Fri, Jul

Coastal California Getting Older and Grayer, not Bolder

NEW GEOGRAPHY-For the better part of a century, Southern California has been seen as the land of surfers, hipsters and youthful innovators. Yet the land of sun and sea is becoming, like its East Coast counterpart Florida, increasingly geriatric. 

This, of course, is a global and national phenomenon. From 2015-25, the number of senior-headed U.S. households, according to the Joint Center on Housing Studies at Harvard University, will grow by 10.7 million, compared with 2.5 million households headed by people ages 35-44. 

After some delay, this aging process is accelerating in California. Large-scale immigration, which supplied a younger population for decades, is slowing markedly. Once considerably younger than the country, the state appears to be heading toward the national median age. Since 2000, the senior population in Southern California has grown by 24 percent compared with 18 percent nationally. Unless immigration or domestic migration pick up soon, this aging trend should accelerate. 

At the same time, our analysis shows that some areas – notably along the Orange County coast – are rapidly becoming virtual retirement communities, with a diminishing number of children and young families. For those sitting in their houses in affluenza-afflicted enclaves of Southern California, this may seem good news: “aging in place” while their homes increase in value. But this trend is less a boon for younger people, particularly families, as well as for companies seeking to launch and expand here. 

Aging in (a nice) place 

Today, the most aged parts of the country remain largely either in Florida or in the old Rust Belt cities where young people have been decamping for generations. In contrast, Southern California’s grey tide has set in later, and is occurring most noticeably in specific areas. 

The aging process is most marked in two kinds of areas. First, as geographer Ali Modarres has demonstrated, historically Latino sections of Los Angeles, such as East Los Angeles and the Pico-Union district, are aging rapidly. In LA now, immigrants are older than the rest of the population, as their offspring decamp elsewhere, and the oldest, and most dependent on the services unique to ethnic enclaves, remain behind. 

Similarly immigrant-rich areas like Santa Ana, although still relatively young, are getting old more rapidly than the region as a whole. But the most dramatic aging is taking place in traditionally Asian immigrant communities, like Westminster and Garden Grove. 

Westminster, the original Little Saigon, has seen its share of seniors grow from 11.0 percent to 17.8 percent from 2010-14, an astounding 60 percent increase and far above the state and national averages. The aging wave now sweeping East Asia now has a California counterpart. 

The other major incoming gray tide is building along Orange County’s affluent coastal communities. A land renowned for fit bodies and surfer gals and dudes is getting pretty weather-beaten. There’s only so much plastic surgery can do. 

Newport Beach and San Clemente are the leading edge of the oldster wave. More than 20 percent of Newport Beach residents and 18.6 percent of those in San Clemente are at least 65, a population share well above the county, regional, state and national norms. These towns are rapidly becoming what demographers refer to as “NORCs”: naturally occurring retirement communities. 

Most Inland Empire communities remain relatively youthful. With an 11.8 percent share of seniors, the Riverside-San Bernardino area ranks considerably below Los Angeles, Orange County and the state. Although some areas, like Hemet, Apple Valley and Redlands, have double-digit shares of 65-and-overs, many of the Inland communities remain well under national averages for seniors, including Rancho Cucamonga, Riverside and Ontario. Overall, the Inland regions seem to be retaining a more youthful population. 

Preserving, not creating wealth 

The greying of California, particularly along the Southern California coast, could well shape the state’s future. Older populations tend to be more interested in preserving wealth than creating it; for them, high housing prices – particularly given Proposition 13 protections – serve as a hedge against old age. 

In the short run, the economic impact may be muted, since much of the growth will take place among what may be described as “the young old,” who may be economically and socially active for at least another decade. Senior entrepreneurship rates have grown, while those for other age groups, notably millennials, have dropped. 

On the other hand, the “young old” likely will be staying in their old homes for a protracted period of time. Whatever their political orientation, they actually benefit from the current regulatory regime, which keeps housing supply limited, all but guaranteeing rising property values, particularly for single-family homes and offices. 

This may explain why so many prominent property owners express remarkably little concern about the future impact of the decreasing migration of younger, educated workers from other parts of the country. Seniors have made their beds in the nicest parts of California, and seem determined to stay there, even if their kids will never be able to live there. Apres moi, le deluge! 

The rising prices, however, will impact basic services. As baby boomers, particularly those with nice pensions, continue to retire, they will reduce the number of experienced teachers, police and fire personnel. With much of Orange County and Los Angeles County housing now beyond the price range of most public servants, the strains will likely be greatest there. The same is true of similarly skilled private-sector workers. 

Aging demographics, and out-of-sight housing prices, also are having an impact on corporate relocations and expansions. In the coastal locales, the affluent, predominately white but increasingly Asian populations can still fill the top positions at tech or business service firms, but it’s increasingly difficult to staff companies that require middle managers and skilled technicians. 

Companies that need to staff up for these kind of jobs will increasingly need to head to lower-cost locales. In this sense the Toyota U.S. headquarters move in 2014 from Torrance to the Dallas suburbs, notes Southern Methodist University Dean Albert Neimi Jr., was motivated largely by a need for affordable middle-class housing and may be the precursor of the Southern California coast’s economic future. 

These dynamics are also being felt in the technology industry, long concentrated along the state’s coastal counties. A recent report by the California Legislative Analyst’s Office refers to the difficulty that high-tech employers have in retaining and recruiting staff. LAO cited survey data from the Silicon Valley, which for years has been California’s economic “Golden Goose.” In a 2014 survey of more than 200 business executives and conducted by the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, 72 percent of respondents cited “housing costs for employees” as the most important challenge facing Silicon Valley businesses. 

The last great alternative for most young, middle-class families who wish to remain in California is moving to places like the Central Valley and the Inland Empire, where the senior population also tends to be smaller. Of all Southern California, the Inland Empire also has had the most marked millennial growth, far more than in Los Angeles. The Inland area has also seen the state’s most rapid rate of growth in ages 25-to-34 college-educated people. 

Yet these places, while still family- and youth-friendly, will be hard-pressed to compete with similar regions, notably in Texas, Arizona and the Southeast. These areas may not enjoy California’s natural and cultural amenities, but also do not have to function under the draconian tax and regulatory regime imposed by Sacramento, which is supported implicitly by residents along the greying coast. 

Unless the housing issue is addressed, we are doomed to become an older society that likely will be less innovative. High housing prices are making California, long an importer of talent, into a talent exporter. 

