Latino local elected officials from throughout the state of California came together on Thursday to discuss the California Forward Action Fund’s Government Performance and Accountability Act (GPAA) and the best ways to reach out to the state’s Latino community.
California Forward Leadership Council Members Arturo Vargas and Cruz Reynoso led the vibrant, productive discussion.
Vargas, Executive Director of National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO), encouraged people to share ideas on how to further engage Latino communities in California Forward’s work to promote transparency and accountability in government.
“We are as a community inheriting this state,” Vargas said. “The future of this state means the future of the Latino community. Anything that affects governance structure in this state is critical to Latinos.”
Former California Supreme Court Justice Reynoso shared his hope that Latino elected officials would promote reform in the Latino community. According to the Census Bureau, Latinos comprise about 37.6% of the state’s population, an increase of 28% from the last decade.
“We have to make this state run better, and with your help, we’ll succeed,” he said.
San Diego Councilmember David Alvarez applauded California Forward’s efforts to reform state and local budget processes. As a legislative staffer for six years, Councilmember Alvarez is uniquely familiar with state budget gimmicks in Sacramento, as well as the need for performance-based budgeting at all levels of government.
“People think too short term,” Alvarez said. “Hopefully, this gives us more certainty.”
Philip Tabera, school board member with the Salinas Union High School District, said he has seen firsthand that performance-based budgeting works.
“We’ve been using the performance-based process for several years,” said Tabera. “The last few years, with the continuing reductions in education, we’re one of the most stable districts in the tri-county area.”
Speaking to the issue of local government reform, Whittier City School District Board Member Irella Perez lamented the lack of flexibility in current state regulations, to the detriment of students in her district, and advocated for better Latino representation in government.
CA Fwd Policy Director Richard Raya reminded the crowd that this is the first step in a long journey, but it is an important step that must be taken now.
“This is not the silver bullet,” he said. “But it’s a big step forward: holding ourselves accountable to some high-level results and giving locals the authority to achieve those results, while also stabilizing the budget.”
California Forward will hold briefings and discussions throughout the state in the coming months to discuss how best to reach out to Californians and increase the already growing support for the GPAA.
Other participants on the call included: Pacific Grove Mayor Carmelia Garcia, Santa Ana City council member Michele Martinez, Redlands Mayor Pete Aguilar, West Hollywood Mayor John Duran, Los Angeles City Councilmember Jose Huizar, La Mesa Mayor Art Madrid, Santa Cruz City Councilmember Tony Madrigal, Patterson Mayor Luis Molina, South Gate City Councilmember Jorge Morales, Claremont Mayor Sam Pedroza, El Monte Mayor Andre Quintero, and Watsonville City Councilmember Oscar Rios.
Teresa Acosta is the San Diego regional partnerships lead.