San Bernardino and California. What Happened?

San Bernardino and California.  What Happened?

Speigel Online ran an article yesterday about American Cities drowing in debt (click through the picture for the article.) The feature story is San Bernardino – where I spent a great part of my childhood:

“San Bernardino, California, has gone from being the birthplace of McDonald’s, one of the world’s most successful companies, to a mound of unpaid debts. It’s a sad example of what a lack of infrastructure investment and an almost religious aversion to higher taxes have done to cities across the United States.”

They go on to say: “On August 1, 2012, San Bernardino filed for bankruptcy. Today this city, located an hour’s drive east of Los Angeles, is one of the poorest, most violent cities in the United States. Once the setting for one of America’s greatest success stories, the city can no longer even afford to pay its police officers and is rotting in its own waste.”

The same day the Wall Street Journal posted a graphic of the best states for business per a survey by Chief Executive Magazine. California ranks dead last. #50.

Having lived my entire life in California, and half of my pre College years in San Bernardino, makes all this really tough to understand. This isn’t the state I grew up in or remember. I sometimes wonder if it was all just a dream.

I remember Disneyland being built. Aerospace jobs everywhere. Freeways being built. Safe elementary schools with green grass and big playgrounds. A UC System that actually catered to the California resident at a price that was next to nothing for the student (today the UC system by its own admission is composed of over 60% foreign or out of state students – higher tuition rates to the system).

This isn’t fantasy. It existed. Many explanations have been offered on what happened to tilt California from the land of opportunity and the Golden Gate to the state that business wants to flee from and that hosts three cities in bankruptcy.

Joel Kotkin addresses this change with this summary (http://www.city-journal.org/2010/20_3_california-economy.html):

“What went so wrong? The answer lies in a change in the nature of progressive politics in California. During the second half of the twentieth century, the state shifted from an older progressivism, which emphasized infrastructure investment and business growth, to a newer version, which views the private sector much the way the Huns viewed a city—as something to be sacked and plundered. The result is two separate California realities: a lucrative one for the wealthy and for government workers, who are largely insulated from economic decline; and a grim one for the private-sector middle and working classes, who are fleeing the state.”

Public sector unions, a rising immigrant class, social spending in lieu of infrastrucure investments have all contributed to this decline. In simple terms, I wonder if this state would have/could have tolerated this decline if it were not for the beaches, sunshine, motion picture industry, silicon valley, and incredibly productive farmland areas that add an attractive and seductive face to the real decay that is becoming increasingly difficult to mask over.

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The Blackberry User and BB 10

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The passion and emotion that surround one’s choice of smart phones has amazed me. How is it that so many of us (and I am included here) have such strong positions regarding which device is the best, coolest, or only thing in the world. Where has all the hate towards RIM come from. Is there more to this process than just media capabilities and app selection.

Crackberry ran an interview with Frank Boulben who has been the CMO at RIM for just around six months now. “When asked what’s needed to “overhaul the BlackBerry brand”, Frank notes that it all starts with the customer. “We need to be absolutely clear about which customers we intend to serve, and why we are going to serve them better than the competition. The BlackBerry people are about getting things done, being hyper-connected and being multitaskers. They want to do on their smartphone what you do at your desk.”

This is worth repeating. Frank says that their research shows that Blackberry users have tended to be efficient and highly productive people who want a tool not a toy, they use multiple social and email and other communication accounts, and they do several things at once.

The entire BB 10 platform, starting with the only true multi tasking OS on the planet outside for a smart phone (QNX), is built to cater to this user.

So what is it about this platform and for that matter the current Blackberry platform that endears itself to me. Well, it’s simple. I’m not interested in many of the time wasting features of the IOS and Android World. I love what I can do quickly and efficiently with the current QWERTY keyboard while watching others struggle with the Apple and Android virtual keyboards.

It runs much deeper. As i get older, I find it harder to keep up the pace of the “Blackberry profile user.” I was that guy. I want to be that guy. I’m worried not that BB 10 will not succeed. It will change the world for a subset of smart phone users who truly want a productive device. I fear it will have more horsepower and utility than my (at present) streamlined and simplified life needs. And that I might become one for whom punching a few boxes on a screen can get me through the day. And that scares me. Like it or not, my use of technology parallels what I am doing and accomplishing that is of value. They run hand in glove. Punching boxes and watching NetFlix not a way finish.