As Californians work to recover from both the economic recession and an erosion of education, public safety, social service, and business prowess, a new report offers a framework for where the state has been and where it could be headed.
The 2010 California Regional Progress Report, cosponsored by the Strategic Growth Council and Caltrans, seeks to find ways to improve sustainability, economic vitality, and quality of life, by taking a close look at the intersection between land use, mobility, housing, infrastructure, and natural resource preservation.
The report presents 20 indicators across four areas:
- Efficient Transportation and Land Use
- Economic Competitiveness and Opportunity
- Environmental Health
- Resource Efficiency and Conservation
“Today’s decisions will influence how well we prepare for and address our future,” says Cynthia Bryant, chair of the Strategic Growth Council. “As a state, we need to have a clear vision for how we want to grow and invest in our future.”
The report focuses on integration and collaboration of agencies, regions, stakeholders, levels of government, and resources, to help move the state forward and achieve a sustainable quality of life. It finds that partnerships and collaborative policies make a significant difference when it comes to success.
Study co-authors hope the study will help all Californians better understand “the complex interrelationships between policies, decisions, choices, and investments, and how they simultaneously impact the progress of our regions toward sustainability.”
“Good decision-making requires good information,” says Bryant. We hope ”this data is used to inform decision-making and engage policy makers, managers, planners, and residents in taking action to improve outcomes. This includes guiding investment of scarce resources, especially to address disparities and accelerate progress, and fostering collaborative solutions.”
In the area of transportation and land use, the report found that individuals were driving less overall, but population growth has led to an overall increase in fuel consumption, negating the individual decrease. “These overall increases may impair efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” the report said. “All regions continued to convert agricultural land to urban and other uses.”
When it comes to economic competitiveness and opportunity, data through 2008 showed slowing job growth but the continued creation of green jobs. Affordable housing remained a challenge in many regions.
Environmental health was a mixed bag, with air quality improving in some regions, but asthma and obesity increasing in other regions.
As with fuel consumption, Californians had reduced their individual water use, but had increased use of electricity.
The key challenges identified by the report for the state of California deal with population growth, specifically jobs, affordable housing, and infrastructure; an aging population; growing diversity; unemployment and poverty; and strains to the state’s infrastructure and resources, including water, agriculture, energy, and transportation.
The report also identified several opportunities that can be capitalized on, including intellectual capital, technology advancements, policy innovations, and natural resources (if used wisely).
The authors propose a “sustainability framework” to structure the report’s concepts:
California Forward is an avid proponent of efforts to benchmark and measure progress toward goals. We recommend moving the state to a new style of budgeting that focuses on results, rather than the amount of money spent year-to-year. Measurement of progress is not an end in itself; rather an important tool for deciding how the state delivers public services, to ensure programs operate as effectively as possible.
California Forward also takes a regional perspective. Regions offer tremendous opportunities for intergovernmental collaboration. If a region’s policymakers are in sync with one another, then that region will have a greater capacity to grow its economy and tackle difficult social problems.
California Forward supported the 2010 Regional Progress Report and supports another report on human development to be released in early-2011, titled A Portrait of California. This report will focus more specifically on education and public health issues, particularly on the surprising disparities within our state.
Download the 2010 Regional Progress Report (.pdf).
Gina Baleria is the communications manager at California Forward and Ash Roughani is a project associate.