I spent a few days in Sacramento this week. I’ve been to California many times, but always on the coast – LA, San Fran, San Diego, etc. This was my first time in the interior. A few things struck me…
At the moment, the area is under a severe fire risk because it is dry and windy. As you may have heard, the power utility, PG&E, is cutting off power to large swaths of people to avoid setting any fires. Well, not really. In reality, they were just blamed for a previous fire and forced to pay a huge penalty. In order to avoid legal liability, PG&E is just shutting off the power. Can you blame them? The idiocy of California’s judicial system strikes again.
Meanwhile, people are inconvenienced and the risk of fires is actually increasing. I had to move a meeting a couple times to find a place with power. The locals who were attending had lost power at their houses, so they showed up with drained batteries. Generators are flying off the shelves. Instead of a stable, reliable power grid, the good people of northern California are sloshing gasoline around in small generators trying to keep their modern amenities functioning. It’s like a third world country in the heart of one of the most modern civilizations on the planet.
Speaking of stupid California rulings… the so-called Uber Law came up unprompted in conversations with two different companies. This was the California Supreme Court ruling, later codified into law, that said that subcontractors were essentially employees. This means that they are entitled to the benefits, workman’s comp, protections, etc. that regular employees have. One business owner I spoke with had used subcontractors in the tech industry in the past and had to pay some big payouts. Another small business owner in the insurance industry said that they can’t grow without using subcontractors, so they were looking to expand in Nevada instead of California. In trying to correct a perceived injustice with Gig economy companies like Uber and Lyft, California is killing off a common way that companies expand and fill spikes in demand.
At about 8 PM one evening, I got a call in my hotel room from the manager. She asked if they could send a contractor to my room in the morning. I was staying in a room for disabled folks and they had an urgent need to saw off the legs of the vanity in my bathroom to make it ADA compliant. Fine, I said, and they gave me 10,000 hotel points for my trouble. I spoke with the manager in the morning, and the urgency was created by the fact that they failed an inspection and had to fix the compliance issues immediately or face huge fines. The regulatory state strikes again. Instead of being reasonable and just waiting for a time when the rooms were empty, the hotel is paying a contractor for emergency services and handing out compensation to inconvenienced customers.
In order to get out of the way of the contractor, I took a drive. I had some conference calls to attend and had intended to take them in my room. Instead, I took the calls from the car and drove out into the farm country. It was a sight to see. The difference between Wisconsin farms and California farms is stark. California farms are massive. They have an industrial feel and the little villages of mobile homes for the migrant workers are everywhere. Long gone are the days of family-owned small farms. Wisconsin is heading this way. It must, in order to compete.
California is a strange place. You could pay me enough to live there, but it would take an enormous sum.