Christopher Nelson

Former Staff

Chris Nelson was the Editor in Chief of the California Forward blog and managed all of their digital content and social media operations. He received his B.A. in English from Duke University and his M.A. in Journalism from USC's Annenbeg School for Communication & Journalism.

During his tenure at USC, he was the founding co-editor of USC's revered online news publication Neon Tommy, he covered the 2008 election for the Huffington Post's Off the Bus project with a focus on citizen journalism and op-eds, he wrote two feature-length pieces for Los Angeles Magazine, he covered the Democratic National Convention in Denver and Obama's Inauguration in Washington D.C., he worked for the Huffington Post's Global section, he wrote and edited for the blog Pop + Politics (which was founded by former NPR host Farai Chideya), he was a News21 Fellow and he was awarded the school's Most Outstanding Print Student upon graduation.


Budget: Proposition 2 already having positive impact

A mere two months after voters approved the Rainy Day Fund Stabilization Act, Governor Brown’s budget proposal reveals Proposition 2 is already having a positive impact on California’s long-term fiscal health.  Read More

California Attorney General adds commenting to ballot initiative site

Important reforms to how our state’s direct democracy is conducted were signed into law in the fall of 2014 and they are starting to see the light of day in the real world Read More

Year in Review: Community Corrections

Perhaps no other project area under the California Forward has achieved so much in a single year while also taking on so much more to start the next than the Partnership for Community Excellence Read More

Data Summit: Should local governments embrace open data?

That was one of many topics asked and answered this week in Long Beach at the latest California Forward and Code for America co-sponsored Regional Data Forums. Read More

A quick word on California ballot initiative reform

BITA has passed, but what are the next steps toward ensuring its success? And what are Californians looking for in this new Legislative session? Read More

VIDEO: CSBA collaborative key to making sense of LCFF

The California School Board Association has gathered together 15 school districts and 2 boards of education, along with the help of CA Fwd, to navigate the law that affords each much more control over spending Read More

VIDEO: To overcome Millennial cynicism, empower them with good info

Millennials don't trust those in power and think that their vote doesn't count. Voter's Edge can combat this cynicism by arming them with trusted election information Read More

CA Fwd and CSBA come together for LCFF “living laboratory”

It’s significant when 17 school districts and county offices of education agree to participate in a pilot program designed to figure out best practices for the rest of the state on LCFF and LCAP implementation. Read More

New data shows strong support Proposition 1, gains for Proposition 2

It's less than two weeks from the election and neither the drought, the support for the state water bond seem, or interest in beefing up the state's budget reserve seem to be waning much.  Read More

Proposition 2 receives overwhelming endorsements from across the political spectrum

Proposition 2 captures revenue spikes, doubles the size of California's rainy day fund and accelerates paying down the state’s “wall of debt” Read More

Newly launched Voter’s Edge is one-stop info resource for voters

Berkeley-based MapLight has partnered with the League of Women Voters of California Education Fund to create the most robust single website for information concerning California elections Read More

VIDEO: Rethinking offender care in Santa Barbara County

Now almost three years into AB 109, counties like Santa Barbara are allocating resources toward programming that stops recidivism in its tracks Read More

VIDEO: California Economic Summit’s Capitol Day recap

For three years now, the California Ecnomic Summit has been an ongoing partnership between Calfornia Forward and the California Stewardship Network to gather like minds and stakeholders with the singular goal of advancing the state's economy in a thoughtful, methodical and logical way Read More

Bolstered rainy day fund would benefit California business community

A restructured rainy day fund that captures spikes in capital gains revenue would lend a much needed air of stability to California's investment climate Read More

City of Riverside making headway with new open data portal

EngageRiverside is the latest effort by a sizeable California city to embrace transparency and engage with its electorate Read More

Legislature passes budget on time but trailer bills keep things opaque

While the state’s fiscal situation is improving and all parties involved deserve accolades for getting a sound budget passed on time, there is still some lingering procedural darkness. Read More

Los Angeles building case to be most open city in America

Over 1500 people RSVPed to see them unwrap one of the most ambitious undertakings of the young Garcetti administration Read More

The Primary Club: Thoughts on California’s startlingly low June voter turnout

Pundits, data-miners, reporters…everyone wants to know why statewide turnout on Tuesday was less than the number of registered voters in Los Angeles County alone Read More

Registration for the June 3rd primary closes today

Here's everything you need to know to get registered last minute so you can participate in the upcoming June 3rd California primary. Read More

How the Rainy Day Fund is impacting education in California

As the public service that commands the lion’s share of general fund expenditure, perhaps no other area stands to benefit more than K-12 education. Read More

