1st Edition

Not So Golden After All
The Rise and Fall of California

ISBN 9781439880128
Published March 20, 2012 by Routledge
342 Pages 1 B/W Illustrations

USD $74.95

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Book Description

Quality public education, modern highway systems, and reasonably priced housing—these are just some of the qualities that once made California one of the most desirable places to live. Just a few decades later, the state finds itself with an education system that is failing its citizens, one of the highest unemployment rates in the nation, and a quickly evaporating dream of home ownership.

Illustrating each step of the breakdown that led to its current state of dysfunction, Not So Golden After All: The Rise and Fall of California provides insight into a system gone amuck. It addresses complicated topics in an engaging manner to help the public and leaders alike understand how to make policies that balance expectations with outcomes. Key political themes covered include disconnected institutions, perpetually unbalanced budgets, immigration, voter ignorance, interest group influence, and dysfunctional institutions. Investigating the gridlock that has become all too common within the state’s legislature, the book:

  • Demonstrates the impact of the state’s inability to generate sufficient revenue, particularly for public education and an under-trained workforce
  • Highlights the problems created by poor land use planning —from suburban sprawl and government waste to inefficient use of agricultural land
  • Examines how interest groups have been able to wrest control of the processes that were created to keep them in line
  • Identifies the duplication of efforts and other inefficiencies at the state and local levels

Author Larry Gerston leaves no stone unturned in his discussion of California's economy, position on the Pacific Rim, cultural diversity, land and water issues, and its relationship with the federal government. He examines the state’s infrastructure, natural resources, immigration issues, education, finance, healthcare, civil rights, planning and development, security, laws, political parties, and power structures to provide civic leaders and policy makers with the understanding required to restore the sheen to this once glistening paradise.

The Contra Costa Times discussed Larry Gerston's recent Commonwealth Club lecture in a May 17, 2012 article.

Read an interview with Larry Gerston in The Mercury News.

Table of Contents

California Dreaming—Not!
The Turnstile Society
     Comings and Goings
     Uneven Opportunities and Consequences
Upside Down State
     The Land
Broke and Falling Further Behind by the Day
Countless Pieces of an Unfinished Puzzle
     Public Education
     Highways and Byways
     Environmental Stewardship—A Plus and Model for Other Improvements
Weakened Political Capacity
The Lost Luster—Where Has It Gone and How Do We Get It Back?

The Canary in the Mine
The Land of Movements and Trends
     Nonconformist Lifestyles
          Aimee Semple McPherson
          Robert Schuller
          Rick Warren
          Other Participants
The Growing Chasm between the Haves and the Have Nots
     Income and Taxation Patterns
          Personal Income and Poverty
          Taxation Disparities
          Income and Taxation Patterns in Perspective
     Public Education
          K–12 Public Education
          Higher Education
     Social Welfare Programs
          What Safety Net?
Magnet for Visionaries
     Dreams and Dollars
          Making Movies
          Disneyland and Others
          The Lure of Escape
High Tech
     Innovation and Entrepreneurship
     Capital Ideas
     An Uncertain Future
Dreams, Deliverables, and Disappointments


Immigrants: Cultures and Controversies
Domestic Migration
     The Call of Gold
     The Railroad
     The Great Depression
     Post-World War II
     Losing Curb Appeal
Immigrant Patterns
     Native Americans
     Irish and Chinese
     Illegal Immigrants
          The Case for Illegal Immigrants Remaining in California
          The Case against Illegal Immigrants Remaining in California
          An Issue, Yes; a Problem, No
Persistent Discrimination
     Racism, California Style
Striking Back
     Zoot Suit Riots
     Watts and Other Cities
     The Fields
Race and Ethnicity in California’s Shrinking
White World

From Farmers to Assemblers to Engineers
The Agricultural Society
     From Small Farms to Agribusiness
          Diversification of the Land
          Sizing Up
     Farm Power
          Environmental Regulations
     Do Animals Have Rights?
     California Farming: A Lot More than Putting
     Food on the Table
Manufacturing—Metamorphoses and Mismatches
     The Waning Industrial Base
     Behind Job Losses
     NAFTA and California Manufacturing
     California Manufacturing in Perspective
Technology and Dot Coms
     Corporate Presence in Name Only?
     H-1B Workforce
     The Power of Green
     Tax Breaks to Keep Businesses Here
     Empty State Coffers
     Trying to Stop the Bleeding
California’s Economy: Good for the Geese but Not for the Gander

Life in the ’Burbs—Where There Is No There There
A Tale of Few Real Cities and Many Pretenders
     East Coast Cities Grow Up, California Cities Grow Out
          Missing Public Services
          Moving Out and Staying Behind
          It’s Still Segregation, No Matter How You Frame It
Fractured Local Governments: Unnecessary Costs and Duplicative Responsibilities
     Artificial Barriers
     The Costs in Dollars
     Weak Ability to Perform
          Proposition 13
          The Consequences
          Too Much Democracy?
     Misplaced Blame
Private Interests Take Charge
     Ripping Up Trolley Tracks in Los Angeles
     San Francisco Tweets
     Development of Newhall Ranch
     El Toro Marine Base—When Right Beats Might
     Who’s Really in Charge?
Making Local Governments Work
     City Leaders and Competing Definitions of the Public Good
     Unconnected Dots

