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Golden Opportunity for the Golden State

April 11, 1993

As a member of the Legislature's Task Force on Defense Conversion, I applaud Daniel Akst for his article on spending cuts by the military ("Reaction to Military Cutbacks Way Off Base," March 30).

We have to stop blaming the bogyman of base closures and defense cuts for our state's problems. Defense conversion can be a golden opportunity to rebuild California and the nation.

We can lay new stones in the bedrock of California's economic foundation. Education, housing, technology, tourism, small business and a solid infrastructure are what we need to work on. They've gotten the short end of the stick in our collective obsession with base closures and defense cuts.

Our education system is stagnating. Housing starts in 1992 were at their lowest levels since the 1982 recession. High-tech companies could offer real conversion alternatives, but there is no meaningful public/private sector alliance in sight.

Our single bright spot, said the chief economist for Dun & Bradstreet, is the rise in new business starts. We have to keep our eyes on small businesses, which employ 40% of all workers. Small business is the jewel in California's crown and tourism is our gold.

We have to throw a life-preserver to the good folks who worked hard in defense and have now been cast adrift, but Mr. Akst is right: Until we face up to the problems confronting us, the foundation of California's economy will remain unstable.

BETTY KARNETTE

Long Beach

The writer is a member of the California Assembly representing the 54th District.

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