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September 28, 2005

What You Did Not Know about California

Kevin E. Dayhoff

San Diego – September 15 - Greetings from the conservative bastion of California. As I have quickly learned, California’s reputation as a left-wing redoubt is overly simplistic and certainly not totally correct.

So why not pull out your favorite Beach Boys CD and read along.

Several weeks ago when my wife suggested that I come along with her on a business trip, my answer was, “of course I’ll go.” Then I asked her – “where are we going?”

Her answer: “California.”

“Oh, my gawd Caroline! My Mom raised me better. I can’t possibly go to California, what if my friends find out!”

Well, of course, I agreed to go; I’m always up for an adventure. I just might learn something. And indeed I have.

After several days in San Diego, what I discovered was surprisingly pleasant. The second largest city in California is very cosmopolitan, affluent and easy going. With little in the way of smog and devoid of the byzantine expressways, San Diego is a bright and colorful, vibrant and exciting city of approximately 1.3 million folks. Sprawling inside San Diego County, which has a population of almost 2.9 million, San Diego has everything from desert to mountains and beaches to marinas.

According to a San Diego history timeline, it wasn’t until July 29, 1846, that a detachment of Marines raised the first American flag over the city during the Mexican-American War (1846-1848). San Diego was first incorporated on March 27, 1850, several months before California was granted statehood on September 9, 1850.

In spite of its location on a superb natural harbor, it wasn’t until the arrival of the Santa Fe Railroad in the 1880s that the city really took off. The U.S. Navy made San Diego its Pacific Command Center during World War II, and the military continues to dominate the local economy, along with tourism.

According to an August 29, 2004, New York Times article, “Democrats have a slight edge in voter registration [in San Diego city]. But in [San Diego] county … Republicans retain a sizeable majority.”

A quick search on Yahoo revealed two main political clubs in San Diego: San Diego Democratic Club and The Conservative Order of Good Guys.

The website for the Democratic Club states that the “… San Diego Democratic Club [is] one of the largest chartered Democratic Clubs in San Diego County. Since 1975… providing effective political action, advocating for fairness and equality for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community.”

A look at the Republican club’s website reveals that “The Conservative Order of Good Guys is an organization founded in September 1978 by a group of active business and professional men and women who are interested in providing financial support to top quality, fiscally conservative, Republican candidates …”

The city has an excellent website, which was one of my first internet stops after I unpacked my computer to enjoy the hotel’s Wi-fi. Some of the sites and attractions we intend to visit in the upcoming week are the San Diego Wild Animal Park; Balboa Park and the San Diego Zoo, “home to fifteen museums, various arts and international culture associations, as well as the San Diego Zoo, making it one of the nation's largest cultural and entertainment complexes;” SeaWorld San Diego; the San Diego Historical Society and the Gaslamp Quarter, “Southern California's premier dining, shopping and entertainment district, where you'll find a truly eclectic blend of food, fun and culture all within one of San Diego's most historic areas.” As I write, we have already enjoyed visiting Cabrillo National Monument and Ocean Beach.

My next stop on my internet tour was the city’s main newspaper, the San Diego Union-Tribune. Apparently California Arnold Schwarzenegger was in town the day we arrived. “The Republican governor told a cheering crowd … that he intended to "finish the job" of reforming California's governing and political institutions… "Yes, I will run again," ...”

We’re staying at the Westgate Hotel in the middle of the city, “acclaimed as America’s most lavish hotel.” Seems to be about how I would describe it.

The Westgate was built in 1970 as a result of a dinner conversation between San Diego financier, C. Arnholt Smith and the late President Eisenhower. According to literature supplied by the hotel; over dinner in a nearby hotel in the early 1960s, President Eisenhower asked, “Is this the best hotel you have in San Diego?” “Seeing an opportunity, [Arnholt Smith] took up the challenge and launched [building the Westgate]…”

The San Diego municipal website claims that the “United States Weather Bureau describes San Diego's weather as the closest thing to perfect in America. Holiday Magazine described San Diego as the "only area in the United States with perfect weather." Pleasant Weather Rating Service Poll voted San Diego as the best year-round weather in the nation, and the second best in the world.”

Additionally, “San Diego has become the safest big city in the United States due to an aggressive anti-crime stance taken by local governments. For more information on public safety programs and crime statistics, visit the City's Police Department web site.”

I’m looking forward to a great week in San Diego (“Don’t worry… everything will turn out alright.”) and visiting again in the middle of one of Maryland’s winters, which I loath.

Kevin Dayhoff normally writes from Westminster. E-mail him at:

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