In the past few decades California has experienced a frenzied building of new freeways, airports, factories, and schools. Smog and traffic congestion have enveloped urban areas and an urban landscape has replaced former vineyards and orange groves. Overcrowding, too, has diminished the allure of California.
Following the Vietnam War, the federal government admitted many Asians from countries like Cambodia and Singapore. In addition, a growing number of legal and illegal immigrants from Mexico, the Caribbean, and Latin America have complicated the urban tensions that California already faced.
Pete Wilson was elected governor of California in 1990. A former U.S. senator and a Republican, Wilson faced declining state revenues and serious unemployment problems.
These were partly due to the decrease of federal defense spending following the end of the Cold War, the economic and diplomatic struggle between the United States and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). In addition, new business growth had been affected by more stringent environmental regulations.
Many parts of California were buffeted by serious natural disasters in the late 1980s and 1990s. Earthquakes caused major damage in the San Francisco area in 1989 as well as east of Los Angeles in 1992, and again in the Los Angeles area in 1994. Brush fires destroyed more than 1,000 homes in southern California in 1993. By early 1995 winter storms caused flood damage throughout the state. Extensive flooding and mudslides also resulted from above-average rainfall in the winter of 1998 caused by El Niño, a warming of the atmosphere and oceans that periodically disturbs weather patterns.
Racial tensions also increased in the 1990s. In 1991 white Los Angeles police officers were videotaped while beating a black motorist named Rodney King. When the officers were found not guilty during their criminal trial in 1992, the acquittal set off yet another riot in south-central Los Angeles.
Some 58 people were killed and many homes and businesses were destroyed or looted. In April 1993 a court convicted two of the police officers for violating Rodney King’s civil rights.
TAlso in the 1990s, illegal immigration from Mexico became one of the biggest political issues in California. In 1994 California voters approved the controversial Proposition 187, which was intended to revoke the rights of illegal immigrants to state education, welfare, and health services. The measure caused many Hispanic residents to withdraw their support for the state’s Republican administration, which had led efforts to pass the proposition.
Tensions also increased between California and the Mexican government, and in February 1999 the state’s newly elected Democratic governor, Gray Davis, visited Mexico and began efforts to mend the rift. However, the main provisions of the proposition never took effect.
In a series of decisions a U.S. District Court judge overturned major parts of the proposition because the regulation of immigration is a federal rather than a state power. In July 1999 Davis reached an agreement with the opponents of the proposition in which the state ended its appeals of the court rulings and left the main provisions of the proposition overturned.
Racial politics have also affected higher education in California. In the 1970s, under affirmative action policies designed to reflect the state’s ethnic diversity, university administrators devised complex racial preference criteria for each state university campus. While increasing minority representation, the system prevented some top California high school graduates from being admitted. Under the earlier (1978) U.S. Supreme Court decision, Regents of the University of California v. Bakke, the University of California was prohibited from creating such racial quotas but was permitted to consider race as one factor in admissions policies.
In 1995, however, the University of California Board of Regents turned away from previous admissions policies entirely when it passed a resolution eliminating programs that called for racial and gender preferences in admissions, hiring, and the granting of outside contracts. In 1996 a statewide challenge to affirmative action programs throughout state government was placed on the ballot. California voters passed the California Civil Rights Initiative, also known as Proposition 209, which ended any preference based on gender, race, or ethnicity for state jobs, state contracts, or admission to state schools.
California voters also passed another statewide ballot measure, Proposition 227, which required the state’s public schools to end most of their bilingual education programs. The proposition, approved in 1998, ordered that schools teach classes primarily in English, but it gave parents the right to seek a waiver from English-only instruction if their children wished to remain in bilingual programs. "USA" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia
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