This will be the last blog at Right in San Francisco for a time, as I am consumed by the efforts of selling a home in San Francisco, moving, and buying a home in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. The move will leave behind a political understanding of California derived from 20 years of engagement with the San Francisco Civil Grand Jury, the San Francisco GOP, the California GOP, the Sacramento Seminar (a weekly bi-partisan discussion group with knowledgeable members and insightful speakers), the Lincoln Club of Northern California (an impactful Silicon Valley-based Republican support group), the Oakland Military Institute (which has involved many discussions about education with its founder, Mayor and Governor Jerry Brown, as well as an introduction to Oakland politics), the Log Cabin Republicans, the Republican Women of San Francisco Federated, and many others. These are organizations - it is the people who have made it fun.
On the plus side:
- California is welcoming to outsiders. The Bay Area retains something of a Gold Rush mentality, with people coming from all over the world to find riches. Hollywood is similar for Southern California. I have been welcomed to leadership positions with the Civil Grand Jury, the Presidio Golf Club, and OMI - something much less likely to happen in New England.
- California is multi-cultural. Neither idealists nor xenophobes can understand the reality of living with others - what works and what doesn't - unless they have swum in the waters. Asia and Latin America are as real to Californians as is Europe to New Englanders.
- San Francisco has a Goldilocks climate - never too hot; never too cold; a bit of moisture in the winter, but generally dry. People spend time outdoors and respect the environment.
- The University of San Francisco men's basketball team is finally succeeding. After 20 years as disappointed ticket holders, the Dons are now the highest rated Division I team in California at 17-3 on the season and likely on their way to their first NCAA tournament berth in ages.
On the minus side - and this is different than it was in 1998, at least in our perception as we have aged:
- There are too many people. In an arid climate California is home to 40 million people, and there is not enough water to go around; the politicians rank residents, fish, and agriculture in that order; and the environmentalists can prevent the addition of reservoir capacity. Housing construction is constrained by environmental laws, building code requirements, and neighborhood opposition. Companies are adding jobs at a multiple of the pace of housing growth - in Bay Area cities, and in the state at large. Commutes lengthen, roads clog, and civility wanes.
- No elected politician advocates for people like us. The unchallenged Democratic Party is driven by advocates of aggrieved "minorities", who actually make up the majority. As one in the fray, I have to admire the political skills of San Francisco politicians such as Nancy Pelosi, Gavin Newsom, and Kamila Harris, and the Democratic Party which controls the local and state executive and legislative branches, as well as the rules by which the game is played.
- Selling a house in San Francisco serves as a good metaphor for the relation between middle class citizens and the government. There are four separate inspectors (pest, conformance to water conservation requirements, construction, and Underground Storage Tanks) who inspect and offer to repair problems which they have found. There is a $20,000 real estate transfer tax. Any capital gain is taxed at ordinary income rates, which are the highest in the nation. One is compelled to admit to any non-permitted property improvements. Lawyers lurk.
- The middle class is leaving at a net rate of over 100,000 per year. The Boy Scout oath and Norman Rockwell are so last century. California is increasingly becoming a state of haves and have nots, with the highest poverty rate in the nation along with the largest number of new billionaires.
- The attraction of libertarian ideals becomes overwhelming in a nanny state where plastic bags and straws are outlawed, a charge for paper bags is mandated, trash is examined to ensure conformance to recycling mandates, and arbitrary goals are set for the elimination of fossil fuels. Unlike the successful "personal responsibility" credo of the Salvation Army or Alcoholics Anonymous, California's approach to drug addiction and homelessness is based on compassion, societal guilt, and and atonement with unlimited services.
It's been a good run, but John Galt left on the last flight to the "Live Free or Die" state.
And for a finale, a Beach Boys tribute to the California that was in a diffrent era.
bill bowen - 1/25/19