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California: Admit it.

September 9, 2011 |  6:00 am

California state capitol

Friday is California Admission Day -- No. 2 in our region's September Triple Crown of always shunned civic events. The first being, of course, Los Angeles' birthday on Sept. 4; followed by Sept. 9, the anniversary of California's 1850 admission to the Union; and Constitution Day, Sept. 17, the anniversary of the 1787 signing of the U.S. Constitution by George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton and the like.

The demand for admission by a state of gold miners and robber barons threw Congress into a tizzy and upset the careful balance of 15 free and 15 slave states. It forced the nation into the noxious Compromise of 1850, which included the adoption of a more onerous Fugitive Slave Law and its new mandate that every federal official everywhere assist in capturing and returning any runaway slave seeking sanctuary in Northern states (thanks a lot, California); the banning of the slave trade in the District of Columbia (thank you, California!); the end of the Wilmot Proviso, which would have banned slavery throughout territories conquered in the recent war with Mexico (thanks heaps, California); a shrunken Texas (whatever); and the death knell for the Missouri Compromise line by requiring Southern, as well as Northern California, to be slave-free (thank you, anti-slavery activist Thomas Starr King, whose statue recently was ousted from the U.S. Capitol). It also probably put off the Civil War -- and made it inevitable.

Because Friday's only observance will probably be a brief mention on the floor of the Legislature as lawmakers rush through last-minute, dark-of-night, secretly brokered legislation on the final day of their session, I propose a different kind of Admission Day activity. I say California should make the following admissions:

-Admit that Californians want more than they're willing to pay for.

-Admit that this year's budget agreement relied on revenue we're never going to see.

-Admit that closing 70 state parks is stupid.

-Admit that we are guilty of abuse and neglect of children.

-Admit that sales, corporation and income taxes here are too high, and that property taxes are too low.

-Admit that voter support for education dropped when most public school students came from the new plurality -- African American, Latino and Asian American families.

-Admit that illegal immigration is a problem, even if we're not ready to agree on a solution.

-Admit that this year's rainfall means almost nothing, and that we're going to be in trouble if we don't reach consensus on saving, using and distributing water.

-For liberals only: Admit that conservative Texas does some things better, like prison and criminal justice reform (except maybe for this).

-For conservatives only: Admit that, despite this state's role in modern conservative politics, the national conservative movement isn't catching on here, and won't, no matter how you slice it.

-For baby boomers: Admit that our parents' generation left us a California in far better shape than the one they inherited, and that we have a long way to go to meet our responsibility to leave the state in better shape for the next generation.

-For ourselves and for out-of-staters alike: Admit that despite our complaints, California is sunnier, prettier, richer, smarter, more interesting, more diverse and more promising than anyplace else.

Anyway, those are my admissions. Any others?


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--Robert Greene

Photo: California state Capitol. Credit: Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times

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