View From Lodi, CA: Leaving California: Is It Inevitable?
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Bad news about California and its future continues. As a result many residents, myself included, are contemplating what may be the inevitable—leaving the once Golden State.

Among California's most pressing problems is the state's water shortage. According to the Los Angeles Daily News, the Metropolitan Water District is considering water rationing in southern California in 2008 for 26 cities in six counties including Los Angeles and Ventura.

The alarm bell went off when U.S. District Judge Oliver Wagner ruled last week that water imports from Northern California must be cut by up to 30 percent to protect the delta smelt, a small fish threatened with extinction.

In the meantime, the MWD has reasonably asked residents to voluntarily cut back water usage by 10 percent. [Water Shortage Ominous, By Alex Dobuzinskis, Los Angeles Daily News, September 5, 2007]

Since Los Angeles area residents have either forgotten or never knew that southern California is a desert, water is wasted in every conceivable fashion. The MWD will have more luck if the state has a wet winter than it will trying to convince consumers to use less.

Complicating the water crisis is Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's approach to solving it: more debt. California is already in hock up to its ears. Now Schwarzenegger proposes issuing $9 billion in new bonds to build new dams and delta upgrades. [Governor Seeks $9 billion in Bonds for Water Projects in State, By Tom Chorneau, San Francisco Chronicle, September 19, 2007]

Another headache: earlier this week, the Texas Transportation Institute of Texas A & M University issued its latest Urban Mobility Study analyzing traffic patterns on major highways.

The report found that, no surprise to California drivers, trips take longer, congestion consumes more hours of the day, traffic affects rural and weekend travel, makes trip times more difficult to estimate, causes more gas-guzzling and wastes more hours of our lives.

A personal note on unreliable time estimates to get from here to there: a recent trip from my Lodi home to Raley Field in Sacramento, normally 45-minutes, took more than two agonizing hours. I planned to arrive early for the pre-game Rivercats play-off festivities but instead took my seat in the third inning.

Among the ten most terrible cities to drive in, California has four of them: Los Angeles, the worst, San Francisco, in a three-way tie with Atlanta and Washington D.C. for third place, San Diego, sixth and San Jose, tied for eighth with Orlando and Detroit.

One possible solution under consideration by the San Francisco County Transportation Authority isn't very consumer friendly. The SFCTA will hold a public forum to discuss charging fees to drivers for using the most traffic-clogged routes at the busiest time of the day.

Although usage fees have not been implemented in the U.S., they are imposed in the European cities of London ($16 a day) and Stockholm ($9.00).[S.F. Studying Congestion Pricing to Ease Traffic, Promote Congestion,By  Rachel Gordon, San Francisco Chronicle, September 19, 2007]

The question that must be asked is where in California could you drive without paying?

If California's advantages include going to Los Angeles' beaches, the San Diego Zoo and San Francisco's Embarcadero but you can't get there without inching along for hours or paying a hefty fee to arrive more quickly, maybe it is time to move.

Many are doing it…and are glad they did.

The New York Times wrote about the Fischer family who left San Bernardino for Kansas City, MO. In the process, they bought a five-bedroom house twice the size of their California home with an expansive yard and a lake view from the hot tub on their deck. The Fischers had enough money left to pay off the debt on their two cars and buy a 21-foot motorboat.

Mrs. Fischer, a California native, told the Times reporter that "all my friends who were raised there are trying to leave."[Saying Goodbye California Sun, Hello Midwest, By Motoko Rich and David Leonhardt, New York Times, November 7, 2005]

For most California residents the choice boils down to staying for the good weather or leaving in search of more space, a lower cost of living and a better quality of life.

More and more people realize that California's weather isn't enough to offset its escalating troubles. Saying good-bye to California would be tough. But, unless its problems are resolved, leaving might be the best thing to do.

Joe Guzzardi [email him], an instructor in English at the Lodi Adult School, has been writing a weekly column since 1988. It currently appears in the Lodi News-Sentinel.

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