The governor needs to get out of his posh Sacramento-area mansion more often to see what's going on in the state.
During a recent photo op on a section of Union Pacific railroad tracks in Los Angeles, Gov. Gavin Newsom expressed shock at the accumulated trash: open shipping containers, looted packages, boxes and acres of trash. "I wonder what the hell is going on? We look like a third world country," he said.
The governor has to get off his expansive grounds in the Sacramento area more often to see what's going on in our state. Union Pacific executives offered the most shocking information about the debris left behind by vandals who struck slow-moving freight trains as they headed for an intermodal facility near downtown Los Angeles.
In a letter to Los Angeles District Attorney George Gascon, the company noted a 160 percent increase in criminal theft in the county since last December. The disorder involves not only stolen packages and rampant vandalism, but also "increased assaults and armed robberies on UP employees performing their duties moving trains."
Here's the kicker. Of the hundreds of arrests, Union Pacific "was not contacted about a legal proceeding." This shouldn't be news to Newsom. Months ago, other writers and I met with business stakeholders trying to unravel the absurd backlog in the Los Angeles area ports and described the scene the governor recently uncovered.
Business leaders described an administration more interested in mollifying the unions than in dealing vigorously with the port collapse and uninterested in engaging them to find a solution. This is a common theme whether we are dealing with crime, ports or COVID-19 closures. The governor's team does not have the breadth to address the issues affecting our quality of life. Maybe he's too busy plotting a takeover of the state healthcare system.
The governor announced his usual solution, which includes new task forces and increased spending. Its Royal Public Safety Plan "includes $255 million in grants for local law enforcement to increase presence in retail stores and tackle organized retail crime," which is fine, of course. But as usual, Newsom can't stick to the root of the problem without deviating a little.
Just as his water plan is more about habitat restoration and his infrastructure plan is heavily focused on bike lanes and transit, Newsom's rail safety plan focuses on "getting guns and drugs off our streets." That's the difference between leftists like Newsom and traditional liberals like Jerry Brown. The latter would push for similar goals but take care of the basics first. Stop the robberies instead of worrying about gun control.
This is a crucial point regarding Gascón and other progressive prosecutors. For far too long, police unions have largely elected prosecutors who have generally turned a blind eye to police misconduct, slapped excessive charges on those for minor offenses, and pushed for tough criminal laws that fueled an over-incarceration crisis. The judicial system leaned too far towards the government, which has led to many injustices.
The reform was behind schedule, but prosecutors are still responsible for prosecuting criminals. Train robberies and the recent surge in brazen retail store robberies remind us that prosecutors need to be imaginative in implementing judicial reforms. There are still many dangerous characters out there. In practice, rising crime rates and widespread dystopian scenes like those witnessed by Newsom are undermining public support for sane reform.