Rebooting California’s government: time to Think Long

150 150 Caroline Vance

Yesterday, the Public Policy Institute of California hosted three members of the Think Long Committee for Calfornia at their 2012 Speaker Series on Rebooting California’s Government where general policy, tax measures, and Think Long’s partnership with the California Forward Action Fund were all discussed.

The panel featured Think Long founder Nicolas Berggruen as well as committee member Antonia Hernández and senior advisor Nathan Gardels. They spoke about the creation of Think Long’s Blueprint to Renew California and detailed its prescriptions for both the short and long-term reformation of California.

Highlighting both key California government “insiders” like Willie Brown as well as “outsiders” to the process such as Condoleezza Rice, Antonia Hernandez said that despite political persuasion or background, everyone who got involved with the Think Long Committee did so with the understanding that it would require both a give and take to collaborate on a solutions and a willingness to listen to different perspectives.  

This process was necessary because of the structural governance problems in California and the general lack of trust in government by the public. Ms. Hernandez said that we can’t address the policy issues if the process is broken and that we must do away with “our love affair with a runaway initiative process.”

Building on that, Mr. Berggruen said that they wanted to design a way to get people who were knowledgeable, thoughtful and representative of California’s diversity and absent of its partisan rancor.

One of the tax reforms that Think Long devised after looking at the changes to California’s economy (most notably the move from a manufacturing based state to a service based one) and the volatility that comes from California’s current reliance on personal income tax is detailed in the Blueprint.

The decision to withdraw their revenue measure was twofold. There are already several competing revenue measures, including one from Gov. Jerry Brown, and polling has shown that California’s need to trust Sacramento’s infrastructure before blindly giving the Legislature more cash to play with.

As such, a key immediate reform that Think Long is actively pursuing by partnering with the California Forward Action Fund is putting the Government Performance and Accountability Act on the November 2012 ballot.

Ms. Hernandez (who also serves on the board of California Forward) reminded the San Francisco audience that there are 88 cities in Los Angeles County alone and that most peoples’ relationship with and trust of local government is stronger than with Sacramento.

“Let’s get real, we live our lives in our communities,” she said in support of moving government closer to the people.

Besides the immediate reform efforts in the works, Mr. Berggruen’s final response included a firm commitment that he will remain involved in California reform efforts for years to come. He reminded the audience that Mr. Gardels had it right when he said “there is no silver reform bullet,” and that the road ahead will involve the efforts of many citizens to bring the state forward.

Mr. Gardels summed up the spirit of the panel best with this statement: “Small is beautiful, realignment or proximity [of people to their government] is legitimacy.”

Caroline Vance is a Senior Partnerships Associate with California Forward.


Caroline Vance

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