A California Masquerade

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)

Agoston Haraszthy didn’t hesitate to wear masks. A Hungarian immigrant, he became San Diego’s first sheriff by portraying himself as a military colonel. Then, he sold himself as a metallurgist to win a top job at the San Francisco’s first U.S. Mint office. He billed himself as royalty—Count Haraszthy—when he established the Buena Vista Winery […]

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Before Calexit, A Final Push to Fix America

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)

“Go to my website or use the hashtag #LetsGetTheCalOuttaHere!” shouts Gwyneth Paltrow in the Netflix series The Politician. Running for governor on a platform of leading California’s secession from the United States, Paltrow’s character wins 98 percent of the vote.  This may be fiction, but California independence, is gaining cultural currency and real-world urgency. Our […]

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Medi-Cal for All

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 is the age of Medi-Cal. “Medicare for All,” the dream of extending federal health coverage for the elderly to all Americans, dominates headlines. But in California, it is Medicaid—or Medi-Cal, as the federal health program for the poor is called here—that rules. Medi-Cal, and its no-or-low-cost health services, already constitute California’s most important anti-poverty […]

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Democrats Whiff Again on Real Constitutional Reform

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)

Democrats, among many others, are publicly pledging to take on racist systems. But they are not using their huge supermajorities to take on the original racist system in the state: our state constitution. Sure they are putting a few small amendments on the November ballot, including one permitting affirmative action. But the whole constitution is […]

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Why Sacramento Fails California—And Itself

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)

There is no better symbol of Sacramento’s failure as California’s capital than the 18-foot-tall stainless-steel sculpture, by artist Jeff Koons, standing outside the city’s downtown arena. It cost the city and the NBA’s Sacramento Kings $8 million. Officially named  “Coloring Book #4,” it’s really a representation of the Winnie the Pooh character Piglet.  It also […]

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The California Romance Novels That Cross the Rural-Urban Border

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)

Mel Monroe, a 32-year-old nurse practitioner in L.A., is suddenly widowed, and decides to take a job as the only nurse and midwife in Virgin River, an unincorporated village of 600 in the mountain forests of Northern California.  Will she stay? It’s no idyll. While she connects with the hunky Marine veteran who owns the […]

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Stop California’s Cops—From Looting City Hall

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)

Don’t doubt California cops when they report looting. They’re experts. Indeed, our state’s most successful looters are the police themselves. California’s nearly 80,000 sworn officers have spent decades sacking the treasuries of local governments that employ them. Their escalating salaries, benefits, and pensions are swallowing up municipal budgets—and crowding out the other services, from libraries […]

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California Kids, Use Your Power

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)

Dear California Kids, Don’t let us adults destroy your futures! This moment gives you unprecedented power to fix what’s wrong with how California treats kids. I am begging you to use it.  Before COVID-19, California was shortchanging its 9.1 million children in education and health. Now in crisis, the state’s adults are conspiring to make […]

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Why Californians Should Celebrate Monterey’s Birthday

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)

Monterey turns 250 next month. The rest of the state should claim the date as its birthday too.    Monterey’s beginnings are the closest thing California, an orphan of a state, has to a birth story. Admission Day—September 9, 1850, when California became an American state—isn’t a birthday, since California was a province of Spain and […]

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How a Rural California Town Got Universal Broadband

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)

If California is really the global tech capital, why is it so hard for our small towns to get the Internet service they need? One answer to that question is in Gonzales, a Salinas Valley settlement of 9,000. While  California’s biggest cities now struggle to provide Internet access for people to work and study from […]

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