Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Hot On The Tail Of The Coyote Shooting In Golden Gate Park, the Chron's C.W. Nevius Wonders When Will We Deal With The "Real" Animals...

Leave it to a sports writer to be the lone voice of reason when it comes to politics at the San Francisco Chronicle! Here's some excerpts...

Forget the coyotes. Do you really think your biggest concern is getting bitten by a wild animal?

Frankly, if you are in Golden Gate Park, a far greater danger is that you, or your child, or your pet, will step on a dirty hypodermic needle. Step off the paths, and you'll have plenty of chances.

On a recent weekday morning, I stepped off a path in Golden Gate Park and found -- no more than 100 feet from a McDonalds and right next to scenic Alvord Lake -- a stash of 20 or more new needles, stacked up like pickup sticks, with the orange cap still on them. And tossed on the ground around the pile were dozens of used syringes or "dirty rigs.''

Clearly what they are doing now doesn't seem to be discouraging many campers. Up on Chicken Hill, just up the slope from the busy tennis courts, an entire community was just waking up when we arrived. It wasn't as if they were hiding. A wisp of smoke still curled out of the campfire, and scattered at the top of a well-traveled path were green quart beer bottles.

"It's kind of like one big family,'' camper Valo Astonea said when he poked his head out of his sleeping bag. Among the 10 to 12 campers in the area, Astonea said, there were sometimes intravenous drug users, "but we kind of frown on that here.''

That's not good enough. Inevitably when we write a story like this, there are complaints that we are unsympathetic to the homeless. But this isn't a homeless issue.

This is about a jewel of a public park, more than 1,000 acres of some of the most beautiful terrain in any city anywhere. This isn't about social welfare policy. The foliage must be cleaned along the road sides. The camps have to be controlled week after week after week. And most of all, this can't be a photo op. It has to be a steady, long-term effort.

Nevius is right - this is NOT a homeless issue. The fact is that virtually all of these folks have other places to go. The recent homeless count confirmed what most of us suspected; that nearly a third of "our" homeless became homeless somewhere else before they came here. There is no reason for people to be sleeping in the park other than that they WANT to. It's also clear that this isn't about "living the dream" or "freedom" as it is a nice, well-situated and pretty place to shoot drugs, get drunk, let dogs scare people and basically revert to a feral state. Sadly, there are a lot of allegedly sane residents in the Haight who think there's something "noble" in this. It's not noble; it's just pathetic.

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