Terry McLaughlin: California dream diminished
“When the wintry winds are blowing and the snow is starting in to fall,
Then my eyes turn westward, knowing that’s the place I love the best of all.
California, I’ve been blue, since I’ve been away from you.
I can’t wait ‘til I get going, even now I’m starting in to call.
Oh, California, here I come, right back where I started from.
Where bowers of flowers bloom in the sun,
Each morning at dawning, the birdies sing and everything.
A sunkist miss said ‘Don’t be late,’ that’s why I can hardly wait.
Open up that Golden Gate, California here I come.”
(“California, Here I Come” by Sophie B. Hawkins)
I am a “California Girl,” born and raised in San Diego — where the weather is almost perfect almost all of the time.
The beaches were clean and beautiful, the streets were wide and uncongested, and along with rigorous academic classes, the public schools offered wonderful programs including choir, orchestra, drama, art, sewing, cooking, woodshop, auto shop and ample Advanced Placement courses. As a kid I could ride my bike to the water’s edge or walk to school in safety. I spent my 17th summer working at the world renowned San Diego Zoo, meeting people from around the globe who came to experience the zoo, the world-class museums in Balboa Park, and so much more. I thought I lived in Paradise.
As a young mother my family moved to the Bay Area and I learned that there was a difference between summer and fall after all! The shoreline was different from Southern California, but every bit as beautiful. Muir Woods and Mount Tamalpais beckoned. The Golden Gate Bridge shone like a beacon, drawing me to my new home. As the pace of the Bay Area increased, along with housing prices and congestion, the appeal of the rural foothills of Northern California grew, and after raising our children we left the hustle behind and moved to Nevada County. Here I was finally introduced to four seasons — and loved every one of them.
I have enjoyed exploring other states across our nation, driving from coast to coast multiple times — but my heart has always belonged to California. For virtually all of its history, California was a magnet drawing Americans, like my father, in search of a better life — more space, more sunlight, more jobs, more opportunity. California had its own “California Dream” and people seeking that dream grew California’s population by 137% between 1960 and 2010 according to data from the Manhattan Institute.
Today, the California exodus is real. “Newly released census data shows approximately 691,000 people moved from California to another state in 2018. About 501,000 people moved from another state into California in the same period.” (SFGate.com Nov. 5). “It is the seventh year in a row that more people have left the state than moved in”, reports KNTV. The high cost of living — housing, utilities, gasoline, taxes — has further perpetrated the growth of the homeless and welfare populations. According to the Los Angeles Times, LA’s homeless population has surged 75% in six years. Now at about 50,000, Los Angeles boasts one of the largest homeless communities in the country. One United Nations housing official who visited homeless sites in both LA and San Francisco was so shocked by the conditions, she suggested that California was in violation of international human rights law (The American Spectator, Nov. 5). According to Investor’s Business Daily, more than 10,000 businesses have either left the state or reduced their investments since 2008, partially due to increasing costs of regulations, taxes and increased minimum wages.
A University of California Berkeley IGS Poll conducted in September from a random sample of 4,500 registered voters indicates that many others are considering leaving the state. It concluded that more than half of California’s registered voters are giving serious or some consideration to doing so.
The results of the poll were fairly consistent throughout California. In Los Angeles County, just under half (49%) of those polled are considering leaving the state. To the south, in Orange and San Diego counties, 50% of households polled are considering leaving. In the rest of Southern California, dominated by Riverside-San Bernardino, about 55% of households are considering moving out of the state.
Central Valley residents exceeded the unhappiness level of the rest of California with 56% considering moving. Even in the San Francisco Bay Area, which includes the San Francisco and San Jose metropolitan areas — the world’s leading tech center — half of the residents are considering leaving the state. Polling in the rest of Northern California showed only 46% considering an interstate move — but this poll was taken before PG&E began cutting off power to much of our area.
The top reasons for wanting to leave the state cited by the poll were the high cost of housing at 71%, followed by high taxes at 58%, the state’s political culture at 47%, and overcrowding at 38%. And just recently a report ranked California’s schools amongst the lowest in the nation. This does not bode well for California, as there is no indication that any of these things will improve in the foreseeable future.
While California’s weather and natural beauty remain incomparable to other states, it gives me no pleasure to acknowledge that the “California Dream” of my childhood has faded and my home state’s status as America’s dreamland has been diminished.
Terry McLaughlin, who lives in Grass Valley, writes a twice monthly column for The Union. Write to her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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