Over the past 10 years, notes economist Bill Watkins, California has produced twice as many holders of four-year degrees as new jobs. If these young people are getting trained, often at least partially at taxpayer expense, the beneficiaries of their skills will be more affordable and, often, less senior-dominated places. 

Nothing can alter this dynamic until there is some change in California’s planning regime. The state’s increasingly burdensome anti-growth message clouds the future of younger families who lack inherited wealth. Yet few in Sacramento seem concerned about how well California manages to retain young people, and avoids transitioning, particularly along the coasts, into a retirement community for the affluent. 

If you want to see where that future leads, look at Japan, where high costs and low birth rates, after decades of remarkable success, have helped usher in 20 years of stagnation. California, fortunately, is not there yet, but it may be time to concern ourselves on how to avoid a similar fate.


(Joel Kotkin is R.C. Hobbs Presidential Fellow in Urban Studies at Chapman University. He is executive editor of New Geography … where this piece originated and executive director of the Center for Opportunity Urbanism. Wendell Cox was appointed to three terms on the Los Angeles County Transportation Commission by Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley. He chaired the Service Coordination Committee and also served on the Rail Transit and Finance Review Committees. This piece was first posted most recently at newgeography.com.)  Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

Who are California Techies Stashing Billions in Offshore Accounts, Not Paying Taxes?

EDITOR’S PICK--Airbnb, star of the “sharing economy,” is “committed to strengthening the neighborhoods and cities we serve.” Uber is “passionate about the cities we call home.” Google wants “a better world, faster.” Facebook has its own “social good” team.

But as much as Silicon Valley powerhouses love to tout their efforts to give back to their communities and make the world a better place, they also love to hide their money in tax havens.

The Panama Papers scandal has shaken the world by exposing a secretive world of offshore shell companies, which can “facilitate bribery, arms deals, tax evasion, financial fraud and drug trafficking.” But the use of shell companies to avoid taxes is a tried-and-true method of corporate governance for many of America’s biggest companies.

A new report by Oxfam tallied the offshore money of 50 top public U.S. companies, and the winner was Silicon Valley’s own Apple, with $181 billion held offshore. The company would owe $59.2 billion in taxes if the profits weren’t held offshore, according to a report by Citizens for Tax Justice.

As for Airbnb, the first tenet of its “Community Compact” states: “We are committed to treating every city personally and helping ensure our community pays its fair share of hotel and tourist taxes.” But as Bloomberg reports, Airbnb manages its finances “via units in Ireland and tax havens like Jersey in the Channel Islands” that will allow it to avoid the grasp of the Internal Revenue Service.

Uber, meanwhile, uses a Netherlands entity headquartered in Bermuda to shield its non-U.S. income from U.S. taxes, according to Fortune.

Here’s Bloomberg’s David Kocieniewski:

“This is the challenge that Airbnb, like Uber and other companies in the so-called sharing economy, poses for the world’s treasuries. In the five years since these businesses began their spiraling growth, some cities and states around the globe have fought hard to make them play by the same rules as traditional hotels or taxis and collect various local taxes – often as not, they’ve lost.”

Google – as in “don’t be evil” or “do the right thing” – had mastered the strategy long before.

Bloomberg’s Jesse Drucker reported in 2010 that Google saved $3 billion in taxes with complicated income-shuffling arrangements known as the “Double Irish” and the “Dutch Sandwich.” The strategy sparked outrage, but never mind that – Google saved another $2.4 billion in 2014 with a Bermuda shell company.

Facebook did it, too. Those tech companies may have to disclose more about their income-juggling act under new European legislation sparked by the Panama Papers.

But while Panama faces a lot of flack, Drucker reminds us that the U.S. has something in common with the Central American nation: “Neither has agreed to new international standards to make it harder for tax evaders and money launderers to hide their money.” In fact, he reported, the U.S. is “becoming the go-to place to stash foreign wealth,” with shell companies in states such as Nevada, Wyoming and South Dakota.

So it’s not all about offshore. The New York Times found that Cupertino-based Apple avoided millions of dollars in taxes in California and other states by routing profits through Nevada, where the corporate tax rate is zero.

And the amazing thing is that, unlike the secrets revealed by the Panama Papers leak, all of these tech company shenanigans have been well documented for years and are easily findable on, well, Google.

(Will Evans is a reporter of Reveal News  … where this piece was first posted.)


Genetically Modified Organisms: It’s Not What You Think!

GELFAND’S WORLD--UCLA's Institute of the Environment and Sustainability (the IOES) hosted a panel this week on GMOS: Global Solution or Global Risk? The GMO stands for Genetically Modified Organisms. You might have expected a resurfacing of the old, largely discredited fears about food safety, and that the audience would be full of folks talking about Frankenfoods, as some like to call them. This was largely not the case. Instead, the discussion focused mainly on long-term economic and ecological trends in world agriculture. 

The panelists raised concerns about food security, which seems to refer to our ability to continue raising and distributing produce rather than anything about terrorism. There was one other topic that isn't discussed very much in the first world countries: the plight of the world's poor, including families barely surviving as subsistence farmers. 

You can see the flier for the presentation, including the names and bio's of the panelists here

One panelist was Peter Kareiva, who concentrates on risk analysis for this technology. Kareiva comes across as a down home guy, but he is privy to the upper levels of scientific thought. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences. For those who aren't familiar with the title, it's a very high honor indeed, generally indicating a lifetime of upper level scientific achievement. Kareiva is on the NAS committee that considers GMO technologies and their potential risks. 

Here is what he says, summarized as best I can: Decades of research and laboratory studies are convincing that genetically modified foods are safe for us, our pets, and farm animals to eat. He pointed out that we have been living a kind of large scale experiment in that Americans eat a lot of GMOs, whereas Europeans have avoided them. As he explained, if there were any effect of GMO ingestion, we should have seen differences between the two populations by now, and we haven't. 

Timothy Wise, of Tufts University, seems to specialize more in broader scale policy studies in agricultural economics and sociology, rather than in biochemistry. He raised questions about long term safety, mentioning experiments involving the feeding of GMO food to lab animals which, he claimed, raised some concerns. Kareiva shot down this line of argument rather easily, explaining that the better designed experiments did not indicate any harmful effects. In particular, Kareiva pointed out that a study by Seralini -- which got worldwide press coverage a while back -- was badly designed and statistically inconclusive. Hold onto this thought because I will be coming back to it later. 