Agreement on Rainy Day Fund bolsters California’s financial future

Although much talk has been about the severe drought facing California in 2014, today Sacramento safeguarded the state from the one rainy day we all do not want to see right now. Read More

Results are in: Surveyed Californians eager for a Path Toward Trust

California Forward will often ask folks what they think on certain issues, but never have we gotten such an overwhelming response, however, than when we sent a simple survey asking people to give us feedback on our Path Toward Trust Read More

Californians respond to CA Fwd’s Path Toward Trust

We received a litany of responses to our Path Toward Trust plan, and the insights represent a true, thoughtful take on what Californians need to restore faith in their government.  Read More

Inaugural Summit on Data stresses importance of open data for California

California Forward convened an impressive list of those who care about data most in the Golden State to share thoughts and ideas on the many facets of open data and why it’s more important now than ever. This was the inaugural Summit on Data. Read More

California Legislators regulating themselves with new transparency bills

Last week a series of bills meant to foster greater public trust in government by, among other things, banning gifts from lobbyists, were announced in the California Legislature. Read More

Future of California Elections depends on us

Hoping to reverse the trend of declining turnout, policymakers, researchers, election officials and advocates gathered to discuss the challenges and advances in the field of elections as well as explore new opportunities to improve participation and election administration in California. Read More

Contra Costa County shines bright as example of AB 109 success

A culture of mutual respect exists between probation, sheriff, the district attorney and public defender without which Contra Costa would not be able to achieve the astounding statistical success it has seen since 2010 Read More

An actor’s death sheds light on the need for evidence based addiction treatment

Any time someone dies from a drug overdose, it is a tragedy. Not just because of the loss of human life, but because it was most likely preventable given the right approach to treating drug addiction. Read More

Gov.‘s budget proposal puts money toward better public safety outcomes

If the spirit and letter of this budget on the public safety front remain intact after the Legislative gauntlet, we see big gains ahead on all fronts. Read More

Growing chorus calling for special elections reform in California

There’s a growing chorus of elections officials, voter advocates and lawmakers questioning the way California fills mid-term vacancies in the state legislature. They often carry a price tag of over $1 million in tax dollars and uniformly see less than 30 percent of eligible voters cast ballots. Read More

Year in Review: Public Safety Realignment and the PCE

Sharon Aungst, director of the Partnership for Community Excellence, reflects on 2013 and the state of public safety realignment in California Read More

Realignment in Review: Back to the basics

Most of the realignment coverage here assumes a fair amount of knowledge on our readers' part. Here we take a step back to cover some of the basics. Read More

California Forward hires former Common Cause policy advocate as new public affairs director

Just today, California Forward’s hiring of California Common Cause veteran Philip Ung as its new Public Affairs Director was announced. He will start on January 1. Read More

Words to Deeds brings light to mental health services in justice system

Words to Deeds's mission is to "end the criminalization of individuals with mental illness by supporting proven strategies that promote early intervention, access to effective treatments, a planned reentry and the preservation of public safety." Read More

New transparency portal for special districts launches today

California Forward and the California Special Districts Association launch first-of-its-kind transparency portal for California special districts Read More

Realignment in Review: Sentencing reform is necessary

The way we sentence those who have committed crimes may be the single most important aspect of the criminal justice system we can change Read More

Sen. Emmerson’s abrupt resignation brings familiar California issues to light

Republican State Senator Bill Emmerson of the 23rd district, who just a few hours prior was a panelist at the second annual California Economic Summit, submitted a brief letter of resignation to Senate President Pro-Tem Darrell Steinberg last Friday afternoon. Read More

Economic Summit Day 2: A tale of two Californians

The second day, and main event, focused on the emergence of a prosperous coastal California and a poverty-stricken inland California Read More

Realignment in Review: Two studies reinforce long term goals for Realignment

Two studies, one in-state and one national, dominate the world of realignment news this week. Read More

This week in Realignment: October 25, 2013

When 2,000 people on probation in Los Angeles County are unaccounted for, it is disconcerting to hear, especially for the public. But as always, there is context to a seemingly gaudy number. Read More

LA City Controller opens the data floodgates with new online resource

The portal is a look into a massive amount of the city’s under-the-hood data that was launched this morning via a press conference at City Hall East. Read More

This week in Realignment: October 18, 2013

The moment someone is fully committed into the corrections system is when they are sentenced and that dictates the rest of their path. If someone is mentally ill or addicted to drugs, that path shouldn’t necessarily lead to a jail cell. Read More

This week in Realignment: October 11, 2013

The theme of the week has been legislation and the realm of inmate health care was no exception. Read More

Newly signed laws aim for 98 percent of Californians to have broadband Internet access

Two recently signed pieces of legislation will work in tandem to bridge this so called “digital divide”. Read More

Gov. Brown signs bill to modernize California voting machines

The bill’s signage streamlines the approval process for and paves the way for increased technological innovation on new voting technology in the state Read More

AB 109 turns two: What’s next?

