To quote Supertramp in their 1982 hit, it's raining again.
In California, of all places, which is a good feeling.
I'm hard-pressed, however, to feel good about other aspects of California.
Oh I love being near the beautiful Sierras and being able to hike rugged trails in Yosemite as a day trip. It's awesome that we live so close to the ocean. And goodness knows we aren't shoveling snow like the rest of the country during January. Quality fresh produce grows around us.
But California - particularly the Valley - has "yuge" problems.
You notice it with the incessant homeless begging for spare change before you hit the door of any store - assuming you have the disposable income to shop. (Remember, the average household American income is less today than it was in 2007.)
You sense it when it takes you five hours to drive from the San Francisco Airport to home in Stanislaus County on account of traffic when it used to take far less.
You know it too when traffic is cursed because we haven't kept up with population and realize the state and our governor are willing to invest billions on a high-speed boondoggle. It's not because we aren't paying a gas tax either.
You feel it when your house or your neighbor's house gets broken into by "tweakers" who have zero respect for others' property as they support a drug habit while you're working for the things they are stealing to sell for pennies on the dollar.
You know it when you open the Ceres Courier and read that five of your neighbors had their houses or cars sprayed by high-caliber Norteno or Surreno bullets.
You know it when gun sales skyrocket as Democrats to assail your right to protect yourself.
This isn't Jimmy Carter's malaise but it comes close.
I particularly felt the gravity of the state's problems when visiting a website by California Common Sense that spells out the state's top 10 problems in a 10-part report:
• a lack of water infrastructure;
• revenue uncertainty;
• the wall of debt;
• public retirement benefits;
• the rising costs and diminishing access to healthcare;
• low school funding and poor student performance;
• the wasteful high-speed rail project;
• prison overcrowding and Realignment's impact on crime;
• a lagging economy;
• a lack of transparency in state government and the eroding public trust and low voter turnout.
The report concludes: "To correct California's unsustainable course, the state requires informed citizens and leaders willing to tackle the state's budget realities. We must end the cycle of neglect, ignorance, and postponement."
In other words, we've had decades of bad decisions made by failed leaders put in place by ignorant and/or apathetic voters.
Who or what is to blame? Look in the mirror. We failed. I'd say we, the people, failed but more accurately I mean those who voted. There's a huge difference, you know when we have four or five people deciding for 10. So blame the politicians all you want - the problem lies with the people who keep electing these men and women who forget the Constitution.
People's apathy is a monumental problem. How else do you explain that approximately 300,000 Californians still voted for state Senator Leland Yee after he was indicted for bribery and gun trafficking? And as Barack Obama ends his presidency on a wildly unpopular note with dismal approval numbers, ask yourself why "we" re-elected him. Obviously some who vote don't listen to the news, aren't paying attention, would rather watch a game than a debate and waltz right into a polling place voting with a smugness. They vote for image over record and substance.
In the California general election of 1940, 78 percent of eligible Californians voted. That was when people cared and were fighting a war to stay alive. Try 42 percent in 2014. Try 22.28 percent in Stanislaus County last November. Latino voters are MIA. Young voters have checked out so much that political data expert Paul Mitchell, said "In California, an 18- or 19-year-old was more likely to be arrested this year than actually vote in one of the statewide elections."
Not surprisingly, it's the 65-74 agers who votes with greatest frequency, followed by the 55-64 age group. Mitchell says the voters participating in the elections are from a "much higher income, older, whiter segment of the California electorate." He accurately notes "they are voting on the elected officials and ballot measures that are going to be affecting all Californians."
How do we make people care again? I don't know but we might see an awakening growing as a tidal wave hits the Obama legacy this November.
It's not for the faint of heart to review California's woes. It's a dirty job but somebody's got to do. We all need to.
Take jobs. Marin County may have an unemployment rate of 3.9 percent but go to areas like Shackelford School in south Modesto where you'll find 41.9 percent out of work. Can you say "skills gap"? We are failing at turning out graduates with work skills and good work ethic. There are bright spots, such as Ceres High School's Manufacturing Academy, which the state should replicate.
California Common Sense concludes: "Policies that attract businesses to the state, stimulate job growth, and enable full-time employment are key in facilitating California's recovery."
Duh. Some of us have been screaming for years about the state's anti-business climate. Quit overregulating and stifling jobs in the name of the environment, including cap and trade policies. But our governor, on his own website, states: "I have long recognized that environmental protection and economic development go hand in hand and will continue to promote both as Governor." Nobody but Brown believes that. Talk about the parallel universe of Gov. Moonbeam, the self-proclaimed lover of Obamacare. If anything, oppressive environmental regulation drives business from the state.
With prisons overpopulated, Realignment is his failed answer. Putting so-called low-risk offenders on the streets has only increased our property crime rate. With a recidivism rate of 63.7 percent in 2012, obviously our prisons are not rehabilitating many. Instead of releasing prisoners early or transferring them to county jails, why not devote funds on prisoner vocational education to reduce spending down the road? Educate inmates with employable skills, not make them depend on dope dealing, burglary and car stealing.
Our governor, who forever preaches austerity, has no qualms about spending $68 billion on high-speed lunacy. We were shown a $39 billion price-tag when it was before voters. I wasn't buying as my fellow Californians approved Prop 1A in 2008. Our friends at California Common Sense conclude that high-speed rail's "inability to secure funding, high potential for cost overruns, and limited capacity to operate as a self-sustaining system all illustrate that the project's implementation over two decades has been both haphazard and ineffective." Talk about throwing money down a rat hole. We could be filling potholes and building new roads with that money.
No wonder Georgi Boorman of the Federalist said California's "incompetent government has turned it into a national joke - a ‘meanwhile, in California' meme seems appropriate for whatever's going on elsewhere, because odds are California is doing something even dumber, like declaring an Uber driver is an employee instead of a private contractor, making laws about your bathroom's temperature, or banning ‘ex-gay' reparative therapy."
Last week we learned that the California Transportation Commission approved a reduced estimate of projected funding available for the state's transportation program by $754 million over the next five years. "What this means is that almost every county in California that relies on this source of funding for projects that improve traffic and air quality will have to cut or delay projects indefinitely," stated CTC Chair Lucy Dunn.
Great. Just great. Is state Senator Anthony Cannella the only one who believes the state needs to "rebuild our transportation system and find a steady revenue source for transportation funding ongoing" without adding new taxes? And Gov. Brown wants to add another $65 on each car?
And let's talk about water.
Have the thick-skulled legislators under the orange dome realized that we can't conserve our way out of a water problem and that we need more storage facilities (we used to call them dams), and more desalination plants on the coast? Don't you dare lecture me on costs, either. I don't want to hear about it after your high-speed rail. Alas, two Republican lawmakers have proposed a ballot measure to strip funding from the high-speed rail project and divert it toward new water storage projects. So far the measure has the support of 53 percent of likely voters.
California's problems are complex, for sure, but I think the solution is as simple as using a little common sense again. That's something that's in short supply in Sacramento.
How do you feel? Let Jeff know by emailing him at email@example.com