Corruption, Bribes, Blackouts,
Fires, High Gas Prices: Who Wants to Live in California Today?
politicians beholden to Silicon Valley oligarchs ignore
One crisis rolls
into another in parts of Golden State; ‘If I wasn’t as old as
I am, I would pack up and get the hell out’
UKIAH, Calif.—On the fourth morning without power,
Carolyn Summers lay as still as possible in bed,
trying to delay the moment when she ran out of oxygen.
Her power generator, which she had hoped would run her
oxygen compressor, wouldn’t start. The local hospital said
it couldn’t give her an extra tank.
“I guess if you run out, you just die?” Ms. Summers
wrote on Facebook. Then the
62-year-old lay still again, conserving energy and
hoping for a miracle.
Blackouts and wildfires
are contributing to financial insecurity and
community disruption for some Californians,
heightening existing challenges to life in the
otherwise appealing state.
Lindsay Huth/THE WALL
Rampant wildfires—and the precautionary blackouts that
utilities including PG&E Corp. have
instituted to try to prevent them—are reshaping life
across the Golden State and transforming the state’s
Long known as the home of easy living, with its beaches
and year-round sunshine, California is increasingly seen
as a difficult place, where the government and corporate
institutions can’t reliably offer basic services. Some
residents are questioning whether they should leave as a
California has the highest gas prices in the country.
Housing prices are the second-highest in the nation,
triggering a statewide lack of affordable housing.
Homelessness is surging in the state’s major cities,
despite billions spent by state and local governments to
combat the problem. A drought, which gripped the state
for more than seven years, left some towns without clean
Now, more than two million people have lost their power
in Northern and Southern California in the past month
and hundreds of thousands have evacuated their homes to
avoid fire danger, a number likely to grow before the
Many of those hardest hit live in poorer rural and
exurban areas like Ukiah that haven’t benefited as much
from the economic boom as cities like San Francisco
that, due to denser housing, are also safer from
wildfires. Ukiah’s median household income is about
$43,000 a year.
“It’s like living in a third-world country,” said
Marilyn Dalton, 78, a resident of Potter Valley, near
A city of 16,000 located two hours north of San
Francisco, Ukiah exemplifies the new reality facing
millions of Californians this autumn’s fire season and,
experts predict, for many to come.
Although Ukiah escaped the first of PG&E’s
intentional blackouts, the second and third ones rolled
into each other here, with no break in between.
Wildfires have come dangerously close, forcing residents
just outside town to evacuate. Cell signals have faded;
gas lines have been hourslong; and heat has cut out on
Two years ago, Ms. Dalton and thousands of others were
forced to flee as a wildfire swept through Mendocino
County, killing nine people. Last year, school was
closed here for a week because of smoke from a fire 150
miles away. During the blackout last week, Ms. Dalton’s
toilet, which runs on electricity, stopped flushing.
“If I wasn’t as old as I am, I would pack up and get
the hell out,” she said.
Kerry Randall, a facility administrator for the city
of Ukiah, estimated that 90% of the restaurants in town
were closed during the blackout. The wait for pizza at
one of the few restaurants that stayed open was more
than an hour.
“People are getting testier,” Mr. Randall said on the
third day without power. “No milk. People haven’t had
showers, because their water heaters are out. Nobody’s
had a hot meal.”
Ukiah opened up a city hall as a shelter. The first
day, scores of residents sat around the city council
dais, charging phones and oxygenators. City officials
debated what to do about Halloween if the lights weren’t
back on by then—they didn’t want kids roaming the
streets in the dark with all the traffic lights out.
The lights came back on Oct. 30, but Mr. Randall said
the expenses, both for the city and for businesses,
would be considerable.
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“Cities are property tax and sales tax oriented,” he said. “When you have
some of your best restaurants not operating, you’re not getting that sales
Many residents are taking steps to prepare for the next outage already.
Sales of generators are up 400% in California for Generac
Holdings Inc., a major
Small businesses have been among the hardest hit. Pam Schmidt evacuated
her Santa Rosa home on Oct. 25, as the Kincade Fire moved in. She was
joined by a friend whose house burned down two years ago in the Tubbs
Fire. That blaze killed 22 people.
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The next day, PG&E cut electricity to both the laundromats Ms.
