It’s often been said that where California goes, the rest of the nation inevitably follows.
That’s certainly been the case for green policy, same-sex marriage rights and tech innovation. If the Golden State is the country’s spiritual leader, what does it say about us, the people, who live in the state?
As we approach the end of the year, AirTalk wants to know: Who do you think was the most influential Californian of the Year for the year 2013?
We're looking for the person — or group, organization or entity — who has not only made a mark in the state in 2013, but whose work and decisions have also reverberated across the country.
Here to talk about the candidates and what qualities he thinks that person should have is Kevin Starr, a noted historian.
Below is a list of candidates the show staff has come up with, but we want your vote for the Listeners' Choice for Californian of the Year.
Kevin Starr, California State Librarian Emeritus and University Professor at USC
KPCC's online polls are not scientific surveys of local or national opinion. Rather, they are designed as a way for our audience members to engage with each other and share their views. Let us know what you think on our Facebook page, facebook.com/kpcc, or in the comments below.
President, University of California
She was the first woman to serve as the head of the Department of Homeland Security and her appointment as the first female president of the 10-campus University of California system in 2013 was as controversial as it was unexpected. Supporters say Napolitano would bring years of high-level diplomatic skills, as well as a gilded Rolodex, to a storied public higher education institution that has been hamstrung by state budget cuts and an exodus of top talents. Critics question her commitment to preserving an open and welcoming atmosphere on campuses for all students, particularly those from undocumented families, citing her work on deportations. As UC President, one of her first orders of business was ensuring affordability of a UC education; at her first Regents meeting in November, she pushed to freeze undergraduate tuition next year.
Prop 8 Plaintiffs
After being together for over 15 years, Kris Perry and Sandy Stier made history when they married in San Francisco on June 28, 2013. A few hours later in Los Angeles, Paul Katami and Jeff Zarrillo, partners for over 12 years, also tied the knot. The thought of becoming the face of a movement was the furthest thing from the minds of these four people, but that's exactly happened when they – and a formidable legal team — filed a civil rights lawsuit in federal court in 2009 to challenge Proposition 8 – the voter-approved ban on gay marriage. After a high-profile legal battle that culminated at the Supreme Court – Prop 8, along with the federal Defense of Marriage Act, were dismissed and struck down.
If the botched launch of healthcare.gov is any indication, it’s not easy to build a reliable website to change an entire industry. Covered California, the Golden State’s health insurance exchange established under the Affordable Care Act, has done for Californians what the federal health insurance site couldn’t do for the rest of America: namely, put in place a marketplace for health insurance that works – at least so far. As of Dec. 7, nearly 160,000 Californians have signed up for coverage through Covered California.
The GOP Congressman who serves California’s 49th district
Issa made a name for himself this year as the anti-Obama, aggressively sniffing out scandals that touched the Oval Office. As Chairman of the House Oversight Committee, Issa started his year off holding President’s feet to the fire on its handling of the deadly terror attack in Benghazi last September. Next came the probe into the Internal Revenue Service. Issa alleged the agency had given extra scrutiny to right-wing political organizations applying for tax-exempt status. The revelations caused uproar against the IRS and President Obama, before they turned out to be trumped up — as the IRS had similarly flagged liberal groups.
In light of the botched Healthcare.gov rollout, House watchdog Issa is at the helm of another investigation — holding hearings and filing subpoenas in attempt to get to the bottom of the big-time bungle. While some misfires have cost Issa credibility, his dogged pursuit of scandal have kept Obama in the hot seat — and kept alive 2013’s polarized political climate.
CEO, SpaceX and co-founder, Tesla Motors
The 44-year-old serial entrepreneur has proven to have the Midas touch. He first made his mark in on-line money transactions – making them easy, fast and safe in the form of PayPal. The sale of the payment service to eBay made Musk $160 million richer. In 2003, he co-founded the Palo Alto-based Tesla Motors, which designs and manufactures all-electric vehicles that are essentially art pieces on wheels. As if making the world a cleaner place isn’t a lofty enough goal, Musk also set his sights far beyond our mere planet. Through SpaceX, yet another one of his ventures in California, Musk wants to colonize Mars by 2025.
Facebook’s charismatic second-in-command launched the tech giant’s mobile advertising efforts this year and sent profits soaring. She also authored "Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead," a best-selling working woman’s manifesto that set off a worldwide movement to address gender inequality in the workplace — and formed the nonprofit Lean In to put her ideas into action.
