For the first time in its 171-year history, the state of California lost population last year. In fact, it lost so many people in recent years that after 17 decades of growth, the most populous state will lose one of its 53 congressional seats in this upcoming redistricting and one of its 55 Electoral Votes.
I’m one of the newer exiles, an economic/political refugee among the more than 182,000 who’ve abandoned the no-longer-so-Golden State in the last 16 months.
Since at least 1850 Americans seeking gold, oil, adventure, a new start, a different future, sunshine, a movie career, tourism or a photo with Mickey Mouse migrated to California, obvious home to the country’s pioneering, trend-setting future — unless the Great Earthquake came in time.
It was an exciting, often beautiful place, full of newness, freedoms, creativity, surfing and year-round swimming pools.
It’s so attractive, in fact, that millions of Americans, Asians, Mexicans and others went there, not all of them legally. You’d think the third largest state that happens to be three times the size of New York would have plenty of room for 40 million people.
It would, if half of them hadn’t crowded into the three metropolitan areas of LA, San Francisco and San Diego. And if 15 million of them didn’t own cars and want to travel to the same places at the same time in one of those urban metroplexes.
One afternoon it took my family two hours to get through a single freeway merge. That provided time to devise a theorem on traffic in the City of Angles: Half the drivers are trying to get somewhere. The other half have given up and are trying to get back home.
Utilizing freeways as twice-daily parking lots is great for talk-radio and audio-books. Not so good for mental health, family life or the environment. LA has the nation’s worst smog and likely the worst epidemic of homelessness.
A lot has changed in the past quarter-century. California’s politics have become stagnant Democrat. Of the state’s 53 House members, 42 are Democrats. Inattentive, shortsighted voters have given Democrats a super-majority in the state legislature.
Nancy Pelosi was first elected way back in 1987 to represent San Francisco in the House. Obviously, her city has shown amazing improvement under her leadership. She’s 81. The state’s senior senator is another Democrat, Dianne Feinstein. She’s been in office almost 30 years and is older even than Joe Biden. She was born three months into Franklin Roosevelt’s first term.
Until recently, the other Democrat senator was Kamala Harris. Joe Biden chose to bring Harris’ unique cackle into the White House as vice president.
As happens anywhere one party rules for too long (See also Illinois), its politicians get lazy and arrogant and do silly things. Given their regular droughts, California voters passed billions of dollars in water bonds to build new reservoirs.
The state hasn’t been able to get around to that. So, trillions of gallons from recent rains flowed uselessly into the Pacific, as does so much raw sewage that beaches are routinely closed.
But, by golly, the state legislature cracked down on tiny plastic shampoo bottles in hotels. It also banned plastic straws because, bad. And recent Democrat governors continued to push a high-speed rail line costing in excess of $100 billion for the dozens of people who want to travel from Sacramento to Merced quite quickly.
Last year during the pandemic state legislators passed a law signed by that embattled Gov. Gavin “I-can-dine-at-fancy-restaurants-but-you-can’t” Newsom, now facing recall. The new law — this is for real — finally gave citizens the legal right to refuse a plea for help from any police officer.
Under proposal now is a measure that would tax California refugees for 10 years after they move out of the state. The California-style thinking is you can’t move out of the Golden State without sharing any financial success you achieve elsewhere.
Good luck tracking any of us down.