During the 2008 Great Recession, California had considered replacing its old constitution, which made governing in crisis impossible, with a new system. But elites instead decided to make budget cuts and suffer through the pain of unemployment and foreclosures. But by 2021 it was clear that a new governing system was needed to give Californians the agency to deal with our problems.
Looking back, the biggest driver of change wasn’t self-driving cars but the new constitution, approved by voters in 2022. Crucially, this constitution took powers away from state government, freeing communities to govern themselves.
The effect was startling, rapid and deep. The state’s regions quickly accelerated housing, remade transportation and transformed economic development. In one constitutional moment, so many pent-up ambitions were unleashed that the entire state roared with invention.
In retrospect, we should have seen the potential within ourselves. As a California columnist then, I marveled at local communities—from West Sacramento to Glendale—that made progress despite structural obstacles. Even in pessimistic 2020, Fresno was making itself our next great city, and Los Angeles was so boldly rebuilding transit that Boston and New York took notice (emphasis added).