Winnie Comstock-Carlson is the president and publisher of Comstock’s magazine. She launched the publication in 1989 and is still going strong.
In the weeks since the election, I have felt like a stranger in a foreign land. My own cherished beliefs about the benefits of balanced budgets, lower taxes and free enterprise don’t seem to be shared by a majority of my fellow citizens.
The Sacramento Kings started their new season last month with a surprising amount of fan and business support. Surprising, that is, given the infuriating behavior of the owners, the Maloof brothers, last April.
I remember a time when Sacramento’s Downtown Plaza was a thriving mall, a leader in the city’s retail sales and tax revenues. And, back in the 1970s, its design was up to date: many malls were self-contained, with no connection to surrounding streets.
Taxes are en vogue these days, and not just at the state level where Gov. Jerry Brown is pushing a sales and income tax ballot measure. Eight California cities already gained general tax increases from their residents in the June elections; several more cities and counties will attempt to follow suit in November.
Right now our region is in the dumps. We bemoan our high unemployment, our devastated city budgets, our beleaguered school systems. We look enviously at our neighbors to the south and west, whose economies are improving faster than ours.
The equation is easy to understand: A weak economy equals challenging business conditions equals reduced corporate support for nonprofits. Understandable, yes, but terribly unfortunate — and, I’m convinced, not particularly good business.
High-speed trains linking Northern and Southern California have been a point of contention for more than a decade. For some, such “bullet trains” are the ideal solution to growing transportation needs; for others, they represent a boondoggle with enormous economic risk.
Change at any level — personal, professional or civic — doesn’t come easily, and we frequently need an urgent situation to force change.
Several years ago, I wrote in these pages about my enthusiasm for the Buy Local campaigns popping up in communities from coast to coast. Cities like Portland and Philadelphia were building support and sales for their hometown businesses and especially for local retail and service firms.
When newly elected mayor Kevin Johnson proposed in 2008 a strong-mayor form of city government, the City Council soundly rejected the plan.
When it comes to the California public pension system, one thing is crystal clear: it absolutely must and will change. The question is when and how. Practically every expert who has analyzed the state’s pension figures uses the word “unsustainable” to describe the system.
Remember comedian Rodney Dangerfield’s famous catchphrase, “I don’t get no respect?”
I’ve lost count of just how many times during the past decade we have debated the how and where of building a new arena for the Sacramento Kings. Few doubt the team needs an upgraded home, but the high-pressure tactics of the Kings’ owners — who threatened to leave Sacramento unless they got the deal they wanted — alienated many.
Call it a recession, a realignment or a downturn. Whatever you call it, our current economy is experiencing convulsions most of us have not seen in our lifetimes. Our nation, our state and our region continue to suffer from a sputtering economy and painfully high unemployment.
I find myself getting hot under the collar every time I read another story or report on the pitiful state of public education in California.
The headlines are the same in nearly every state: massive cuts in higher education budgets, faculty and staff layoffs, tuition hikes and students locked out of a college education because of rising costs. Our nation’s economic distress is taking a huge toll on our colleges, universities and future work force.
This month, California voters finally have something to celebrate — a redistricting plan that moves us a small step forward on the long journey to change the state’s dysfunctional political system.
Since 1985, when the Sacramento Kings played their first game in a temporary facility in north Natomas, we in the region have argued over whether, where and how to build an arena that works for fans, the team, its owners and taxpayers.
Despite months of negotiations between legislators and the governor, a reasonable state budget seems an almost unreachable goal.
I once thought magazines would forever be magazines: printed packages of well-researched text and eye-catching graphics that gave readers more in-depth coverage than newspapers or broadcast media could provide.
Ask virtually anyone in the business community what Gov. Jerry Brown’s administration must do to repair our state’s broken economy, and over and again the answer is the same: improve education.
At the end of 2010, I asked several dozen of our region’s business and thought leaders what advice they would like to give our new governor. Last month, in an open letter to Gov. Jerry Brown, I summarized their thoughts on how the new administration should change important areas of state governance. This month, the same group of local leaders offer ideas on how to recover from our current fiscal disaster.
