Questions of equity and other pitfalls at Central Valley Roundtable

150 150 Felicia Matlosz

Selma RoundtableThe Regional Stakeholder Roundtable in Selma on May 17 attracted dozens of Central Valley business and community leaders who offered spirited feedback on California Forward’s proposed Smart Government framework to fix the state.

The cross-section of professions shared their views via group discussions and instant keypad polling. The Selma event was co-hosted by California Partnership for the San Joaquin Valley. Participants gave candid assessments of the framework but overall supported its direction.

One of the more striking opinions raised several times concerned the use of COGs (Council of Government agencies) “to provide regulatory, fiscal and other incentives” for regional collaboration.

Selma RoundtableAllen Ishida, a Tulare County Supervisor and vice-chairman of the San Joaquin Valley Regional Policy Council, said: “We are not interested in taking on more responsibility.” He explained that COGs in California are chiefly focused on issues such as transportation, and this approach would just add another layer of bureaucracy.

After the meeting, Ishida further explained that COGs are not geared toward providing a broad range of services. “We’re just not set up that way.” he said.

Richard Raya, California Forward’s policy director, told attendees that COGs were looked at as a way of avoiding bureaucracy “but now we’re hearing different reactions to that.”

Larry Powell, superintendent of the Fresno County Office of Education, warned about the pitfalls of using test scores as the sole measure of student achievement while driving out methods that spark student creativity and innovation.

Selma RoundtableJohn Welty, president of CSU Fresno, said he agrees with much of California Forward’s recommendations and applauded the work that’s been done. But, he expressed concerns about the key role that county government would take if the state shifts more authority to local agencies.

If that structure isn’t better addressed through government reform, “then we’re going to create more messes for ourselves,” Welty said.

A couple of concerns were raised that the Central Valley may not end up with an equitable share of resources, compared to the “power centers” of southern California and the Bay Area.

The keypad survey showed general support for the “Smart Government” proposals:

  • The proposal to have state operations aligned with measurable outcomes: 59% “very supportive,” and 31% “somewhat supportive.”
  • The suggestion to shift more authority for funding and programs to local governments drew 50% “very supportive” and 25% “somewhat supportive.”
  • A question about the possibility that local agencies within a county would share resources to achieve common goals produced a 31% “somewhat unlikely” response, and 21% “somewhat likely.”
  • The highest rate for “very supportive” response came from the proposal that state and local agencies should be consolidated and integrated when possible: 62%.

Felicia Matlosz

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