Upside Down California; Guest Article by Matt Grocott, Former San Carlos Mayor

South San Francisco, CA   August 20, 2019   by Matt Grocott


Is anyone else out there in the universe of the this readership feeling like things are getting upside down in California, particularly since Gavin Newsom was elected governor?

For example, in our gloriously sunny state, it is now against the law for a restaurant to serve a customer a beverage with the accoutrement of a plastic straw, never mind patrons can go next door to Starbucks or Boba Guys and be served a cold drink in a plastic cup! It is also perfectly fine to go to the grocery store and buy water by the gallons in little plastic bottles but not if you are in San Francisco on city owned property, including the San Francisco Airport, which happens to sit on city owned property, albeit in San Mateo County. Perhaps I should not mention any of this because it might give the legislators in Sacramento the idea to ban plastic cups and water bottles all across the state! Hmm…I wonder if they would also include the Keurig coffee pods and those little containers for coffee creamer?

Next there is the example of California deciding to fine its citizens who choose not to have health insurance, while at the same time providing free health care to those who entered the country illegally. In fact, it was a calculation of our all knowing, ever wise governor to offset a portion of the free health care with the fines of the uninsured. This may make look like a generous and compassionate move by the governor but in reality, it is not. In reality, it is impossible for the government to be generous or compassionate because whenever the government gives something to someone for free, it means it has already taken the value of that thing away from someone else in the form of taxes or fees. Nothing the government gives away is free. Someone first has to pay for it.  

A third example is California’s decision to give away driver licenses to people who, again, entered the country illegally, while at the same time requiring its citizens to bring a hoard of identification documents and two utility bills to get a Real CA driver’s license. Does the first have anything to do with the second? A Real CA driver’s license is not required to drive, it is only needed if a person wants to board a plane, something…of course…few of us ever do! Stop and think: does our state passing out driver licenses to just about anyone undermine their usefulness to real Californians?

Example number four: if a homeless person wants to build an encampment out of plywood and plastic tarps on public property, they can get away with it, but if a homeowner wants to do something as simple as replace a few windows in their house, they must first pull a permit and allow building inspectors to march through their home to check if the work was done according to code. If they don’t and they get caught, they can be fined a penalty and may even have to remove the windows so they can be reinstalled and inspected for compliance.

A final example of California’s craziness is in San Francisco where the city provides free drug centers for heroin addicts to shoot up, and even supplies them with free plastic needles, but according to the city’s municipal code, it is against the law to feed the pigeons on city streets or sidewalks. The reason to prohibit the feeding of pigeons, of course, is to prevent their congregation on the high perch of buildings, from which they may defecate and create an unhealthy nuisance on the sidewalks below. At the same time, however, the heroin addict who just injected heroin at the free drug center can step outside and do their business on the sidewalk where, close by, outdoor dining patrons are enjoying their cold beverages sans plastic straws.

Please do not misunderstand. Good laws written for good reason make  good sense. However, to have laws in place for some while allowing the lawlessness of others to persist, or even be encouraged, makes no sense at all. Additionally, crowding the books with laws where citizens ought to be left free to choose is also senseless, unless of course the government is aiming, in due course, to eliminate free choice altogether. Eliminating liberty for some while allowing anarchy for others is good for only one thing: an upside down world like we have in California!


11 comments for “Upside Down California; Guest Article by Matt Grocott, Former San Carlos Mayor

  1. Renee Aubuchon
    August 21, 2019 at 12:38 am

    Let me guess. You’re a Republican? Pretty blatantly political post.

    • Lucinda Woerner
      September 7, 2019 at 3:35 pm

      A better guess is that he is an intelligent, thinking, common sense individual. Your comment assumes one cannot be that AND a Democrat?

    • Matt Grocott
      January 14, 2020 at 7:38 am

      Actually, no, Renee. Decline to State. Otherwise known as an independent.

  2. Denni Harp
    August 21, 2019 at 2:36 pm


    San Francisco is it’s own animal, California is a great state to live in. We need to increase environmental protections to make up for the feds reductions!

  3. Marcus V
    August 21, 2019 at 5:34 pm


    California’s Biggest Cities Confront a ‘Defecation Crisis’
    Lawmakers ban plastic straws as a far worse kind of waste covers the streets of San Francisco and L.A.

    They say there’s a smartphone app for everything, and doubters should know there are now at least two dealing with excrement on the sidewalks of San Francisco. The city has its official SF311 app, part of its “San Francisco at your Service” program, and last year a private developer introduced Snapcrap, which allows residents to upload a photo of an offending specimen directly to the SF311 website. This alerts the city’s new five-person “poop patrol,” which will follow up, presumably, with a smile.

    Then there are the maps. At least three maps charting the location of “poop complaints” in the city have been assembled, the latest and best by the nonprofit Open the Books. Their map shows most of the city covered by brown pin dots, each marking a report to the Department of Public Works.

    The website dubs San Francisco “the doo-doo capital of the U.S.” They noted that the city’s poop reports almost tripled between 2011 and 2017.