Timothy Wise stuck to his guns, arguing that the only consensus among scientists about GMO use is that there is no consensus. Kareiva didn't take a large bite out of this rather vague assertion, but he did leave the impression that when knowledgeable scientists look at competent studies, then the consensus on the immediate safety of GMO foods emerges. He conceded that longer term studies could very well be done, and should be, even though we are a quarter of a century into the use of GMO crops. 

Maywa Montenegro, a biologist who is completing her graduate studies in environmental policy at Berkeley, took the discussion in another direction. She pointed out that to focus on the safety of eating GMO food was to divert our attention from other important issues. These include the effects of herbicides such as glyphosate (Roundup) on farm workers, contamination of soil and water, the economic consolidation of the seed companies, and ecological simplification. If I understand correctly, the last term refers to the loss of wild species and the reduction in the number of strains of food crops that occurs as agriculture becomes monoculture. 

Here is one interesting fact that this diverse group of panelists were able to agree on. The use of chemical insecticides goes way down when farmers use insect resistant plant strains. This is because plants with a particular inserted gene (known by the acronym BT) confers built-in resistance to being chewed up by insects. On the other hand, using herbicide resistant plants means that farmers can use more weed killer, and they do. Herbicide use up, insecticide use down. 

By the way, BT is a long-time favorite among organic farmers, because it is the natural product of a bacterial strain. It's just that they spray it on the crop rather than use seeds that carry the BT gene internally. Customers who buy organic food don't always know that they can potentially get a dose of BT with their produce. 

The last panelist was Pamela Ronald, who is a professor at UC Davis and an actual expert on plant genetics and genetic engineering. Ronald was a breath of fresh air, because she understands farming, organic farming, and the differences between agricultural genetics and agricultural economics. 

For example, she pointed out that in the western world, almost all farmers use seeds that they have purchased from corporate sources. This is true whether the agricultural enterprise is an organic farm or non-organic, and whether the seeds have genetic modifications or not. Ronald pointed out (along with others) that farmers in poorer countries can't afford to pay for seed, and need to save seed from this year's crop in order to plant next year's. 

One couldn't help but notice that a discussion that concentrates on the plight of third world farmers rapidly diverges from the discussion of western concerns about GMO food safety. The safety of eating GMO crops (in terms of fears about eating foreign gene products and recombinant DNA) is a small thing compared to the fear of crop failure and mass starvation. Ronald spoke of beneficial GMO crops, such as those designed to provide vitamin A to large numbers of people who grow up on a diet deficient in this nutrient. 

The critique: apparently it's just as hard to debate science as it is to explain it 

You may have noticed that I've presented a rather one-sided account here, in the sense that I took Peter Kareiva's comments as accurate, whereas I have discounted the remarks of Timothy Wise. You might say that I'm a bit biased in favor of those who understand the technology, and a bit biased against those who raise speculative concerns about unforeseen risks without laying out the rational, factual basis for these concerns. I think this is a fair point. 

But my problem as an audience member and as someone trying to report the debate to the reader is that there was something that was largely missing from the discussion. The absent element was the factual basis of the arguments as might have been expected to be presented by either side

For example, there has been a lot of public controversy and concern about the herbicide known as glyphosate, the compound that was originally introduced into the market as Roundup. One audience member asked an obvious question: what is glyphosate, and is it dangerous? I think that this is a reasonable request, but it's something that should have been presented at the outset. 

Admittedly, this would have involved a three minute review of some high school chemistry and a slide or two. But at least then, we would have had something more concrete to wrap the discussion around. We were watching experienced teachers up on stage, but there was essentially no teaching. It would have been nice to get something, even at the level of a Wikipedia article, to introduce the topic. 

Just for the sake of argument, here is a link [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glyphosate] to the Wikipedia explanation of what Roundup (chemically known as glyphosate) is, and what its advantages are compared to other herbicides. You have to read pretty far down to find that even the European Union does not consider glyphosate to be a risk to humans, although there are mentions of concerns about effects on farm workers subject to large doses. 

Instead of the scientific specifics, we heard opinion after opinion after opinion in this discussion. I am fairly certain that most of the opinions were defensible, with the possible exception of a few remarks made by Timothy Wise. But how could anyone but an expert make a reasonable evaluation? Perhaps I'm wrong and Timothy Wise was speaking the truth, while the panelists who were favorable to GMO technology were wrong. But how could the audience know? 

I don't mean to tear down the panelists. I think that they did what they were asked, and given the limits of time and the breadth of the subject matter, they presented their individual judgments as clearly as they could. But let's consider a disagreement on the science that came up during the discussion. If you feed GMO corn to lab animals, does it do anything bad? Wise suggested that the results of numerous studies did not lead to a clear conclusion that GMO food is safe. Kareiva pointed out that he had read most or all of the published studies, and that the ones suggesting harmful effects are badly designed or inadequately interpreted, or both. 

This kind of argument is fairly common in public discussions of scientific studies. Unfortunately, it is no longer convincing to the public because blanket statements critical of experimental design are trotted out by villains and righteous scientists alike. I based my evaluation of the Kareiva vs Wise disagreement on my own preexisting knowledge of some of these studies. 

The Seralini study which involved feeding GMO corn to rats was discredited, but unless you read the evaluations and know something about scientific methodology, you just have to decide whose word you are willing to accept. And the more scientific background you have, the better your judgment is likely to be. I was left with evaluating the arguments based on my personal judgment as to the credibility of the panelists. 

As an aside, in the infamous study in question, Seralini and colleagues looked at a strain of rats that were originally inbred to be susceptible to cancer. They have been used in cancer studies ever since, because they provide a more sensitive test than other animals, or even other strains of rat. In fact, if you keep these rats alive, almost all of them will develop cancer spontaneously at some point of their lives. Seralini's group drew conclusions from using this highly inbred strain, conclusions which were rejected outright by careful scientists who looked at the published data. 

I came away from the presentation accepting most of what I heard, including the fact that mass agriculture does damage to the natural environment, that the poorer third world suffers economic effects from corporate power, and that the long term ecological ramifications of farming is uncertain. 

But what became clear is that there is a sharp demarcation between the popular complaints about GMOs and the reality. The existence of GMO technology by itself doesn't seem to be the issue. Rather, it is the impoverished state of much of the world's population, and what the rest of the world might be able to do about it. The argument seems to settle into concerns about private megacorporations controlling the development, production, and sale of next year's seeds. 

