Friday, July 28, 2017

Marin’s Middle Class Begins to Melt as Politicians Turn Up the Tax Heat

Marin’s Middle Class Begins to Melt as Politicians Turn Up the Tax Heat

By Hutch Turner - Novato on Jul 26, 2017 04:15 pm
Hardly a day goes by without an announcement of another proposed tax increase by the State, Regional, County, or City governments and agencies. If you are against any tax or fee increase you are branded insensitive and labeled an uncaring person. If you publicly push back, you are quickly labeled as anti-planet, anti-sustainable, racist, anti- education, against “affordable” housing, being a cultural imperialist, and more. In Marin you are, God forbid, a closet Republican.
Many Marinites look forward to the ambiance of a daily swim in a sea of identity politics and politically correct self-righteousness. Differing personal opinions expressed over a latte is analogous to tiptoeing through a conversational minefield. The weather may be great but the political gestalt all to quickly becomes oppressive when one dares to stray from the politically correct catechism aka the Marin nous. The situation is particularly acute in southern Marin.
Why not pick up stakes and leave the horrible traffic and diminishing disposable income behind for greener pastures? For now, it’s the great weather and the easily accessible open space that makes staying worthwhile However, the “beauty” of Marin is becoming increasingly diminished.
Today’s ubiquitous internet has made geographical location less essential to maintaining an awareness of current issues and trends. Social interplay and intellectual stimulation are increasingly digital and distant. It is much easier to effectively express your opinion and enjoy open-minded discussions wearing pajamas.
Leave the West Coast cities and travel inward to other metropolitan areas where increasing numbers of Californians have fled. The diaspora’s demographics range from recent college graduates to retirees. Ask if they miss California and half will say yes. Ask if they are glad they moved to their new less taxing and less intellectually stifling abode, almost all will say yes and express great relief. Money goes so much further, parking is less stressful, and the daily traffic nightmare is a distant memory. The less contentious and less stressful surroundings have given them their life back.

Gradually, the middle class in Marin is being pushed out of California in the name of social equality and environmental justice. For those contemplating a move it is just not happening in Sacramento, Fresno, or Bakersfield.
Boise, Salt Lake City, Phoenix, Denver, Austin, and Bend are among the popular potential landing spots east of the coastal mountain ranges. Beware however, outside of the coastal cities the California diaspora is generally regarded with suspicion and subtle resentment. Comments to that effect are casually expressed by locals.
Arriving with a boat load of cash, having just sold their overpriced California homes, the diaspora seeking new residences dramatically pushes up local housing prices. The resultant price inflation has a knock-on effect for existing homeowners who get an unexpected property tax increase. Reasonably, the result is resentment.
Equally unwanted is the renowned “coastal California” political perspective that arrives with the newcomers. Coastal Californians are so different in their perception of the role of government in everyday life that local resentment towards “California’s politics” simmers beneath the surface of casual conversation, but easily surfaces.
Self-reliant locals understand that more government provided (i.e. taxpayer provided) social services drive taxes upward. The implied entitlements of social justice are typically rejected out of hand and whining is just not tolerated.
The locals are however, generally much more open minded than coastal Californians when it comes to the acceptance of diverse opinions and the right to freely express them. Typically, they recognize a détente, agree to disagree, and move on with little social collateral damage – seldom the result in Marin.
There are some things to like about newly arrived coastal Californians. Not among those likes are pompous assertions by the new residents regarding California’s impeccable social conscious and their thinly disguised sense of self-absorbed intellectual enlightenment.
For those of us who remain and love living in Marin, we are becoming increasingly concerned with the creeping economic bifurcation driven by incessant increasing tax rates and fees that are particularly hard on those with fixed or lower incomes such as younger people and their grandparents.
A diminishing middle class leads to a falling tax revenue base leaving as Marin’s growing demographic sectors the uber rich and the poor who serve the lifestyles of the wealthy. Daily, the middle

class in Marin faces increased financial pressure driven by social justice related wealth redistribution demands. No current County politician sincerely has the interests of the middle class as the first consideration despite paying lip service to the concept. How to pay for unfunded special interest projects and unfunded State mandates is the primary concern.
The County political elite unendingly spout platitudes of social justice, environmental justice, cultural justice, income redistribution and “complete streets”, never mentioning that it’s the middle class who will disproportionately suffer the monetary pains of such policies. The deteriorated state of city streets and county roads is indicative of their lack of concern for all of us, particularly the working middle class.
In single-party Marin with local elections increasingly influenced by massive out-of-district campaign money and special interest Super PAC’s, it has become extraordinarily difficult to displace an incumbent in political office. City level elections are frequently influenced and heavily funded (i.e. bought) by out-of-area sources with their own self-serving agenda and glossy political mailings. Josh Fryday’s successful run for the Novato City Council is a good example of the determinative power of outside influence on a city level election.

Judy Arnold’s Board of Supervisors hair-thin win over local challenger Toni Shroyer is another example of big-money outsiders gaining control over local politics. Residents are losing control of their communities as they are being emotionally manipulated by hidden persuaders disguised as campaign consultants and advisors.
All is not lost, however. Dennis Rodini and Damon Connolly are two examples of locals winning despite the concerted efforts of outside vested interests. They beat the odds.
The standard retort to those middle-class residents expressing concern with Marin’s declining economic diversity is ‘If you don’t like it, leave”, something the middle class in Marin has begun to do. In Novato, it began five years ago. From 2009 to 2015 the average household income in Novato sadly decreased as some of its hard-working middle class left for a better life elsewhere. The trend line is negative.
Unless some incumbents are tossed out of office, the outlook for the middle class will remain grim. The prospect of paying more taxes for a decreasing quality of life is becoming a very good reason to move. Boise is looking better and better every day.

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