Obama or McCain, California is still in trouble

When I moved to California in 1988 I had this notion that it never rains, and sure enough it didn’t rain from the date I arrived (June 1) through November.  In fact we were in a drought.  To paraphrase Spock sometimes having is not as good as wanting.

It has always bothered me that the state does not have an effective form of government, where budgets require a 2/3 majority and the initiative process delivers generally cruddy legislation (cf, Props 1a, 5, 13, 99, 187, etc).  My favorite was SF Proposition BB in 1993 when Officer Bob Geary managed to garner enough signatures for this lovely question, “Shall it be the policy of the people of San Francisco to allow Police Officer Bob Geary to decide when he may use his puppet Brendan O’Smarty while on duty?”  And he won.

I grew up in a state where an honest politician stayed bought (NJ), but our roads and bridges were maintained and our school systems remained relatively competitive.  In the meantime, California’s infrastructure degraded at a time of great prosperity, where people invested in their SUVs, Wiis, and wide screen TVs (not to mention prisons), with only a modest break when Grey Davis (who otherwise was quite awful) drove resources into the schools.

Now with California having the highest foreclosure rate in the country we already see the crisis of municipalities cutting services, and schools are next in line.  My friends in Asia think the U.S. is finished.  They think that our reputation is so tarnished, and our finances so wrecked, that we will not recover in our lifetimes.  They may be right.

While Obama or McCain might be able to fix our reputation, no matter who wins tonight, California, the 5th largest economy in the world, cannot expect the federal government to fix the above messes that Californian citizens made.  Whether Prop 8 passes is absolutely insignificant compared to what has to happen to get things on the right track.  To me that includes an overhaul of the taxing policies, review of how we fund our schools, opportunistic use of emminant domain to fix public transportation and power distribution, and most of all, a fix to the initiative system, which should be a last resort, and one that requires a super-majority to prevail.

So sure!  Get out and vote.  But then think about real change in California.  It will take a lot of work.

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