Welcome to Prop Zero

Wayne Johnson

Well, it was a good run California.

Remember that time when we were so bitchin’ people came here by the millions? From back East to the Middle East. From the Great Plains to the Great Wall of China. All in search of what seemed so easily attained here: a fresh start with boundless opportunity.

The weather was always perfect, and we led the nation in trends, fads, imagination, and optimism. Today, not so much. Today, we lead the nation in layoffs and unemployment. When it comes to pink slips, we’re number one. In the first three months of this year, we’ve whacked more than 40,000 workers. When you look at the top 10 layoff capitols in America, SIX of them are in California, which flirts with a 13-percent unemployment rate. Joblessness in Riverside/San Bernardino rivals Detroit. In fact, only Michigan and Nevada are worse off than us when it comes to unemployment.

Don’t worry too much about all those percentages, because our kids may not be able to follow them anyway. The U.S. Department of Education says we rank near the bottom nationally in math and reading scores for grades 4 and 8, and we’re not going to solve this problem by throwing money at it. Depending on what survey you believe, California is either at or near the bottom of spending on our public school students.

The kids shouldn’t feel targeted though. We don’t have any money to spend on anything. Budget deficits break out around here as often as Hollywood stars head to rehab. The latest $19 billion shortfall has the governor thinking we should make cuts to everything from child care to welfare-to-work programs.

And to fix this fine mess come a passel of candidates. Insiders like Steve Poizner and Jerry Brown, and outsiders like Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina. Good luck. We still have legislative districts drawn to virtually assure parties will hold their seats, and their power to deadlock any real change in Sacramento. We're so handcuffed by Propositions, any real creative budgetary moves are virtually impossible.

Feeling Hopeless? Fuggetaboutit. That’s why we’re here. Welcome to Prop Zero.

I thought the Zero was in there to indicate how much I would be compensated for my political insights (which actually seems like a fair price now that I think about it), but no. This blog is metaphorically Ground Zero for change. We'll look at the issues and the proposals to lead us back to glory. We’ve all got to start somewhere, but when we’re facing problems like these, even Square One seems too far down the path. So Zero it is.

We’ll focus on three areas we feel are the most important in the eyes of Californians: Kids, Cash and Jobs. Former L.A. Times reporter and current Senior Fellow at the New America Foundation Joe Mathews is our lead blogger, along with a cadre of political experts, reporters, and observers from San Diego to the Bay Area.

We'll try to shine the light on ideas, and raise the heat on ideologues. We promise to be interesting, relevant and irreverent.

We had a good run, California. And we can have another. It won’t be easy, and it will take hard work and hard choices. In the land of Moonbeams and Governators, anything's possible. And just look outside. It’s another perfect day.

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