The time has come to take this show back on the road. Over the last several months, in a series of stakeholder meetings in Sacramento and more than 50 Speak Up California civic engagement forums across the state, California Forward has been working with experts and regular voters alike to develop a solution to one of the biggest challenges facing California: The dysfunctional relationship between the state and local government.
In these discussions, we’ve heard Californians expressing frustration with many things—the initiative process, term limits, and legislative gridlock, just to a name a few—but many of the concerns we’ve heard boil down to this: California’s government does not seem to have a plan.
This state of 39 million people has a nearly $90 billion budget without a unified vision or strategy for achieving statewide goals. California’s top-heavy governance structure only makes matters worse: Most of the state’s essential public services are delivered locally, but most the decisions about how the money is spent are still made in Sacramento. For years, this system has been breeding confusion, distrust, and inefficiency.
The Solution: Smart Government. With the help of a remarkable group of civic leaders, local government practitioners, stakeholders, and regular voters, California Forward has been working on finding a way out of this mess. In the Smart Government Framework, we have collaboratively developed a set of draft proposals that lay the groundwork not for a ‘big government’ or a ‘small government’—but a Smart Government. This Framework introduces five new priorities for the state—something sorely lacking today—along with five comprehensive proposals for reform that would move more authority to the local level, refocus the state on helping communities succeed, and encourage more regional collaboration.
To make California work again, we believe you have to start at the foundation—in the very framework that holds up the state—and restructure state and local government so they work together to deliver the high-quality services our communities deserve. Until this basic problem is solved, none of California’s other big challenges can be resolved, and the state’s government cannot function effectively.
Now we want to hear your impressions. After spending the last several months developing this Framework with your help, we’re getting ready to take it back out on the road.
In a series of Regional Stakeholder Roundtables across the state throughout the month of May, we plan to test our ideas with stakeholders in their own backyards. From local government officials to the non-profit groups that provide many of the services Californians rely on, we will be testing how these proposals sound to those who work every day with our state’s public programs—and incorporating any specific changes they think might be necessary.
In the meantime, we hope to keep the tens of thousands of Californians who have been involved in this conversation engaged. In the weeks ahead, there are many ways to continue sharing your ideas about how we should move forward.
The easiest way to get involved is to register on the California Forward website. Here are a few others:
- We are still holding civic engagement forums across the state, where we hope to get your impressions of the Framework. (For more information about upcoming events near you, see the California Forward events page.)
- We’ve created a way for you to weigh in on the first step of implementing the Framework: Please help us select which public program outcomes—from education and health to public safety and poverty—you would like your community to focus on first. (Click here to vote.)
- For those interested in spending more time on the details of our policy proposals, the Framework is now online, where we encourage you to read it and leave your own comments