Napolitano At the End

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)


I liked the idea of Janet Napolitano as leader of the University of California system. The UC had become a convenient political punching bag for the governor and the legislature. Instead of investing in the system to transform it, California’s politicians would cut the UC – and then blame the UC for its responses, especially […]

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To Be Blunt, California’s Marijuana Industry Is Stoking High Anxiety

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 2018 transition to legal marijuana contains a mind-bending paradox: Ending prohibitions on marijuana is going to require an awful lot of aggressive law enforcement. When January 1 rolls around, California will not merely be permitting adults 21 and older to buy marijuana for recreational purposes. The state and its cites also will be scrambling […]

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Republican Tax Bill Is an Attack on Local Democracy

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 real problem with the Republican tax bill, now being reconciled by the U.S. House and Senate, is not about taxes. It’s about democracy. The legislation was not put together in public, with hearings and scrutiny that could allow the bill to take on changes and improvements. It was put together behind closed doors, rapidly, […]

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The Gubernatorial Candidates Are Missing Three Big Agendas

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)


What are you going to do if it all goes off the rails? Politicians are advised not to advise hypotheticals, but the candidates for governor need to be pressed to explain how they would address some likely negative turns in California in the years ahead. The candidates are rolling out policy agendas, with Gavin Newsom […]

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California needs a great villain

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 hard to find a villain who can bring Californians together. That’s why Charlie Manson’s death produced so many media remembrances. Manson represented the time, a half-century ago, when Californians shared more experiences—even fear of the Manson Family. Today, we’re too polarized to agree on who is the bad guy. Academically, we prefer to blame […]

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Gas Tax Boost Is Smaller Than the Backlash

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 gas tax is a perfect distillation of what’s wrong with Gov. Brown’s small ball politics. He pursued a policy that’s too small, and too safe. On a policy matter, it doesn’t produce much. It produces revenues that aren’t enough to do more than make a small dent in the state’s infrastructure needs. But politically […]

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Revisiting Feinstein and Formerly Anti-Immigrant Pols

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)


I recently wrote in this space about Dianne Feinstein’s development – 25 years ago – of an approach to “illegal” immigration that became a template for more virulent anti-immigrant attacks from politicians from Pete Wilson to Donald Trump. I heard from many people in response. Feinstein’s partisans said it was unfair. More than a year […]

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A Cheech Thanksgiving

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 week, California should give thanks for Cheech. Richard Anthony Marin deserves our gratitude not just because his new autobiography, Cheech Is Not My Real Name … But Don’t Call Me Chong, turns out to be the best California book of the year. And not just because his career should give you hope that no […]

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When DiFi Was Anti-Immigrant

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)


Elections are supposed to be about the future, not the past. But the U.S. Senate contest between Dianne Feinstein and Kevin de Leon may get most interesting when transported back a quarter century. Back then, Feinstein was helping develop the communications framework for anti-immigrant politics—a framework subsequently deployed by Gov. Pete Wilson and a generation’s […]

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Newsom Better When Salty

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)


Whatever your politics, Gavin Newsom has a distinguished record as a mayor and policy thinker. But in person, he has often seemed boyish and slick, and too eager to please. That may be changing. I recently watched video of the gubernatorial frontrunner conducting an extensive question-and-answer session at a Public Policy Institute of California event. And […]

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