Would you kindly remove your stubby hands from my state?
C’mon, don’t try to look all Midwestern and innocent. You know exactly what I’m talking about. For years, Chicago has been grabbing signature California institutions and screwing them up.
I get a reminder of your mismanagement every night when I turn on the TV and my local baseball team, the L.A. Dodgers, aren’t on. The reason? Mark Walter of Chicago.
His firm, Guggenheim Partners, paid more than $2 billion to buy the Dodgers a few years ago. To cover that exorbitant price, Guggenheim sold broadcast rights to Time Warner Cable for a sum so high that other cable providers refuse to pay to carry Dodger games. That means that 70 percent of Los Angeles has been unable to watch Dodger games for more than two years.
In the morning, when I open my local paper to find out who won the game Chicago made me miss, I encounter another institution damaged by you Chicagoans: the Los Angeles Times.
Since Tribune Publishing Co. bought the Times in 2000, California’s biggest newspaper has suffered under waves of Chicago executives who cut the paper’s staff and pages. (Disclosure: I worked at the Times for the first eight years of this Chicago occupation).
Unfortunately, Tribune now also owns The San Diego Union-Tribune, and Tribune’s new chairman claims that he has a virtual reality machine that will magically transform struggling local newspapers into profitable global concerns. It may achieve perpetual motion, too.
Northern California has seen its own disturbance in the force emanating from Chicago. Two years ago, Chicago persuaded filmmaker George Lucas to abandon California and build a museum housing his art and Hollywood memorabilia on your lakefront.
The deal smelled funny, and, fortunately, it’s recently gone bad. San Francisco may lure Lucas back with land on Treasure Island.
Why do Chicago-California marriages fail? The short answer is clashing cultures.
The defining poem of Chicago, Carl Sandburg’s 1914 masterpiece about the “City of Big Shoulders,” actually boasts that your city is “wicked” and “brutal.” California, requiring finesse, can’t compare to your city of butchers in these regards.
Chicago’s inability to handle delicate work is perhaps most evident in the surprisingly difficult relationship between California and that Chicagoan in the White House. What should have been a strong alignment between a liberal president and a liberal state has been undermined by the deep-dish stubbornness of Barack Obama.
The president and his Chicago education secretary, Arne Duncan, clashed with California because of their insistence on imposing uniform reform policies on a state with so many different regions. Obama alienated Silicon Valley, which supported his campaigns, by demanding that tech firms behave like appendages of his intelligence apparatus.
And for much of Obama’s presidency, his administration devoted more energy to deporting our undocumented neighbors than to delivering on his promise of legalizing their status so they can contribute even more to California’s economy.
To be fair, in other contexts Chicago pig-headedness has obscured California’s own failings. No one really talks about our state budget or pension problems anymore given the length and bitterness of your struggles over public finances.
Which begs the question: Why do you keep meddling in our state’s challenges when you have so many of your own?
Please, for our good and yours, butt out of California and get back to doing the things you do best – like screwing up our connecting flights.
Joe Mathews writes the Connecting California column for Zócalo Public Square. He can be contacted at email@example.com.