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California Futures New narratives for a changing society

Dowell Myers
Boom: A Journal of California
Vol. 2, No. 2 (Summer 2012), pp. 37-54
DOI: 10.1525/boom.2012.2.2.37
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1525/boom.2012.2.2.37
Page Count: 18
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California Futures


California needs a new guiding narrative for shared understanding and for directing public decisions about threats and opportunities in the state. Misleading and counterproductive guidance is provided by narratives that are no longer supported by recent trends. Ongoing changes related to two specific guiding narratives are described. In the first, support for Proposition 13 was founded on explosive increases of house prices in the 1970s, along with assumptions of continued migration of newcomers willing to pay higher prices and the higher taxes needed to offset discounts for oldtimers. A second narrative of demographic change reacts negatively to rapid population growth, soaring immigration and racial change. Remarkably, virtually all the premises in these two narratives have been overturned by events. Instead, a different set of urgent problems and opportunities have emerged that require a new guiding vision. In place of exploding house prices, tax assessments have collapsed and we struggle to revive the housing market. Young buyers are asked to pay the highest taxes, but today it is the young not the old who are vulnerable and threatened. While before it was a struggle to keep up with migration from outside California, immigration has declined and today the growth is homegrown. Meanwhile, the aging baby boomers are about to create a crisis of replacement workers, taxpayers and home buyers. Cultivating the new homegrown generation is our paramount need. Today the story of California is completely reversed, yet adherence to the old narratives blocks recognition of the path to a brighter future.

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