CA’s reform movement underway, even if some don’t know it

150 150 Ed Coghlan

Originally posted on News Hawk Review. Reposted with permission from the author.

‘I read the cover story in The Economist this week about what the reporter (Andreas Kluth) believes is a dysfunctional government in California. He essentially argues that there’s too much democracy, that the initiative process has created unwieldy ballot box budgeting and that has paralyzed the state.

I thought it was very simplistic.

Like a lot of Californians, I’m paying more attention to the attempts to reform state government, which is the point the reporter missed.

Californians are engaged more than they have been in many, many years and change is already underway.

To confirm that, I called the director of California Forward Jim Mayer who has been leading the state’s most visible reform effort for the past three years. California Forward is leading an effort for citizens to reclaim their power and fix state government.

Mayer reminded us of some California history, that the state’s initiative process was put in place to give the people a voice in state government versus the robber barons who dominated the state a century ago. Any Californian who doesn’t know Hiram Johnson should read up on him. He was truly a Governor of the people and spawned years of very good government in the state. Jerry Brown might be channeling him a bit today.

Mayer believes that up until recent years, the state initiative process gave the people power and the people used it wisely.

Mayer, a former journalist, thought the article was not only a bit simplistic but didn’t adequately address his belief (and that of many others) that change is happening in California. He said recent events and statewide polling indicate that not only do Californians think things need to be fixed, but also they believe things can be fixed.

And he’s right. That same maligned initiative process has resulted in two very dramatic good government measures being passed; one that takes the power of drawing up congressional and legislative districts out of the elected officials’ hands and gives it to a citizen’s group while the other allows the Top 2 vote getters in each primary, regardless of party, to qualify for the general election ballot.

Both of those initiatives should help take some of the “extreme” out of the politics of state government where Democrats tend to be more liberal and Republicans tend to be more conservative than the people they serve.

Yes, Californians are frustrated, and as a result, they are focused.

Mayer pointed that no state or local government in California can exist without looking at the costs, the performance and the pension obligations, not only because it’s what they should do, but also because the people they serve are focused on these issues.

That’s a good thing.

The question is what will we frustrated Californians do?

The entrenched power of elected state officials is being challenged like at no time in recent history. Power is being moved to local governments where people can influence them more.

The Economist and other national and international publications that “cover” California should understand that a lot of what they say needs to happen here is already well underway. In fact, let me say that as we often do, Californians will wind up spawning a good government movement that can spread across the country.

Ed Coghlan is a native Californian who is a former television news director in Los Angeles and currently works with companies and organizations on external communications.


Ed Coghlan

All stories by: Ed Coghlan