California

The Golden State’s War on Itself

california-sunset.jpg

California has long been a destination for those seeking a better place to live. For most of its history, the state enacted sensible policies that created one of the wealthiest and most innovative economies in human history. California realized the American dream but better, fostering a huge middle class that, for the most part, owned their homes, sent their kids to public schools, and found meaningful work connected to the state’s amazingly diverse, innovative economy.  read more »

L.A.'s Economy Is Not Dead Yet

los-angeles-basin.jpg

"This is the city," ran the famous introduction to the popular crime drama Dragnet. "Los Angeles, Calif. I work here." Of course, unlike Det. Sgt. Joe Friday, who spoke those words every episode, I am not a cop, but Los Angeles has been my home for over 35 years.

To Sgt. Friday, L.A. was a place full of opportunities to solve crimes, but for me Los Angeles has been an ideal barometer for the city of the future. For the better part of the last century, Los Angeles has been, as one architect once put it, "the original in the Xerox machine." It largely invented the blueprint of the modern American city: the car-oriented suburban way of life, the multi-polar metropolis around a largely unremarkable downtown, the sprawling jumble of ethnic and cultural enclaves of a Latin- and Asian-flavored mestizo society.  read more »

The Vote: Democracy or Disease?

I Voted 2245034337_843c60f60b.jpg

When the California polls closed on Tuesday, the most costly primary race in the state's history—thus far—came to an end. Like many high profile races for Senator and Governor nationwide, the spending attracted national attention.

Of course, this isn't the first time that California politics and political trends have captured the national imagination and spread like a virus. Given the particularly brutal economic meltdown in California, one would not expect the state's notoriously dysfunctional governance system to be a role model for others to follow. Alas, it unfortunately seems that it is. Three examples below from the Midwest show that California-style governance definitely has its fans.  read more »

Arizona's Short-Sighted Immigration Bill

immigrantmarch.jpg

Arizona's recent passage of what is widely perceived as a harsh anti-immigrant bill reflects a growing tendency--in both political parties--to focus on the here and now, as opposed to the future. The effort to largely target Latino illegal aliens during a sharp recession may well gain votes among an angry, alienated majority population, but it could have unforeseen negative consequences over time.  read more »

California is Too Big To Fail; Therefore, It Will Fail

california-capital-1.jpg

Back in December I wrote a piece where I stated that California was likely to default on its obligations. Let’s say the state’s leaders were less than pleased. California Treasurer Bill Lockyer’s office asserted that I knew “nothing about California bonds, or the risk the State will default on its payments.” My assessment, they asserted, “is nothing more than irresponsible fear-mongering with no basis in reality, only roots in ignorance. Since it issued its first bond, California has never, not once, defaulted on a bond payment.”  read more »

Finding the Good in This Bad Time

houston.jpg

This year's best places rankings held few great surprises. In a nation that shed nearly 6.7 million jobs since 2007, the winners were places that maintained or had limited employment declines. These places typically had high levels of government spending (including major military installation or large blocs of federal jobs) or major educational institutions. Nor was the continued importance of the energy economy surprising in a nation where a gallon of gas is still about $3 a gallon.  read more »

The War For Jobs, Part II: Teamwork On The Frontlines

Ventura CA at night-3087716404_bed2a0e51b_m.jpg

So if we are in a new war -- this one for business and job growth -- what role does local government play?

It would be a mistake to over-emphasize the role of government, especially at the local level. Despite the claims of politicians from both parties about how many jobs their policies "created," governments don't create jobs, at least not in the private sector. Ventura, for example, is estimated to generate about seven to eight billion dollars in annual economic activity. The sales and profitability of thousands of individual businesses are only marginally impacted by what goes on at City Hall, no matter what cheerleaders or critics might claim.  read more »

The War For Jobs Trumps The War For Sales Tax Dollars: Part I

Ventura, CApromenade2574106788_6495b6b96f.jpg

At the beginning of every war, generals always try to fight the last one. Experienced professionals are often the last to realize the times and terrain have changed.

Since the passage of Proposition 13 — the 1978 'taxpayer revolt' against California property taxes — most California cities have focused on generating sales tax. Property tax, which had been the traditional backbone of local revenue, was slashed by 60%, sparking an intense Darwinian struggle between cities for sales tax market share. During the nineties, the cities along the 101 Corridor in Ventura County competed intensely in the “mall wars” over which cities would get auto dealers and major retailers. The City of Ventura  read more »

Denver Relocation: The Search for Higher Ground

Denvers LoDo District 1.jpg

In 2003 our family relocated to Folsom, California from Carson City, Nevada, after my father-in-law was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, to help with his care. In many ways the transition felt like an immersion into what Joel Kotkin calls the “city of aspiration.” Folsom, a Sacramento region suburb of 50,000, was notable for its robust economy, impressive K-12 schools, world-class bike paths, and low crime. It offered a favorable environment for families and upwardly mobile professionals.

Seven years later, the landscape has certainly changed. My father-in-law has passed on, and California's high cost of living continues to have a profound impact on our personal finances. This scenario, coupled with the currently dire economic picture, gave my wife and I pause to again rethink our future path. After many long nights of thoughtful dialogue, we came to the realization that it was time to break ties with the Golden State. In early summer, Denver will become our next home.

This pending relocation offers our family an opportunity to embrace what I call “the geography of place”— the merging of what one wants to do with where  read more »

The Great Deconstruction - First in a New Series

globe-puzzle-deconstruct.jpg

History imparts labels on moments of great significance; The Civil War, The Great Depression, World War II. We are entering such an epoch. The coming transformation of America and the world may be known as The Great Deconstruction. Credit restrictions will force spending cuts and a re-prioritization of interests. Our world will be dramatically changed. There will be winners and losers. This series will explore the winners and losers of The Great Deconstruction.

***

The phrase, The Great Depression, was coined by British economist Lionel Robbins in a 1934 book of the same name.  read more »