As we mark the two year anniversary of Assembly Bill 109's implementation, realignment is still not an issue that lends itself easily to sound bites. Read More

This week in Realignment: September 27, 2013

A recent extension granted by the three judge panel provides an extra month to get all parties on board with a solution for the final shift of inmates out of state prisons Read More

This week in Realignment: September 20, 2013

Regardless of what the court dictates with respect to SB 105, California must continue to embrace this shift long-term as it is the only true means of attacking recidivism at the source Read More

This week in Realignment: September 13, 2013

In three weeks, it has gone from head-butting to hand-shaking over exactly how to go about reducing California’s state prison population by another 8,500 inmates Read More

A conversation with Terri McDonald, Los Angeles County Assistant Sheriff - Part Three

Part 3 has her discussing the potential benefits of the upcoming Affordable Care Act (ACA) implementation to Los Angeles County's jail system and what she sees as the future of AB 109. Read More

This week in Realignment: September 6, 2013

The battle between state democrats spills over into this week as the Legislature grapples with the governor’s office on how to best relocate another 8,000 inmates from state correctional facilities. Read More

This week in Realignment: August 30, 2013

One standoff ended only to see another one begin this week as Gov. Brown introduced his prison plan and Sen. Steinberg countered. Read More

Gov. Brown signs four new transparency bills into law

This week Gov. Jerry Brown signed several bills into law that bolstered the state government’s transparency and accountability to its constituents. Read More

A conversation with Terri McDonald, Los Angeles County Assistant Sheriff - Part Two

Here in Part 2, she discusses her decision to come work for L.A. County and the challenges she has faced since joined early in 2013. Read More

This Week in Realignment: August 23, 2013

As is always the case, it’s never as black and white as one might think after reading one or two newspaper articles.  Read More

A conversation with Terri McDonald, Los Angeles County Assistant Sheriff - Part One

We present this conversation in hopes that our readers gain an appreciation for both the complexity of public safety realignment and the rigor of implementing it properly and cost-effectively in such a massive county. Read More

VIDEO: Putting a face on public safety realignment in California

Jeffrey Berryman represents both the old world and the new world in public safety realignment. Read More

This week in Realignment: August 16, 2013

Realignment can become a great California success story if we play our cards right in the coming years. Read More

Federal Realignment following California’s lead

Yesterday, Attorney General Eric Holder released a three page memo and gave a landmark speech to the American Bar Association (ABA) outlining the Obama administration’s dramatic philosophical shift toward drug-related crimes Read More

This week in Realignment: August 9, 2013

Now that reducing state prison headcount by another 10,000 is a reality with a rapidly approaching end-of-year deadline, Sacramento must buckle down and figure out how to make it happen Read More

This week in Realignment: August 2, 2013

The challenge is this: What happens psychologically to inmates when all of a sudden they are told they are told that they are entitled to the same level of care that you and I are? Read More

The ACA is coming: Riverside and San Bernardino start talking about “Obamacare”

Many do not realize that the new law has a massive criminal justice component to it and that California will be throwing away countless amounts of money and opportunity if counties aren’t prepared. Read More

This week in Realignment: July 19, 2013

The Partnership for Community Excellence is holding a series of regional convenings across the state of California to discuss the benefits of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) to counties Read More

Launch of searchable CalPERS pension database blocked by retirees’ concerns

California Forward is advocating a 21st Century approach: Information should be available in workable formats, without having to look beyond an agency website Read More

This week in Realignment: July 12, 2013

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) is set to be a massive boon for California jails dealing with the generally poor health and lack of health insurance among its inmate population Read More

This week in Realignment: July 5, 2013

We leave you with two quick bullet points heading into this holiday weekend. Read More

Speaker Perez’s AB 53 would create economic development plan for California

Legislation informed by the California Forward Action Fund and the California Economic Summit moving through Assembly Read More

This week in Realignment: June 28, 2013

With the overcrowding that used to exist in state prisons now transplanted to county jails, the question of where to send 10,000 more inmates looms larger than ever. Read More

Split sentencing: PCE holds round-table on critical component of AB-109

Split sentencing arrived as a result of AB 109, legislation that explicitly states it was “not intended to alleviate state prison overcrowding” yet it has been the primary solution to overcrowding Read More

