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The San Francisco City Hall is a beautiful, ornate building in the Beaux-Arts style. It was built to replace one the earthquake knocked down and has been continuously renovated, including a record-breakingly huge seismic retrofit of the dome after the Loma Prieta earthquake in 1989.

But they missed a spot. In the room where the Board of Supervisors sits, the president’s chair is on a raised dais. Five steps leading to one chair. Steps without handicap access.

This is San Francisco we’re talking. Can’t just let it go. Particularly when Supervisor Michela Alioto-Pier — who is not the president and never will be, but is in a wheel chair — threatens to sue the city.

Okay, whatever. Let the lady have her ramp. What can it possibly cost to build a ramp over five steps? Oh, about a million and a quarter.

It starts with a hundred grand worth of design work and 3D models. Then there’s the asbestos tile and lead paint removal. The dias is carved out of Manchurian oak, and they don’t just give that stuff away in corn flake boxes, you know.

Let’s see…there’s a supervisor, a construction consultant and an electrical consultant. The Bureau of Architecture, Bureau of Construction Management and Department of Technology and Information Services get involved. There’s $16,500 just in permits and fees. Oh, these things add up. Even before you toss in the $300,000 for the new audio-visual system, which you might as well do at the same time because construction will mess with the existing system.

The kicker? The president doesn’t actually use the chair these days. He sits on the floor with everyone else. So the chair is entirely symbolic.

Exactly! says Michela Alioto-Pier. Symbols matter. We didn’t leave the segregated waterfountains in place because they were historical, did we?

“I deserve equal access to every part of the chamber,” Alioto-Pier told her colleagues, adding that ending discrimination is worth the $1 million.

Discrimination. White people discriminated against black people. The laws of physics discriminate against cripples. Honestly, it’s not the same thing, injustice-wise. And I wonder when persons of color are going to get sick of the civil rights movement being compared to every little bitch and gripe on the leftist To Do list.

The president of the Board of Supervisors balked (after the price tag went public, anyhow), pointing out that a million plus can build a lot of ramps around the city that people will actually use, but Alioto-Pier will have none of it. Access to every inch of City Hall is what she wants, and the law by-god says she should have it.

And this is what’s wrong with grievance politicians: they don’t hugely care about fixing anything. Making things better would be bad for business. It’s about proving how important their particular special need is by forcing vast sums of public money to be thrown at it. It’s about status and dominance and sweet, sweet media attention. It’s about harnessing the awesome power of the state to their personal attention whoring.

That’s how you spot professional activists: when you give them what they want, they get angrier.

I remember years ago, we were all pretty embarrassed when it was pointed out how simple it would be to make sidewalks easier for people in wheelchairs. Everyone happily signed onto the sensible idea of a few spots near the entrance for handicapped parking. That turned into this. Bad liberal movements often get their first push from the good nature of the general population.

See, lefties, this is why righties fight your pet causes so hard. It’s not that wingers hate cripples. It’s that whenever we think we’re signing up for a sensible solution to a real problem, somehow ten years down the line you have us paying $10,000 an inch for an empty gesture. Just to prove you can.


April 2, 2008 — 9:11 am
Comments: 35