Sunday, March 25, 2007

other states' residents say Californians suck

Ex-Californians draw Westerners' ire

LAS VEGAS — It's dead inside Favorites bar this afternoon, where the propped-open door spills a bit of light onto the ancient Elvis pin ball machine and the grumpy man puffing on a cigarette in front of the video poker machine.

There's no food here, unless you count the vending machine against the green wall. Owner Ray Medrano had to make a choice: Close the kitchen or ban smoking in the joint altogether. His customers love their smokes more than their food, so the kitchen lost.

For Medrano, there's only one despicable group of people to blame for Nevada passing a smoking ban that eliminates smoking in restaurants and bars that also serve food: Californians.

"California has a negative influence on our society," he said, glancing around as cigarette smoke fills the stuffy place. "They should keep their world in their world."

It's a popular refrain from many in the West. When Californians move in, it's always their fault when things change. They infect the rest of the region with their politics and questionable driving, and make housing prices soar.

Sure, it's been 30 years since Oregonians first slapped "Don't Californicate Oregon" bumper stickers on their cars, but, like the song by the Red Hot Chili Peppers, "Californication" is still alive and well.

"I think it's just such a common desire to say things were really calm and great here and then these people came in," said Patty Limerick, history professor and faculty director of the University of Colorado's Center of the American West.

Since 1991, the number of Californians moving out topped the number of people moving in to the state. And where do they go? The top five states Californians moved to between 2000 and 2005 were Arizona, Nevada, Texas, Washington and Oregon, according to William Frey, population expert for the Brookings Institution.

For many Californians, they want what eludes them in their state — open space, clean air and not so much traffic. So they sell their houses for a chunk of change, move somewhere else in the West, buy a bigger house and start driving up the housing prices, much to the dismay of locals.

Sherrie Watson has lived in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, since she was 16 and is quite fed up with Californians.

"They complain how cold it is. And they just moved here because it is cheaper and to 'get away,' but then they keep saying things like, 'We did it in California this way, so why don't you change?' "

"They came here because they liked it the way is was when they visited, but then they want to change it. I don't get it," she said.

Picking on Californians has almost become a sport, with people trying to come up with the catchiest slogans or blogging about how annoying Golden Staters are.

Montanan Tom Heatherington runs a website called that sells T-shirts and bumper stickers that say: "Montana sucks. Now go home and tell all your friends."

The products aren't specifically aimed at Californians, but, let's just say the point is taken.

"Most people just have this state of mind about Californians being, how shall I say it — different — than everybody else," Heatherington said politely.

Shirley Vanderstelt, 34, is an ex-Californian who moved to Bozemon, Mont., four years ago. Mostly, she has felt welcome, but "there is definitely an underlying feeling of dislike for most Californians.

"I generally tell people where I grew up, then immediately follow that with 'I'm not one of THOSE Californians' because it usually starts with rolling of the eyes, a sigh and shaking of the head."

When John Wilker and his wife moved from Riverside, Calif., to Highlands Ranch, Colo., in 2005, they were told to change their license plates quickly or they would be run off the road.

A joke?

Maybe, but that resentment and clash of cultures is very real.

For many Westerners, California is seen as a state of excess and an example of how things shouldn't be done. (These also are the people who elected a movie star as their governor.)

Combine that with the frontier West, where residents aren't so interested in a lot of government control over how they behave, and therein lies the problem.

Yes, Californians drive up housing costs, and some can even be blamed for falling prices because of the many investors who snapped up cheap houses, then wanted to sell, creating too much inventory in cities like Las Vegas and Phoenix. Many believe those cities are becoming suburbs of Los Angeles.

"Home prices go up and we all blame Californians," said Jay Butler, director of Realty Studies at Arizona State University Polytechnic. "They are sort of like the West Coast version of the New Yorkers. They have the attitude."

But what about politics? Are Californians starting to turn the West more blue?

"I think the Democratic Party is counting on it," Frey said. "If they shifted just a little bit in the last election, (they) could have elected a Democratic president."

Colorado has gone from red to blue in the last four years, something ex-Californians may have had a hand in, said independent pollster Floyd Ciruli. But really the change just indicates what is happening in the rest of the country, he said.

