Crazifornia: Tales From the Tarnished State author Laer Pearce describes himself as a “natural optimist.” Still, when asked by an attendee of the author’s forum at the Beverly Hills Public Library last night about what’s next for California, Mr. Pearce hesitated.
“There are no easy answers. Vote smarter. I’m a believer in political pendulums.”
The author’s forum, presented by the American Freedom Alliance, drew a modest-sized crowd of around ten people, but Mr. Pearce led a lively, politically charged discussion about the problems facing California and offered some solutions of his own on how to stop the bleeding.
The discussion began with Mr. Pearce agreeing with the AFA presenter’s assertion that progressive ideology is “deeply embedded” in California. The author said that progressivism’s anti-business, pro-regulation agenda has “run the state into the ground,” and added that it’s a “tragedy” that such a resource-filled state is struggling so badly. He explained that California often “gets away” with it, because many of the best minds in business, technology, and politics are in the state.
Mr. Pearce then directed the conversation to specific problems plaguing California. Quoting from his book, he said, “Despite rising taxes, services in the state continue to deteriorate.” To illustrate his point, Mr. Pearce asked the audience: “How many people here get their mail at 6 o’clock?” After almost everyone’s hand went up, one woman in the audience sighed, “I get mine at 7.” Mr. Pearce also noted that California has the lowest-rated tax collection service in the country, while burdening its residents with the highest taxes of any state. “You’d think they’d be good at it by now,” he quipped.
Next, the author shifted the forum’s focus to California’s inefficient beaurocracies. He related a personal experience he had with the California Coastal Commission in his hometown of South Orange County. Apparently, there was some mud on a neighborhood sidewalk that residents wanted scraped off. The Coastal Commission came in, surveyed the mud, and designated the small sidewalk area a “wetlands.” The Commission had found just one of three possible indicators of a wetlands environment; still, they sprung into action, erecting a bridge and guardrail around the area, spending about $200,000 of taxpayer money so they could brag about “preserving wetlands.” Mr. Pearce called the unelected Commission “extremely corrupt,” although he noted “it’s probably the best one I’ve seen in my lifetime.”
Mr. Pearce also discussed a recently introduced bill in the California legislature that would reduce the amount of time allotted to state agencies for discipline of employees from three years to one. “Why isn’t it a week?” asked Mr. Pearce. He said that the employee responsible for fabricating a concrete pour report on the under-construction Oakland Bay Bridge wasn’t disciplined at all, until the Sacramento Bee called to ask what was taking so long.
After some time, the forum opened up for questions. One of the first ones asked: “What is the media’s role in all this?” The author explained that the media fit into an acronym he likes to use to describe the progressive power system entrenched in California. He calls the system PEER: progressives, environmentalists, educators, and reporters.
The progressive facet is obvious; state policy and procedure is inundated with it. With regard to environmentalists, Mr. Pearce argued they’re too radical in California. “We have a torrid love affair with Mother Nature in this state.”
Educators come into play because they’re indoctrinating the next generation with all the progressive values embedded here. Earlier, Mr. Pearce addressed the fact that young students in elementary schools couldn’t even play at recess anymore without the intervention of teachers and school boards. From the book: “… California’s fixations with self-esteem and protecting the individual from criticism or hurt has led educators to conclude that tag and similar sorts of physical activity are exactly the wrong thing to expose children to.”
Lastly, reporters and the media are the ones who “aid and abet” the whole system, Mr. Pearce said. The author said that the media in California often outright ignore news that doesn’t conform to their progressive bias. “The number of stories the Los Angeles Times hasn’t covered is shocking.”
Even with all the talk of California’s political and economic failures, the “naturally optimistic” author couldn’t let the forum end without offering a strategy to help California fight through the muck. Actually, Mr. Pearce proposed a two-pronged strategy.
The first thing conservatives in California need to do, he argued, is keep the cause alive. That includes “maintaining free market principles, maintaining free people principles.” Mr. Pearce reiterated that it’s important to try to elect real conservatives to public office, not just strong candidates without true conservative values that have a chance at winning.
The second thing conservatives must do in California is position themselves to capitalize on the left’s failures. As the “little frustrations” continue to mount in Californians’ everyday lives, conservatives need to remind the state that there’s a different way forward.
“I have a feeling that any of the cards can fall at any time,” Mr. Pearce said near the close of the forum. “Maybe the pendulum could swing back our way.”