In Today’s California, the Dude—Once the Quintessential Outsider—Has Become the Mainstream

Joe Mathews
Connecting California Columnist and Editor, Zócalo Public Square, Fellow at the Center for Social Cohesion at Arizona State University and co-author of California Crackup: How Reform Broke the Golden State and How We Can Fix It (UC Press, 2010)

Are we becoming a state of Lebowskis? Jeffrey Lebowski, better known as the Dude, is arguably the most successful fictional Californian of the past two decades. Created by the Coen brothers in their 1998 film The Big Lebowski, and embodied by the actor Jeff Bridges, Lebowski became a cult favorite for being an outsider (in […]

Read more

Who Was That Fellow on the Train?

Joe Mathews
Connecting California Columnist and Editor, Zócalo Public Square, Fellow at the Center for Social Cohesion at Arizona State University and co-author of California Crackup: How Reform Broke the Golden State and How We Can Fix It (UC Press, 2010)

Did I see a unicorn? Or was that really a California petition circulator being paid hourly? I was riding the Gold Line, one of the Metro trains in Los Angeles, in Little Tokyo with my son last month when I was approached by a petition circulator, carrying a clipboard full of statewide ballot initiatives. The […]

Read more

Can We Get Over Our Campaign Finance Obsession?

Joe Mathews
Connecting California Columnist and Editor, Zócalo Public Square, Fellow at the Center for Social Cohesion at Arizona State University and co-author of California Crackup: How Reform Broke the Golden State and How We Can Fix It (UC Press, 2010)

California’s prisons are constitutionally overcrowded. Our unemployment rate is higher the national average. Even changes in our school funding leave us shortage of the national average for K-12. Our underinvestment in higher education has led to a decline in the percentage of adults who are college graduates. Our tax and regulatory regime is uncompetitive with […]

Read more

Partisanship Must Be Harnessed, Not Fought

Joe Mathews
Connecting California Columnist and Editor, Zócalo Public Square, Fellow at the Center for Social Cohesion at Arizona State University and co-author of California Crackup: How Reform Broke the Golden State and How We Can Fix It (UC Press, 2010)

News item: Pete Peterson, the Republican candidate for California Secretary of State, has 30 percent support, and a big lead, in a new Field Poll. Reaction: As readers of this site know, I’m a big fan of Pete and his work on civic engagement in local communities around California. He’d make a terrific Secretary of […]

Read more

Can Good Government and First Amendment Groups Win Back the Public Trust?

Joe Mathews
Connecting California Columnist and Editor, Zócalo Public Square, Fellow at the Center for Social Cohesion at Arizona State University and co-author of California Crackup: How Reform Broke the Golden State and How We Can Fix It (UC Press, 2010)

It’s clear, with the charges against noted campaign finance advocate Leland Yee, that good government and campaign finance reform groups that gave him awards have lost the public’s trust. I call upon them need to take steps to win it back. It’s also clear that, given Yee’s strong support among First Amendment advocates, press freedom […]

Read more

The Governor Should Move to the Delta

Joe Mathews
Connecting California Columnist and Editor, Zócalo Public Square, Fellow at the Center for Social Cohesion at Arizona State University and co-author of California Crackup: How Reform Broke the Golden State and How We Can Fix It (UC Press, 2010)

When you’re faced with two different thorny problems, sometimes the best way to make progress is by combining them. I’m talking to you, Jerry Brown. Your first problem involves water. Residents of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta—California’s most vital estuary and source of water—fiercely oppose Brown’s plan to build tunnels that will divert water from north […]

Read more

What If Uncle Leland Had Won?

Joe Mathews
Connecting California Columnist and Editor, Zócalo Public Square, Fellow at the Center for Social Cohesion at Arizona State University and co-author of California Crackup: How Reform Broke the Golden State and How We Can Fix It (UC Press, 2010)

Here’s a thought exercise for the Leland Yee scandal. What if the investigation had been delayed, or stayed underground, for another year? What if last week’s raids had come not in March 2014 – but in March 2015? And what if it were California Secretary of State Leland Yee who was being taken into custody […]

Read more

Does Derek Cressman Know Kung Fu?

Joe Mathews
Connecting California Columnist and Editor, Zócalo Public Square, Fellow at the Center for Social Cohesion at Arizona State University and co-author of California Crackup: How Reform Broke the Golden State and How We Can Fix It (UC Press, 2010)

Does Derek Cressman, candidate for California Secretary of State, know kung fu? Or is he packing a weapon? Such questions occur after reading responses by Cressman, and other self-styled political reformers, to the arrest and indictment of State Senator and California Secretary of State candidate Leland Yee. The main thrust of the responses: we must […]

Read more

Why the New York Times’ Sentencing Commission Won’t Work

Joe Mathews
Connecting California Columnist and Editor, Zócalo Public Square, Fellow at the Center for Social Cohesion at Arizona State University and co-author of California Crackup: How Reform Broke the Golden State and How We Can Fix It (UC Press, 2010)

The New York Times editorial page gave California some free advice recently, and it was worth every penny: establish a sentencing commission to fix your criminal justice system. The paper’s argument was understandable. Our prison and justice systems are a total mess, with the prisons constitutionally overcrowded and the chief justice of the State Supreme […]

Read more

Does California Hate Marriage?

Joe Mathews
Connecting California Columnist and Editor, Zócalo Public Square, Fellow at the Center for Social Cohesion at Arizona State University and co-author of California Crackup: How Reform Broke the Golden State and How We Can Fix It (UC Press, 2010)

This weekend, The Accident gets hitched. The Accident is my term of endearment (really!) for my baby sister Katie, who arrived, unexpectedly, 11 ½ years after me and seven years after my brother. She is scheduled to exchange vows late Saturday afternoon in L.A.’s San Gabriel Valley with her longtime boyfriend, Matt, in a big […]

Read more