But here is a topic that was not mentioned by any of the panelists, by the moderator, or by any of the audience questions: Aren't we really talking about the effects of the human population explosion? After all, if the population were half what it is today (and not expanding), then we would have some wiggle room to expand agricultural technology, preserve wild habitats, and potentially live free of starvation. As it is, we are using almost every available spot of open land to grow food to feed ourselves, without concern or respect for the other species we are destroying. 

I suspect that the topic of GMOs could be useful in provoking the broader discussion, which was best touched on by Maywa Montenegro. Perhaps the topic would more correctly be described as the effects of the ways we reorganize the land into fields of crops. thereby destroying woodlands and pastures. And if so, shouldn't we be talking about a more serious approach to human population, just as we need to be talking about a more serious approach to global warming? 

The panel was ably moderated by Edward Parson, who is that rare species, a physicist and mathematician who is a professor in the Law School, concentrating on climate change. We can expect to hear more from him on his chosen topic.


(Bob Gelfand writes on culture, science, and politics for City Watch. He can be reached at [email protected]


Finally … Victims Score a Win: Gov Signs Off on $176.6 Million to Cleanup Exide Mess

CALIFORNIA--According to word from the Governor’s office, Jerry Brown has signed legislation directing $176.6 million “to expedite and expand [lead] testing and cleanup of residential properties, schools, daycare centers and parks around the former Exide Technologies facility in Vernon, California.” 

The legislation came in the form of AB 118, by Assemblymember Miguel Santiago (D-Los Angeles) and SB 93, by Senate President pro Tempore Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles) and Senator Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens). 

The funds — a loan from the General Fund — will allow the state to expedite soil testing within the 1.7-mile radius of the Exide Technologies facility and remediation of contaminated soil “where lead levels are the highest and potential exposure the greatest.” 

That last disclaimer suggests that $176.6 million may be enough to get the ball rolling on residential testing and cleanups, but not enough to finish the job. 

Last fall, the Department of Toxic Substances Control was already running out of funds to continue testing and remediation, after spending just $8 million to put together a work plan and test and clean up fewer than 200 properties. 

While the average cost of testing and cleaning up area properties — originally estimated to be at about $40,000 per site — may come down over time, the fact that as many as 10,000 may need remediation means the final bill may be more than double what was just allotted. 

And it does indeed appear that most properties around the plant will need remediation, if current figures are anything to go by. 

Of the 758 properties the Department for Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) has sampled thus far, only five have not needed cleanup.  And, according to KPCC, of the 382 properties the County Department of Public Health (DPH) tested, 354 needed remediation, with 215 of them registering levels between the cleanup threshold of 80 parts per million (ppm) and 399 ppm of lead, and 139 having more dangerous levels hovering between 400 and 999 ppm.  

The money also does not cover any of the costs borne by residents whose health was damaged by exposure to lead or other contaminants emitted by Exide over the decade-plus that it operated without a formal permit and regularly violated emissions standards. Nor, to the best of my understanding, will it cover the costs of any studies to investigate the longer-term health impacts on the surrounding communities. 

But it is a good start -- as is the governor’s reiteration of a commitment to conduct a California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) review of the cleanup process. 

In disbursing these funds, the state is banking on Exide to reimburse them for the costs of the cleanup. The extent to which that will be possible remains to be seen. In its own study conducted last summer, Exide downplayed its responsibility for lead contamination in the areas surrounding the Vernon plant, declaring that, beyond the immediate footprint of the facility, “Exide’s estimated contributions to soil lead concentrations are no longer statistically distinguishable from [existing] background concentrations.” 

In layman’s terms, that essentially translates to, “Good luck trying to hold us accountable.” 

For more information on DTSC’s testing and cleanup efforts in the communities near Exide, click here. For full text of the two bills just signed visit http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/. 

Please keep an eye out for a longer-form story on Exide coming soon. In the meanwhile, see our extensive coverage on Exide’s confounding and often confusing case. More about the draft environmental impact report regarding Exide’s closure plan is here.  More about the closure process, the lead testing process, and the challenge of linking Exide to the lead contamination can be found here.  

  • If you’d like to learn about why the community is adamant that state agencies be held accountable for allowing Exide to commit as many environmental crimes as it did, please visit LA.StreetsBlog. 

(Sahra Sulaiman writes for LA Streets Blog  … where this piece was first posted.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.


When I Say ‘Midlife,’ Don’t Think ‘Crisis’

TRADE WINDS--I set out to write about those leaked “Panama Papers” that offered a titillating glimpse of how the world’s rich and infamous park their wealth in once secretive offshore safe havens. The topic seemed tailor-made for a column obsessed with the permeability of borders. But I just can’t fake any enthusiasm for such a big non-story. Was it really news to anyone that corrupt autocrats, shady tax dodgers, and plenty of honorable folks who worry about the shaky rule of law in their own countries open accounts and create corporations in places like Panama and the Cayman Islands?

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A New LGBTQ Victory Is a Victory for All of Us: Social Security Admin Does the Right Thing

SOCIAL SECURITY WATCH--Does the government work for us or against us? As the result of a decision by the Social Security Administration (“SSA”), the government is working better for all of us today. For convincing SSA to do the right thing, we should thank Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Representative Mark Takano (D-CA), and 119 of their colleagues. We are also indebted, for this victory, to two effective, dedicated nonprofits, Justice in Aging and the GLBTQ Advocates & Defenders (GLAD), as well as Foley Hoag, LLP, the law firm that assisted them.

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Don't Vote for the Person, Vote for the Party

GELFAND’S WORLD--Years ago, some people would tell me, "I don't vote for the party, I vote for the person." I suppose the idea was that personal goodness outweighed official party allegiance. A few decades ago, there may have been some truth to this. For one thing, there was more room for ideological moderation in either party.

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Geography and the Minimum Wage

NEW GEOGRAPHY--Most commentary on California’s decision to increase the state minimum wage to $15 over time is either along the lines of it being a boon to minimum-wage workers and their families or a disaster for California’s economy. Neither is accurate. Different regions will see different outcomes. Central California, the great valley that runs from Bakersfield to Redding, once again, will bear a disproportionate burden.

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What Do Rich People Want?

EDITOR’S PICK--In legend, F. Scott Fitzgerald remarked to Ernest Hemingway, “The rich are different than you and me.” To which Hemingway supposedly replied, “Yes — they have more money.”

