Life in Southern California Reconsidered : 'I'm Staying'

MICHAEL HAWKINS: Restaurant owner, Pasadena and Los Angeles; lives in Arcadia

I think Arcadia is a great community. We have a great school for our kids--a public school. We live in a great neighborhood. I'd really miss it if we moved out. My wife and I have actually talked about that.

I own a restaurant in Pasadena. (The economy's) been tough, but we're working through it. I feel if you're going to move, move for the right reasons. I don't think the right reason is to get away from worker's (compensation) and all that because those problems are going to end up with you everywhere else you go. Our basic philosophy in our business and our home life is (to) stay here and deal with the problems.

There is a phenomenal amount of talent in Southern California. That's very hopeful. We'll come out of it. It's just going to take time.

JANICE EATON: Artist, Highland Park

My work deals with the processes and possible causes of social conflict and change--specifically how we form our perceptions of people as "the other." Southern California offers me raw material as an artist.

We're living in a social laboratory, which is very uncomfortable. We have all these forces, scores of ethnic and economic classes, contending for political recognition and redress. What divides us defines us as much as what unites us and I want to stay here to contribute to the discourse. These reasons might make other people nervous, but for me are very culturally and educationally satisfying.

JOHN M. RAYA: Plumbing company manager, Santa Ana

Oh yes, I'm staying. California is one of those places where if you have the will, the wit and certainly some wisdom you can enjoy success; you can enjoy a good future. You can plan and protect those things that are of concern for you and your family.

(In) Southern California, in spite of these faltering times, I see a very positive and continuing growth in our economy and our job opportunities. I think California remains one of the strongest places for educational opportunities (despite) all the down things we hear. For those who are interested in understanding and learning more about the Mexican and Hispanic cultures, you can't be much better situated than Southern California.

All those things are important to me. I'm confident that the legacy for my children will be a good one here and I want to do everything I can to contribute to that.

KERMAN MADDOX: Community affairs consultant, Los Angeles

I'm one of those people who is absolutely staying. There's no question about that.

One of the things I like about Southern California, particularly Los Angeles, (is that) it is so ethnically diverse. I have never been one who's ever wanted to settle in a community where everything was black and white. I like the fact you can go to Little Tokyo, to Chinatown, to East L.A., to South-Central, to the Fairfax district. (It is) a city with international flavor. Frankly, I find that intriguing and very stimulating.

I live in a neighborhood where I've seen drive-by (shootings) and carjackings and a revolt take place before my very eyes. The notion of trying to figure out what happened and a way to turn this thing around--that's exciting.

SUSAN KALMAN: Attorney, Los Angeles

I do want to stay. In fact I just moved here from Boston and I'm job-hunting.

After my first year in law school I interned with the Los Angeles City Attorney's (Office). We were in court all the time and it was high profile stuff: fraud, consumer rip-offs, that sort of thing. I saw so many more women in the courts here--women went further, they were doing more exciting law and the salaries were higher. The next summer I came back to work with a private firm.

Of course, job-hunting is hard everywhere. But (the way) I look at it, there's always a need for good people and good people always find jobs.

JOHN HAN: Owner of gift and print shop, Koreatown

During the riots, we actually had our power cut off for three days and couldn't do anything for a while. But none of us decided to move. We have too much invested in here. After all, this is still Koreatown and we've been here at this location for 26 years. We feel that it's still necessary to stay and it's not that dangerous here.

The only problem is we have too many immigrant dope dealers hanging around. It scares the customers away. The police are trying, but they can't really go after them 24 hours. The riot really scared a lot of people away, too. Vacationers are certainly not coming here.

RON SMITH: Laid-off aerospace planner, Lakewood

I've been in California most of my life. My home's here. I was married three years ago. Right now I wouldn't feel comfortable moving somewhere strange.

The aviation field is dwindling. I'm trying to see if I can use my experience to get into some other field, like building maintenance. (I'm) not quite certain what jobs are out there (but) when I retrain, at least I'll have a better field to work in than aerospace. It's sad because aerospace has been really good to California and I've never had any trouble getting a job.

Maybe there are more reasons to leave than stay--like if a boat's sinking, you want to get into a boat that's not sinking. But I'm plugging the holes, you might say.

DON ANDERSON: Golf equipment manufacturer, Huntington Beach

I'm a native Californian. I like Orange County. We are, of course, getting some of the violence, mainly around Santa Ana; but we don't have the problems they have in Central L.A.

Business is good. My goals are structured so that 50% of my sales will be made outside this country. You're going to have tremendous growth in southeast Asia and mainland China. The only way (to take advantage of) that is to be located in California. You cannot get uppity about worker's compensation (or environmental) problems and say, "We're going to Reno or Tucson or Phoenix or New Mexico." (That's) just not accessible for people from the Pacific Rim who want to come and do business.

JERE FIELDS: Saleswoman, City of Orange

I like the climate. I like the lifestyle. If I want a more fast-paced life I can go to Los Angeles and if I want to relax even more I can go to San Diego. I'm right in the middle and I have Disneyland. I like the arts--the Bowers Museum (and) the Performing Arts Center.

If we take the attitude, and I'm going to steal from one of our presidents, "Don't ask what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country," I think we can all excel and do what we have to do and take care of business. I think we all have to get back to basics.

JOE SANCHEZ: Retail grocer and manufacturer, Los Angeles

Certainly my family (holds me here); but I have family in New Mexico and Arizona.

Actually, we're forced to stay because of the economy, because of the investments we already have. To pick up our business and go to another state, let's say (to) manufacture our Mexican chorizo sausage, we would have to start all over again with a new building. It would be very, very difficult. We've been in (business) for 30 years. We're in Lincoln Heights and East Los Angeles. We purchased the properties and we own our buildings. If we were leasing or renting, we would consider moving the manufacturing part.

We'll still be in business but I'm not optimistic if the people in the Legislature continue what they're doing on (raising) taxes. (And) here in the city of Los Angeles, (it took) 14 permits just to have a lot split! I'm hoping that will change.

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