The False Issue of North versus South

Stuart Waldman
President, Valley Industry & Commerce Association

As the 2014 Legislative Session picks up steam, two Southern California legislators have informally garnered enough votes to take the top leadership roles in Sacramento: Assemblymember Toni Atkins (San Diego) and State Senator Kevin de Leon (Los Angeles), are expected to take the positions of Assembly Speaker and Senate President, respectively.

Californians should be pleased with the support for the pair, as Atkins and de Leon have a history of balanced policy that provides a better quality of life for Californians without adding unnecessary regulations and red tape.

However, Jim Wunderman, president and CEO of the Bay Area Council, had a bone to pick with the two respected leaders’ geographic location, writing in this publication that Northern California should be “very worried” about its lack of representation.

Wunderman writes that Northern California – with its unique characteristics, issues and contributions to the state – needs to maintain “its rightful role in the leadership in California.”

If no one has done it yet, I am happy to be the first to inform Wunderman that Northern California has plenty of people in Sacramento rooting for the top half. The top three executive branch positions are held by people who have spent the majority of their lives and political careers with 50 miles of each other in Northern California – Gov. Jerry Brown, born in San Francisco and former mayor of Oakland; Lieutenant Gov. Gavin Newsom, born in San Francisco and former mayor of San Francisco; and Attorney General Kamala Harris, born in Oakland and former District Attorney of San Francisco.

In addition, the state’s judicial branch is headed by a Chief Justice who was born in Sacramento and headed Sacramento County’s municipal and superior courts. And five of the six assistant justices studied and worked in Northern California.

If Wunderman is so worried that Atkins and de Leon will direct policy in favor of Southern Californians, then perhaps we in the lower half should create more fanfare over the intentions of our top executives as they direct the budget, advocate for their own legislation and handle state- and nationally relevant judicial decisions.

However, the fact is our elected officials are called on to represent their constituents in the context of the greater good of the state of California.

And Northern and Southern California – while culturally different – still have the same priorities for the state: a healthy budget; a strong and effective education structure from preschool to post-secondary; robust infrastructure systems that can accommodate population growth and emergencies; policies that protect the diverse and rich environments across the state; and opportunities for businesses to flourish and create much-needed jobs.

Whether our legislative leaders hail from above or below San Luis Obispo County is irrelevant.

But if we really want to make this about North versus South, then consider the fact that Southern California holds 60 percent of the state’s population and accounts for a similar proportion of the tax revenue.

It is not inconceivable for a region larger than many states in the U.S. to have full control of one branch of the state’s government – and only by circumstance. De Leon garnered the necessary support after State Senator Mark DeSaulnier (Concord) pulled out of the race to announce a run for Congress.

If Wunderman is still concerned about Northern California’s representation, then he should set up meetings with Atkins and de Leon to outline his priorities and concerns. As elected officials working for the good of the entire state, I’m sure they’ll be happy to chat.

The Valley Industry and Commerce Association (VICA) is a business advocacy organization based in Sherman Oaks that represents employers throughout the Los Angeles County region at the local, state and federal levels of government.

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