I was picketed a few days ago in California by some youngsters that had signs that said, ‘Make Love, Not War!’
The trouble is they didn’t look like they were capable of doing either. This fellow that was doing the talking had a haircut like Tarzan, walked like Jane, and smelled like Cheetah.
As most of my readers know, although I now live in the Missouri Wine Country, I spent the first 30 years of my life in California and have more insight into the state’s history and political situation than the other states of the Union that I am frequently asked about.
Culturally, California has five or six distinct regions and there have been secessionist movements within the state since the time it became a territory of the United States. Around the time of the Civil War, Californians overwhelmingly lobbied for the state to be split in two, but the federal government had its hands tied with trying to hold the country together and the California split wasn’t given serious consideration in Washington.
Those five or six distinct regions of California have different reasons for wanting to split into their own states. Some (the extreme counties of Northern California near the Oregon border along with the Northern California coast) feel so far removed from the rest of the state politically end economically that they see themselves as shut off from the state government apparatus. The citizens of the region of California that has long tried to form a separate state called “Jefferson” feel that Southern California is as foreign to them as Canada is. Among other reasons that Californians support partition are the constant battle over water resources between Northern California and Southern California and the fact that the Sierra counties, Desert counties, and even some of the agricultural centers of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Valleys feel either underrepresented in state government or simply out-muscled by the major metropolitan areas like Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco-Oakland-San Jose, and Sacramento.
Do I think it’s a good idea? I don’t think the proposal to partition California into six different states is a good idea because it’s simply not feasible. In order for an idea to be good (in my opinion), it must be possible. The six-state partition is just not going to happen — how will California’s natural resources be divvied up? How will water be allocated? Where do the prisoners which severely overcrowd every single prison in the state go to?— the nearest facility to where the crime was committed?; the facility that they are currently incarcerated?; who foots the bill for the prison facilities?
But, with that said, there would be benefits to partitioning California into two states — Northern and Southern California. Already, the two halves of the state are about as different as two regions within one state can be. Californians already identify themselves by the section of the state they are from. Infrastructure is in place that would allow the two parts of the state to split somewhat equally in every area except water allocation (Southern California needs water from Northern California to survive, that’s a fact). Some of the same issues involved in a six-state partition remain, but the solutions aren’t quite as daunting if California is split in two.
Why even consider splitting the state into two after over 160 years of statehood? Well, California is home to nearly 40 million citizens and, quite frankly, that’s probably way too many people for one centralized state government to effectively manage. I think that’s one of the problems that the state has faced over the past 30 years — the population is just too unwieldly. California has the area, the population, and the economic base of a large, wealthy foreign country. Yet, one state government is charged with administering California — no different, really, than the state government system in a place like Wyoming which has a fraction of the population. The population growth in California isn’t slowing down anytime soon — can the already creaky government in Sacramento keep up with the pace and continue managing the whole state? Indications from the last three decades do not inspire optimism.
Will partition of California ever happen? I doubt it. The water allocation issue itself will probably dynamite any serious discussions about it. Plus, California can’t even figure out a way forward with building high-speed rail — a sure-fire investment in the state’s future which would create jobs, change the nature of travel within the state, and likely have significant positive impacts on the environment and economy. If the state can’t deliver on a slam-dunk like high-speed rail, I doubt California will ever be able to deliver on splitting the state into two, let alone partitioning it into six new states.
Have you ever been to Los Angeles or San Diego in late spring? Have you ever cruised Highway 1 from Monterey to San Francisco, parked along the Great Highway and roamed Ocean Beach and the ruins of the Sutro Baths? Have you ever walked across the Golden Gate Bridge? Stopped at Donner Summit? Strolled through Capitol Park in Sacramento during the magic hour as the Delta breeze picks up? Have you ever lost count while trying to keep track of the waterfalls in Yosemite? Wondered how a place called Death Valley can be beautiful and desolate? Have you ever walked the Boardwalk at Santa Cruz? The Pier at Santa Monica? Have you ever dipped your toes in the Pacific Ocean, built a snowman in the Sierra, and camped in the desert all in the same day?
It doesn’t require a historical reason to want to move to California.