Infrastructure on the Brink of Collapse
Parking Lots for Highways
     Dilapidated Roads
     Unwilling to Pay
     Hidden Costs
     Toll Roads—Solution or a Bigger Problem?
     Separating the Haves from the Have-Nots…Again
Water: Tapped Out
     The Geographical Challenge
     Warring Interest Groups
     Sacramento–San Joaquin Delta: A Pending Disaster
The Energy Struggle
     The California Model for Clean Air
          Generating Clean Electricity
          Electricity Shortages
          Lingering Challenges
     Automobile Exhaust
     AB 32—The New Standard for Environmental Protection?
Prison Overcrowding
     Why Growth of the Prison Population?
     The Price of Incarceration
     Prison Conditions: The Straw That Broke the Camel’s Back
     Choosing Penury over Safety
Rebuilding the Infrastructure One Brick at a Time


Where’s the Party?
Who Belongs to What?
     Minor Parties
     Nonpartisan Local Elections
Poor Organization
     The Missing Links
     Management of Nominations
Meaningless Primaries
     The "Top Two" System
     A Repeat of History?
          "Top Two" for Whom?
Legislators and Fundraising
     Taking Advantage of Elective Office
     Funneling Funds
Weak Party Governance
     Where the Lines Are and Are Not Drawn
     The Curse of the Two-Thirds Vote
     Party Rivalry between the Branches
The Price of Watered-Down Partisanship

Land of Institutional Gridlock
The Unwieldy Executive Branch(es)
     The Governor and His Ragtag Band
     The Rest of the Cast
          Meaningful Members
          Duplication Centers
          Overlapping Offices
     The Facts Are the Facts!
Gridlock under the Dome
     High Vote Thresholds
     Term Limits
     Redundant Houses
     Initiatives—The People’s Legislative Process
Endless Independent Boards and Commissions
     Major Boards and Commissions: Some Examples
     Other Boards
     The Purpose of Redundancy
     Good Riddance? Hardly
Gridlock as the Status Quo

Hijacked! How Powerful Interests Have Taken Over the State
A Porous Policymaking Environment
     Overlap in the Legislature
     Overlap in the Governor’s Office
          Getting Someone on the Inside
          Redefining Regulations
          Cluttered Bureaucracy Equals Chaotic Policymaking
     Independent Agencies, Boards, and Regulatory Commissions
          Turnabout of the PUC
     The California Gambling Control Commission and Building from the Bottom Up
     Independent Regulatory Units: Not So Independent After All
Special Interests and Their Tools
          Former Legislators
          Former Bureaucrats
          Former Staffers
          Former Journalists
     The Internet
          Getting the Word Out
          Messaging for Dollars
Direct Democracy
     The Drafting Stage
     The Qualification Stage
     The Campaign Stage
     The Perils of Direct Democracy
Of the People, By the People, But Ultimately for the Special Interests

Bankrupt State
Inadequate Revenue Collection
     High Taxes
          Personal Income
          The Biggest Slices of the Revenue Pie
     Low Taxes
          "Sin" Taxes
          The Costs of Low-Taxed Industries
     No Taxes
          California Oil
     Taxing Out-of-State-Based Internet Businesses: A Rare Victory
     An Out-of-Whack Revenue System
Spending in a Straitjacket
     Mandated Programs
          Unfunded Programs
          Funded Mandates
          Problems with Mandated Spending
     Constitutional Restraints
          Limits on Moving Local Revenues to the State
          Increasing the Vote Threshold for State Fees
     Lowering the Legislative Spending Vote Requirement: A Minor Victory
     Impact of Minimalism on California
Bonded To Bonds
     Extent of the Crisis
     Bond Abuse
          Misleading Proposals
          Schwarzenegger’s Dubious Legacy
     Bonds in Perspective
No Way Out?


Can This Patient Be Saved?
A Lack of Direction
Policies Determined by the Few
What Should Be Done?
     A Constitutional Convention?
     We Must Invest
     We Must Increase Revenues for Those Investments
          Spread Out the Sales Tax Structure
          Bring "Sin" Taxes into the 21st Century
          Tax Those Who Have Not Been Taxed
          Reform Proposition 13
We Must Remove Bottlenecks to Public Policymaking
     Streamline Commissions and Boards
     Merge Overlapping Elected Offices and Agencies
     Eliminate Legislative Term Limits
     Time for a Unicameral Legislature
     Restructure Direct Democracy
     Redefine State/Local Fiscal Relationships
     Merge Local Government Units
     Challenges to Widening the Political Bottleneck
A Little Kumbaya Wouldn’t Hurt
     Training and Education
     Political Efficacy
Finding Common Purpose Again




Larry Gerston is a professor of political science at San Jose State University and the political analyst at NBC11 (the Bay Area NBC station). He has written ten other books in addition to Not So Golden After All: The Rise and Fall of California, including Politics in the Golden State, Recall!, and California Politics and Government (all with Terry Christensen). In addition to his larger works, Gerston has penned more than 100 op-ed columns in newspapers including the San Jose Mercury News, San Francisco Chronicle, and Los Angeles Times. Frequently interviewed for his political insight, he has appeared on NBC Nightly News, BBC, NPR, and CNN’s Inside Politics.


Self-knowledge is a requirement for self-correction. In its candor, comprehensiveness, and call for reform, Not So Golden After All offers step number one in the political twelve-step program upon which California must embark if it wishes to redeem its heritage.
—Kevin Starr, Professor of History, University of Southern California & California State Librarian Emeritus