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Can Government Pass the Smell Test?

June 17th, 2022 by dk

You may have missed the news brief tucked into the bottom left corner of page 5 in Monday’s newspaper, but it helps to explain why San Francisco voters recalled their chief law enforcement officer earlier this month. It also points to a key reason why  Democratic candidates fear for their political lives this November.

Boston will be installing urine detectors in four elevators this summer. This follows Atlanta’s success a few years ago, reducing a daily nuisance to only an occasional one. Each equipped elevator contained a sign notifying passengers it was armed with a Urine Detection Device and that public urination is against the law.

When urine is detected, an alarm sounds, a light strobes, and the elevator returns to the ground floor. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution did not report whether the elevator doors then open or whether the perpetrator remains trapped until authorities arrive. That omission may have been intentional, leaving criminals to wonder exactly how swift their consequences might be.

Swifter and surer consequences for bad behavior is what we’ll need, if this grand experiment of self-governance is going to continue. Residents of ultra-liberal San Francisco were demanding it when they voted overwhelmingly to recall the city’s District Attorney, Chesa Boudin, for failing to prosecute minor offenses, including urinating in public.

I’ve written before about “law and order” belonging together, but in reverse. Law enforcement makes almost no sense if there’s not first an assumption of order and decency. Anyone who has stepped past human feces on a public sidewalk knows what I’m talking about.

If we hope to rebuild society, we have to start here. Human bodies create waste. Where does it go? Like those Atlanta elevators, we have no choice but to return to the ground floor.

I once asked legendary columnist Don Bishoff what he would like best for his legacy. He presciently asked LTD to open their locked drivers’ bathroom at Amazon Station for public use.

The present situation could get worse, and quickly. Starbucks’s CEO Howard Schultz made news this week, saying that his stores’ bathrooms may soon be reserved only for customers, out of safety concerns. Some Democratic strategist somewhere is preparing a slide about people’s rock-bottom expectations for government labeled, “Urine Trouble.”

If Democrats believe government should work for its citizens, they should start here and move fast. The federal government should begin paying stipends to businesses which provide public relief. The stipends can be scaled according to the need and the hour, with top premiums paid to places which stay open all night.

Would the Chevron station near downtown or Denny’s in Glenwood welcome anyone who needed a bathroom break? That would depend on the size of the stipend. Would Mandy’s Diner south of downtown resume its 24 hour schedule if it was financially feasible? I’ll bet they would, making those wee hours better, one milkshake at a time.

FEMA already funds and promotes public “safe rooms” where citizens can shelter during a weather emergency. This would be no different, except the emergencies would be of a more personal nature.


Don Kahle ( writes a column each Wednesday and Sunday for The Register-Guard and archives past columns at Previous columns on the theme of order before law: (2021) and (2016)

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  • 1 charlotte Jun 17, 2022 at 8:15 pm

    Strangely enough today’s internet ran an article on peecyclers…saving it for agriculture purposes. Both this and that are interesting reads.