This week in Realignment: June 14, 2013

Now that the fervor of May has died down, we have seek a marked increase in the number of stories talking about the more human side of realignment. Read More

This week in Realignment: June 7, 2013

This week has seen the fervor over both the CDCR report, Gov. Brown’s May budget revision and Abel Maldonado’s failed bid to turn public safety realignment into an election wedge issue finally taper off. Read More

Video: Sen. Alex Padilla shares views on civic engagement

As part of our involvement with the Future of California Elections (FOCE), we attended their event in January and were able to ask State Sen. Alex Padilla (D - Los Angeles) about his views on some vital topics on the FOCE’s agenda Read More

This week in Realignment: May 31, 2013

The tide is turning. It has been for a while now on public safety realignment.  Read More

New survey reveals disconnect between Californians and state government

Conducted by the California Business Roundtable and Pepperdine University, parts of the survey discuss disconnects on budget issues and how much bang for their buck taxpayers believe they are getting Read More

This week in realignment: May 24, 2013

The CDCR released a report tracking the initial phase of realignment based on just 6 months worth of data Read More

New study reveals consensus on local reform between government officials and civic leaders

When a study was released this week and showed a strong nexus in the desires for local government reform between local officials and civic leaders, our interest was piqued. Read More

California Secretary of State Debra Bowen has a change of heart

After initially saying no to a request for daily downloads of the CalAccess database, Sec. Bowen came around and agreed to implement exactly that by Labor Day. Read More

National Voter Registration Act turns 20 as California expands its scope

Today marked the 20th anniversary of the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA), signed into effect by President Clinton in 1993. Read More

This week in Realignment: May 17, 2013

In a sign that public safety realignment is gaining prominence, Gov. Jerry Brown touched on the issue in his short statement on his May budget revision Read More

Gov. Brown emphasizes continued discipline in his May budget revision

In past years, the May Budget Revisions have reflected the need for major spending reductions. The final budget reflects which programs will survive.  Read More

This week in Realignment: May 10, 2013

Campaign season for the 2014 elections is already heating up and public safety realignment is fast becoming one of the most politicized topics. Read More

Sen. Leland Yee speaks on voting & civic education

Were able to ask State Sen. Leland Yee (D - San Francisco) about his views on some vital topics on the FOCE’s agenda. Read More

This week in Realignment: May 2, 2013

We have no way to determine if realignment is working or will work because no money was put into research Read More

This week in Realignment: April 26, 2013

This week we discuss the alarming lack of data being collected on AB 109 and how such data could be put to good use if the state would simply require it and provide funding. Read More

Bringing government closer to the people: It’s getting better

Is technology bringing government closer to the people? The answer is "possibly." Read More

This week in Realignment: April 19, 2013

With all of the speculation and prognostication surrounding public safety realignment, arithmetic provides the most succinct summary of what is happening. We give you our public safety realignment weekly digest. Read More

Online voting registration’s influence set to expand in California

As more and more data is analyzed from last November’s election, the impact of the recently-enacted Online Voter Registration (OVR) in California continues to crystallize. Read More

This week in Realignment: April 12, 2013

In the realm of public safety realignment, there are two layers: what is actually happening and how the media chooses to connect those dots and report on the subject. Read More

Future of California Elections: The many facets of reform

The right to vote is one of the most intrinsic to our democracy and the number of moving parts involved with guaranteeing this civic right are vast Read More

This week in Realignment: April 5, 2013

Our weekly digest of the news in the world of public safety realignment. Read More

This Week in Realignment: March 29, 2013

The recognition that realignment is, by nature, a local issue is a vital one Read More

Checking in: Where does prison realignment in California stand right now?

As is always the case, nothing this complex, involving billions of dollars of funding and a shift of tens of thousands of prisoners across 58 counties, is strictly black and white. Read More

Following the Dark Money

Campaign finance disclosure is a critical pillar in the overall discussion of transparency in government during Sunshine Week Read More

California transparency and open government movement finds its roots in Brown Act

We begin with this historical context of the Brown Act and the open government movement in California Read More

What does transparency mean to you?

