Orange and Rosy
geege at barrera.org
Sun Dec 7 12:09:33 PST 2003
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From: fork-bounces at xent.com [mailto:fork-bounces at xent.com]On Behalf Of
Gregory Alan Bolcer
Sent: Sunday, December 07, 2003 2:40 PM
Subject: Orange and Rosy
Orange County continues to enjoy the benefits
of the 1994 pre-bubble bankruptcy making it
the leanest, yet most effective government
services available in any municipality in the
country. This translates into a orange and
rosy view for both the state and federal
governments dervied from housing, jobs, economy,
and everything else under the sunny California sky.
Wish you were here.
Home prices, job opportunities add to O.C.'s sense
Column by Mark Baldassare - Despite the grave fiscal
and political circumstances facing the nation and the
state, most Orange County residents are upbeat about the
By MARK BALDASSARE [OC Register]
Research director and survey director at the Public
Policy Institute of California in San Francisco
Despite the grave fiscal and political circumstances
facing the nation and the state, most Orange County
residents are humming "Happy Days Are Here Again."
Why the optimism? From their own back yard to the
nation's capital, they like what they see. County
residents rate local conditions highly and have
confidence in the leadership coming from Sacramento
and the White House, according to the 22nd Orange
County annual survey conducted by the Public Policy
Institute of California in collaboration with UCI. Survey
results were released last week.
When asked to rate the state of the county this year, very
few residents are critical. Nine in 10 residents say their
quality of life is good; only one in 10 think things are
going badly. Most express high degrees of satisfaction
with their homes and neighborhoods, and say they are
happy with local public services - including parks,
police, roads and schools.
Moreover, six in 10 residents rate the county's economic
conditions as excellent or good. When asked if there is
an economic recession, the majority of Orange County
residents say "no," and only 7 percent perceive the
current economic situation as evidence that a serious
business downturn is taking place in the region.
Clearly, a red-hot real estate market and a positive
outlook on job opportunities are driving much of this
exuberance. Homeowners were once again treated to
solid increases in local home prices this year, so it is no
surprise that nine in 10 conclude that owning a home in
Orange County is an excellent or good investment. And
compared to other major metropolitan areas of the state,
relatively few Orange County residents believe that
finding a job that pays well is a "big problem." Indeed,
44 percent of San Francisco Bay area residents and 38
percent of Los Angeles residents rate finding a
decent-paying job as a big problem, compared to only
23 percent of Orange County adults.
Among the most closely watched local economic
indicators is the Orange County Consumer Confidence
Index that we derive from combined responses to five
questions repeated from national surveys conducted by
the University of Michigan. The Orange County index
shows gains from last year and is outpacing the national
index. The main reason for increasing confidence is a
brighter outlook about their finances and the U.S.
economy as a whole: 53 percent of county residents
report that their personal finances have improved in the
past year; and 63 percent anticipate good business
conditions in the United States for the next 12 months,
up 16 points from a year ago.
These positive evaluations of the national economic
scene today are one of the most striking features of this
year's Orange County survey. Despite a ballooning
federal budget deficit and upsetting news about military
casualties in Iraq, many more county residents believe
that the nation is headed in the right direction than the
wrong direction (56 percent to 38 percent). The reason?
Local residents' perspectives on national trends are
greatly influenced by their political leanings: Three in
four Republicans think that the nation is going in the
right direction, while two in three Democrats believe
that the nation is headed in the wrong direction. Voters
outside of the two major parties are evenly split in their
evaluation of the nation's overall outlook.
The generally optimistic national outlook is consistent
with the strong job performance ratings that President
Bush enjoys in Orange County today: Overall approval
for the president is at 59 percent, and ratings of his
handling of economic issues (55 percent) and terrorism
and homeland security issues (60 percent) are also
positive. Of course, much will depend on the future
course of the economy and national and international
events between now and Election Day on Nov. 2, but a
continued showing of public support for President Bush
in Republican strongholds such as Orange County may
once again make California a competitive state in the
We've explained some reasons for the optimism of
county residents when it comes to local and national
issues, but why the surprising turnaround in attitudes
about the state? Californians have been in a grim mood
about the Golden State since the initial months of the
electricity crisis in early 2001. However, in the wake of
the political changes brought about by the governor's
recall earlier this fall, half of Orange County residents
now believe that the state is headed in the right
direction, and 56 percent expect that California will
have good economic times next year.
Similar to perceptions of the national scene, the most
striking differences in attitudes about the state today are
partisan in nature: Most Republicans believe that the
state is headed in the right direction (58 percent) and
will see good economic times next year (68 percent),
while only four in 10 Democrats share these views.
More than anything else, this partisan gulf reflects a
difference in opinions on the outcome of the governor's
But despite these partisan differences, a majority of
Orange County residents like what they hear thus far
from their new governor: 55 percent say they approve of
his plans and policies for California while only 25
percent disapprove. Even Democrats and voters outside
of the major parties are more likely to say they approve
than disapprove of the governor's early performance.
Across party lines and political philosophies, Orange
County residents agree on another topic as well: Gov.
Arnold Schwarzenegger needs to set his sights on
solving the state's budget deficit. However, they are
divided over the approach that the governor should take
in closing the state's projected budget deficit in the next
fiscal year - 39 percent favor a mix of spending cuts and
tax increases, 36 percent want mostly spending cuts and
7 percent prefer mostly tax increases. Despite the
complexity of the budget proposals from the Republican
governor and Democratic-controlled state Legislature,
it is interesting that the vast majority of county residents
believe there are plain and simple ways out of the
current quagmire: Most say government could spend less
and provide the same level of services.
As rosy as the outlook is today, history warns us against
complacency and quick fixes. A decade ago, local
governments in Orange County tried to make up for the
cutbacks in state funding by earning high interest rates
in the Orange County Investment Pool - a risky strategy
that backfired when the county-managed fund collapsed
and the county government declared bankruptcy on Dec.
6, 1994. This time, Orange County residents should be
wary of promises of easy solutions, and instead use the
state's fiscal crisis as an opportunity to determine
priorities for local government.
The 2003 PPIC Special Survey of Orange County with
UCI is available at www.ppic.org .
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