The mutual acrimony between Donald Trump and America’s largest state escalated during his fundraising trip to California this week (much as POTUS hates the Golden State, he cannot do without the milk and honey supplied by its wealthy Republican donors). As he prepared to board Air Force One to leave the state, he offered this obnoxious little stink bomb of a parting shot, NBC News reports:
President Donald Trump on Wednesday threatened to have the Environmental Protection Agency issue a “notice” to San Francisco over the city’s homeless issue, comments that were criticized by local officials.
From Air Force One, Trump, who had been in California for a two-day fundraising trip, blamed the homeless population for environmental issues. “There’s tremendous pollution being put into the ocean,” he said, noting “there are needles, there are other things.”
“We’re going to be giving San Francisco — they’re in total violation — we’re going to be giving them the notice very soon,” Trump said.
“The EPA is going to be putting out a notice and you know they’re in serious violation and this is environmental, very environmental,” Trump said. “And they have to clean it up. We can’t have our cities going to hell.”
Trump’s “environmental, very environmental” emphasis is ironic since he signaled while visiting California that he will, as expected, trigger a legal battle to end the state’s power to impose tough emissions standards on automobiles. But his remarks did put an appropriately crude exclamation point on his administration’s recent unfriendly interest in California’s homelessness problem. And local officials, including San Francisco’s mayor, reacted as you might expect:
This wasn’t Trump’s first comment on the homeless during this trip. Earlier he suggested California’s homeless were making life unpleasant for, well, people like him, as Conor Dougherty noted:
[A]s the president jetted off to the Bay Area on Tuesday for a fund-raiser, he took a moment with reporters on Air Force One to fulminate against “people living in our best highways, our best streets, our best entrances to buildings …”
For all of his talk of homelessness, Mr. Trump indicated to reporters that his sympathies rested with the taxpayers, rich immigrants and business leaders forced to wade through California’s urban detritus.
“In many cases, they came from other countries and they moved to Los Angeles or they moved to San Francisco because of the prestige of the city, and all of a sudden they have tents,” Mr. Trump exclaimed to reporters before disappearing behind the cloistered mansions of Silicon Valley. “Hundreds and hundreds of tents and people living at the entrance to their office building. And they want to leave.”
In another bit of interesting timing, HUD Secretary Ben Carson toured homeless encampments in Los Angeles yesterday, even as he rejected a request from California governor Gavin Newsom for additional housing vouchers and other assistance in a letter lecturing state and local officials for trying to “spend its way out of this problem using Federal funds.” Echoing a Council of Economic Advisors white paper on homelessness the White House released earlier this week, Carson is blaming the problem entirely on state and local overregulation of housing. To California Democratic lawmakers who have been working on the welter of issues affected by the housing supply, the administration’s advice is simplistic at best, as the Los Angeles Times reports:
State Sen. Scott Wiener of San Francisco, who has made a name for himself arguing for the reduction of local zoning rules, said he disagreed with the Trump administration’s apparent pitch to cut back on all regulations and allow for more building of all types everywhere. Instead, his recently shelved Senate Bill 50 was designed to make it easier to build housing near existing job centers and mass transit specifically for affordability and environmental reasons …
“I don’t agree with the president’s view that we should be like Arizona because that would lead to sprawl,” Wiener said. “But I do agree with Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker and Barack Obama that we should move away from restrictive housing policies because restrictive housing policies lead to more homelessness.”
In separate comments, Wiener spoke more bluntly of the president as a “slumlord who has spent his presidency pushing people into homelessness by taking away health care, food assistance and affordable housing funds.”
It’s unclear whether the administration’s agitation of the air on homelessness will lead to any concrete actions, though there has been ominous muttering about using law-enforcement resources to clear the streets and sidewalks and perhaps force the homeless into federal facilities.
The odds are pretty good that this sudden interest in California homelessness is just another Trump rhetorical ploy that will lead to rants before red-state audiences about liberal hellholes that encourage riffraff to move in and threaten law-abiding citizens like themselves. In his war with California, it’s just one of many skirmishes.