The 44-year-old COO hasn’t just made a name for herself in male-dominated Silicon Valley: She’s also an international icon whose reach and influence extends into business, politics and pop culture. She’s become as public a face for Facebook as its hoodied head honcho, and her ideas about corporate feminism, while criticized by some, brought working women and the hurdles they face to the forefront of conversation in 2013.
Hip-hop’s golden child spent much of 2013 on the road, performing tracks from his major-label-debut album — "good kid, m.A.A.d city" — released late last year. The 26-year-old Compton native covered more ground than any other rapper, performing 171 shows and traveling nearly 230,000 miles, according to data from Songkick, a live music tracking site. He’s currently accompanying Kanye West on his Yeezus tour.
He earned 7 Grammy nominations this year, proof that "good kid, m.A.A.d city" — a portrait of Lamar’s early life growing up in Compton — resonates with music fans far and wide.
In August, Lamar made waves with his verse on Big Sean’s track “Control,” in which he calls out a number of notable rappers by name and proclaims himself “the king of New York.” The verse spurred dozens of diss track responses and immense buzz from fans, cementing Lamar in place at the center of the hip-hop ecosystem.
The 23-year-old Snapchat CEO made headlines when he said no to a whopping $3 billion in Mark Zuckerberg bucks last month in a rebuff to Facebook’s offer to buy the photo and video-sending mobile app.
First developed as Spiegel and friends’ Stanford class project, Snapchat launched in 2011. The app allows users to send pictures and videos to one another that flash on the screen for several seconds and then disappear forever. The Venice, Los Angeles-based company now shares 400 million “snaps” each day. That’s twice the number of photos that were being sent through Snapchat six months ago, and it’s more than the number of photos shared on Facebook and Instagram.
Snapchat is certainly the star of Los Angeles’s "Silicon Beach" tech scene, but it’s more than that. In a social media landscape defined by a lack of privacy and the need to carefully craft an online image, Spiegel’s Snapchat stands out.
Sure, the former Google executive was named Yahoo’s CEO last year, but 2013 has unquestionably been the year of the turnaround for the struggling search engine. Under Mayer’s leadership, the company spent a boatload of money this year on acquisitions alone, including the purchase of popular microblogging site Tumblr for $1.1 billion (in cash), to better compete with rivals Google and Facebook. Talent-wise, it poached both The New York Times’ David Pogue and CBS’ Katie Couric to lead its tech and news coverage, respectively. The efforts are paying off: In July, Yahoo beat Google as the most visited site in the country.
No. 66, Los Angeles Dodgers
The 23-year-old Cuban slugger made his MLB debut with the Los Angeles Dodgers in June and looks every bit like the real deal. He became the first player in major league history to record at least 34 hits and seven home runs in his first 20 games and won both the National League Rookie of the Month Award and the National League Player of the Month Award, becoming the first player to do so in the first month of their Majors debut. Puig finished 2013 with a batting average of .319 in 104 games, 19 home runs and 42 RBI. There's no question that the kid can hit. But he also has plenty of style — the signature bat flip, the impassioned fist pumps — making No. 66 an instant crowd favorite, whether you love or hate the Dodgers.
Governor of California
We once called him Governor Moonbeam, and the new and improved California Gov. Jerry Brown is making good on his nickname. Back in the '70s and early '80s, Brown led the state to economic prosperity, and he's getting credit for doing it again. In a nice respite from years of budget cuts and tax increases, state legislators are looking at ways to spend a healthy surplus that’s expected to grow to $10 billion by 2018. Brown also oversaw major changes to the prison system under realignment and signed sweeping changes to school funding. The 75-year-old governor has been so influential this year that he's reportedly seeking an unprecedented fourth term in office. And why wouldn't he, with approval ratings topping 58 percent and more than half of registered voters saying they'd pick him again? So watch this space to see if Brown makes it back on this list in 2014.
Andre Birotte Jr.
U.S. Attorney for the Central District of California
Appointed by President Obama in 2010 to lead the second largest U.S. Attorney's office in the country, Andre Birotte Jr. is a federal government crime buster. No stranger to the Southland, Birotte has had a career that includes a three-year stint as a deputy public defender in L.A. and time serving as the Los Angeles Police Department's Inspector General in 2003. In his current role, in which he oversees the work of more than 200 prosecutors, Birotte has investigated cyber crime, sex trafficking, tax fraud and claims of civil rights abuses in the L.A. County Sheriff's Department. Birotte is also the first African-American U.S. Attorney for the Central District.
Don't see your answer in the list above? Leave a comment with your choice and why so we can mention them on air.
This post has been updated.