Steve Segall is a 26 year old entrepreneur who wanted to start a technology company in his home state of California.
The state of affairs at home made him think twice, however. He eventually decided that his quality of life and future were both better served at a Fortune 500 company in the Northeast.
“So long as there’s no transparency and accountability, there will be no stability for economic growth,” he said from his office in Connecticut. “Businesses are more reluctant to hire if they can’t plan.”
A Los Angeles native, Segall is one of a rising tide of so-called millennials, an ascendant generation popularized by pollsters and researchers Morley Winograd and Michael D. Hais and their 2008 book “Millennial Makeover: MySpace, YouTube, and the Future of American Politics.”
Almost clairvoyant about the Obama campaign and the significant role of youth in that election, Winograd and Hais say individuals born between 1982 and 2003, like Segall, are positioned to rebuild and reset institutions across the public and private sectors.
But negative stories of gridlock and failure as California grapples with a $9 billion budget gap, pension obligations and unfunded liabilities and mandates that have been reshuffled as part of almost $40 billion of cuts in the past few years give Segall little reason for hope.
“It can make New York look good,” he said.
The exact framework of millennials is in dispute so much so that Wikipedia redirects millennial searches to an article about Generation Y, a phrase people I spoke to said best applied to 90s babies. But what unites and distinguishes millennials from preceding generations is their enthusiasm for teamwork. Winograd and Hais write:
“Majorities will coalesce around ideas that involve the entire group in the solution and downplay the right of individuals to opt out of the process.”
In other words, it’s clear there are no millennials in the Legislature.
Born slightly before 1982, Heather Case usually describes the Capitol as “the government” versus “our government.” A principal in a radio syndication company, Case says what happens in Washington DC is the big political news story and is so off-putting that she tunes out state, county, and local politics.
“There isn’t enough attention to local government, I never think about things like that,” she said.
Restoring institutional efficiency is important to her, but the lack of transparency and accountability can be off-putting.
“Street cleaning, for example, is worth something, but there needs to be a fine line of necessity,” Case said. “Having pride where we live is one thing, but the City of Los Angeles has a yacht and I find that totally bizarre.”
Case feels that the larger problem is one of awareness and an understanding of what transparency and accountability mean when it comes to people’s relationships with their goverment.
“More people would want to get involved if it felt less intimidating and the focus was on things they found to be tangible.”
For Segall, that thing is education. He volunteers in classrooms in the Northeast and said California’s perpetual stalemate is creating a generation of apathetic citizens. It’s a stark warning considering millennials were celebrated by Boomers as the next great hope less than four years ago.
“It’s like the management of a company, when leaders are energized they inspire those around them to excel and you feel energized and inspired to work hard,” he said. “But, when there is a stalemate, indecision, and ostensible lack of progress, it casts a shadow on the whole process.
“In large part, that’s what we grew up with.”
Max Zimbert is a former education reporter for the Glendale News Press. His work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times and on The Huffington Post.