During the holidays, I was lucky enough to tour Vietnam, a country roughly the size of California, but with more than twice the population (90 million to California’s 39 million). I was struck by our guide’s assertion that the total budget for the country was 10 billion US dollars.
What astonished me was knowing that San Francisco’s city budget is nine billion dollars for just our seven square miles! Keeping this in perspective, you need to remember that San Francisco is not rebuilding itself after being decimated by 40 years of heavy bombing, three wars, and heavy Agent Orange use.
The great unspoken dirty little secret in our town is that our city budget has gone from two billion to nine billion in about seven years and still, we cannot have a city as clean as Saigon or Hanoi. Moreover, we still cannot keep our libraries open, we still cannot keep the quality of schools from dropping further and further down the acceptable level. How can this be? How can San Francisco’s city budget be increased by more than 400% (and with so little oversight) and still accomplish so little to benefit its citizens?
As I contemplated this fact while listening to the proud citizens of Vietnam recite the astonishing improvements in their health care, their national economy, and their transportation systems, I cannot help but think San Franciscans need a little more Ho Chi Minh from our leadership and a little less spin and lies from our own Mayor’s office.
The time has come for our citizens to ask the hard questions and wonder what we as San Franciscans are receiving for the highest per capita spending of any city government in the entire world. Unlike the hype sold to us, the city is neither cleaner, nor more efficient when our budget was four times less seven years ago.
San Francisco is a world-class city, but we are not the best in the world at solving homelessness, nor mitigating the displacement of longtime residents associated with gentrification – a consequence of Mayor Lee’s inappropriate embrace of the tech industry. The least the Mayor could do, it seems, is keep our city clean, but that doesn’t appear to be a priority. Time to go, Mr. Lee – we need someone who wants to improve the city for San Franciscans.