Thursday, October 15, 2009

Will California Become America's First Failed State?

The title of this post comes from an article that has had some real traction across the internet. Written by Paul Harris, I first noticed it on the site. But apparently it can be also be found on everything from the left-leaning Huffington Post to the strongly conservative Absurd Report. That does seem to indicate some post-ideological appeal, which means it'll fit in just fine on The Tattler. And since we find ourselves in the middle of this unfortunate and perhaps even historic mess, I thought we should check it into this blog as well.

The blog chatter about the article goes something like this. California is the state that sets nationwide trends, both cultural and political. And the United States is in the throes of a pretty severe economic crisis, one that is lasting longer than few dared to anticipate. So can it be that California is once again performing its signature role, but this time in a way that will not make very many people happy? That is, as the first American state to become economically and politically incapable of governing itself?

That plus all the usual California bashing that many who don't live here enjoy so much. So here's the best chunk of the article:

But the state that was once held up as the epitome of the boundless opportunities of America has collapsed. From its politics to its economy to its environment and way of life, California is like a patient on life support. At the start of summer the state government was so deeply in debt that it began to issue IOUs instead of wages. Its unemployment rate has soared to more than 12%, the highest figure in 70 years. Desperate to pay off a crippling budget deficit, California is slashing spending in education and healthcare, laying off vast numbers of workers and forcing others to take unpaid leave. In a state made up of sprawling suburbs the collapse of the housing bubble has impoverished millions and kicked tens of thousands of families out of their homes. Its political system is locked in paralysis and the two-term rule of former movie star Arnold Schwarzenegger is seen as a disaster - his approval ratings have sunk to levels that would make George W. Bush blush. The crisis is so deep that Professor Kevin Starr, who has written an acclaimed history of the state, recently declared: "California is on the verge of becoming the first failed state in America."

Some pretty dire stuff. The economic and political struggles in places like Bolivia or Chile come to mind, third world locales that also seem to be in the throes of endless crises. Crises compounded by dysfunctional governments that never seem capable of rising above the narrow ideological defiles that guarantee the loyalty of their invested followers. Just like here. And our own state government reaching into our pockets to confiscate city property taxes in the name of staying solvent is a practice very familiar to your average citizen in, let's say, Santiago. It is the way things are done in troubled societies.

So how does this translate locally? The example I would use is this. The RHNA number demands that will come down in a couple of years because of SB 375 are going to make what we've struggled with so far look like child's play. Set aside the absurd propaganda put out by Sacramento regarding their paradoxical claim that forcing whole new layers of high-density development into built-out cities will somehow stop global warming and consider this. What we are looking at here is the biggest wholesale power confiscation in California history. Because what SB 375 really accomplishes for its patrons is to remove the control cities have traditionally held over development inside their borders, and then concentrates that power within the state legislature controlled central planning apparatus in Sacramento. Which then enables them to offer it up to the highest bidding corporate lobbies. In this case being those most interested in unfettered development control, the likes of the BIA and CAR.

And make no mistake about it, those who do the bidding of SCAG, COG, and the rest of these quasi-governmental regional organizations are entirely engaged in this effort to wrest development control away from California's cities. RHNA numbers are a part of it, but there are many other aspects to these efforts as well. As an example, many of those employed by cities to run their municipal governments work closely with regional planning authorities like SCAG. And because of their Sacramento empowerment, SCAG can influence the career paths many city employed planning professionals hope to take. Which means that when the time comes to decide which way to go on a development project, too often the voice heard is not that of the town's residents, but rather that of agendas serving Sacramento's needs. And in the end many city employees go with self-interest, which means heeding the high volume development demands of state and federally controlled regional planning agencies such as SCAG.

Those of us who maintain that planning control of the towns and cities we love should remain with those actually paying the taxes and casting the votes are facing challenges never really seen in this part of the world before. And while there have always been pressures to succumb to the demands of local developers and their political allies, what we're dealing with now is far beyond that. There are elected city officials who are doing whatever it takes to force the surrender of their own control to redevelopers and their allies in Sacramento. People who will then sit passively by as historic sites and wooded groves are destroyed and replaced with the kind of generic crap we see everywhere else. Because that is where the money and power is. And because we're talking about corporate interests aligned with state power, the political resources available to such people number in the millions of dollars.

I hope you enjoy fights, because what we're struggling with here could be the biggest political challenge of our lifetime. This isn't just about some local home improvement yahoos taking baseball bats to mailboxes and car windows like during the Measure V days. No, this time we're talking about the consequences of living in a state where the government is in the throes of a complete collapse. A place run by a deeply corrupt oligarchy that needs to devour and sell everything in sight just to stay afloat. Including us.