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The Rise of the ‘No Political Party’ Voters and Their Right to Participate in Primaries

GELFAND’S WORLD-It's a truism that political parties are independent, private organizations and enjoy the right to choose their own candidates their own way. It follows that if a state party doesn't want to allow independent voters to participate in a primary, that is its prerogative. At some level, I agree with this argument, since it involves the right to pick your own friends. It's related to the right peaceably to assemble that is stated in the First Amendment.

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Taxes: There Ain’t No Free Lunch … Whiskey Costs Money!

INSURGENCY POLITICS-The Bernie Sanders/Donald Trump election insurgencies are both revolutionary and breathtaking, with those opposing their candidacies outright the victims of their own hypocrisy. How can one complain about the 2000 Gore/Bush elections but be okay with the elections going to Sanders but the delegates to Clinton? How can one complain of the past IRS suppression of conservative/GOP groups and be okay with what happened in Colorado?

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How the Fed is Destroying Our Public Pensions

EASTSIDER-Now I don’t pretend to be the savviest guy on the planet about the financial services industry. Heck, all three of the properties that we bought in the mid-2000’s to guarantee our retirement (thanks to smart financial planners) went down the toilet with the Great Recession.

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How Fox News Unwittingly Destroyed the Republican Party

EDITOR’S PICK--The Republican Party is in a pickle.

The Party itself despises its own two leading presidential candidates, Donald Trump and Ted Cruz. This is a remarkable oddity just in itself. But there is good reason for it. Both of these candidates are so extreme and disastrous that they will almost certainly never be able to win a national election for the Republican Party.

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$1,400,000,000,000: Oxfam Exposes the Great Offshore Tax Scam of US Companies

YOU’RE PAYING THEIR TAXES--Using an "opaque and secretive network" of subsidiaries in tax havens, top American corporations have stashed $1.4 trillion offshore, a new report from Oxfam shows.

With "a range of tricks, tools, and loopholes," for tax avoidance, the 50 largest U.S. companies, including well-known names like Goldman Sachs, Verizon Communications, Apple, Coca-Cola, IBM, and Chevron, raked in $4 trillion in profits globally between 2008 and 2014, are contributing to inequality, the anti-poverty group said.

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There’s No Law That Says Art Museums Have to Be Pretentious

EDITOR’S PICK--Three weeks ago, I was traipsing through London’s Victoria and Albert Museum with a friend of mine who has the attention span of a hummingbird. One minute we were admiring the intense reds in Ottoman-era ceramic tiles from Turkey, the next we were surrounded by the ferocious beasts that had been woven 600 years ago into wool English hunting tapestries. By the time we stumbled on an ornately carved, stunningly out-of-place 16th-century oak staircase from Brittany, I felt not only jet-lagged, but completely lost. At that point, my friend gave me a compassionate, slightly condescending glance and reassured me that that’s what museums are for: getting lost.

She was right of course. Losing one’s self in the colors, textures, and stories of long-gone or faraway worlds is one of the principal joys of wandering through museums.

But I’ve recently also come to appreciate how much museums can give us a chance to go home. Since I was a child, I’ve enjoyed visiting Rembrandt’s tender portrait of his son, Titus, at my favorite museum in Los Angeles, the Norton Simon. Whenever I go to Madrid, I stop into the Prado to visit Velázquez’s slightly ridiculous depiction of Prince Balthasar Carlos riding an oddly plump horse. I learned to love the portraits of these boys when I myself was a boy, and over the years, each time I gaze upon them, I can recall the fascination I felt when we first met.

A few days ago in Chicago I got a chance to see an exhibition at the Art Institute that brought into focus the power of curating art around primary human themes. “Van Gogh’s Bedrooms” brought together approximately 36 of the Dutch artist’s drawings, illustrated letters, and paintings, culminating in the side-by-side presentation of the three versions he painted of his bedroom in Southern France. The crowds were large and poorly managed—to the point of tainting the experience. But the exhibition’s success suggests to me that museums could do a lot more to make art speak to people where they live, both literally and figuratively.

Too much of the way we talk about art flows from the pretentious modern cult of the artist as countercultural alchemist or seer. Modern art museums in particular often glorify the marginal—read detached and superior—status of artists in our society. The worst exhibitions can feel like elaborate inside jokes in which socially ambitious visitors try their damnedest to enter the ranks of the cognescenti. In other words, the purpose of their gaze is to boost them up the social ladder rather than to understand how the artists’ work or life might cast light on their own lives.

Van Gogh was one of the first artists to be romanticized way out of proportion, not only for supposedly sacrificing his life for his art but for exhibiting a sensitivity that the world could not or would not understand. Remember the lyrics of Don McLean’s hit single, “Vincent (Starry, Starry Night)”? “This world was never meant for one as beautiful as you.”

Oh please.

I just finished reading Steve Naifeh and Gregory White Smith’s biography of Van Gogh, and let me tell you, the poor Dutchman was no self-righteous bohemian who felt himself above social norms. He desperately longed for the things we all do: family, a sense of belonging, and a place he could call home.

Van Gogh himself was an avid reader of artists’ biographies. He wholeheartedly agreed with Emile Zola’s famous dictum that when looking at art, one must look for the artist behind it. In other words, you shouldn’t appreciate art for beauty or ideas alone, but for the way it helps you connect with the creator, whose pains and pleasures, insights and insecurities, might very well teach you something about your own.

Too much of the way we talk about art flows from the pretentious modern cult of the artist as countercultural alchemist or seer.

When Van Gogh painted “The Bedroom” in October 1888, he had just finished fixing up the one-half of a dilapidated yellow house he had rented in a seedy neighborhood in Arles. Paul Gauguin had just agreed to come live with him, and Van Gogh was anticipating the joys of having a home of his own where he could “live and breathe and think and paint.”

The painting was instantly one of his favorites. He felt it captured the feeling of “overall rest or sleep.” Simple, intense, and painted in saturated colors, “The Bedroom”’s oversized furniture, elongated floorboards, and walls that seem to lean inward gently pull the viewer forward. Van Gogh was proud of its ability to monumentalize something so ordinary.

The painting’s restful beauty stands on its own. But what the Art Institute’s “Van Gogh’s Bedrooms” exhibition does for the original painting as well as for the subsequent two—which were painted in an asylum after Vincent’s dream of a happy home had collapsed—is to contextualize them within the life of the artist.