Now, about that smoking ban. Nevada, where gambling and smoking are almost one in the same, previously had one of the nation's least restrictive smoking laws. Now there's no smoking in restaurants, bars that serve food or around slot machines in grocery stores or gas stations.

Connie Feulner is a bartender at Jake's Bar in Las Vegas. When customers get to talking about the smoking ban that passed last November, she keeps mum. Don't tell the customers, but she used to live in California.

"Damn Californians," she said, repeating a familiar complaint. "All their fault, all the time."

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Rail-roaded into paving open spaces?

Friday, February 02, 2007

Developers Laugh While Rail and Park Advocates Fight

L.A.Times Columnist Pits Light Rail Advocates Against Open Space Protectors;

We Can Have Both.

(NOTE: Steve Lopez's column on !/28/2007 attacked folks who want to preserve open space because they want the second phase of the Exposition light rail project to run along the noisy Venice and Sepulveda Blvds., instead of through the only remaining open space in a quiet neighborhood. Rather than blame big oil companies for wrecking L.A.'s Pacific Electric rail system in the 1950's, Lopez pitted the average folks of L.A. against each other.)

Here's our view on this:

The issue here is about a choice between putting the Expo rail on two wide and noisy streets (Venice and Sepulveda that could actually encourage existing drivers on those streets to take the rail and not drive), ---or putting the rail on a vacant, green strip in a quiet neighborhood that could just as well become a park and community gardens. But no, instead of supporting the first route I mentioned, you want to waste a lot of energy bashing on residents of Cheviot Hills. In the end, we will get a rail from downtown to the sea. For the record, I don't live anywhere near Cheviot Hills; I live in Westchester next to the freeway, so I get loud traffic noise 24 hours a day from the freeway on the north and from booming jets at LAX on the south. I have sympathy for residents along the Gold line who hear the train horns around the clock. Maybe those on this blog who have been aroused to want to lynch the leaders of residents groups in Cheviot Hills don't live next to the noisy project they are supporting. This is the essence of the hypocricy behind the use of the phrase NIMBY.

What's most important, in my mind, beyond fixing the traffic mess and cleaning up the Bay, is that we need to preserve unpaved open spaces in this concrete monstropolis any way that we can. When there is an alternative to a huge public works project that will save open space and still solve a public need, than we are fools if we don't try to do both. We can have a superb public rail system here again; we can also create and preserve open spaces in this sea of concrete. But when we resort to NIMBY name-calling, we are using the language of the developers and the despoilers of this great city to divide, a propaganda trick that has led to the mess we are in today.

I take issue with Lopez's claim that "There's no preexisting railroad right of way along Venice Blvd." Of course there is! That's why Venice is so wide and why the sidewalks and parkways are so wide: because there used to be a rail line running down the middle. Of course, there's enough room to put a light rail there, and we do own the land!

If we really want to lessen the traffic mess at Century City, the rail line needs to be IN Century City. For example, Santa Monica Blvd. used to have a rail line on it and it forms the north border of Century City. On the other hand, the expo line is quite a ways away from this dense area.

I'm really tired of journalists attacking neighborhoods as being selfish NIMBY's. I'll bet you don't live next to the Expo line. When journalists try to emphasize conflict in stories on land use issues, why is it usually framed as pitting middle class neighborhoods against poor people? L.A.'s transit crisis was not created by the folks in Cheviot Hills. Let's put blame where it belongs:on selfish, developer-driven City Councils and on the car, oil and tire corporations that wiped out L.A. 's Pacific Electric Railway system. Here, the super-rich got us into a big mess, and yet, you're trying to pit the rest of us against each other. Many of the problems in this country are caused by the selfish top 2% corporate elite that get away with (figuratively) murder, while their corporate media tries to stir up everyone else to fight each other over straw-man issues. Can't find an affordable home? Blame existing residents, or blame the developers that only build luxury homes. Tired of high gas prices? Blame selfish air-breathing environmentalists for demanding clean air, or blame the oil companies and their political buddies that have squelched alternate fuels research. Steve Lopez's article pointed his finger at all but the real culprit for L.A.'s traffic messes.

Lastly, The L.A times has supported every major development in this City's history. The Times helped to create this problem. What's the Times going to do to fix it? Open your own wallet and help out! Don't blame the average folks for a mess created by the corporate elite.