  1. We can make sure we vote out any politician who is in the pocket of the BIA/CAR or other special interests who want to take rights away from small cities-our rights-our liberty-our children's future-our hillsides future-our town's future.
    People like John Buchanan and Joe Mosca, whose disgraceful behavior at the last city council meeting should be clear to all. The don't represent the people of Sierra Madre.
    We know about Mosca, we will vote him out next April. Make sure you know who wants to get elected and who they represent. Who they are influenced by.
    I know Sir Eric will guide and provide us with the facts and figures of all politicians on our ballots. I trust Sir Eric and his research team.
    I trust people like Fay Angus, Heather Allen and Teryl Willis. These people always speak the truth, that is what they are about.
    We are lucky, we will all vote smart.

  2. I can only wonder about the sanity of those who would be such
    willing accomplices to Sacramento's failure. Are they so self-
    involved that they can't see the damage they are doing?

  3. If you are talking about Joe and John, Curly, yes, they are so self involved. They work for big energy corporations whose agenda is to promote high density development under the cloak of "green".

  4. Great new Neuroblast YouTube clips. Go up to the Neuroblastfilms near top of page and click on their link everyone.
    You're the best, Dave.

  5. The irony of John and Joe proclaiming themselves the Green guys is that they work for two energy companies noted for their greenhouse gas production. Kind of like all those "green" ads you see for things like cars lately. These folks always want to portray themselves as being the things they are not.

  6. We have allowed this oligarchy to develop. When you allow one interest group to gain complete control of making policy, it isn't healthy for a Democracy.
    Systemic corruption through interest groups to the California legislature, has trickled down to the local level,via campaign kickbacks and favors. Political favors become the rule, and not the exception. We have a government run by weak people, without principle, willing to go along for their own self interests and advancement.
    The peoples interests are secondary.
    Its time to vote them all out. We need to start over.

  7. Looks like Ed Roski's pals in Sacramento got his stadium deal done for him. The State Senate just gave him his "Environmental Exemption." Which goes to show that environmental reviews are only good when they work for the interests of powerful Sacramento connected developers. Otherwise? Throw them out.

  8. been out of town and just saw heather scour joe--well done! needs to be on the Joe Mosca, Candadate CD collection, as someone else suggested, to send to all voters when joe runs for reelection or for office somewhere else in his pathetic political future.

  9. Because these corrupt agencies have shut down public access. LA County supes, particularly Antonovich, have shut out reporters but not lobbyists.,0,5234918.story

    These guys do all the dirty work for implementing State fiat.

    As well as funding partisan attacks on the system

  10. It took years of horrible leadership for things to get this bad in California. And now we've hit bottom.

  11. Writing on the wall...October 15, 2009 at 10:40 AM

    If you think this is the bottom, you are sadly mistaken. As soon as we can, my family is out of here, selling the house, taking the equity and buying something for cash in a more stable state,(hard to find though)...C-YA!!!!!

  12. Writing on the wall:

    Go to Texas. Most states are bad, Texas is about the best economy, at least at this time.

  13. People who left Oklahoma to go to California during the dust bowl years were called Okies. So what do you call Californians leaving to go to places like Texas and Oklahoma?

  14. BC - political refugees? Asylum seekers?

  15. North Dakota has good economy.
    Texas is the best for business.

    Kentucky is no good....high unemployment due to the depressed coal industry.
    Horse farms are really in a depression as well, many in the Blue Grass State will go out of business this year or next.


    Texas has a budget surplus in 2009.

  17. Wait 'til the dollar devaluation hits. No place to run.

  18. Wait'll OPEC decides it prefers Euros to Dollars.

  19. Bernecki can stop the slide, if he raises interest rates, but then Japan and China (imports) hit the fan. If he doesn't raise IR, deflation continues.
    So what's the answer? I got news for ya' all....the answer has a question mark behind it!
    It's a serious, complex problem.
    The economy will recover eventually, our system always rights itself in spite of these global castastrophes.
    I'm going to hang tough here in Sierra Madre and ride it out. Texas is too cold in the winter and they have inferior horse racing there.
    I am most worried about the depression of the horse industry in Kentucky. That's going to hurt Santa Anita, they'll feel the pinch a few years down the road.