The exhibition invites guests not merely to revere Van Gogh as a painter, but to empathize with him as a man whose desires and longings were not unlike our own. The entry hall to the exhibition details Van Gogh’s peripatetic life. In his 37 years on earth, he lived under 37 roofs across 24 cities. The first line of the first sign of the exhibition states simply that Van Gogh’s life “was marked by a persistent search for a home and a place of belonging.” The rest of the exhibition flows directly from that one sentence.

You wouldn’t know it from the lines outside the Art Institute of Chicago these days, but museum administrators across the Western World are scrambling to keep their institutions relevant in the face of rapidly changing demographics.

And yet for all the concern about the future viability of museums, few people are talking about the need for museum curators to change the way they frame and present exhibitions, to move beyond the insider art history mumbo jumbo curators use to narrate exhibitions. Labels emphasizing shifting techniques of craft, highfalutin intellectual concepts, or the minutiae of artistic movements seem to be written by Ph.D.s for Ph.D.s. The curators evidently assume that visitors should come to learn about art rather than to experience it.

But surely one can do both. To do that most effectively, it helps to frame and present works of art in terms that the broadest possible cross section of the public can understand.

It’s become a truism in the era of data overload that the curator is king. How we frame and present knowledge have become as important as the knowledge itself. Swiss-born curator Hans Ulrich Obrist has written that curating at its most basic should be about making connections between cultures and humans. You might describe it, he explains, “as a form of mapmaking that opens new routes through a city, a people or a world.”

Those routes should be drawn to arrive where people live, to appeal to their most fundamental memories, hopes, fears, and desires. Because neither the cult of the artist nor an undue focus on style or technique come close to shedding light on what it means to be human. And this, it seems to me, is the truest purpose of art.

(Gregory Rodriguez is the founder and publisher of excellent Zócalo Public Square … where this perspective originated.)



(Phone) Banking for Bernie: the Myths and the Media

FIRST PERSON ACCOUNT-I found myself doing something today that I have never done before. I went online to: (www.berniesanders.com/phonebank) to call voters in the State of New York and elsewhere to try and encourage them to vote for Bernie Sanders in the April 19 primary. Despite having been told incessantly by the mainstream media from the beginning of the primary season that, "Bernie Sanders is not a serious candidate and he doesn't have a chance of winning," I nonetheless tried to point out to the people I talked with today why Bernie continues to rack up victory after victory with his latest on April 9 in Wyoming.

My goal was to do my own small part to conquer the public's artificial media-nurtured apathy that has attempted to marginalize Sanders from the beginning of the primary season. I found myself pointing out to the folks that the millions of dollars the Sanders campaign has raised (with an average donation of $37 per person) continues to give Hillary Clinton a run for her seemingly endless supply of corporate money derived from endless $350,000 speaking engagements, dinners with bankers, Wall Street, and other corporate interests sanctioned by Citizens United. Was it really part of our Founding Fathers’ original intent to include corporations in "We the people"?

Does anybody really believe that these corporate interests fund-bundling for Clinton and all other presidential candidates except Sanders are doing so to further the democratic process? Or is it clearly to ensure continued corporate control of our government and those that continue to run it for them as their well-compensated vassals. Does anyone really think that political candidates like Clinton, who are clearly beholden to the corporate financers of their campaigns, could ever stand against those interests and for the interests of the people when they get into office?

It seems implicit, if not explicit, in Clinton's attacks on Sanders as his not being a "political realist." Clearly, political realism in Clinton's lexicon puts corporate sovereignty right up there with government sovereignty.

And as I spent hours on the phone talking to people in New York and elsewhere, I found myself addressing in turn each one of the incessantly repeated lies being promoted by the corporate media to discredit Bernie Sanders candidacy:

Bernie is a socialist and that is dangerous: The democratic socialism that Sanders advocates has already existed in the United States since the beginning of this country. A program like Social Security from FDR's New Deal recognized that a "single payer" retirement system like Social Security run by the government is the most efficient way to ensure all working Americans and their families are protected throughout their lives with a government guaranteed social safety net.

In an example of his platform, in stark contradiction to the corporate media's assertion that Sanders ideas are unrealistic, Sanders points out that Social Security's shortfall was caused by the government’s invasion of the Social Security trust fund, coupled with an aging population with a smaller worker to retired ratio. Easily, this could have been solved, as Sanders proposes, by simply raising the present $118,000 cap on wages subject to the Social Security tax. Is it really so unreasonable to ask people making more than that to have a little more deducted from their paychecks?

As for a free college education at public schools, supported by our taxes or a tax on Wall Street: This is not a new idea. In fact, it was already instituted when I went through UCLA in the 1960s. When I graduated in 1969, my tuition for my last quarter was $80.50. What then Governor Edmund G. "Pat" Brown (present Governor Jerry Brown's dad) understood was that the subsidizing of the cost of my education was more than paid back to California in the taxes the state would collect from a better educated and well-compensated college graduate. Furthermore, our better educated workforce gave California an advantage when it came to attracting high-tech industries to the state. Is it really preferable now to have college graduates come out of school with hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt and few prospects for gainful employment?

Rebuilding America's infrastructure and using some of corporate America's record profits to finance it: Again, this is not a new idea. The engine that drove the New Deal in the 1930s was a series of public works projects that built critical infrastructure to help the economy come out of the Depression. It also gave workers the salaries that in turn stimulated the buying of goods and services. This is because FDR was willing to "prime the pump." Now that Sanders wants to do the same, it has somehow called “naïve.”

Single-payer healthcare: The United States remains the only industrialized country without a (socialist) single-payer healthcare system run by the government. Whether those completely against such a plan, like the Republicans, or against it like Clinton who says it is not politically possible, the end result remains the same. The United States continues to pay 34% of every dollar spent on healthcare to an insurance company. The folks who remain adamantly against a government run program seem to have no problem with a healthcare system run for corporate profit, which has lead to the United States paying twice as much for healthcare as a country like France. We receive healthcare that is objectively inferior by every measure of quality assessment, e.g. infant mortality, longevity and timely quality of care.

Endless war and terrorism: Is there not a clear correlation between regime change, supporting dictatorships, and endless war and the rise of terrorism in the Middle East where only corporations like Haliburton continue to profit? If we had not overthrown the democratically elected government of Mohammad Mosaddegh in Iran in 1953, while supporting the Shah and his secret police, would we now be dealing with fundamentalists in Iran and elsewhere? At the time, Iran was the best-educated and most progressive country in the Middle East.

