August 22, 2003

Commentary

New Governor?

We Need a New Vision of California

By Tracey Vackar
Uvaldo Martinez
Sven Voss

A few hours before Arnold announced his gubernatorial plans, the staff of the California Coastal Commission had an announcement of their own: Desalination would be bad for our beaches.

As if on cue, they provided another example of the hostility to innovation that has brought our state to the confusing mess it is today. Once again, we were left to ponder how a once mighty state of pioneers was now governed by a corps of frightened, over protective nannies.

This is the kind of loss that will never show up in the state budget deficit. Instead, it may join the heap of other innovations driven out of our state because there were new, different, and daring.

And that is exactly the kind of thinking we need to save California right now. Even more than a new governor, or a new budget, we need a new vision of California. And that is why we are enthusiastic about Arnold’s candidacy.

No doubt over the next few months reporters and opponents will take some glee in exposing Arnold’s lack of familiarity with the minutia of state government. And no doubt he will be well stocked with answers on the workers compensation crisis, the business leaving California crisis, the energy crisis, the housing crisis, and a dozen other crises that have festered for so long, but which are suddenly oozing all over California.

Arnold’s challenge is even far greater than that.

California is in crisis because we lost our vision of what made this state great. Arnold can become a great governor if he restores that vision.

Arnold’s story now is familiar, but it is still instructive. He came here with nothing and found everything. This is a message we are desperate to hear because it is the essence of what made this the greatest state on earth. And Arnold’s so-called inexperience makes him just the man to tell us.

After all, it wouldn’t make much sense to put people in charge of solving a problem if they were the ones who created the problem in the first place. California is an alien place today because of “experienced” people like that. We know who they are: From the state legislature to the state capitol, they fill Sacramento with practiced hostility to the very things that made this state great.

They have created a world where desalination plants are dangerous, but the early release of 450 sex criminals is safe.

A place where we used to fight for opportunities, but now we fight for racial entitlements.

A place where government regulations add $100,000 to the price of a home, then we wonder why new houses cost so much. A place where state agencies shut down housing projects one day, then the next they attend seminars to figure out why there is not enough housing.

A place where we hinder the development of new energy plants, then complain about high energy prices. A place where we overregulate gasoline, then grumble the price is too high.

A place where we value insects and bushes over people, then can’t figure out why so many people are moving out.

California attracts some of the best and brightest and most creative people in the world. But whenever their contributions come anywhere close to the public sector, we treat them with suspicion and even scorn, then wonder why they leave so soon.

We are a state government of people who are suspicious, even hostile, towards innovation and progress. And yes, hostile towards building things and making a profit as well. Yet without building, things soon fall apart. We no longer have to wonder why.

We raise taxes on the rich; then curse when we discover the state considers two income middle class families to be part of that rich cohort. We criticize successful people, then mourn when the so-called rich move their jobs to other states.

We force contractors to pay inflated wages on public works projects, raising the price by 50 percent and more; then wonder why our state government is spending more but getting less.

We take twenty years to plan a new road. Then blame others for traffic jams.

We now have a state where talking about something is the same as doing something. Where stopping a project is the same as making a project happen. Confusion is killing our state, but one thing we do know for sure: California has lost its way. And now we must choose someone to help us find it.

Arnold found California once. Now maybe he can do the same for us.

Tracey Vackar is the president of the Moreno Valley School Board in Riverside County. Uvaldo Martinez is the president of the California Hispanic Republic Assembly. Sven Voss is an actor and editor of the California Open Space Report.

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