If Only His Bootstraps Were Made of Red Tape


The blood-boiling story of the day comes from San Francisco:

He sleeps under a bridge, washes in a public bathroom and was panhandling for booze money 11 months ago, but now Larry Moore is the best-dressed shoeshine man in the city. When he gets up from his cardboard mattress, he puts on a coat and tie. It's a reminder of how he has turned things around.

In fact, until last week it looked like Moore was going to have saved enough money to rent a room and get off the street for the first time in six years. But then, in a breathtakingly clueless move, an official for the Department of Public Works told Moore that he has to fork over the money he saved for his first month's rent to purchase a $491 sidewalk vendor permit.

It just gets worse from there.

• The city bureaucrat who clamped down on Moore did so after reading about his success in the newspaper.

• A spokesman for the city's Department of Public Works described the city's interaction with Moore as an "educational" experience for Moore.

• The city official wouldn't tell Moore what building he needed to visit to get the permit, because she didn't know.

• When Moore was able to collect the money (which included donations from his outraged customers), got the right forms, and found the right office, they wouldn't take his money, because he didn't have a government-issued photo ID.

Moore is going to be okay, thanks to the generosity of the private citizens who have rallied around him. He now has enough money for the permit and his first month's rent, and he has the counsel of an attorney who is helping him navigate the city's maze of regulations free of charge. But it's certainly no thanks to San Francisco's famously progressive, pro-homeless city government.