Our politicians should keep an eye on DC, but they need to focus on solving California’s many problems.
Since the November election, it has become quite fashionable in certain California circles to promote the idea of “Calexit.” Others, including our Governor and Legislature, have positioned California as the leading opponent of the Trump Administration and its emerging policy agenda, arguing that California has led the way on combining liberal values with economic achievement.
In a recent column, Dan Walters from the Sacramento Bee highlighted the many problems with both positions and politely advised our politicians to get back to work and not “Wag The Dog” with the chaos in Washington. He couldn’t be more correct.
As Mr. Walters noted at the outset of his column, there is much for Californians to be proud of, including our State’s “diverse population and . . . powerful entrepreneurial spirit.” Indeed, Census data show that California created businesses at almost twice the national average from 2007-2012. To Mr. Walter’s list of positives, we would add California’s inclusiveness and tolerance, persistent optimism, and interest in innovative public policies (even if we do not always agree with those policies).
As Mr. Walters noted, there are many California public policies where further innovation is badly needed (and we have a few to add to his list). Sadly, California has the nation’s “highest level of poverty,” and an unemployment rate that is substantially higher than the national average. It also has the worst traffic, made even more aggravating by having the nation’s second-worst roads (and no plan for fixing them). Our water supply is not only “shaky,” but we have spent the last two years creating the regulatory rules for increasing our water storage, rather than actually increasing our storage in time to capture more of this winter’s abundant rainfall. Despite our excess supply of electricity, we have (paradoxically) very high rates. Notwithstanding Proposition 30 (and its successor, Proposition 55), our K-12 schools rank near the bottom in academic achievement. Our colleges and universities, moreover, must increase fees and tuition because they receive relatively little state funding support. The lack of state funding for higher education can, in turn, be tied to our rapidly deteriorating state pension system, which faces increasingly massive shortfalls despite consuming more taxpayer dollars every year. The billions we spend on pensions siphons funding from other critical policy priorities as well, including environmental protection. This is painfully illustrated by the ongoing challenge the coastal community of Summerland faces in trying to obtain roughly $1 million in state funding to cap an old leaking oil well that is spoiling its otherwise beautiful beach.
Rather than spend their time celebrating this track record or posturing for policy fights with the Trump Administration that may be months or years away, our elected officials should get back to work fixing California’s myriad problems. As Mr. Walters noted, their “Trump obsession not only entices California’s politicians to overstate [our State’s] virtues and minimize its shortcomings . . . but diverts the political energy [our problems] demand.” To borrow a phrase: Let’s “monitor nationally,” but “act locally.”