Fed up with outrageous California prices, congestion, smog, fog, taxes, deficits and hassle? Thinking of throwing in the towel and moving the clan to Oregon? Before you do, make sure you are knowledgeable about the BTCI.


Yes, the Back-to-California-Index. It is a barometer (notice the weather connection?) that indicates whether the conditions in Oregon are low or high in terms of the probability of a move back to California.

First, I need to present my credentials when it comes to writing about this sensitive and tricky subject: the very real Mother of All Lifestyle Tradeoffs when it comes to living in the Beaver (gag) State as opposed to the Golden State. I grew up in the “Bedroom of Los Angeles,” Glendale, sandwiched in between “Beautiful Downturn Burbank” and Pasadena, which has this big parade and football game under gorgeous blue skies and 70-degree weather on New Year’s Day. Oregonians can only fantasize about 70 degrees on January 1 or 2.


I graduated from USC. Worked in the Governor’s Office in Sacramento and later in Silicon Valley. All-in-all, I have lived, worked and played in the Golden State for more than four decades (dating myself).

My adopted state and present home state is Oregon. I studied Journalism at the University of Oregon, resided in Portland for five years and steadfastly maintained Oregon football season tickets (rooting for the Ducks before it was cool) at Autzen Stadium for 22 years. Presently, I am serving as a Graduate Teaching Fellow at the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication, pursuing my master’s degree in “Communication and Society.” I am writing this post on a warm, sunny afternoon under blue skies and soaring canopies of Douglas fir trees. The BTCI is very low.

So how do you measure the Back to California Index or BTCI? Using a Likert-style scale, a low BTCI such as a 1-2-3 indicates that there is no chance of a return to California any time soon. A medium-range BTCI (4-5-6) equates to the transplant effectively tolerating the tradeoff between California and Oregon. A higher score (7-8) equates to the ex-Golden Stater questioning the sanity of her-or-his decision. A 9-10 score on the BTCI signals that capitulation is imminent and a return to smog, fog, traffic, congestion, unreasonable prices and foreclosures is in the offing.

Let’s look at some examples of low and high BTCIs:


● Extremely low BTCI (1 or 2): The California plates are off the car. Warm summer/early fall conditions. Trip to the Coast (Oregonians go to the “Coast;” Californians to the “Beach.”) Checking out Crater Lake, Bend, Sisters and the high desert. Walking through the Pearl or ABC Districts in Portland. Sipping pinot noirs, pinot gris and sparkling wines in the Willamette Valley. Joining the madness that is Autzen Stadium, particularly when Washington or Oregon State comes-a-calling. The leaves may already be changing. Daytime weather is warm, nighttimes are cool. No sales tax. Low housing costs. Reasonable prospects for a fifteen-minute commute. Life is good.

● Low BTCI (3 or 4): You put your key in the ignition. What? You can’t pump you own gas. If you want to pump your own gas, go back to California or up to Washington. Not here. How come the big-rigs are carrying triple loads? The answer is because they can…so when they are spraying rain water from their tires it is three-as-opposed-to-two sets of big rig tires hydrating your car. The fast lane means absolutely nothing to most Oregonians. In California, you expect that slow cars in the fast lane to move over. That does not calibrate for seemingly oblivious speed-limit drivers in Oregon’s fast lanes.

● Moderate BTCI (5-6): The property tax bill just showed up and it is due soon. Hint: there was no Proposition 13, just wimpy Measure 5, in Oregon. (Wait until early spring to learn about the state income tax and the Multnomah County income tax, if you live in that particular über-blue Portland county). It’s never 45 degrees in San Diego on an October morning. Huh? I have to wear a sweater, sweat shirt or parka in October? The weather dude or dudette promised “sun breaks” today. “Where are my friggin’ sun breaks?” When will it be 70-degrees or more again? April? May? June? Hint: If you expect 70 degrees in any of these three months, you may very well be disappointed.

● High Moderate BTCI (7-8): It’s wet, cloudy and damp. In fact, it is always wet, cloudy and damp. Did I mention “overcast?” The sky is a perpetual white over the front-lawn poetry dispensers, the sustainable gardens, the parade of NPR-powered Prius,’ the organic, fair-trade, shade-grown caffeination stations. And when spring comes the sky is still white, but all the surrounding fields of grasses and trees start doing their thing big time…that’s when the sneezing and wheezing begins.


● Extremely high BTCI (9-10): It’s been raining for six weeks straight. The satellite reveals a series of inbound storms stretching across the Pacific from Japan to Oregon. Black ice is forming in the perpetual shady spots in the morning. Can I safely drive my Miata down the hill? The mercury dips. The ice forms. It may snow. It may not snow. The roads start to crack. It might get up to 38-degrees today…or maybe not. The short commutes, the reasonable housing prices, the lack of a sales tax don’t seem to be so important today. The 405 in LA or the 880 in the Bay Area don’t look so intimidating, mind numbing and frustrating. You may even be missing your favorite morning shock jock. Only $800,000-plus for a shack by a LaLaLand or Silicon Valley freeway? Hmmm… Can I get an adjustable rate mortgage and soon be underwater like all the rest? At least, it will be sunny and not raining.

The annual grudge football game in Oregon is played in late November/early December and is called the Civil War. It features a counterculture vs. agriculture matchup of two highly aquatic creatures, the Ducks and the Beavers…What was your first clue?

Editor’s Note: Full credit for the invention of the BTCI needs to be directed to my incredibly talented PR friend, the late Ken Kohli of the Intermountain Forest Industry Association. He referenced the BTCI for Californians moving to Couer d’ Alene, Idaho. I still miss him.