During his spiel at last week’s on-campus conference entitled “What Ails California?”, Berkeley alum and former UC regent Bill Bagley spoke of the golden era in our state assembly, a time when most current undergraduates were probably busy teething or learning to ride a two-wheeler or building a California Mission out of sugar cubes—a time devoid of party lines, term limits, and the special interest groups our state legislators have become so codependent on.

A time, presumably, when the public’s dime sufficed to keep libraries at the state’s leading public research institution open to the public on Saturdays.

Sounds like our state legislature in the ’80s and ’90s was a regular kumbaya, Democrats and Republicans in one happy-go-lucky, strum-your-guitar-with-your-eyes-closed, aisle-free campfire conglomerate.

Did we mention Bill Bagley is a Republican? Well, a “moderate” Republican. But still, they’re a rare breed in Berkeley. Rare like a flightless desert bird stranded on a raft in the middle of a large body of water, or how Dick Cheney likes his steak.

Apart from Bagley’s nostalgia, the panel appears to have been everything but optimistic about California government. UC Chancellor Robert Birgeneau admitted, “We’re progressively devolving.”

By the end of the conference, the problems Berkeley political scientist Jack Citrin identified in our electorate were being referred to by others as California’s “free fall” into a “structure of dysfunction.”

As Steve Weiner of Common Sense California put it just as the day’s festivities were kicking off, “The purpose of this panel is to extinguish all further hope.”

As always in moments of desolation and despair, Professor Robert Reich’s got our back. His recent post on The Berkeley Blog lays down our state’s prognosis in ten (relatively easy to digest) bullet points.

Image Source: TC Project under Creative Commons
What ails California? [UC Berkeley News]


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