The early 21st century has not been kind to California’s reputation for good government. But the Golden State’s governance flaws reflect worrisome national trends with origins in the 1970s and 1980s. Growing voter distrust with government, a demand for services but not taxes to pay for them, a sharp decline in enlightened leadership and effective civic watchdogs, and dysfunctional political institutions have all contributed to the current governance malaise.
Until recently, San Diego, California—America’s 8th largest city—seemed immune to such systematic governance disorders. This sunny beach town entered the 1990s proclaiming to be “America’s Finest City,” but in a few short years its reputation went from “Futureville” to “Enr
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