The same is true in Egypt, with our longstanding support of an oppressive military dictatorship, in open contradiction of the democratic values we continue to tout but do nothing to support. It seems we will do anything -- including the subversion of democracy in Egypt -- to maintain Western control of the Suez Canal. One must wonder just how much American-inspired terrorism would exist today, if rather than spending more than $2 trillion in Iraq and Afghanistan fighting a war, the United States had used the money to build infrastructure in those countries. And yet, when it comes to justifying our continued support for the repressive undemocratic family-controlled government of Saudi Arabia, our government remains silent.

The greatest hurtle Bernie Sanders faces is not being called unrealistic, but rather the fact that human beings are creatures of habit. We've been engaged in a variation of violence and intimidation of each other for as long as our species has been around. What has radically changed for the better in recent years is a technological ability that now has the objective possibility of literally dealing with and resolving every problem we face. Gross disparities in human well-being no longer need to remain the hallmark of our self-destructive species. What Sanders proposes in no small part is a first step toward implementing this different approach that with the power of the United States behind it, just might allow us to survive our baser nature.


(Leonard Isenberg is a Los Angeles observer and a contributor to CityWatch. He was a second generation teacher at LAUSD and blogs at perdaily.com. Leonard can be reached at [email protected]) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

Let Me Tell You Why This Latina Mom Supports CA’s Proposed Soda Tax

GOOD HEALTH POLITICS--Let’s be real here. Soda isn’t harmless. It’s liquid sugar that too often is consumed by kids like water. It’s the third source of calories in kids’ diets after cake and pizza. It contributes to a child’s chances of getting diabetes, cavities and tooth decay. Aside from the health implications, these are costs that families don’t need!

I don’t buy soda at home, and treat it at restaurants like dessert. My kids can have an edible treat or soda, but not both. I’ve actively campaigned against the industry’s aggressive marketing tactics from vending machines in schools to commercials during kids’ shows thanks to MomsRising’s food justice team.  I phone-banked and voted for Measure D, a soda tax in my city that easily passed with over 72% of the vote. (Here is an inspirational video on how we were able to fight off the soda industry in that local race.)

And now I want to say loud and clear: this mamá supports California’s proposed soda tax.

AB 2782, which was proposed in the state legislature last month, would tax sweetened soda distributors 2 cents per ounce - or 24 cents on 12-ounce cans of soda. According to an article in the Los Angeles Times, “The more than $2 billion expected to be raised each year under the tax would be given to counties, cities, community-based organizations and licensed clinics to create and maintain obesity and diabetes prevention programs. The money would also go toward providing safe drinking water and creating oral health programs.”

Sounds good to me. Right now, California has the highest rate of diabetes in the country, and it costs $24 billion each year to treat. 71% of children in California experience tooth decay by the time they are in third grade. $2 billion a year will go in an instant, but it’s something. If anything, it would put the soda industry on notice, letting them know that moms and dads are watching and will not tolerate predatory marketing of their products to our youth.

Not surprisingly, industry lobbyists misleadingly named “Californians for Food and Beverage Choice” have said they would rally against the bill. I am already awaiting them to hem and haw about how “regressive” the tax is, government over reach, freedom of choice. Really, how much of a choice do we have when their products are being sold in schools and behind parents’ backs? They are extra aggressive in marketing to low-income and communities of color. That’s a fact.

But, ultimately, they are wrong because no one needs soda to live. And no, it is not good for children. Water is.

I look forward to the Assembly’s full vote on this bill.

Note from the author: MomsRising.org / MamásConPoder.org and the Ecology Center, which helped successfully pass a soda tax in a U.S. city, are co-hosting a twitter chat on the health impact of soda taxes at #FoodFri on Friday, April 22, at 10am. Please do join us if this is an issue you are passionate about - as I am. -Elisa

(Elisa Batista is a campaign director at MomsRising.org, a million-member organization advocating for policies related to family economic security, child health and ending discrimination against mothers. This piece was posted most recently at Huffington Post)


Judge Rules for Kids: Unprecedented Climate Case, Youth vs. Government

ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE-A federal judge in Oregon on Friday ruled that the lawsuit brought against the U.S. government by a group of youths (photo above) last August can go to trial -- a huge victory for the case climate activists are calling "the most important lawsuit on the planet right now."

The lawsuit, filed by 21 plaintiffs ages 8-19, and climate scientist Dr. James Hansen, states that the federal government is violating their right to life, liberty, and property, as well as their right to public trust resources, by enabling continued fossil fuel extraction and use.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Thomas Coffin in Eugene, who called the case "unprecedented," rejected motions by federal lawyers and representatives of fossil fuel groups to dismiss the lawsuit. He stated in his decision that the plaintiffs "give this debate justiciability by asserting harms that befall or will befall them personally and to a greater extent than older segments of society."

There is a need for a court to assess the "constitutional parameters of the actions or inactions taken by the government," Coffin said.

Philip Gregory, who represents the plaintiffs, said in a statement that the decision is "one of the most significant in our nation's history."

"The court upheld our claims that the federal government intensified the danger to our plaintiffs' lives, liberty, and property.... The next step is for the court to order our government to cease jeopardizing the climate system for present and future generations," Gregory said. "The court gave America's youth a fair opportunity to be heard."

Lawyers for the fossil fuel groups said the lawsuit posed a "direct, substantial threat" to their businesses, an argument Coffin rejected. The defendants have 14 days to file objections to the ruling.

One plaintiff, Kelsey Juliana, said the decision "marks a tipping point on the scales of justice.... This will be the trial of the century that will determine if we have a right to a livable future, or if corporate power will continue to deny our rights for the sake of their own wealth."

The decision was lauded by environmental activists.

"This is as important a court case as the planet has yet seen," said Bill McKibben, co-founder of climate group 350.org. "To watch the next generation stand up for every generation that will follow is as moving as it is significant."


