California Forward continued its travels around the state this week, talking to people about fixing our government, with stops in Long Beach, Stockton, Los Angeles, Van Nuys, Anaheim, Sacramento, and Merced.
In all regions, people held rich discussions and looked at the benefits and challenges of moving government closer to the people.
California Forward Leadership Council member Pete Weber spoke to attendees at the International Green Industry Hall of Fame‘s inaugural induction ceremony and conference on March 25 at UC Merced.
Event organizer Sam Geil said he considers California Forward a partner.
“There’s a synergy between what you are doing and what we’re trying to do,” said Geil. “What California Forward is doing is essential for our progress in our state. It’s focusing in on people who are making a difference, the ones who can change the direction of our state.”
The conference attracted about 200 attendees.
Farther south in Anaheim, business and government leaders gathered at Angels Stadium to hear from CA Fwd Leadership Council co-chair Tom McKernan and share their ideas for how best to fix our state, in an event co-sponsored by the Anaheim Chamber of Commerce.
McKernan explained that Americans are crossing one of the biggest recessions since the great depression, and that is why we see leaders in hiding and large crowds of people gathering – and Californians are no exception.
California Forward was created to be “a catalyst for discussion about California government to restore credibility. Our system today is frozen in the status quo and inertia, we spend too much time talking about our problems we need to spend more time talking about our solution” said McKernan.
People then broke into groups to talk about how to create transparency and bring government closer to Californians.
Heidi Larkin-Reed president and CEO of the Orange Chamber of Commerce expressed her concerns about bringing government closer to the people. “Local government makes as many mistakes as the state legislature,” she said on behalf of her group. Citizens need to “get more active in order to really create accountability.”
Jack Hu chairman and global managing director of London International Group said one of the biggest problems is that “cities don’t have the power to answer concerns about where the money is going. There need to be checks and balances – more importantly people need to know where the checks are being written. We need a website, and broadcast on how the government is performing.”
About 70 people attended this Speak Up CA dialogue.
On Monday, a diverse group of people from seniors to local elected officials and grass roots organizations gathered at the Van Nuys Building, at an event co-hosted by the Southern California Leadership Network. CA Fwd Leadership Council co-chair Bob Hertzberg urged people to get on board and find long-term solutions to reinvent our state.
“You have to be more aggressive about your involvement in government,” said Hertzberg. “We have to figure out a way to make it work. We need to build confidence in our government. ”
Most of the discussion among the Van Nuys participants revolved around reaching and educating the poor.
Irene Tobar, a senior and concerned citizen from Mission Hills said it’s important to reach out to the poor. “We need to get everyone involved and help build transparency, because the people most affected by the lack of accountability are the low income communities.”
Sara Magana Withers, Director of Redevelopment with the City of Lynwood agreed that transparency should be goal number one. “This is the perfect time to do it. We learned from what happened in Bell. Low-income people are the most affected by the lack of government transparency, and now we see people are willing to learn and get involved in the process.”
Ingrid Earl, a single mom who works as a massage therapist in West Hollywood she says she feels vulnerable by the lack of consciousness from politicians but believes “people still have the power to make it work, if we get organized.”
LongBeach Police Chief Jim McDonnell set the tone for government accountability with dozens of participants from business, non-profit, and the academic sector.
McDonnell said every single one of us (in government and private sector) faces the same issues. “The resources are fewer but the expectations are higher than ever. This is the new normal. We have to do more with less.”
McDonnell highlighted the importance of building partnerships between non-profits, government, and private sector. We must “get out from working in silos and make a web. We don’t have a plan or an overarching arm to provide opportunities. We need to marry up the needs with what we have to offer.”
Elizabeth Quintana, a 40-year Long Beach resident who works in the non-profit sector, considers that a key solution to increase advocacy is “creating partnerships among organization that do the same work and maximizing efforts.”
Jonathan Graff a Chief Financial Officer said the majority of our problem in local and state government is that “people don’t know how their money is being spent. They need to have this information and they will get more involved. We need to emulate the way joint power authorities work to bring about responsibility across the board in state and local government.”
At the March 29 dialogue, co-hosted by the San Joaquin County Business Council, Stockton Mayor Ann Johnston offered a straightforward assessment of California Forward’s efforts to help fix state government. “It’s so important to the survival of the state of California.”
Johnston was one of two dozen political and business leaders at meeting, co-hosted by The Grupe Company. Like Johnston, participants seemed receptive and appreciative of the information.
James Mayer, California Forward’s executive director, and Pete Weber, a member of the organization’s Leadership Council, spoke about restructuring state government into a more balanced system that spurs improved performance. But they also were there to listen.
Accountability emerged as a theme. Mick Founts, superintendent of the San Joaquin County Office of Education, said local governments should be given more authority to make decisions that best fit their communities: “Hold us accountable, but give us freedom and flexibility.”
The need for regulatory reform also was raised. Kevin Huber, president of The Grupe Company, talked about people’s frustrations with cumbersome bureaucracies. He wondered, for example, if there was a way to establish a “regulatory czar” to help people cut through red tape.
The participants, many of whom are part of the Business Council of San Joaquin County, also discussed the need for more collaboration among elected officials and considering pilot projects, modeled after effective programs, to move reforms forward.
More information about the Los Angeles and Sacramento events will be posted to this blog in the coming days.