Could State Government Learn From Carmageddon?

Los Angeles has seen better days, but one thing we Angelenos haven't lost the ability to do is to turn almost anything into a major cultural event. This week, we're giving a traffic jam the full movie franchise treatment.

Carmageddon -- the brand we've bestowed on the massive traffic tie-up expected to result from this coming weekend's closure of the 405 Freeway -- is a beautiful example of turning lemons into lemonade.

With most Angelenos stuck at home, local businesses are offering special discounts. Communities are putting together block parties. Museums and attractions along the mostly forgotten LA subway are exploiting an opening to get people on the train for a visit.

It's enough to make one wonder: Couldn't California's broken state government learn from this?

How? Well, right now, Californians are blocked by a state government, which is not unlike a traffic jam that never ends. The government can't really do much, except keep cutting important services bit by bit.

So we get angry, frustrated or tune out. Or we try to fix state government -- a nearly impossible task given the complexity of the problem and the fact that the people in power don't want it fixed.

Carmageddon suggests a better way to cope: Accept the fact that California is irretrievably broken and try to make the dysfunction an opportunity.

This could mean any number of things. Academic and civic institutions should take pride in California's governing dysfunction: We have the worst organized government in the democratic world! We're first!

Use it to attract people from around the world to conference. Sort of diaster tourism.

And the rest of us should see the state government failures as license for us to seize back power in our local communities. If the state can't keep a park open, our community associations should just take over -- and dare the state to stop us. We could find local funds, even bonds, at the local level to preserve important state institutions such as Cal State and University of California campuses. The possibilities are endless if we think of things this way.

The only other option is to sit in the state government dysfunction -- and stew.

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