The meeting opened with Brian Thoburn of Southern California Edison who thanked the day’s sponsors, Buckman-Mitchell Insurance, The California Partnership for the San Joaquin Valley and United Way of Tulare County. He then handed it over to Jeff Hensley of Hensley Associates who briefly spoke of the history of California Forward (CA Fwd).
CA Fwd was created when several large foundations who were giving grants to communities in California began to research what was being accomplished with the money they donated. They noticed they were not getting the “return” on their investment that they were hoping for; that other foundations were receiving on their investments in other states. They discovered that most problems lie in the state’s interaction with local governments and local institutions in the terms of regulation, unfunded mandates and that sort of thing. They concluded that investing in this way was really pointless, because no matter what they gave, they would lose in the end. So, CA Fwd was created, funded and challenged to look at best practices around the country, have interactive discussions with people in those communities and thus bring about fundamental changes to the processes of state and local governments to create success in terms of community value.
With compelling evidence, CA Fwd Executive Director Jim Mayer showed the problems that have arisen because of a distant, complex state government that is stuck in its ways. He stressed the importance of accountability at all levels and revealed that California has constantly spent more than they take in, and citizens and business owners as a whole feel that California is not a good place to invest the future of their family and/or business.
By revealing data – that was as surprising as it was disappointing in regards to the interaction between state and local governments – he was able to capture attendees’ attention and show the dire need for organizations like CA Fwd and the goals they are trying to achieve. But, substantial progress has been made recently through collaborations such as ours in regards to state and local interactions with foundation endowment. CA Fwd began polling citizens in an unbiased way to recognize the universal problems challenging our communities. They then focused on the problems that we all agree on and by researching best practices around the nation, are finding ways to bring about successful change to benefit those on both ends.
When Mayer opened the conversation up to the group, people brought up legitimate points of concern as well as systems and relationships that have been successful in their small communities. The room was filled with citizens from various walks of life, trades and professions. There were non-profit directors, insurance executives, prominent members of the automobile industry, small business owners and some local government officials. All chimed in with their views on the issues and how it dealt with them individually. There were many concerns that were addressed, from unfunded mandates that ultimately choked the progress of the business owners to reduced funding of service/non-profit organizations who were strictly limited on how they could spend the money they were given.
There was an overwhelming consensus that those in attendance do not trust those in government; that government has so separated itself from the best interests of its people that the citizens are left unrepresented and ultimately forgotten in the grand scheme of things. There were some in attendance who did share some hope as they have had success in their organization’s interactions with local governance. The success came through placing tremendous focus on creating close relationships and friendships with those in local authority and actively keeping them involved and accountable in all areas of support. This created trust and therefore they could understand each other and feel the other had their best interests at heart. This, in a way, is exactly what CA Fwd desires to accomplish: To reestablish a government that is closer to its people, transparent and accountable, set benchmarks and provide incentives and rewards for those doing things right.
CA Fwd’s next Speak Up California! Regional meeting in the Central Valley is March 30 as they continue to rally up support and public awareness. They also have several events going on throughout the state. Or, you can host your own dialogue.
Are you ready to engage? If you are, show your support and make your voice heard.