Wanna help reform California? Take our poll!

Tuolumne County Administrator Craig Pedro and I are in Sacramento with several hundred city, county, and school board electeds for an historic, first-ever Summit to discuss and strategize how best to “reinvigorate California’s system of governance and restore efficiency, transparency, and accountability.” 

The Summit, put  on by the Cities Counties Schools (CCS) Partnership  (which represents California’s 7,930 local elected officials), is being presided over by our friend CCS Chair/San Mateo County Supervisor Rich Gordon. We are meeting to identify potential solutions to the state’s chronic problems, including deficits, late budgets, and an inability to deal with critical issues such as water, energy, education, and health services.

Local governments, still waiting for the Governor and legislative leadership to announce a budget deal, are extremely concerned about that deal’s impacts on services and local people. We’re hearing that they plan an unprecedented raid on local folk’s revenues – Prop 1A funds, transportation $$, and other “creative” funding responsibility shifts – to partially close the very large budget deficit. That’s not right. So the Summit is about creating a framework for change in the state/local relationship and in how governance and finance work. Reform!

California is ripe for reform. I’d like to know what you think about some of the options we’re debating. None of these have been adopted or embraced by the CCS Partnership yet – they’re all on the table. Tomorrow we’ll get into work groups and see if we can’t prioritize and agree on these and other options. This is by no means a complete list of everything under consideration – but we don’t want to wear you out. Please tell us. What do you think?


10 thoughts on “Wanna help reform California? Take our poll!

  1. While there are many positive ideas in this poll, it revolves around how to fund what government wants to do – to spend money on: how to rearrange the deck chairs on this Titanic called California. I don't see SPENDING CUTTING. I hear locally about closing libraries, laying off police, firemen & the Holy Grail, teachers. State and local employees have hours cut – how many state, county 'executives' and their staffs have their time/pay cut? How many state/county cars are taken out of service, how many 'fact-finding' trips or junkets are cut? How much state/county unneeded property is being sold – adding to income, cutting maintenance costs? By the way, how did you all get to Sacramento? Where are you staying and who's paying the bill? I am not alone in being upset by the state of California and county's condition – I'm sure I express the feelings of many. We are all having to cut back, lose homes, jobs, promising futures because of this situation. We do this because we have no choice – not to pay more to government and get less for it. EVERYONE in government needs to take the financial hit too. EVERYONE!__


    1. Patriot, You do express the feelings of many! In fact, I didn't include a few of the options that dealt with local governments' ability to tax. There's very little support here for talking about how we can get more from the people we serve (there were a few last night, but the majority gets it). We're focusing on keeping more of your dollars local so we can provide services you want and need.

      Did you know that local governments don't get to decide how much of your money stays in Tuolumne County? Did you know that the deal the Big Five is making up here likely means that after all the cuts Tuolumne County has made (eliminated over 100 jobs – vacant and filled over the last year, privatized major health services, etc.), we're looking at an additional amount that will likely go over $3 million (and we'll have to figure out where that's coming from over the next month or so)? Oh yes, and as many as 19,000 prisoners will be sent back home in the state, causing law enforcement and our communities great cost and pain.

      Your comment is especially instructive because it tells me that we haven't done enough to let all of you know about what we have done so far to live within our means. That's going to go to the top of the list for me, as a result.

      Finallly, to your questions about the conference and my attendance. Fair questions. I carpooled with Calaveras County Board Chair Russ Thomas and my daughter in our family car. The Summit is being held at the Hyatt in Sacramento, $99 a night, including meals, and the county (you and I) is paying. We began the meeting yesterday at noon (no lunch provided) and continued working until about 9 pm last night. I came back to the room and developed the survey you took, posting it after midnight. We start up again this morning and go until 2:30 this afternoon.

      Thanks again for your comments. More to come!


      1. It will take more than more meeting to make a change in california. We need a California Constitutional Convention as outlined at: BayareaCouncil.org


      2. Absolutely, RJer. Whatever reforms are attempted, it’s going to take a lot of hard work. We talked about a constitutional convention. Because the group was equal parts enthusiastic to get that going and fearful of unintended consequences, the consensus was to wait and see where that goes for now.


  2. I have promoted this idea for some time but have not yet found any takers or supporters; so here it goes: Change the California Constitution to the effect that it reflects the US constitution: leave the representation by the State Assembly as is (based on equal number of California citizens) but reorganize the State Senate to have each County represented by a State Senator. Rhode Island is small and has TWO US Senators as has Texas and California . This might be difficult to achieve but there is TOO much political power amassed in the urban areas and the rural, less densely populated counties are left in the dust, literally.


    1. There were a bunch of supporters for a constitutional convention at the Summit. We also talked about the urban/rural equity issue. You are right – we’ve got to do something about that.


  3. These might be beyond the scope of your current effort, but at least 2 major issues also need action.
    1. State's revenue is too highly dependent on income tax and therefore varies widely with the boom and bust economy. A different revenue structure is needed.
    2. Redistricting independent of the Legislature is another way to reduce extreme partisanship. We'll see how the current redistricting change plays out before deciding whether that problem has been solved.


    1. It would have been good to have you there, Dave. I’ll bet you would have known some of the city folks. Both of your issues were also identified as needing work. Stabilizing revenue cycles to avoid boom and bust was a big topic at the Summit. I talked with the man who hired me as an intern in local government in 1989. It was bust time when I worked for him on a fiscal needs assessment for Parks and Recreation, Library, Fire, Roads, and Sheriff. We looked at Merced County’s current and anticipated needs in those departments over 20 years, compared them to available and forecasted revenues, searched for potential funding mechanisms, and ultimately told them that if they didn’t get off the stick and figure out something, they were in big trouble. The problem was/is much larger than any one county and today they are in the same boat with the rest of us.


  4. If the legislator and governor do not produce a state budget on time, they should stop receiving salaries and expenses until they complete the process. Also, whatever is being considered to reduce state expenses should be made public and not done behind closed doors. In addition we need to consider eliminating money spent on illegal aliens completely, including welfare, medical coverage, in-state college fees, and any other spending which encourages more of them to come to California.


    1. Another popular sentiment. Another one that particularly thrilled many folks was that the Governor should propose a budget in January. If the legislature failed to approve it by the end of May, the Governor’s budget would be enacted. 🙂 And my personal favorite along those lines, if a budget is not approved by June 30th, every bill proposed in that session would be automatically discarded. These are maybe not such good ideas if you think through those unintended consequences, but do make us feel better just thinking about them!


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