New Bipartisan Public Interest Effort Commits to Transform Government to Better Serve Californians

Projects will push reforms to electoral and fiscal systems and seek to improve quality of services and civic engagement

SACRAMENTO – Amid growing anxiety that state government is not addressing California’s growing challenges, an ambitious bipartisan project was launched on Wednesday to fortify a state government hobbled by partisan stalemates, poor fiscal choices, and inadequate public programs.

California Forward, under the leadership of a diverse group of prominent Californians, will develop and advance improvements to the state’s electoral and fiscal systems, as well as other reforms that will result in improved quality of services and greater public accountability.

California Forward is co‐chaired by former Congressman Leon E. Panetta and Thomas McKernan, CEO of the Automobile Club of Southern California. The co‐chairs emphasized the need for public and private sector leaders, as well as Democrats and Republicans, to find common solutions to the structural problems that are reducing the government’s ability to make sound fiscal choices and establish effective programs needed for communities to be safe, healthy and prosperous in a global and knowledge‐based economy.

“California cannot lead in the 21st century without reforming the way it governs itself,” Mr. Panetta said. “We know this will be difficult, but we are committed to building a constituency for change. If given the chance, we believe people will look at the big picture and realize that good governance is in everyone’s interest.”

Mr. McKernan said California’s communities and regions cannot reach their goals without fundamental changes to how the government operates: “For California to meet the challenges in health care, public safety, education, the environment and economic development, government will need to change how public decisions are made and how public dollars are spent.”

In addition to its co‐chairs, California Forward’s Leadership Council includes Tom Campbell, Bill Hauck, Antonia Hernández, Fred Keeley, Stewart Kwoh, Sunne Wright McPeak, Bruce McPherson, Charles Poochigian, Cruz Reynoso, Connie Rice and Gene Voiland. Additional members will be announced in the coming weeks, and advisory committees are being formed to assist with specific projects.

California Forward is the result of substantial analysis and deliberations by several of California’s leading philanthropic foundations, which concluded that governance reform is essential for the state to prosper and have committed to multi‐year support for California Forward. Those foundations are The James Irvine Foundation, The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, The David and Lucile Packard Foundation, The California Endowment, and The Evelyn and Walter Haas Jr. Fund. Leaders from the foundations joined Mr. Panetta and Mr. McKernan in Sacramento to introduce members of California Forward’s Leadership Council and to engage more than 100 civic‐ minded Californians in a conversation on how reform efforts can be successful. California Forward also announced its first policy priorities: improving basic fiscal decision making and turning legislative redistricting over to an independent citizen’s commission.

California Forward will support the California Voters First Initiative, a measure with bipartisan support developed through a public process by public interest organizations. California Forward’s fiscal work will begin by working with state and regional leaders over the next nine months to develop new budget‐making tools that could lead to better long‐term fiscal management, improved results in the quality and efficiency of programs, and greater understanding and accountability regarding public expenditures. These will be the first of a series of projects that will pursue changes in the following four areas:

1. Smart revenue and budget systems. Californians need a fair and reliable revenue system and budget process that leads to better results and creates accountability for outcomes.

2. High quality public services. Californians need public programs to be efficiently organized and managed to deliver the highest quality of service and greatest value for public expenditures.

3. Publicly responsive elected officials. Californians need an electoral system that results in elected officials who are more representative and responsive to the public and their needs.

4. Informed and engaged public. California needs to refine the voting process and create new ways for the public to influence policy decisions and provide feedback to public programs. Building off of previous reform efforts that generated recommendations, California Forward will work to build agreement among a wide range of organizations on specific solutions. It will encourage all Californians to become informed, offer ideas and support practical fixes. “Every day, Californians are transforming this state as entrepreneurs, public servants, volunteers, and community leaders,” Mr. Panetta said. “Californians need a state government that supports this innovation and hard work, and through California Forward they can be part of that change.”

For more information California Forward, visit


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