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"Californicate" refers to all the bad things about southern California, the crowded, overbuilt part of the state that is overcome by pollution, trash, glitter, and multilane freeways.

However, I'm a big fan of the state. I've played tennis at the John Wayne Tennis Center in San Diego, where every piece of clothing must be white, taken a balloon ride over the Napa Valley, and listened to the Kingston Trio play to a crowd of thousands in a San Francisco park. Vertis and I have had some wonderful times there.

But the state has negatives, and while we try to emulate its successes, I think we must avoid the state's failures.

We're the Natural State, with rings of green forested lands, uncrowned roadways, and hidden gems such as Champanolle Creek in south Arkansas and Hidden Valley in the Ozarks. We pride ourselves on these and hundreds of other special treasures, and just the thought that we would degrade or lose these wonders would cause any Arkansawyer to protest.

While we don't openly admit to mimicking California's lifestyle, that is what we are doing. The huge flood of technology that comes out of California is impossible to ignore; I'm hooked on a lot of it. However, it disturbs me that with the positive items, we find our business and political leaders actively working to adopt the negative aspects of the California lifestyle.

From continuously widening our highways to accommodate more and more cars and trucks, we are like a fat man letting out another notch in his belt instead of going on a diet. The seemingly endless beating of the jobs, jobs, jobs drum, especially when unemployment is a tiny 3.2 percent, defies logic. Where are we going to get those workers when a factory opens needing 500 new employees? Everyone who wants a job already has one and our towns are plastered with "hiring" and "help wanted" signs.

To make things worse, it seems there are no bad jobs, and we end up getting the low end of available jobs because our pollution control standards are so weak. Do a make myself clear? We don't need any more polluting Chinese plants!

These jobs make the Natural State slogan a joke. But it's not just the jobs, at any cost; it's the very idea that our quality of life is determined by having a huge population growth, and that is how Californication is being promoted in our state.

The very idea of population growth equals quality is a 1950s attitude. It seems to me that our chamber of commerce directors could use a re-education course, something like the prisoners of war in the Korean War had after being brainwashed.

But are we really in danger of Californication? We don't have an 18-lane freeway like Houston does, which has long since been Californicated beyond hope. However, we seem to be rushing into the abyss.

In the Bentonville-Fayetteville corridor, they are letting out another notch in their belts as fast as they financially can. When will four lanes need to be expanded to six or eight lanes, and when will the northwest say "uncle"? Will they have lost the battle when common sense finally makes them stop? The last thing northwest Arkansas needs are more jobs. It can't fill the job openings it has, and it sure doesn't need an increase in population. Northwest Arkansas isn't Californicated yet, but it is well on its way.

Little Rock is following right along in widening the trail west from downtown, and as west Little Rock continues with jobs and population growth, extra lanes will be added until Californication takes place.

It seems inevitable that we will slowly become part of a vicious cycle, and it seems nothing we can do will slow down the rush to grow at any cost. As we look into the future and see a stagnant, pollution-filled state, we will wonder why we didn't do something when we had an opportunity.

We are faced with throwing up our hands and giving up, or actively doing something about the problems we're facing. We still can make a difference, and thousands of Arkansawyers want a better life. Here are a few ways to make that happen:

  1. A good education for our citizens is a key to solving many of our problems, and we should do everything possible to assure a quality education is available to all. That starts with giving our teachers a living wage. We should give every teacher an immediate 30 percent increase in salary, and mandate every school's student attendance absentee rate be no higher than 5 percent.

  2. Rein in the state Department of Transportation's lane expansion and focus on basic highway access, improvement, and visual expression by planting trees in the mediums. Increase the emphasis on electric scooters and electric bicycles for inner-city travel, and put them on the streets. Sidewalks are for walking. Fund public transportation in our major towns and cities.

  3. Re-educate our chambers of commerce to focus on quality of life items in our communities. Make funding trails and planting trees one of their primary objectives instead of wasting money recruiting jobs.

  4. Establish state funding to enhance visual improvements in our towns and cities, which go hand in hand with a measure of protection for the wonderful natural treasures in our state.

  5. Do away with financial incentives set up to attract industry. Use them to fund solar panels for our schools and public transportation for our cities.

  6. Give the state Game and Fish Commission a sizable increase in funding to allow them to continue restocking our out-of-balance ecosystem.

  7. Adopt a statewide goal that every town with a population of over 2,500 have a 40 percent tree canopy in place within the next 10 years, and set up funding by the Legislature to help.

We have a choice. We can continue along the same path, which will Californicate Arkansas, or we can work to really make Arkansas the Natural State. Which path are you going to take?

Email Richard Mason at richard@gibraltarenergy.com.

Editorial on 09/08/2019

Print Headline: Let's not Californicate Arkansas

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