A few blocks from my home is the iconic Gladstone’s restaurant. It sits on the sand where the famed Sunset Boulevard meets the ocean in Los Angeles.
The restaurant’s setting could not be more ideal. Its huge patio sits almost on top of the Pacific Ocean, providing unparalleled views from Catalina Island to Point Dume up the Malibu coast. In the 1980s, it became famous for its sunsets, peanut shells on the floor, and enormous portions that required guests to have the leftovers wrapped with tinfoil shaped into whales or swans. The food was expensive and not great, but it did not need to be because of the location. It grew to become the highest-grossing restaurant in the state despite its shortcomings.
As patrons continued to flock to the restaurant for its beautiful views, the quality of food and service slipped over time while prices remained high. Eventually, people took notice, and business diminished. Now, after 40 years in business, the restaurant is expected to close soon, and L.A. County is seeking new management for the famed location.
Gladstone's is a microcosm of the state of California. The location of the state could not be better. Ocean, beaches, mountains, desert, and beautiful weather. But its great location has masked major mismanagement. While it is the most expensive state in the country as far as taxes, the quality of its services ranks among the bottom.
Californians may not be voting out Democrats at the ballot box, but they have been voting with their feet.
It has the worst ranking for homelessness, 8th worst for roads, and worst for teacher-to-student ratio. Its prisons are so crowded that the Supreme Court determined them to constitute cruel and unusual punishment, and it suffered the worst budget crisis of all the states during the Great Recession.
But residents are so mesmerized by the amazing weather and beauty of the place that they tend to overlook the quality of the services. And as a result, management does not change. The state has been under the same Democratic Party management for years. Their monopoly on power is so safe that they now hold supermajorities in both houses of the Legislature despite California’s worsening condition. Management has no incentive to change when it keeps getting re-elected.
Californians may not be voting out Democrats at the ballot box, but they have been voting with their feet. While California’s population has grown from 29 million to 39 million over the past 30 years, in each year during that period the state has seen a net loss in migration to other states. It seems those disgruntled with the state’s management are choosing to find another state, just like Gladstone's patrons finding another restaurant.
California’s population growth is due almost entirely to the increase in its Latino population. Twenty-seven percent of the state’s residents were not born in this country, the highest percentage of any state and over double the national average. Latinos now make up 40 percent of the state’s population, outnumbering whites. Among Latinos who identify with a party, 73 percent are Democrats.
Is it any wonder Gov. Gavin Newsom has sued the federal government to stop President Trump’s efforts to reduce illegal immigration at the border?
If there is ever to be a change in the state’s management, it appears it will have to be directed by the state’s Latino population. A recent Pew poll indicates that there is some hope in this regard. It showed that as Latinos become better educated and assimilated into the state, their support for Democrats declines.
According to the poll, 82 percent of those with less than a high school education identify as Democrats or lean Democratic, compared with 58 percent with a high school degree. And 61 percent of immigrants said Democrats have more concern for Latinos, compared with 52 percent for Latinos born in the U.S. We can only hope that trend continues.
The sunsets are still beautiful at Gladstone's. But I hope for new management. Not only because I want better food, but because it will show the state’s residents that you can have a great location and great service if you are just willing to make a change.