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Grow up, Sacramento! It’s Time to Step up to Civic Adulthood

By | February 9, 2017

Are you finally growing up, Sacramento?
I pose that question not to our state government but to the real Sacramento, by which I mean the Sacramento Capital Region. It’s a query that should be aimed at all of the Central Valley’s big urban areas. Are you ready for civic adulthood, Fresno, Bakersfield, Stockton, and Modesto?
The maturity of these cities is more than a regional question. The …

Connecting California, Joe Mathews »

The New California Ferrari Gets Almost Too Much Right About the Golden State

By | February 2, 2017

When I finally got the keys to California, I wondered how fast it would go. So, on the 210 freeway, I floored the accelerator, and within seconds, I was driving 100 miles per hour.
I immediately felt exhilaration—and fear. This speed was totally unfamiliar to someone who has spent his life driving beaten-up Toyotas. In California we like to think we can move as fast as …

Connecting California, Joe Mathews »

My Grandmother—the Dirty Harry of Pruning—Knew That Things Grow So Fast in California, You Always Have to Be Cutting Back

By | January 26, 2017

She left us only recently, and already San Mateo has gotten way too leafy.
As I drove through that fine Peninsula city in the Bay Area on the way to my grandmother’s memorial service earlier this month, the plants had returned to their old arrogance. Bushes off Hillsdale Boulevard were growing far bushier than they once dared. The trees along Alameda de las Pulgas flaunted branches …

Connecting California, Joe Mathews »

This Donald Trump Hasn’t Made Any Racist Statements or Told Any Lies—but I Still Don’t Know What to Do With Him

By | January 19, 2017

I have a confession to make: Donald Trump is imprisoned in my closet.
He’s been in there for months, and I haven’t dared to let him out, for fear that his presence might be discovered. What’s worse, now that he’s president I’ve come to realize that my treatment of Trump does not conform with the Geneva Convention. He’s spent all this time in a tiny, …

Connecting California, Joe Mathews »

What La La Land and an Acclaimed Satire Reveal About California’s Dark Heart

By | January 12, 2017

The brilliant new film musical La La Land is being celebrated as a love letter to Los Angeles. But the darker heart of the movie lies in a brief and devastating critique of Southern California, delivered by the jazz pianist played by Ryan Gosling.
“That’s L.A.,” he tells his lover, an aspiring actress played by Emma Stone. “They worship everything and they value nothing.”
There has been …

Connecting California, Joe Mathews »

My Hometown is Fawning Over President Obama—But the Feeling Isn’t Mutual

By | January 5, 2017

I recently learned that, in the second grade, I was part of presidential history.
Every morning during the 1980-1981 school year, I walked the five blocks between my family’s home in southwest Pasadena and Allendale Elementary School, where I was in Beverly Thomas’ class. Sometimes I went back in the evening to play in the Little League at Allendale Park, adjacent to school.
The round trip seemed …

Connecting California, Joe Mathews »

If the Golden State Is to Right Its Biggest Wrongs in the New Year, We’ll Have to Embrace Some Dirty Deals

By | December 29, 2016

Grab a glass of champagne. Then bend your mind around this New Year’s resolution for Californians: In 2017, let’s become more tolerant of political corruption.
Yes, bigotry against political skullduggery is just about the last socially acceptable prejudice in our state. And while the idea of tolerating dirty deal-making may sound perverse or strange, so are the ways we make decisions in California. We rarely consider …

Connecting California, Joe Mathews »

The Golden State Should Be the Voice of Reason in the Conflict Between D.C. and Beijing

By | December 22, 2016

California is trapped—caught in the dangerous space between two menacingly authoritarian regimes that want to fight each other.
One regime is headquartered in Beijing, and the other is about to take power in Washington D.C. But when viewed from the Golden State, it’s striking how much they have in common.
Both are fervently nationalist, full of military men, and so bellicose they are spooking neighbors and …

Connecting California, Joe Mathews »

Is California Losing Its Ability to Hablar Español?

By | December 15, 2016

How are Californians going to save Spanish?
Yes, I know that a call to preserve the Spanish language might seem ludicrous in a state whose very name comes from a Spanish romance novel. Nearly half of us are either from the Spanish-speaking world, or trace our heritage there. We constantly hear Spanish—in our neighborhoods, our workplaces, and in our media; an estimated 38 percent of Californians …

Connecting California, Joe Mathews »

If California Won’t Build Housing on Land, Why Not “Seasteading”?

By | December 8, 2016

The devastating housing shortage in California keeps getting worse. Housing prices won’t stop rising. Why can’t we solve the problem?
Perhaps it’s because all of the proposed solutions—more construction, sprawling construction, denser construction, granny flats, affordable housing mandates, new forms of financing and exemptions from regulation—are built on the same flawed premise: that housing must exist solely on land.
And on land, California’s high costs, environmental regulation, …

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