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.