Shelly Aldean: The flight to higher ground
The observation that there has been an “exponential” increase in the number of cars sporting California license plates wandering the streets of Northern Nevada in recent years is no great revelation but it has become a more frequent topic of conversation.
Although seeing an occasional traveler from the Golden State descending the hill from Tahoe to shop, attend a local event or visit one of our signature attractions has never been uncommon, the frequency of these sightings has grown at an increasing rate. After months of tracking their movements, it is now apparent that, unlike our migratory bird populations, many of these human “nesters” are here to stay.
In addition to the anecdotal evidence supporting this phenomenon (including a chronic shortage of U-Haul trucks), Census data released in November 2019 showed an outward migration from California of roughly 691,000 people in 2018. This was the seventh year in a row that more people left the state than moved in. Three of the most popular destinations for these California expatriates have been Texas, Arizona and Nevada.
In an opinion piece written for azcentral.com in August, Jon Gabriel, a resident of Mesa, Arizona, opined on the reasons for this outward migration from one of the most naturally scenic states in the country. “After nearly a decade of one-party rule, the once Golden State is tarnished, possibly beyond repair.” Gabriel joined the chorus of other observers who cite the state’s failed energy policies, its high taxes and cost of living, its job killing regulations, its burgeoning homeless population and the growing lawlessness in many of its largest cities as reasons for this outward flight to higher ground.
According to Gabriel, the state’s “near religious promotion of solar and wind power left a gap in the reliability of its power grid.” It appears that Gov. Newsom never anticipated that hot summer days might lead to an energy shortage and rolling blackouts when he signed legislation hastening the demise of the state’s fossil fuel industry and shutting down one of California’s two nuclear plants.
There is certainly nothing wrong with alternative energy, but as Miles O’Brien, a PBS news journalist observed, to make the sort of seismic shift necessary to eliminate our dependence on fossil fuels the “issue of storage (and) the intermittency of wind power and solar” must first be addressed.
Adding to the disillusionment of many California residents are the permissive policies in cities like San Francisco that supplies addicts with free drug paraphernalia, alcohol and pot, turning a once beautiful city into a tragic failure, making it, according to Gabriel, both “unaffordable and unlivable at the same time”.
In addition to the aforementioned troublesome trends, elected officials in California continue to give residents a reason to flee. In November of this year, George Gascon, the former DA of San Francisco who famously advocated for Proposition 47 demoting many crimes from felonies to misdemeanors, was elected District Attorney for LA County. According to Alyssa Erdley with the Culver City Observer, Prop 47, the so-called Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Act “allows criminals to walk into a store or open a car door and steal up to $950 without getting charged with a felony. If they are caught, they are released with a mere citation …. the drug addicted who choose to live on our city streets … can now walk into any grocery store they like and help themselves to food. They can walk into an REI and find a nice tent to erect on the sidewalk. No cash needed!”
Despite Gascon’s insistence that his criminal justice reforms reduced crime in San Francisco, Erdley cites statistics from The Los Angeles Times that contradict this claim noting that “during his time in office, between 2011 and 2019, property crime rates in San Francisco rose by 49% and violent crime increased by 15%.”
A representative from the LA police union, commenting on Gascon’s proposed reforms (including ending cash bail, refusing to prosecute certain offenses and eliminating enhancements for gang affiliation), warned that these policies will “do nothing but further victimize Los Angeles residents, especially Black and Hispanic residents who currently make up 70% of violent crime victims.” As one online commenter noted “punishment by incarceration or fines is meant to be a deterrent. Without law and order you will have nothing but chaos.”
As a result of these misdirected experiments, it is the working poor who will suffer the most. The upper and middle classes will continue to flee to the safe haven of other states while the wealthy residents, who remain, will cloister themselves in their multimillion-dollar homes powered by emergency generators and protected by expensive security systems and imposing wrought iron fences.
Hopefully, one day, the honest, hard-working Californians who are left behind will stand their ground and demand the respect and protection they are entitled to.
Shelly Aldean is a Carson City resident.