As each day passes without action, California slips deeper into the crisis in which it is mired. As Governor Brown and lawmakers debate about the budget and reform in Sacramento, people across the state are weighing in with their own ideas through California Forward’s Speak Up CA Dialogues.
In Marin County on Tuesday, dozens of people came out to discuss ideas for how to move government closer to the people, make government run more efficiently, and increase transparency and accountability at all levels. They included people from all over the community, from city council members and county supervisors to fire officials and public employees to concerned citizens.
California Forward Regional Partnership Coordinator Jessica Williams said people were cautiously optimistic.
“People see value and potential in giving local government more responsibility, but not only do they have concerns about potential issues with that, it’s also not clear how we really get there, particularly with a public who doesn’t trust government and a government system that is very unclear,” Williams said.
CA Fwd leadership council member Sunne Wright McPeak moderated the discussion, pointing out that our structures don’t fit the needs of global competiveness.
Marin County Supervisor Susan Adams pointed to successes with Marin’s program for managing results that she would like to see replicated.
“Part of the annual budget includes the indicators for success,” she said. “Criminal justice and behavioral health programs track treatment and early prevention to see if that keeps people out of jail. We have reduced recidivism by 85% and psych emergency visits by 55%.”
Another Marin County official highlighted Marin’s successful accountability measures.
“Marin does a bi-annual survey of citizens and committed to publishing the results publicly to hold themselves accountable,” said the attendee. “For electeds it is almost as powerful a motivator as quarterly returns are for business.”
Many concerns revolved around trust and capacity.
“My concern is that the money will really only trickle down and that there won’t be enough funds for local to really do it,” said one participant. “Also, will people at the local level really embrace it as they need to?”
Another attendee said, “The biggest challenge is the difference in capability between different local and county government staff, ability, the amount of citizens who watch their government, and intent of groups.”
One attendee warned against going too far in one direction or the other.
“We could have much more creativity at a local level particularly in education. Schools suffer from the education code. In other areas though, if the state did not say we shall have a housing code, there would not be any affordable housing. So it is not all good or all bad.”
Another attendee agreed and pointed to successes in business.
“It looks similar to large corporations where there was decentralizing, but the corporation made it clear that there were standards and criteria that everyone must meet. It encourages a lot of innovation and best practices.”