(Nadia Prupis writes for Common Dreams where this report was posted earlier.) Photo: Our Children's Trust. Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

California Leaders Double Down On Dry

NEW GEOGRAPHY--“What do we do with this worthless area, the region of savages and wild beasts, of shifting sands and whirlwinds of dust, of cactus and prairie dogs? To what use could we ever hope to put these great deserts and these endless mountain ranges?”– U.S. Secretary of State Daniel Webster, on the American West, 1852

The drought, if somewhat ameliorated by a passably wet winter in Northern California, reminds us that aridity defines the West. Our vulnerability is particularly marked here in Southern California, where the local rivers and springs could barely support a few hundred thousand residents, as opposed to the 20 million or so who live here. Bay Area, we’re talking about you, too, since about two-thirds of your drinking water is imported.

The prospect of continued water shortfalls – perhaps made worse by climate change – poses something of an existential question for this state. In the past, California met the challenge of persistent dryness much as the Romans did in their heyday, by constructing massive waterworks that connected mountain runoff with the thirsty urban masses. Everything that made California the harbinger of the future, from rich farmland to semiconductors and our great cities, was predicated on water transfer.

Now there is a sense that California’s expansion, its ability to create new communities and industries – outside of a few fields, like media and software – faces insurmountable constraints on water and other resources. This perspective has been favored by greens, anti-development NIMBYs and those who seek to corral all California growth into ever-denser, family-unfriendly environments.

This mindset has been predominant over the past decade, as the state has invested little in new water storage or delivery systems, essentially doing nothing since the late 1970s, when the population was 16 million less. Like the Roman Empire in its dotage, we seem to have decided to live off the blessings of the past, a sure way, it seems, to guarantee a diminished future.

Politics of aridity

This drought has been described as the most severe in centuries, but aridity has been a fundamental fact many times in the area’s history. One particularly nasty bout in the 1860s virtually ruined the old Californio livestock-based economy. Los Angeles, in particular, was devastated to the point that some saw a threat to its very existence.

Scientists suggest that the 20th century was a relatively wet period – perhaps the wettest in 1,000 years. So maybe that phase is over and things may get worse. Some climate scientists predict a future with smaller snowpacks, although more rain.

It is suggested that climate change, if not responsible for the drought, has made it worse by as much as one-third. There is talk of “climate wars” in the future, with some people alleging the Syrian conflict, for example, has its roots not in the Assad government’s tyranny or Islamic jihadism but in climate change.

Of course, some climate activists’ predictions – such as the imminent disappearance of polar ice or an increase in hurricanes – have proved somewhat exaggerated, so some skepticism about the more extreme prognostications may be in order.

Still, the relevant question remains: how to deal with the possibility of increasing aridity. We can’t launch an invasion of the Pacific Northwest’s rain forest and take its water. We are in a very different situation from the days when a big economic crisis meant selling off surplus cattle at low prices, or driving horses into the ocean to drown. We now possess an enormous agricultural sector and cities stretching for 100 miles, both in the Bay Area and the Southland. Perhaps we are ready to admit that California needs to be downsized, even if this occurs largely on the backs of its middle and working class residents.

Neither the green movement nor the Jerry Brown administration seems to have an answer that accommodates either human or economic necessity. Instead, they have largely adopted positions that have made the current water shortfalls worse. Brown for decades has fought new investment in water infrastructure, which marked his father’s years as governor. The severity of this drought represents, at least in part, the younger Brown’s legacy.

Even during the most severe cutbacks for farmers and urban residents, Brown and his clerisy have acquiesced to massive dumping of water into San Francisco Bay and the Sacramento Delta in order to revive a long-lost salmon run. This policy has a cost, particularly in a severe drought, assuring the loss of upward of a million acres of farmland. Although building more infrastructure and cutting flows to the sea might not have reversed the drought – environmental concerns absorb roughly half of all state water supplies in normal years – they would have made things much better for the humans dependent on reasonable water supplies.

Reluctance to find ways to better cope with the drought reflects perhaps the most glaring weakness in the increasingly dominant green agenda, which seems to see more cutbacks as the best way to address shortfalls. If you believe climate change will dramatically impact water supplies – or any vital resource – it might make sense to mitigate its effects through a sustained conservation program, including steps to reduce highly consumptive crops such as cotton and alfalfa, as some greens have rightfully suggested. But it also argues for investment in storage facilities, including upgrades to existing dams and groundwater banks, which many environmentalists oppose but could shield us from ever-increasing volatility and painful cutbacks.

Sustaining California

Ultimately, our choice lies in having water constrain our growth, or finding ways to develop enough water to expand our economy. Not everyone wants more growth in California, particularly those who live in the cooler coastal areas and already have tidy nest eggs. But entire industries that employ many in the middle class and working class – manufacturing, homebuilding, agriculture – could see their prospects greatly constrained.

Fortunately, there are shards of reason crashing the ecoconsensus that now dominates the state. Even Jerry Brown advocates twin tunnels under the Delta to provide a more consistent water supply southward. Southern California does not have a captive water supply, like the Hetch Hetchy reservoir serving San Francisco, which, by the way, pumps water from iconic Yosemite National Park. Brown, in this case, seems to have recognized that the state cannot afford to go more dry without enormous social and economic ramifications.

By advocating some water investment, Brown, of course, is now opposed by his longtime allies in the ever more strident green lobby. Unlike the governor, who occasionally has flashes of reasonableness, most environmentalists refuse to abandon any of their anti-development orthodoxy. Instead, they remain fixated on the silly and hyperexpensive bullet train, forced densification and investments in underperforming solar electric plants; they are not concerned with augmenting a basic resource required by the vast majority of Californians. Theirs increasingly is a Pyrrhic California – creating a desert and calling it a victory for the planet.

But this drying out of the Golden State is not inevitable. Even if we face increasingly common, and more severe, droughts, much can be accomplished through greater conservation, which greens also support and, for the most part, most Californians have achieved. But adaptation also requires more water storage and, ultimately, desalination of ocean water.

Desalination, an energy-intensive process, raises the hackles of greens but has proven successful in countries such as the United Arab Emirates and Israel. At least one new plant has become operational in Southern California, and more are on the drawing board, including in Huntington Beach. These facilities would help meet demand in coastal communities, allowing more water to stay in the rural interior.

California, as anyone familiar with its history knows, is not a naturally occurring urban area. Its greatness and creativity always have rested on human ingenuity and adaptation to our environment. Such resiliency, not purposely worsening water scarcity, is key to a brighter future for our state.

(Joel Kotkin is R.C. Hobbs Presidential Fellow in Urban Studies at Chapman University. He is executive editor of New Geography … where this piece originated and executive director of the Center for Opportunity Urbanism.)


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