Schmidt owns. Power didn’t come back to her business in Cloverdale for
As she stood in her laundromat after the lights came on, trying to get
ready to open the next day, she said her family was considering moving to
Texas or Utah. The outage cost her a lot of money, she said.
“You can make it” in other states, Ms. Schmidt, said. “The cost of living
in California...people are used to working so hard.”
John Corippo, an 18-year veteran of the Ukiah Valley Fire Authority,
said there are fewer volunteer firefighters because the commitment
involved is so much greater than in the past. For the 15 full-time
employees—seven fewer than he said the department needs—the job is getting
harder both physically and emotionally.
“We’re so understaffed,” Mr. Corippo said. “There’s been some people the
last couple of years who we lost because they say, ‘I can’t see any more
of this.’ I lost a couple to PTSD.”
During the blackout last week, he said call volume was more than three
times as high as usual, with many calls coming from seniors whose medical
devices had run out of power.
Ms. Summers and her family had worked hard to make sure she wouldn’t be
one of those calls. She had survived lung cancer and a tumor on her heart,
but the last surgery left her unable to breathe well on her own. For the
past two years, she has used oxygen 24 hours a day.
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When the second blackout started, she went to her granddaughter’s house,
where she hoped the generator could run her oxygen compressor. But their
generator wouldn’t start, and she had to use her emergency backup tanks,
which only last a few hours each.
By Wednesday morning, Ms. Summers was completely out of oxygen tanks. She
posted on Facebook in a panic, hoping someone could find one for her.
Then, around noon, the lights came back on. Her compressor worked again.
She said state officials need to rethink the blackouts. But she said she
wouldn’t leave Ukiah, even if it meant potentially running out of oxygen
during the next outage.
“I came here when I was five years old, and I’ve been here ever since,”
Ms. Summer said. “My whole family’s here. I won’t want to leave. I love
California Shrinking: A Million Have Left, More to
Follow Because Of Political Corruption
In a study commissioned by the Los Angeles Times, UC Berkeley
asked more than 4,500 registered voters in September two key questions:
“Have you given any consideration recently to moving out of California?”
and, if so, “What is the main reason why…?” — offering six choices. More
than half said they had given either “some” or “serious” consideration
to moving, citing the high cost of housing, high taxes, and the state’s
political culture as the top three reasons.
In San Francisco, for example, housing prices have risen so high that
one engineer made headlines when it was learned that he is paying $1,400
a month to live in a closet. In Los Angeles a renter earning $13.25 an
hour would have to work 79 hours a week to afford a one-bedroom
The state has the highest income tax rates of any other state in the
And as for the “political culture,” examples abound. So crazy have
Democrats running the state become that legislation has been introduced
to change the state’s healthcare system into a single-payer system
costing $40 billion in just the first year. This would be on top of the
state government’s budget of $136 billion.
The governor signed into law a bill reclassifying shoplifting as a
misdemeanor, resulting in an increase in both shoplifting and petty
theft throughout the state. In San Francisco the law change has resulted
in the establishment of gangs who shoplift in broad daylight and then
sell the goods on the black market to pay for their drugs. So crazy is
Sacramento that Governor Gavin Newsom just signed into law a bill
allowing illegal immigrants to serve on state boards that make policy in
the state. This is intended, according to the San Francisco
Chronicle, “to integrate immigrants further into society.” Too,
Newsom just signed into law a bill that forces colleges to provide free
abortions on campus. And so on.
Gas costs more than $4 a gallon, with drivers paying $5 in some areas.
Wildfires are threatening, power outages are becoming commonplace, the
“Ring of Fire” is being blamed for the magnitude 6.4 earthquake that hit
southern California on July 4, traffic is ghastly (USA Today
says that Los Angeles’ traffic is the worst in the nation), the state’s
infrastructure is failing, and thanks to unchecked illegal immigration
crime is increasing.
The state rests firmly at the very bottom of Chief Executive
Magazine’s list of “Best and Worst States for Business.” As the
group noted, “The Golden State just doesn’t care about how expensive or
difficult it is to do business there. So it keeps hogging the bottom of
the Chief Executive list.”
With the exodus showing no evidence of slowing, California is becoming
more and more a state of “haves” and “have-nots” — the very wealthy
coexisting with the poorest of the poor. It’s no wonder that a million
citizens have left the Golden State. They’re getting out while they