Every now and then I get on a real tear about the dehumanizing nature of all those miles of concrete and asphalt that make up Southern California suburbs.
There's small comfort in the Los Angeles Times agreeing with me. They ran an editorial today that helps to explain how LA's metro area became the standard bearer for Ugly. Bear with me, there's some funky math here, but it boils down like this:
In most rational places in the country, the state levies a sales tax, right? And cities, counties and school districts hit you up for property taxes. California gets it backwards. Sacramento pillages local coffers to stop its budget hemorrhaging, but lets the little guys keep a penny for every dollar spent by shoppers.
The Times put it this way:
This encourages city councils and county boards of supervisors to search for — and entice — auto malls and big-box stores such as Wal-Mart to settle in their jurisdictions, rather than seeking job-generating office projects or much-needed housing. The result is terrible planning, an oversupply of retail projects and increased traffic.
Think about how nuts this is. You could live in an affluent bedroom community of expensive homes (plus our modest one), but few shops or restaurants. A few miles away is a sprawling berg jammed with jumbo retailers and an outlet mall the size of Paraguay. They're rich. Your town is perenially on the verge of closing its fire and police departments and letting the county run things. Okay, that would be my town, but never mind. The next town over has it worse. Their school district is going door to door to raise $900,000 to cover cuts in state funding. The money will go for teachers' salaries.
Teachers. We can't afford teachers.
But we can shop for whatever the hell we want.
Welcome to the great state of California.