It seems to me that most communities take pride in having an event or characteristic associated with them. In this state, Marion, home of the Betty Zane popcorn company, is known as the “Popcorn Capitol” with its multi-day popcorn celebration. Bucyrus identifies itself with bratwurst with its “Bratwurst Festival” that draws over 100,000 visitors, and Waynesville has its famed sauerkraut fete.
Then, too, our county can claim to be the home of the famed Air Force Marathon and world renowned Hamvention. Yep, the public generally likes being identified with notable activities, but that is not always the case – I feel fairly certain that the folks of Chicago prefer not having their city referred to as “The Murder Capitol”.
That’s the thought that came to mind when I recently found that San Francisco, acclaimed as one of the most beautiful and sophisticated cities in the country, has had a new title bestowed on it – a title it would just as soon not have – but the city has had other less than desirable tags in the past.
San Francisco was once known as the incubator of the “hippies”, and “flower child” movement which advocated disregard of conventional rules of conduct, accepted definitions of morality, and societal restriction of any sort. The city, figuratively bathed in marijuana smoke, identified itself as a counter culture center.
This reputation of “anything goes” later manifested itself in the notorious San Francisco “bath houses” where men met other men for casual sex – encounters that proved to be a primary means of spreading AIDS. Not something most cities would be proud to be associated with, right?
Most folks have heard how San Francisco has now identified itself as a “Sanctuary City” with the mayor personally alerting “undocumented immigrants” of an impending raid by federal agents who were after individuals wanted for crimes other than illegal entry into this country. Then, too, the city recently allowed protestors to lay siege to a federal facility and threaten federal employees. Not actions lotsa folks would agree with, but it’s part of the city’s character .
OK, so what’s all this leading up to? Well, San Francisco has now been given another and undesirable unofficial title. It’s been dubbed “The Poop Capitol of California” – and some say of the entire country because there are likely no competitors. Perhaps the terms “excrement” “solid body waste,” or “feces” might be less offensive, but it doesn’t change reality – the city is covered with the stuff.
According to the mayor, “There’s more feces on the sidewalk than I’ve ever seen growing up here.” In fact, it’s gotten so bad that last year a city official created a map showing areas of the highest concentration of the stuff – supposedly so tourists could be steered away from the malodorous sites. Hard to believe, isn’t it?
The city has now created a “poop patrol” – with an initial funding of $750,000 – to respond to the some 65 calls daily, nearly 15,000 thus far this year, to report poop. These stalwart heros of the push broom and shovel are also equipped with decontaminating and disinfecting power sprays and steam cleaners. A dirty job, but someone has to do it – but it sure makes a body wonder how they would answer that proverbial question at home after a hard day’s work, “How was your day?”
Folks who are experts in such matters attribute the problem to the city’s some 7,500 homeless people who have no place to go when it’s time to “go” – public restrooms are very scarce and businesses usually limit their facilities to customers. About half of the homeless are considered “sheltered” because they have overnight accommodations but the remaining thousands sleep wherever and whenever they can. Why? A city official is quoted as saying, “Places where homeless people used to sleep [are] becoming offices and housing.”
Several studies indicate “gentrification” of older properties and similar efforts have pretty well eliminated affordable housing. With a studio apartment costing $2,500 and a two bedroom about $3,200 month, many people have reportedly been forced out of their homes with no place to go. And so, a little arithmetic reveals the daily fecal “contribution” by the homeless is likely hundreds of pounds with no reduction in sight. How about them apples.
Sure, we have homelessness hereabouts, but are addressing the situation with a combination of government and private, including charitable, efforts. Perhaps we should take a closer look at advancing these ventures. After all, we wouldn’t want to wind up with a local version of San Francisco’s poop dilemma. At least that’s how it seems to me.
Bill Taylor, a Greene County Daily columnist and area resident, may be contacted at [email protected]