One week from Monday marks the start of Sunshine Week, a global recognition of transparency efforts and an opportunity for watchdog organization to issue scorecard reports on local municipalities, states, and countries. Examples are all around us as to why such a week is necessary. It's an ideal as a standard but the gap between desire and reality is quite large. Read More

Pew study finds common ground in California with SOTU address

The country’s eyes are trained squarely on the election process in 2013. President Obama’s State of the Union speech confirmed as much when he announced a bi-partisan commission to conduct election oversight across the country. Read More

Video: Ann Ravel and the FPPC are keeping elections honest

We had a chance to sit down for an extended and very frank conversation with Ann Ravel, Chair of California's Fair Political Practices Commission. Read More

Gov. Brown wants the Supreme Court out of California prisons

Gov. Jerry Brown made a bold yet calculated play this week to challenge the Federal Court’s continued jurisdiction over the California prison system as part of a ruling that mandated a reduction in the state prison population.  Read More

Building on 2012’s successes in 2013

The fiscal outlook this year is better, thankfully, and there is great momentum carrying over to 2013 in oyher areas as we look to determine the big issues we'll need to face as a state. Read More

Taking year-end inventory of government transparency in California

Looking back over the past year, the citizenry of California scored some wins in government accountability with upgrades like citizen redistricting and online voter registration. But the halls of state government are still being obscured by dark campaign money and shady legislating, such as the infamous gut-and-amend. Will 2013 be the Year of Transparency? Read More

New national survey shows strong support for radical simplification

A new nationwide survey of U.S. voters released earlier this month resoundingly indicates that people want to streamline government, making it less complex and more efficient as a path toward reducing our deficit. Read More

Sharing responsibility with citizens a model for local government?

Hermosa Beach takes engagement to another level and empowers residents with duties the city and others like it are having a difficult time efficiently handling.  Read More

Happy Thanksgiving!

As Californians, it's very easy to look at far we need to go for most of the year instead of how far we've come. Today, the glass is half-full, if not more so. Read More

Election Day in California: Many reasons for pride

With so many stories coming from so many other states about purported voter fraud and attempts at marginalizing minority voters, the narrative was quite the opposite in the Golden State. Read More

The coming tidal wave: What does California’s huge voter registration surge mean on Nov 6?

Well over three quarters of the eligible voters in California registered to vote, or about 18.2 million people in total, according to an official statement released by Secretary of State Debra Bowen's office. Although the approximately 986,000 new voters who registered in the 45 days prior to the October 22 deadline doesn't surpass 2008's record 1.2 million tally in the same timeframe, this year's surge is still significant and the overall number does represent a new record total. Read More

California voter registration sees record efforts on college campuses

Student organizations spearheading voter registration efforts on California State and University of California campuses this cycle registered almost 70,000 students, significantly besting respective efforts in 2008. Read More

California gas prices: what happened and what’s next?

With the Legislature out of session and the general election still a few weeks away, the airwaves have been dominated by talk of sky-high prices at the pump. We do a mini round-up so you have an idea as to what's happening and where we go from here. Read More

Felix Baumgartner, Red Bull and the California economy

As 8 million people watched Felix Baumgartner jump from 128,000 feet above sea level, it made us realize what this indicates about the state of education and innovation in California and America. Read More

October 9: Two big milestones in the voting process

Today is the official launch of the vote-by-mail process in California and also the day that sample ballots are mailed out. We offer a few tips if you are planning on voting by mail instead of in person on November 6. Read More

Remembering Lt. Gov Mervyn M. Dymally

Voices from around the state, including our own Bob Hertzberg, offer remembrances of a trail-blazing and stand-up California politician Read More

What did we learn from National Voter Registration Day in California?

A full six weeks before November 6 hits, this Tuesday was designated National Voter Registration Day. National organizations that have been perennial advocates such as Rock The Vote down to many, many state and local organizations joined hands in mobilizing Californians to register. Read More

Report: California criminal justice could rethink treatment of pre-trial detainees

Today the Partnership for Community Excellence released a report that details several steps counties could take aimed at reducing their pretrial detainee population and increasing the overall efficiency in how that population is processed and ultimately save significant budget money. Read More

Task Force releases report on California budget

In June of 2011, Richard Ravitch, former Lieutenant Governor of New York, and Paul Volcker, former Chairman of the Federal Reserve, took matters into their own hands. They shared a growing concern over the financial trajectory of the nation and how this trickled down into state budgets in the form of continued structural imbalances and an inability to provide basic services or invest in the future of state residents. Read More

Online voter registration a reality today in California

California is making the foray into the world of online voter registration. It's not voting...but it's a definite step in the right direction and will absolutely remove barriers for many to participate in the democratic process Read More

Weekend Warrior: CAFwd newsletter kicks off in style

We wrap up the week for you with a few bullet points for Saturday reading. Read More

California Pensions: Lack of transparency mires coming reform

If you have been following the path of pension reform through the final few days of the California Legislature session this week, you might be scratching your head thinking you have walked into bizarro world Read More

Cautious optimism defines current state of California prison realignment

As early data show positive signs, restructuring has the California government poised to tackle realignment with a new look Read More