Meet 'San Fransicko' author hoping to replace Gov. Newsom as governor

His number one issue: Homelessness, housing and the drug crisis.

Liz Kreutz Image
ByLiz Kreutz KGO logo
Wednesday, May 18, 2022
Meet 'San Fransicko' author hoping to replace Newsom as governor
Bay Area homeless policy advocate Michael Shellenberger is running against California Governor Gavin Newsom in the 2022 gubernatorial race.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Governor Gavin Newsom is up for re-election this year, and while he is likely to win handily, issues around crime and safety and the homelessness and drug crisis are top of mind for many Californians and could have an impact on the choice voters make.

At least that's what Bay Area environmentalist turned homeless policy advocate Michael Shellenberger is hoping.

Shellenberger is the author of "San Fransicko: How Progressives Ruin Cities." He's a Democrat turned independent and he's running as a "No Party Preference" candidate in the California gubernatorial race.

His number one issue: homelessness, housing and the drug crisis. He's hoping that even as a long-shot candidate, by running on these issues he'll be able to break through.

RELATED: Gov. Gavin Newsom calls for unity, kindness after defeating California recall election

"Truly independent. There's certain things I agree with Democrats, certain things I share with Republicans," Shellenberger said when asked to describe his politics in an interview with ABC7 News. "The basic strategy I think we need to solve the homeless crisis is the same one they've done in Europe, including the Netherlands and Portugal."

For Shellenberger, that means creating a centralized, statewide psychiatric and addiction care system, dubbed Cal Psych. This would replace the current county-based system. He also wants to create a "Shelter First, Housing Earned" policy where people can earn better housing in exchange for showing personal progress in their treatment. And he would enforce a statewide ban on public camping to get people off the streets immediately.

"We do have a camping ban in San Francisco and most other California cities, we need to enforce that," Shellenberger said. "And we also need to support laws against public drug use, public defecation, public drug dealing. Those things are simply not compatible with having a livable, walkable city."

Asked what that would look like in a place like the Tenderloin, Shellenberger said it would mean anyone sleeping on the streets could be arrested. They would be offered shelter or treatment in lieu of jail.

"Being arrested is not the same thing as being incarcerated," he said. "We can arrest people all the time without putting them in jail or prison. So they might get a court sentence or a court date, but there has got to be some consequence for breaking the law."

"As it turns out," he continued, "When you don't enforce laws, people don't follow them, and when you don't have law enforcement and you have open drug scenes you can't have a safe city environment."

It's unclear if Shellenberger's proposal would even be possible. Critics point out there are ethical and legal concerns around mandating services.

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But Shellenberger -- who is known for railing against "progressive wokeness" -- believes it's time to take a more hard line stance on these issues if the state wants to see improvement.

"The cost of living in California is outrageously high," he said. "We should demand from this high cost of living, high taxes, safe streets. safe cities...I'm going to shut down the open drug scenes in the same, humane, legal and fair way that they did in Europe."

When it comes to other policy issues, Shellenberger said he supports abortion rights, gun control measures and raising the minimum wage.

On climate change, he supports increasing nuclear energy, including keeping Diablo Canyon -- California's last remaining nuclear power plant -- open.

Shellenberger is one of more than a dozen candidates, including Governor Newsom, running in the June gubernatorial primary.

The California Republican Party endorsed State Senator Brian Dahle, a farmer from Lassen County.

The top two candidates with the most votes will face off in November.