    The problem draws attention because the poop increasingly comes not from dogs but from humans. In partial defense of his city, Curbed SF’s Adam Brinklow explains that the reports submitted to the city didn’t distinguish between human and dog excrement, and that there were 150,000 dogs and fewer than 10,000 homeless people within city limits. But he admits that homelessness was probably the leading edge of the problem in San Francisco as well as Los Angeles, where 36,000 people live on the streets, and many do their business there.

    The majority of the nation’s homeless people now live in California. There are myriad causes at work, no doubt. But there was no “defecation crisis”—a term usually associated with rural India—in the 1930s, even with unemployment at 25%, vagabonds roaming the country, and shantytowns and “Hoovervilles” springing up everywhere. Today’s homeless and the hobos of the Great Depression are different in many ways. The triple scourges of drug abuse, mental illness and family breakdown have produced anomie and derangements far deeper than those seen in the 1930s, when the widely shared nature of the economic and psychological distress provided its own grim comfort.

    In California at least, one is struck by the contrast between the fastidious attention paid to the social duty of scooping up and disposing of dog feces, and the rather more paralyzed and guilty reaction to the plague of human feces. The former is treated as a moral imperative among the enlightened—and the thin plastic bags used as the means to this moral end have so far escaped the fate of plastic straws, well on their way to being outlawed as an environmental outrage. Even social-justice warriors don’t consider it their personal duty, however, to tidy up after their fellow human beings on the streets.

    Confronted on the sidewalk with a nasty fait accompli, most people are indignant. But the questions they then ask often diverge. Those of a more traditional disposition might wonder, “What is wrong with these people?” Those of a more progressive mind-set might exclaim, “Why hasn’t the government designed a program to solve this?”

    Each is sincere, and society will have to try to answer both to make things better. But it’s the former inquiry, prepared to make some difficult and unfashionable moral distinctions, that needs encouragement in deep-blue California. “Homeless” was originally an adjective. It became a collective noun, denoting the victims of homelessness, only later, under the influence of the 20th century’s confidence that the first step in solving a social problem is to name it. Not all problems are social, however, and few if any social problems can be “solved,” in the strong sense of the term.

    Without wishing to return to the Elizabethan Poor Laws, we ought to consider what was lost when the courts discouraged Americans from thinking of “homelessness” in light of the old laws against vagrancy. Under that understanding, no one had a right to camp out indefinitely on public property, much less to defecate on it. Public property belonged to the public—to everyone—and couldn’t be privatized for the benefit of one or more vagrants, however poor or sick. Though that principle would need to be applied to modern circumstances, it is the indispensable starting point for thinking about the shocking problems of the Golden State.

    Mr. Kesler is editor of the Claremont Review of Books, from whose summer issue this is adapted.

    • Joe Graw
      September 6, 2019 at 5:13 am

      All homeless should be banned first, fuck plastic! You are totally right. But ALL DEIFICATION SHOULD BE ILLEGAL AND JAIL TIME INTRODUCED. People who don’t pick up their dogs shit should be jailed. All of Golden Gate park smells like dog shit. It’s disgusting and wrong. ALL homeless should be put in jail, drug tested , and put to work for the city they shit on, and put in rehab until they are cured and then made to clean up the city they shit on. If they don’t want to work, then they get jail time and have to reconstitute our city for their incarceration. Restitution is made by working community jobs and not getting paid. No camping on public property or JAIL TIME!

  4. JW
    August 23, 2019 at 3:51 pm

    False equivalence, conservative dog whistles and misplaced blame. All the stock in trade of a libertarian hoping to be relevant in the current facts-don’t-matter environment fostered by the conservatives. Good luck, Matt. You blustered yourself to irrelevance in San Carlos. Maybe you’ll find some new fans here.

    • John S.
      September 6, 2019 at 3:10 pm

      In all fairness, it isn’t that he was irrelevant in San Carlos (my family’s home) its just that San Carlos is irrelevant to both the Bay Area and the State.

  5. Dave EDWARDS
    September 5, 2019 at 11:46 pm

    Hey JW the facts-don’t matter environment is fostered by liberals like you. I’m not a republican but I agree with all Matt said. At least one person still has his head in reality.

  6. Lucinda Woerner
    September 7, 2019 at 3:47 pm

    I appreciate Mr. Grocott’s bravery in writing about the horrors going on in California. It does me good to know that there are still reasonable, common sense individuals still living in California willing to speak up about the craziness going on in our beautiful state. Regardless of the political party to which they show allegiance, how can citizens of California not see that our cities are in decline. Talk about a “shit storm.” We’re in one, and not enough is being done to reverse the self destructive course we are on. Change will only happen if we are first willing to talk about the problems, and those who try to shut down the conversations are part of the problem and not part of the solution.

  7. Don Carlos
    December 11, 2019 at 7:21 am

    Oh geez, reading this makes me so grateful Grocott is out of our city government. I get it that there are people want to be left alone so they don’t have to abide by the rules of a civilized society. What I don’t get is someone who wants that while placing himself in the middle of a major metropolitan area and believes we can all somehow continue to live elbow-to-elbow, yet still like we’re in some pre-industrial frontier territory.

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