With that said, I am a historian and there are still historical reasons. Of course, the Gold Rush in the 1840s brought settlers to the state so quickly that it was barely a territory before having a large enough population to become a state. The Transcontinental Railroad made it easier for people to make the move across the country, and opened up trade in both directions. The Dust Bowl and Great Depression drove more people to the West Coast. Farmers in Oklahoma and the Plains whose land was devastated by drought were able to find a new start in California’s Central Valley, which provided an agricultural gold rush due to its rich soil and cheap land. As the country prepared for and then entered the war, many who had been looking for work during the Depression found it in defense jobs at the many bases and ports, factories and shipyards that popped up throughout the state. For decades, California was a land of opportunity and the place where people went to chase their dreams. And now, although opportunities have become scarce, it’s still tough to abandon the weather and natural beauty of the state. Believe me…I couldn’t bring myself to do it until I was 30.
Yes, I did. The first time was when I was leaving one of my favorite restaurants in Sacramento, the Esquire Grill, which is about a block away from the State Capitol and very close to the Hyatt Regency, which is where Governor Schwarzenegger stayed whenever he didn’t go home to Los Angeles.
I was walking out of the Esquire and held the door for a small group of obvious politicians — not an unusual sight in Downtown Sacramento on a weekday. I didn’t notice who it was immediately, but I heard him say, “Thank you,” and when I heard that unmistakable accent, I quickly said, “Uh, you’re welcome, Governor.” It wasn’t my smoothest moment. He shook my hand and was very pleasant.
I had another minor interaction with him just a few months after Obama announced he was running for President. We were putting together some sort of event in Sacramento and I had some invitations that I was supposed to drop off to potential surrogates and supporters at the Capitol. I delivered the invitations to a few State Senators and members of the State Assembly and had one to deliver to Lieutenant Governor John Garamendi. The Lieutenant Governor’s office is on the first floor, directly across the hall from the Governor’s office. When I came out of Lieutenant Governor Garamendi’s office, I saw Governor Schwarzenegger and two of his staffers walking into his office. No one else was in the hallway except one CHP officer who was standing nearby. I wanted to joke around and invite him to the Obama event, but once again, I came across like a complete nerd and just said, “Hi, Governor.” He waved as he headed into his office and I walked down the hallway thinking to myself, “Hi, Governor?! Who the hell do I think I am? Way to connect with the big wigs, Anthony.”
I saw Governor Schwarzenegger give a couple of speeches, too. One thing I noticed is that there is no way in hell that he is 6’2” as his bio says and how he was always listed as a bodybuilder. On a good day, I am a little over 5’8” and I would say that there’s no way that Schwarzenegger is more than 5’10”. Also, he must have the best tailor in the world because on each occasion that I saw him I quickly noticed how nice his business suits looked, and if you’ve ever seen my wardrobe, you’d know that I’m no expert on fashion.
More on Arnold will be coming soon because I am working on my review of his recently-released autobiography, Total Recall: My Unbelievably True Life Story (BOOK•KINDLE), which I really enjoyed and which gave me an appreciation and respect for the former Governor that I hadn’t expected.
The last time I was in Sacramento was when I moved, so it’s been since June 2010.
There are definitely some things that I miss. I love living where I am now where it’s rural and quiet and calm. I don’t ever miss hearing helicopters and sirens like I did every night for the first 30 years of my life. That was the most surprising thing that I noticed when I moved to Austin. I thought those were just the noises that you hear in every large city, but then I moved to Austin and it was quiet and I realized that what I was used to in Sacramento was not normal. (Other than the LBJ Library, I don’t miss a single thing from my one miserable year in Austin, by the way)
Maybe I should just answer your question and get back to what I do miss about Sacramento.
Of course, I miss the weather. The weather here in Missouri is exponentially better than it was in Austin, but there’s nothing better than those summer nights in Sacramento where the temperature drops down to 65 degrees even though it was 105 during the day and that beautiful Delta breeze comes off of the river. Once I moved out of Sacramento (and California overall, really), I realized that I took the great weather for granted since I had lived there all my life.
I miss Capitol Park. I loved taking a book and just chilling somewhere in Capitol Park under one of the scores of various species of trees planted in the park because so many trees from around the world can thrive in Sacramento’s climate. Or just walked around Capitol Park after catching dinner somewhere downtown. I really miss getting a nice cigar from Rodney’s or the tobacco shop on Front Street in Old Sac, and enjoying it while walking and talking with a friend along the palm-lined sidewalks surrounding the Capitol. Or strolling through Capitol Park with a girl, looking at the monuments and the orange trees, and showing her where, if you stand just right, you can peek into the Governor’s first-floor corner office and sometimes see the Governor sitting at his desk.
I miss Round Table Pizza and Pizza Guys. There’s a 40% chance that I’ll move back to Sacramento just because I can’t live much longer without having Round Table or, if I don’t want to spend as much money, Pizza Guys. I can’t believe Round Table isn’t a national chain. The rest of this country is missing out. If everyone had Round Table Pizza, we would all be happy and prosperous and there would be peace in the Middle East.
