Reviving California begins with conversation

150 150 John Guenther

Hundreds of Californians came together via Skype and in person on Thursday night to discuss our state’s future at the third annual Reviving CA Summit. Nearly every participant agreed that California must begin to deal with the structural challenges we face.

The event, put on by the American Leadership Forum (ALF) brought groups together in Pasadena, Silicon Valley and Modesto, and connected them via Skype, to allow for a thoughtful discussion and exchange of ideas across regions.

State Treasurer Bill Lockyer gave an overview of the state’s budgeting processing and outlined the mandatory “trigger” cuts that will be made if state revenues don’t meet their projections. He also expressed concerns that the initiative process is being used too often by special interest groups.

Panelist and CA Fwd Leadership Council member Antonia Hernandez, said we need to ask ourselves: “What kind of government do we want…and then do we want to pay for it?”

Californians from all walks of life participated in the discussion, including students, small business owners, nonprofit leaders, civic leaders, city employees, and unemployed parents.

All expressed concerns about how state lawmakers are governing themselves and the state.

One member of the Modesto audience asked: “It appears on the state level that both parties are normally at an impasse rather than engaged in constructive dialogue. How can this be changed?”

CA Fwd Leadership Council member and former assembly member Fred Keely reflected on the difficulty state elected officials face in reaching the same type of civility that city council members who bump into each other at the super market. But, thanks to the work of California Forward, redistricting and top-two primary elections will help moderate the process and strengthen democracy.

Hernandez then reminded voters that they are responsible for holding the people that they elect responsible for their actions, and Lockyer said, “civic involvement should be a lifetime commitment.”

People in all three venues said they were concerned about the potential cuts to higher education, should state revenue goals fall short.

Long Beach Mayor Bob Foster echoed their concerns. “Many cuts, especially cuts to education, might not have an immediate impact on our state, but will in the next five-to-ten years.”

A common sentiment from people at the event was that people need to talk with each other, not at each other, to ensure better results and a more collaborative, open government. And, across regions, people applauded the idea of moving government closer to the people as a way to increase openness, keep elected officials accountable, and improve results.

While more questions arose than conclusions were reached, the multi-faceted dialogue was an important step in bringing different regions together to discuss our state’s future and ensure that the voices of a broad spectrum of Californians have a forum.


John Guenther

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