Wednesday, July 23

California in Crisis - It's official. Governor Gray Davis will be subject to a recall election this fall. From the unphotogenic Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante to Secretary of State Kevin Shelley (desperately hoping not to appear like the next Katherine Harris) to Rep. Darrell Issa (the sugar daddy behind the recall campaign), all the players are being profiled. But the magnitude of the damage this situation could wreak rivals that of an earthquake. Between the fight for the state's top job and the endless wrangling over the state budget, disasters and energy emergencies, Newsweek's cover story gets right to the point: California is under seige.

We're maligned for being a state "where nothing is normal anymore." Nevertheless, Newsweek thinks these issues are important enough to bring to a national audience. And why is that? Because the rest of the nation takes its cues from California. "Epics in California matter to the rest of America. The Golden State is the biggest by far, with an economy larger than all but four nations." To the forty-nine other states, "California is our own El Dorado—America’s America—home of start-ups and starting over, of new social trends and of trends from elsewhere writ large."

It's true that California benefits from the allure of beautiful weather, the acceptance of diverse cultures and lifestyles and a robust economy even in the face of a giant deficit. Yet because of term limits and Prop 13, poorly executed deregulation and a flawed system of taxation, we're regarded as a state "that has "lost the ability to govern itself and is in need of cataclysmic political renovation."

I don't disagree. We desperately need reforms. However, a replacement Governor, no matter what party he or she may be from, is not going to be powerful enough to singlehandedly change the tide. It's going to require herculean, cooperative efforts in order to be successful. We've got to keep our eyes open to make long-term systemic changes, not quick fix band-aid solutions.

In a state where people from the rest of the country move to start over (including Gray Davis), a state that only just celebrated its sesquicentennial, are we prepared to think about long term consquences? Whatever the result of this recall balloting, I hope we exhibit leadership from the highest levels of the state government and demonstrate that California is capable of making long-range plans.