I miss having a nice, stiff drink and lounging around like a gentleman in the bar in the lobby of the Sheraton Grand. Or having a pricey, tasty margarita in the bar of the Delta King. Or having a lot of cheap, tasty margaritas at Chevy’s on the River.
I miss Time Tested Books on 21st Street in Midtown and the piles of used books at the Book Nook on Madison Avenue where I found some real treasures over the years.
I miss going to Sacramento Kings games and lunch at the Esquire Grill. I miss being so close to San Francisco and the coast as well as Reno, Tahoe, and the Sierra.
I miss living within walking distance of a Trader Joe’s. I miss Temple Coffee House on 9th Street, and I’m pissed because they waited until I moved and then opened a new location in my old neighborhood!
There are probably some more things, but those are what I think about from time-to-time. Except for both Round Table Pizza and Pizza Guys, which I usually think about for an average of no less than three hours each day. Despite the things that I miss, I’m still very happy to be where I am and doing what I am doing. The only time I consider moving back to Sacramento is when I want pizza, so I think that’s a good sign.
Shit, now I’m hungry.
This is really local to Northern California and totally non-Presidential, so people are going to hate that I answer it, but too bad. It’s a subject that interests me as someone who lived in Northern California for the first 30 years of my life.
Now, I did move to Austin last summer, so I may be a bit out of touch on some of the latest news and issues.
With the Kings, I definitely think that the land swap deal at Cal Expo (site of the California State Fair) was far too complex. If anybody here knows anything about Sacramento, too, an arena at Cal Expo would be a traffic nightmare. The State Fair is a nightmare for traffic on the Cap City Freeway and that’s only two weeks per year. Forty-one Kings games each year would really cause some trouble over there. I didn’t like the idea of an arena at Cal Expo.
Ideally, they would build an arena downtown at the railyards, but that’s been beaten into the ground so much over the years that I can’t see how it can ever actually get done now. The people of Sacramento screwed themselves with the Kings by voting down the ballot initiative for the arena in 2008. That was a chance to step up and show that we were serious about keeping the Kings and it was defeated handily. That whole initiative campaign was badly ran, too. I don’t think most people understood it very well.
Like I said, I’ve been out of Sacramento since last year, so I don’t know what the discussion is now. I would assume downtown because that’s where the City has always pushed for a new arena and I don’t think the Maloofs wanted anything in Natomas again. I never had a problem with a new arena in Natomas, but I don’t own the team and I’m not the Mayor of the city. I also wondered why they never looked into building an arena at the former McClellan Air Force Base. That seems like a perfect place for an arena — easily accessible, plenty of land, and I would assume that the chemicals have been largely cleaned up since the AFB has been closed for years now.
As for the other Northern California teams, I was surprised when the Giants got Pac Bell, too, because it’s stunning that the 49ers haven’t been able to get themselves a new stadium. I thought that the A’s had a good deal with the proposed Fremont ballpark, but I would not be surprised to see them in San Jose.
I can’t see the Raiders and 49ers ever sharing a stadium. The Raiders won’t get anything from local governments unless Al Davis puts down the stakes and commits to the Bay Area. You never know when the Raiders are going to pack up and move back to L.A. I know the Warriors play in the NBA’s oldest arena, but didn’t they renovate the Oracle Arena pretty nicely a few years back. That’s a great place to catch a basketball game. I’d hate to see them move across the Bay because the atmosphere in that arena is pretty special when the Warriors fans get into it.
Swinging back to the Kings and Sacramento, this is their chance to save the team and, really, save the city. Sacramento has always been on the edge of being a major league city. It has the population — it’s a far bigger city than most people realize, but the Kings give them that identification as a “major league” city. If the Kings moved, Sacramento isn’t going to get another major league sports team. This is its one chance. We know that the city can support the team — they did it through some really terrible years, and they did it during the Webber/Divac/Peja glory years. But building a new arena is a must. And not just for the Kings, either. ARCO Arena (I refuse to call it by its new name ) is the site of some great memories for me, but it is outdated and a downtown arena would certainly revitalize what could be a really cool downtown area if it actually stayed open past 5 PM on weekdays. Mayor Johnson — who I didn’t think much of during his campaign or throughout the first part of his term — really stepped up, so this will be his legacy, too. I don’t know — I actually feel pretty confident about it, though. I think Sacramento will come through. If not, it’s not the Maloofs; Sacramento will have only itself to blame.