At their 34th event this year, Zócalo Public Square asked Buzz Magazine founding editor Allan Mayer, historical geographer and author Gray Brechin, University of Washington historian Margaret O’Mara, and L.A. Observed creator and publisher Kevin Roderick to answer the question, “L.A. vs. San Francisco: Who Runs California?”
The discussion was held at the Museum of Contemporary Art in downtown Los Angeles, where the panel of four sat in white, oversized chairs facing an audience of about 60, who scribbled in their notebooks, nodded their heads, and asked questions at the end of the chat, which was moderated by NBC4 Los Angeles reporter Conan Nolan.
“Right now it looks like the field is tilted toward San Francisco because of its representation in politics,” Roderick said. “And it was asked tonight, is that a permanent shift for the north? I don’t think that this is a permanent shift—I think it is temporary. It flops back and forth.”
“Well California is not alone,” O’Mara said. “Look at the state of Washington where you have east of the Cascades and west of the Cascades, we talk about a Cascade curtain, the mountains form this political divide. You really have a hard time getting the east and west parts of Washington and Oregon to agree.”
The group also discussed the history of the Silicon Valley, the proximity between San Francisco and Sacramento, the recent shift of political power from the Bay Area to L.A., past governorship, and the future generation of California politicians.
The panelists did agree upon one thing: the idea that, despite the topic of conversation for the night, California’s political divide increasingly splits east and west, not north and south.
“I really liked it,” said Kathy Schreiner of Van Nuys. “The group was very conversational compared to other panels, which made it more fun to listen to.”
In addition to holding panel discussions on current affairs, Zócalo Public Square produces a Web magazine and hosts lectures, screenings, and conferences all over the world. Their next event, “Can Direct Democracy Be Saved?” will be held on October 5, 2011 in downtown Los Angeles.
Photograph courtesy zocalopublicsquare.org