New York Times

Channeling the '90s (or '80s)


Odd little "Editorial Observer" piece by Brent Staples in yesterday's New York Times, pegged to Los Angeles and California. A correspondent writes that it was almost as if Staples, a NYT editorial writer, had written the piece in a previous decade and the paper just now got around to running it.

When Californians talk seriously about the future, they inevitably focus on "Blade Runner," the 1982 cult movie that made a star of its director Ridley Scott...


Fear of Blade Runnerization and the belief that the affluent should spend their tax dollars only on themselves have generated a pattern of civic secession. Wealthy and middle-class Californians have increasingly withdrawn into gated communities that thrive while the older, poorer counties they have fled struggle along on a diminished tax base. The people in the new, homogenous communities tend to be extreme localists who drop out of the broader civic life. When they do engage statewide politics, they tend to do it with ballot initiatives that slash tax revenues, hamstring the Legislature and generally cut the civic ties that bind citizens in one place to those at the far end of the state.

This secessionist impulse is as old as California. Proposals for breaking up the state have surfaced and resurfaced like clockwork but have mainly gone nowhere. The secessionists discovered a powerful tool with the passage of Proposition 13, which fueled the tax revolt when it capped property taxes in 1978...


The Legislature slowed the defections by requiring that incorporations be revenue neutral, but the urge to secede continues, most notably in the San Fernando Valley, which is seeking to leave Los Angeles, taking with it a huge chunk of the city's population.

Blade Runner? Valley secession? Staples might want to refresh his talking points.

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