I have long believed that the best thinkers outside government have a great deal to offer those inside government. In that spirit, I asked several dozen of our region’s business and thought-leaders to give their ideas on key steps your new administration could take to repair our battered state.
California’s $25 billion — and growing — budget deficit tends to grab headlines, but most of the real pain is felt at the local level where cities and counties struggle to deliver services to residents.
Despite the general doom and gloom of our state’s current economy, there are a few bright spots that may be going unnoticed.
No political leader can work magic, though virtually all who campaign for public office talk as if he or she can. Our current governor came in as an outsider promising change but had limited success, at least partly because he never learned to work effectively with the Legislature.
Critiquing the federal government is something I usually consider outside my bailiwick. After all, what can I do sitting here in my Sacramento office to influence the actions of our president and Congress?
I have never been this worried about the state of our economy, and I’m not alone. Many of the business leaders I meet feel exactly the same.
In his first year as Sacramento’s mayor, Kevin Johnson focused public attention on a series of initiatives targeting the arts, education, the economy and public safety, which aim to bring together experts and residents to develop action plans to move Sacramento forward in its development as a well-rounded city.
With California’s unemployment statistics among the worst in the nation, there’s no hotter topic right now than jobs: how to keep, expand and create them. Increasingly, policymakers are focused on so-called “middle-skill jobs.”
The face of homelessness in our region is changing. Yes, we still see the typical street people: the disabled man asking for quarters outside our favorite coffee shop, the elderly lady pushing a grocery cart and the sleeping figures huddled under blankets in doorways. These are the chronically homeless — the most vulnerable, change-resistant and expensive in terms of taxpayer dollars spent on shelters, medical care, addiction rehab and law enforcement.
Mayor Kevin Johnson cited a statistic in his January state of the city speech that surprised, even shocked, me: In only one of Sacramento’s 19 zip codes are 70 percent or more of third-graders reading at grade level.
This month, Mayor Kevin Johnson’s Sacramento First Task Force will make recommendations as to how the city could get the most value from a proposed sports and entertainment complex.
I’m not one to study a problem to death. I’m usually in favor of action rather than talk, pragmatic solutions rather than unending analysis.
The headlines tell the story: “Worst recession in 70 years,” “Unemployment hits new high,” “More companies close” or “State going broke.” None of us are sorry to bid farewell to this year or even this decade.
At a time of extreme economic stress, our state government has taken aim at one of the few resources communities have to repair their bruised economies — local redevelopment funds.
The Obama administration and Education Secretary Arne Duncan are dangling a huge carrot in front of California: a share of a $4.3 billion fund to reform K-12 education. This so-called Race to the Top initiative is the single largest pot of discretionary dollars ever offered to states for such reforms.
For nearly 50 years California boasted the nation’s largest, most successful water system. Water flowed through the Gov. Edmund G. Brown California Aqueduct to San Joaquin Valley farms and southern California homes.
This summer we saw the debate over health care reform heat up. The result has been partisanship, too little dialogue and too much misinformation. As a small-business owner, I’m concerned about reform, reform that will protect the country’s millions of small companies against skyrocketing health care costs. My own research has led me to a few basic conclusions.
California is running out of money, pure and simple. As we go to press, the state is finalizing the budget and lurching from one financial crisis to the next thanks to elected leaders who put politics above fiscal responsibility.
For all of us at Comstock’s, this month is a cause for great celebration — and for a sobering assessment. We are celebrating 20 remarkable years in the business of delivering insightful commentary to the Capital Region’s business leaders. At the same time we are assessing what the next year or two, or 10, will mean for the magazine and for all of us in the region.
Forty years ago, pedestrian malls became the rage across America. As cities tried to revitalize their downtowns to compete with fancy new suburban shopping malls, more than 200 cities and towns — including Sacramento — closed streets to traffic and parking, planted trees and installed fountains and benches to create pedestrian-friendly retail areas.
The potential benefits of high-speed rail are huge. Transportation planners say a bullet train would meet or exceed the demand for transportation from our growing population between now and 2030 — at less than half the cost of building the five airport runways, 90 departure gates and 3,000 miles of new freeways that would otherwise be required. Building the system will provide 160,000 construction jobs and 450,000 permanent jobs in related industries, providing a much-needed boost to the economy.