“The biggest concern we have right now… is that there really isn’t a conversation. So, it’s nice to have some civic dialogue tonight to address what is happening,” said Louis Chicoine, executive director of Abode services, at California Forward’s most recent civic dialogue, co-hosted by the American Leadership Forum Silicon Valley (ALF).
Dozens of people gathered at the Fremont Public Library on Monday night to discuss ideas for how to fix California and give feedback on moving government closer to the people.
Those in attendance generally liked the idea of moving government closer to the people, but voiced some concerns.
Realignment is a “good idea; It can work; It sounds great on paper,” said Nima Shahidinia on behalf of his discussion group. “The biggest concern is how will it be implemented such that local communities can find each other, connect with each other and find a way to work together?”
Paul Miller stressed, “You cannot in any way put responsibility on cities and counties with no resources.”
Many said the right level of accountability is crucial.
“We don’t want to have accountabilities to be so stringent that there’s absolutely no opportunity to take a risk,” said attendee John White. Currently, “we have to perform the mandates of the state funding source rather than creatively work to solve problems.”
Discussion also centered on the responsibility of the voters.
“This disillusionment going around comes from people thinking things are going on behind closed doors. An easy way to dispel that is to be transparent, get feedback, and allow the public to engage in the process,” said Chicoine on behalf of his group.
The event even drew a high school student. Eighteen year-old Anooj Desai attended as part of his senior project on increasing civic participation in the Bay Area. His group focused on “trying to get the local government to have more flexibility and more power to increase civic engagement.”
In the end, everyone agreed with Chicoine: “We have to move this thing forward. If we don’t, it’s total annihilation, and that’s not an option.”