Changing times call for new approaches to government

150 150 Kish Rajan

Given the dramatic scope and pace of change in the global economy, our country and our state face enormous opportunities and challenges. Huge advancements in transportation, communications, information technology, energy, etc. have irrevocably changed the global economic landscape. 

This, in turn, demands change in the way our society must function.  We have to rethink structure, roles, responsibilities and relationships.  As Abraham Lincoln observed in the run-up to the Civil War, “the dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present…As our case is new, so we must think anew and act anew.”

California continues to be one of the richest places on earth.  We enjoy a richness of human capital, financial capital, infrastructure, natural resources, a history of achievement and a culture of optimism.  We continue to possess all of the tools needed to be a global leader in economics, prosperity and quality of life. 

California also continues to value a positive role for government in promoting economic prosperity, broad access to opportunity, strong and safe communities, a healthy environment, and a culture of respect for its people.  Historically, Californians have used government as a means of working collaboratively to promote our quality of life. 

Throughout our history, California government has produced quality results in the form of world class higher education, new technology, quality infrastructure, preservation and enhancement of our natural environment, etc.  In our past, Government has played an important part in California’s success.

In our present however, Californians can see that our government is not functioning well.  Too often, it is neither producing quality results nor supporting quality outcomes.   We no longer clearly see the alignment between the mission of government and our needs and aspirations.  We lack confidence that our government is structured to deliver real a quality return on our collective investment in it. 

This lack of confidence has seriously undermined our public discourse and distracted us from fundamental questions of our values, mission and goals and plunged us into an argument about the size, scope and cost of government itself.  Yet, as we argue, other states and other countries are focusing their energy and resources to compete and win in the new economy.  California cannot afford to get left behind.

This is why I applaud and support CA Forward and The Government Performance and Accountability Act.  The Act would bring about major reforms to our state budget process, requiring data driven decision-making with increased transparency and accountability for performance. 

The Act would also return significant authority back to the local level and empower community governments by giving them control over how to solve local problems, the resources to do so, and the accountability for delivering results. Importantly, this would enable the public to better observe, and more easily participate in, the decision making process.  As an local elected official, I understand that the closer the public is to the decision, the more constructively they will engage, the more they will demand, and the more confidently they will invest toward common goals.

Together, these major structural changes would put California’s government on a path to recovery and, more importantly, renewal.  When California can renew our government, our communities, our resources, our ingenuity, our ambition and our spirit, we will once again become the envy of the nation and world.  A renewed California will once again be the golden place we inherited.

Kish Rajan is the Mayor Pro Tem of the City of Walnut Creek


Kish Rajan

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