. New York and Los Angeles account for nearly a quarter of America’s homeless population, with L.A. reporting an astounding 26 percent increase in 2017, as CityLab reported in December.
CityLab has over the past several years joined this consortium to spotlight the expansive nature of homelessness. It’s growing. It’s pervasive. And it’s “intractable.”
That’s how the San Francisco Chronicle has described the problem in an ongoing and ambitious series on homelessness it hosts on its site. Audrey Cooper, the Chronicle’s editor in chief, wrote of the project this week:
Homelessness has always been a fraught issue in the Bay Area. So many of us know we haven’t done enough, while many others argue that we spend millions of dollars each year on ineffective or misguided programs. We should be able to have these informed and respectful debates: To what extent will we, as a community, help that man sleeping on the bench next to a lemonade stand? It is a responsibility of the media to intelligently provoke that dialogue, but it is up to you to do something about it.
Over the last year, CityLab has explored many potential solutions. The use of blockchain and other technologies to count and identify the homeless; the effectiveness of giving people access to running water; and efforts to rethink the design of homeless shelters. We have also confronted some of the changing politics. For one, new federal policies and proposals are rapidly trickling down to cities. For another, as some of the most expensive and unequal cities struggle with how to keep housing affordable, new questions are emerging about how much the largest corporations occupying those cities should contribute to that effort.
Nowhere was this more apparent than in Seattle, where a proposal to pass a so-called “head tax” to fund affordable housing and homelessness initiatives became the subject of intense conflict between city leaders and some of the largest corporations, most notably Amazon. A compromise tax that would have raised $47 million a year was passed unanimously by the Seattle City Council, to great celebration by city advocates. But it wasn’t long before Amazon and other Seattle corporations bankrolled an aggressive effort to revoke the tax through ballot initiative. It took less than a month for that effort to result in a repeal of that very same law by the council.
“[T]his is not a winnable battle at this time. The opposition has unlimited resources,” said Lisa Herbold, a council member who voted for the tax, and then for the repeal.
Was the tax the right solution? Many people didn’t think so. But its fate raises questions about whether any kind of bold action can survive, as the crisis rolls on.