Participants immersed in reform ideas at San Diego convening

150 150 Dylan Mann

At a recent Speak Up CA! Dialogue in San Diego, CA Fwd Leadership Council member Fred Keeley captured CA Fwd’s role as a facilitator of publicly driven state government reform. “We’re not the sage on the stage; we’re guide on the side.”

He was speaking to a savvy audience of 45 San Diego environmental and social justice leaders, which CA-FWD convened on March 24, with local partners The San Diego Foundation, the WELL Network, and the Equinox Center.

Peggy Lauer from the WELL Network led off the panel by describing systems approaches to policy reforms and encouraging the crowd to review top-notch sustainability plans from New Zealand and the Netherlands.

Ann Tarte from the Equinox Center shared locally focused policy research and explained why in any public endeavor quantitative metrics facilitate target setting, which drives positive change.

Fred rounded out the discussion and set the stage for input from the audience. Proposition 13 passed in 1978 and was a game-changer for California. Overnight, it reduced local governments’ revenues by 60%, transferring resources and responsibilities to the state. He suggested that California is too large and diverse for such top-down governance.

Founded and funded by the California’s five largest philanthropic foundations, CA-FWD seeks public input on areas of governance Californians believe would be best transferred from the state to local levels, and on which domains should remain with the state.

Some in the audience expressed that San Diego’s local leadership does not represent the region’s diversity as well as the state government. For example, the County has five Supervisors, all of whom are Republican, Caucasian, in their 60’s, and San Diego State University graduates.

Others were concerned that reforms might set local governments up for failure, providing resources insufficient to meet increased responsibilities. Fred assured the group that recommended reforms would incorporate “enough dough to get the job done right.”

Some worried that nimble special interests would reap the greatest benefits from significant policy shifts and cautioned that major outreach campaigns would be needed to get voters up to speed.

As nearby church bells struck 11 AM, everyone in room realized they were enthralled and that the two and a half hour convening whizzed by in the blink of an eye. One attendee shared that the event made him want to become better versed on public policy issues, to which Fred replied, “That means we’re doing what we’re supposed to do.” 

Dylan Mann, MPIA, is a Thomas Murphy Research Fellow at the San Diego Foundation



Dylan Mann

All stories by: Dylan Mann