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Old Posted May 24, 2012, 5:56 PM
obtuse_edge obtuse_edge is offline
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Originally Posted by wburg View Post
If you're basing our urban self-worth on competition with San Francisco but starting with the assumption that we'll never surpass San Francisco, you're already doomed to failure. A global economy means we have to think about competition with workers on the other side of the planet--getting so fixated on how we compare to folks 90 miles down the road seems counterproductive. Comparing ourselves to San Francisco is pointless--so why bother doing it at all?

Thinking about Sacramento's role as a government center. Compare California to the East Coast. Imagine that the entire east coast, from Massachusetts to Georgia, was all one state, and all the state administration was done from Atlanta. Considering that this agglomeration of states would include cities like Boston, New York City, Baltimore, Philadelphia and Washington DC, and a huge land area that is diverse geographically and demographically, heck, even to its climate, you'd need a huge number of administrators to run things in such a super-state. So many that it might seem absurdly dominant in a relatively medium-sized city like Atlanta, even though in terms of that region's massive total population, a drop in the bucket. And in a state with so many big, well-established cities, Atlanta, which comes off pretty well compared to the rest of Georgia, would end up looking pretty pokey. And any time that state government did something that didn't meet with the approval of New York City or Baltimore, they'd be complaining about those morons down in Atlanta.

And that's where we sit. We're the administrative center for a population and geographic area the size of most of the Eastern Seaboard. In terms of state employees per capita, we were 49th out of 50 states several years ago before we started squeezing state agencies as tightly as we do now. But because the workforce needed to run the state is immense and Sacramento is not, people assume that our workforce is "unbalanced" because we have so many state employees.

And oddly enough, you never hear many complaints about the Sacramento region having too many people in the construction sector, the largest employer in the private economy, even as boom-era suburban tracts turn into ghost towns. Instead, they're jockeying local governments to approve new subdivisions that nobody wants and the region won't need for decades--subdivisions planned for land that used to be productive farmland. Which, of course, we might want to use for farming, considering how important locally-sourced produce is becoming, or that before Sacramento's working class transitioned into the building trades (and when we had a lot fewer state workers, because California's population was a lot smaller) Sacramento's big employment sector was in the processing and transportation of agricultural products.

Want to know how Portland got to be as cool and urban as it did? They decided 30 or so years ago to limit their ability to grow outward with suburbs, so they had no choice but to grow inward and upward. They didn't do it with some kind of government subsidy to attract hipsters. Although if you were to plunk Portland down in California, it still looks pretty poky compared to LA, San Diego or San Francisco--it would probably end up hanging out with Sacramento like band and drama kids in the high school cafeteria.
I agree with you regarding the urban growth boundary. I have no idea why developers would even plan to create more subdivisions when we have such a weak real estate market here, with so many distressed homes.

I agree that Sac and Portland do share a lot of similarities. I don't want Sac to have to compete with SF, I want it to develop its own reputation as a unique and off-beat city. Funny thing is that when I mention this to friends who just moved here from other parts of the country, they say we are already there. They live in Midtown and said they've never been in a place where weed was smoked so openly, and there were so many Portlandia type liberals and hipsters crawling all over the place.
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