Dozens of people shared their thoughts on the state of California’s governance and fiscal situation and how to improve it at California Forward’s first Speak Up CA stakeholder roundtable.
More than 50 people from education, local government, health and human services, public safety, economic development, and labor took part in the February 11 discussion, moderated by California Forward Leadership Council members Sunne Wright McPeak and Bill Hauck.
The meeting focused on California Forward’s proposed draft Framework for Restructuring state and local government to improve results, accountability, and transparency. Attendees shared why they believe restructuring the state’s governance system is important:
“The mission of government requires that government be responsible to the people—efficient, effective, and equitable at all levels,” said Trudy Schafer with the League of Women Voters. “In times of tight budgets, funding and responsibilities must be allocated in a logical, effective way to ensure the trust of people in government.”
“The state/local relationship must be restructured to align responsibility and funding, clarify accountability, enable transparency, simplify and enhance citizen involvement in democracy, and provide for efficiency and return on investment assessment,” said Linda Galliher from the Bay Area Council.
“There is much distrust by the public regarding the ability of state and local governments to address the state’s problems,” said retired Yuba County administrator and Golden Gate University professor Randy Margo. “Moreover, the financial ability to provide operational and capital programs as currently constituted is unsustainable.”
Dave Kears from Alameda County said, “We can achieve far more working together than apart, regardless of the revenues available.”
“A positive relationship only makes common sense, and it’s expected by the represented,” said Larry Powell with the Fresno County Office of Education. “It’s far more costly not to cooperate.”
“State and local government must learn how to partner with each other for the purpose of saving money and to keep the trust of the public that we serve,” said Joan Hancock with the Contractors State License Board.
“California has been a beacon of worldwide leadership in providing opportunity to all. We need to continue that leadership by fixing a dysfunctional system that’s denying those opportunities,” said Tim Youmans, Economic and Planning Systems.
“Our future depends on it. We need local governing bodies to develop innovative and cost-effective plans to transform state government into more of a leader and less of a bureaucratic impediment,” said Tom Mays with the California Department of Education.
“We can’t sustain the needed level of investment in education or other government services without rethinking the way government works,” said Debbie Look with the California PTA. “Taxpayers need to see results to continue supporting investments in these services.”
“If we don’t fix this, we can’t be successful,” warned City of Brea representative Bev Perry, also former president of the Southern California Council of Governments. “Our citizens want us to do it. Once and for all, we either rise together, or sink alone.”
Much of the discussion focused on how California Forward’s Framework for Restructuring can help communities.
The Framework seeks to achieve Five Outcomes, not just to balance the budget or close a shortfall—but to realign public programs at all levels to deliver:
- Increased Employment
- Improved Education
- Decreased Poverty
- Decreased Crime
- Improved Health
State government is “totally broke and tinkering hasn’t worked. All of the previous efforts at realignment have been tinkering. We need to acknowledge it needs to be totally fixed,” said Contra Costa County Supervisor John Gioia. “These pilots work because people decided to get together out of their normal silos. There was no incentive for them to get together, but they did. And then when it started working, they institutionalized.”
“We must fix this relationship because we have lost the public’s trust,” said Kathy Jett, former Undersecretary of Programs at the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. “Our system is broken and fiscally broke, and we must salvage the quality of life of California.”
“For someone sitting here who hasn’t spent 30 years working in government, this kind of thing would just sound like common sense—just flat-out, common sense,” Jett said. “Corrections, as one example, think they’re doing their job by not letting anyone escape into the community. That’s true, they’re doing that. But there are other things they should be doing. We have to change the incentive.”
For a complete list of upcoming California Forward dialogues, roundtables, and other events, and to get involved, please go to our events page.