Speak Up CA — A Statewide Conversation on What Will Fix California

Californians are frustrated with the current situation – a lousy economy and slow recovery, budget cuts and higher taxes, and ballot measures and promises from elected officials that they don’t believe will put California back on the right track.

It's going to take some discipline, hard work and time to stop the bleeding and make government work again before the situation will substantially improve. We all have to own up to the tough choices – we can’t balance the budget without raising taxes and without cutting services. And we also need to contribute to the long term solutions.

California Forward, in consultation with thousands of our fellow Californians, have developed a budget reform plan that would substantially improve how lawmakers decide to spend money. Some progress has been made there, but there is more to do. California Forward, as part of a coalition of groups, has supported political reforms that will grease the gridlock and encourage compromise. Now to really work through the state’s fiscal crisis we need to make sure the state and local governments are working together to get the job done.

Our Plan:
Step 1: Get input from the public to build the solution
Step 2: Build a coalition to support enactment
Step 3: Prepare communities for a role in implementation

Why Empower Communities?
From Crescent City to National City, Californians are talking about what's broken— too many high school dropouts and shrinking access to colleges and universities, a fraying safety net and soaring public pension costs. These are all challenges worthy of our attention. They also are signs of system failure.

These public challenges were made worse by the recession, but the chronic problems have been growing for decades – increasing partisanship, complicated bureaucracies, a plethora of programs but not enough results. The people in government don’t trust each other, and the people outside of government don’t trust those inside government. Everyone thinks someone else is to blame and no one is either responsible or accountable for getting the job done.

The Solution
We believe there is a way out of this mess. After studying the best practices of other states, consulting with hundreds of experts, and talking to tens of thousands of Californians, it is clear that to get different results we need to change the rules of the game. We need to be clear what must get done and who is going to do it. Those responsible for community services – local elected and appointed officials – need the authority to chart a course and be held responsible for results. Californians need to hold local leaders accountable for making those hard decisions. That's governance.

The Conversation
While the direction is clear, there are plenty of details to be worked out – and we know the proposed solutions will only get better if Californians get involved in crafting them. Over the next few months, California Forward is inviting civic leaders, business groups, community advocates, elected officials, and other interested Californians to participate in community and online gatherings to discuss how to fix our state. We want to listen, learn, and gather feedback on conceptual proposals that have the potential to make our government more innovative, effective and accountable.

The results of these conversations will be incorporated into reform proposals that the California Forward Action Fund will move to the 2012 ballot. We believe these solutions, shaped and supported by people all over California, will give us the choices at the ballot box we have been waiting for: changes that will enable and discipline government to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves, and ensure we leave to future Californians a better state than the one we inherited.

Here's what you can do now:

Sign up for email updates
Check out our Events Calendar
Host your own conversation
Comment on our Restructuring Framework