Orange and Rosy

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Sun Dec 7 12:09:33 PST 2003

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-----Original Message-----
From: fork-bounces at [mailto:fork-bounces at]On Behalf Of
Gregory Alan Bolcer
Sent: Sunday, December 07, 2003 2:40 PM
To: FoRK
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
 of satisfaction
 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

 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
 presidential sweepstakes.

 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 .
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