Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Watch out, Northern California

OK. After THIS ONE, I'll write something happy.

Joel Kotkin, one of Forbes' better scribes (cool word!), points out some forward-looking realities facing the counties of Northern California. He focuses on the power of the aging, white environmentalists, whose ambitions threaten the livelihoods of people less fortunate than they.

A few notables from this must-read:

"A generational conflict is brewing, pitting the interests and predilections of well-heeled boomers against a growing, predominately Latino working class. And neither the emerging "progressive" politics nor laissez-faire conservatism is offering much in the way of a solution."

"The yuppies have insulated themselves here for the long term," notes Robert Eyler, a director at the Center for Regional Economic Analysis at Sonoma State University. "The boomers have blocked everyone else different in age and skill from rising up and making their place."

Nowhere is this more evident than in the "green," anti-growth movement so prevalent in these places. Strong restrictions of business growth, bolstered by California's draconian land-use regulations, have turned these areas into business no-go zones

In the past, besides construction, these young workers might have found employment in the area's once-burgeoning electronics and telecommunications industry. But many of these companies have moved operations to more business-friendly regions or overseas. "When these kids who are in school now grow up, we are going to have a huge job crisis here," Eyler warns. "But when the boomers are gone, what happens when all the jobs have moved to Des Moines?"

California's high-tech greens may talk a liberal streak in terms of diversity and social justice, but their prescriptions offer little for those who would like to build a career and raise a family in 21st century California. Their policies in terms of land use regulation and greenhouse gas emissions will make it even harder for existing factories, warehouses, homebuilders and other traditional employers of the middle- or working class. "In effect," Eyler notes, "the progressives have become regressives."

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