Los Angeles: League of Women Voters Dialogue
On Thursday, April 7, California Forward Executive Director Jim Mayer was the guest speaker at the League of California Cities’ Los Angeles Division monthly dinner meeting in Downey. He discussed the organization’s background, mission, and progress to develop reform proposals with more than 60 council members and city executive managers from cities throughout Los Angeles County.
A 15-minute presentation was followed by a 15-minute question-and-answer session.
The audience was very interested in realignment and results-based budgeting, and was enthused to see an organization come up with practical, plausible ideas to fix the state rather than simply pointing out the “doom and gloom.”
“The fact that there is an organization looking at these tough issues – one that represents both parties – and coming up with solutions, is encouraging,” said Angel Carrillo, Councilmember from the City of Azusa and President of the League of California Cities’ Los Angeles County Division.
Various council members pledged to remain engaged with California Forward and requested invitations to future stakeholder meetings in the Los Angeles area.
Los Angeles: Gay & Lesbian Center Dialogue
Also on April 7, CA Fwd Executive Director Jim Mayer and Los Angeles Regional Partnership Coordinator Nii-Quartelai Quartey met with senior staff of the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center to exchange ideas and insights related to making California more governable.
“The bureaucrats are afraid of creativity and that creates problems when there are emerging needs we find on the ground,” said an L.A. Gay and Lesbian Center senior staffer. “Because there has not been significant funding for transgender or Black gay men for example, there is little evidence available to make an argument for more creative approaches to serve these communities in need.”
Local/state realignment, the center piece of California Forward’s fiscal reform framework, gained full attention and signs of support among meeting attendees who manage health and human services, youth services, mental health services, strategic initiatives, and policy for the center.
The path to fiscal sanity as this group sees it includes: term limit reform, ballot initiative reform, and tax increases. But bringing government closer to the people may be a good first step, especially if the resources and authority are to follow.
Half Moon Bay: Brews & Views
Nearly 75 people gathered for the Half Moon Bay Brewing Co‘s Brews & Views dialogue on April 7, where CA Fwd Deputy Director Zabrae Valentine, and Leadership Council members Lenny Mendonca and Sunne Wright McPeak discussed government restructuring as a way to fix California.
“The fact that neither Schwarzenegger nor Brown can get a budget lets you know where the problem is, and it’s with the process,” Valentine said.
Valentine likened citizen engagement to parenting. “You’re kids behave a lot better when you’re around than when you’re not… they behave better when they’re being watched. That’s what accountability is.”
Wright McPeak agreed. “There are only 121 people in the state of CA responsible for passing a budget (in) a state of 38 million people. They have become out of synch with the world we live in.”
The audience listened with great interest and shared their ideas.
“You can put anything you want on the ballot, and people just go at it without spending time getting to know what it is,” said Steve Travis from Half Moon Bay. “How do we get what we want from elected officials when all we have is the ballot box?”
“What sets apart the common citizen from a big money lobbyist is the time spent cultivating a relationship,” said Thomas Lee from San Francisco. “Take the time, have a relationship, get in touch with these people several times a year, and make it personal…. It’s a lot easier to get access to these offices than most people think.”
Attendee Cindy Epps said she wanted to see action. “What you’re talking about is very common sense… but when it comes down to it, it’s about votes, and the public at large feels very disempowered.”
San Jose: Santa Clara County Special Districts Association
On Friday, April 8, CA Forward visited the Santa Clara County Special Districts Association and heard from members about restructuring.
CA Fwd’s senior fiscal policy advisor Fred Silva spoke to the group, made up of the 14 special districts that serve Santa Clara County. The 15 in attendance represented water, sanitation and open space.
They were very supportive of California Forward’s approach to Moving Government Closer to the People and its emphasis on improving outcomes and focusing on performance.
Association members said they hear about consolidation all the time, but no one knows how to make it happen.
One member told the group the guiding principle should be clarity about what services we’re trying to deliver and then set up to deliver those services, rather than just cutting here and there.
Beau Goldie, CEO of SCVWD was interested in how the state could transition from a micromanaging role to a focus on environmental outcomes.
Concerns were voiced over the fact that environment and infrastructure were not plainly represented in CA Fwd’s five outcomes, but Silva assured them that these concepts were fundamental to CA Fwd’s goals.
The association was invited to continue to participate in California Forward activities and appointed Tony Estremera, Board member of both the association and the Santa Clara Valley Water District (SCVWD), to be the representative.
CA Fwd is also hosting events in other parts of the state. For a complete list, go to our events page.