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October 15th, 2003 The Nose | The Nose
 

California Schemin'

     
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Hot Tub
IMAGE: THOMAS COBB
Showing uncharacteristic restraint, the Nose waited until last weekend before calling his relatives in California.

"So," he snorted, "did you go to your new governor's victory party?"

"My God!" came the reply. "I still can't get used to the idea that a limousine cowboy is our president. Now I've got an action figure as governor! Maybe it's time to look at real estate in Ashland."

To which, the Nose says, the more the merrier.

He's not alone. Last week, Gov. Ted Kulongoski sent out 250 letters addressed to California businesses, urging them to the land of (comparatively) cheap real estate, taxes and workers' comp rates.

The guv is hoping Raisin State refugees can help Oregon's withering economy. The Nose has higher ambitions: He wants Californians to help us reclaim our civic soul.

For years, Oregonians have perfected the art of Cali-bashing. You've heard the complaints. These hot-tubbing interlopers drive up property values, never get out of their Beemers, wear sunglasses at night and think a wilderness experience is living more than 200 miles from a Bullocks.

To which the Nose says, "So what?"

Studies have shown that they also are better educated and have higher disposable incomes than native Oregonians. They live in the most diverse state in the nation and are famous for their commitment to the environment. Most important, they understand what it's like to live in a state where schools have been bankrupt. Anyone who's tried to raise cash for a local elementary quickly learns to hit up the California transplants first.

The importance of those experiences was made clear last Thursday, when a coalition of business and labor groups released the Oregon Values and Beliefs Survey.

The survey, conducted last year, followed up on questions first asked in 1992. While many observers were able to glean bits of optimistic data from the bushels of numbers (Oregonians feel better about the state than they did a decade ago and are less worried about crime), the results left the Nose thinking what the state needs most is a little more California.

For example: Ten years ago, less than four in 10 Oregonians believed the state was doing a good job of providing K-12 education. Now, after a decade of cutting programs, nearly half the population thinks things are just dandy in Oregon classrooms.

When it comes to diversity, the results are enough to make Gary Coleman blanch. More than three-fourths of us, for example, recognize that Oregon will follow California's lead and become more racially diverse, but two out of three think that's an "undesirable" development. (Guess it's time to break out a bottle of locally brewed Oregon Pale Ale.)

There's even gloom on the environmental front. While a healthy majority (69 percent) say we shouldn't destroy our ecosystems to promote business, that's down from 75 percent a decade ago.

The way the Nose sees it, Gov. Kulongoski ought to continue his effort to raid the best and brightest from our southern neighbor. Which is why the Nose, who normally hates special-interest tax breaks, would even support restoring a loophole that was closed a few years back: a credit for people who insulate their hot tubs.

 
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