- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 25, 2007

LAS VEGAS (AP) — It’s dead inside Favorites bar this afternoon, where the propped-open door spills a bit of light onto the ancient Elvis pinball machine and the grumpy man puffing on a cigarette in front of the video poker machine.

There’s no food here, unless you count the vending machine against the green wall. Owner Ray Medrano had to make a choice: Close the kitchen or ban smoking. His customers love their smokes more than their food, so the kitchen lost.

For Mr. Medrano, there’s only one despicable group of people to blame for Nevada passing a smoking ban that eliminates smoking in restaurants and bars that also serve food: Californians.

“California has a negative influence on our society,” he said, glancing around as cigarette smoke fills the stuffy place. “They should keep their world in their world.”

It’s a popular refrain from many in the West. When Californians move in, it’s always their fault when things change. They infect the rest of the region with their politics and questionable driving — and make housing prices soar.

“I think it’s just such a common desire to say things were really calm and great here and then these people came in,” said Patty Limerick, history professor and faculty director of the University of Colorado’s Center of the American West.

Since 1991, the number of Californians moving out topped the number of people moving in to the state. And where do they go? The top five states Californians moved to in 2000 to 2005 were Arizona, Nevada, Texas, Washington and Oregon, said William Frey, population analyst for the Brookings Institution.

For many Californians, they want what eludes them in their state — open space, clean air and not so much traffic. So they sell their houses for a chunk of change, move somewhere else in the West, buy a bigger house and start driving up the housing prices, much to the dismay of locals.

Sherrie Watson has lived in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, since she was 16 and is quite fed up with Californians.

“They complain how cold it is. And they just moved here because it is cheaper and to ‘get away,’ but then they keep saying things like, ‘We did it in California this way, so why don’t you change?’

“They came here because they liked it the way it was when they visited, but then they want to change it. I don’t get it,” she said.

Shirley Vanderstelt, 34, is an former Californian who moved to Bozeman, Mont., four years ago. Mostly, she has felt welcome, but “there is definitely an underlying feeling of dislike for most Californians.”

Now, about that smoking ban. Nevada, where gambling and smoking are almost one and the same, previously had one of the nation’s least restrictive smoking laws. Now there’s no smoking in restaurants, bars that serve food or around slot machines in grocery stores or gas stations.

Connie Feulner is a bartender at Jake’s Bar in Las Vegas. When customers get to talking about the smoking ban that passed last November, she keeps mum. Don’t tell the customers, but she used to live in California.

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