  20. As discussed in yesterday's excellent Tattler article and the comments from its readers, Tuesday's City Council meeting was momentous. The Mayor and Council Members Zimmerman and Watts voted to remove and did remove Council Member Mosca from his position as the Council of Government's representative. The Coucil unanimously adopted a resolution approving a tolling agreement/settlement that would resolve many issues related to the proposed development at Stonehouse and One Carter. Fianlly, Councilmember Zimmerman's astute comments revealed that City Staff was proposing to provide the So. Cal. Assoc. of Governments with employment and population data that could impact the future allocation of low income housing in Sierra Madre WITHOUT COUNCIL APPROVAL.

    I am thankful that we have the Tattler to cover that City Council meeting for the residents, who could not attend or see it rebroadcast. I am very disappointed, however, that there was no coverage of that meeting in the Pasadena Star News.

  21. 10:59 Yea Texas. They are playing with cecession, will give up all federal funded projects, soc sec, medicare, ports and military bases, no military protecton, freeways, and public education (they can home school to their hearts content)and the US will have to build a new fence. Without US protection Mexico will invade again and establish the Mexican State of Texas. Long live the Alamo! Go ahead and move there!

  22. Some Texans might be talking about secession, though most of the ones I've read about live in trailers with their moms. But California? Who knows, maybe they'll fire us for rank incompetence.

  23. God, haven't had Lorna Doone cookies since forever

  24. You know, I endured a lot of those kinds of slights as a child. People even went so far as to refer to me as "Shortbread." Or "Enzo" because of the Nabisco letter "N" on the biscuit. If I told you this has caused me a lot of pain over the years, would you believe me? Would you care?

  25. Oh, just get over it, Lorn A Doone!
    You're an adult now, aren't you?

  26. The abuse has left me emotionally stunted.

  27. State Legislature approval rating drops to 13%

  28. What is a tolling agreement/settlement? Sorry for the ignorance but this a term I have not heard before. What exactly did the CC agree to and or give away in regards to 1 Carter? Did they get their sign? What else did they get? Thank you!

  29. I'm not sure either TreeLady.
    In regards to the sign issue, I think they postponed it. Anyone know.
    I know our three councilmembers were very tough on the Carter/Stonehouse issue.
    Teryl Willis and Tracy Thomas gave all the Stonehouse attorneys in the place a rough time, to the delight of all watching!
    Anyone know what tolling agreement/settlement means?

  30. Treelady, just a guess, but from the body language of the big boss from Capital Source, the council's inclusion of Lot # 3 as dedicated open space (the most visible of the very visible lots on the decapitated west ridge of Crater) pretty much killed any chance of that particular form of a settlement agreement going anywhere.

  31. The city attorney did explain what "tolling" is.
    It went something like:
    It is NOT an agreement for a tract map or anything like it, or an approval for the development, but does say a development can go forth.
    It DOES stop all the court stuff like a pause button.
    But that's all I can say for sure.

  32. Crazy conspiracy theoristOctober 15, 2009 at 7:29 PM

    This is accurate, right?
    "...what SB 375 really accomplishes for its patrons is to remove the control cities have traditionally held over development inside their borders, and then concentrates that power within the state legislature controlled central planning apparatus in Sacramento."
    Then it s the duty of every city official in Sierra Madre to dedicate an hour of their working day to call citizens, form resistance, circulate information that will REJECT TOTALITARIAN GOVERNMENTAL PLANNING.
    Looks like we're going to need some lawyers.
    Wasn't there a discussion recently about San Diego suing and losing? Maybe if all the cities together sue the state?

  33. South Pas neighborOctober 15, 2009 at 7:45 PM

    Tattler, thanks for the inclusion of the video of Ms. Allen on your site.
    This is a remarkable speech.

  34. SPN: We love Heather. She in many ways embodies the spirit of Sierra Madre. She gave the carpetbagger exactly what he deserved.

  35. Thank you so much for the information. It is sometimes difficult to decipher lawyer speak, and with so much still at stake it is helpful to know what the heck they are talking about. And Calif. will not go down the proverbial toilet, but must reign in the insane BIA and developers who keep raping the state without fore thought on basic issues such as water and density and infrastructure. SB375 is literally too many rats in the cage and will be the downfall of Calif. as we know it and needs to be rescinded now. There must be a push back by the populace and a push back by the SCAG. And I believe that we have just dealt the first blow with the removal of Mosca. And to couch this in environmental or green terminology has got to be the joke of the century. What happened to quality of life instead of quantity of life?

  36. did someone say fighters needed?

    sign me up!

  37. The only thing wrong with's full of Texans!!...and one shrub.

  38. Sorry about that 2/3 s thing. Didn't think that ne through, sorry