Fleeing California

      Fleeing California

      A record number of people are leaving California. So many that the Golden State could lose a seat in Congress for the first time ever. I recently spoke to Will Witt in Hollywood about his short documentary examining the exodus called “Fleeing California.”

      Sharyl: How did you come up with the title?

      Will Witt: Came up with the title “Fleeing California” in the last 10 years, 5 million people have actually left California and 600,000 of those have moved to Texas. 15,000 businesses have also left California. So when I see those kinds of numbers and that kind of data, I say, people are fleeing California. So we wanted to showcase basically the reasons of why people are actually leaving the state and moving to places where there are more conservative policies leading it.

      Sharyl: If you could pick a few highlights, what would you point to as some highlights from the film?

      Witt: I think one of the most important things to recognize is first the homeless epidemic that is happening here.

      (Documentary clip)

      You know, California with 12% of the nation's population has 50% of the nation's homeless. And that's a crazy stat, and that goes along with one in five people in California are living in poverty in this state. So in that sense, it's a really bad place to live unless you're really rich. In California the middle class is really not being able to survive. And those are really the people who are moving out. The main reason why people are leaving California is because of the high cost of living. They just can't live here anymore.

      Sharyl: If you could pick a few highlights, what would you point to as some highlights from the film?

      Witt: I think talking to Richard Florczak, who is the owner of Flame Pizzeria here in Los Angeles, in the Valley, actually. He's a small business owner who started a pizza shop and just the amount of regulations and compliance costs, and things that the government is putting on them makes it almost impossible to start a small business here and have it be successful.

      (Documentary clip)

      And even if you are successful, trying to set up for long-term success, to hire more people or open another business, I mean, it's really difficult with the amount of regulations that they put on you.

      Sharyl: Is there something that could be done to turn this trend around do you think?

      Witt: I think what needs to be done is to take a step out of Texas's guidebook. I mean the conservative policies of low regulation, low taxes is seeing that Texas is doing better on a GDP scale than California is, even with California having such a massive economy. If we take notes from conservative states and places that are having a more conservative economy, California will be much better off.

      Sharyl: The question of whether anything can be done is a little different than the question of whether you think anything will be done. What do you foresee as the near term future?

      Witt: I think a lot of people who are in charge of the state are also spineless. I think they see what's happening to hard work in California is hardworking Americans who live here and they don't really care. These politicians get to live in their million dollar houses and make tons of money and they're away from the problems, and so it doesn't really matter to them what happens to normal, hardworking Californians like me, if they're totally fine. And I don't think they're willing to actually stand up to the problems that are facing this state.

      Sharyl: And yet you still live here?

      Witt: I do still live here. Well, I consider myself a fighter. I love a lot of things about the state. I mean, the weather's great. There's still a lot of opportunity here and I want to be someone to help fix this state. I know a lot of people are leaving and I don't put any blame on them for leaving, but I want to be here to help fix it and change it if I can.

      Sharyl (on camera): According to one poll from UC Berkeley, the top reason Californians give for wanting to leave, is the high cost of housing.