This past Friday, the Bay Area Council announced it was suspending its efforts for two November ballot initiatives calling for a Constitutional Convention. The reason was straightforward – in this economy, the funds necessary to qualify the measures for the ballot were too difficult to develop.
While I have previously expressed my concerns about the Convention concept, it is vitally important that the leaders at the Bay Area Council not lose heart on their goal – which is to enact major budget and governance reforms to repair California.
The Bay Area Council, through its “Repair California” initiatives, has played a critical role as an outside, respected voice for reform. They have galvanized citizens throughout the state to get engaged – rather than enraged – in a meaningful way to strengthen our state. For their efforts, they deserve much more than our applause. They also deserve our encouragement to continue the discussions they have been having throughout the past year with other reform movements outside and inside the state Capitol.
Specifically, I hope the leaders at the Bay Area Council, under the direction of CEO Jim Wunderman and past Board Chairman Lenny Mendonca, will continue their conversations with California Forward, the effort funded by venerable foundations like Silicon Valley’s Hewlett Foundation and Packard Foundation.
California Forward’s efforts have focused on a specific set of important budget and governance reforms that they believe add up to comprehensive proposal: Protect local tax dollars; Demand an identified funding source for any new state program; Enact a two-year budget cycle, to name a few. They have invested the past few years researching the other 49 states to determine what each state is doing in the areas of budget and governance reform, what is actually working, and what might be transferable to California. With roughly 15 individual recommendations, each component part packaged together adds up to a comprehensive plan. I may not agree with all 15 individual parts, but I strongly support about 13 of the 15 – a great start.
So how do these two important efforts fit together?
From its inception, the Council’s “Repair California” provided a clear voice and a positive vision for everyday Californians frustrated with our broken governance system. It has provided the heart that any grass-roots effort needs in order to endure. The Council kept the call for reform on the front burner, with front-page newspaper coverage, blogs, TV and radio up and down the state. This sophisticated citizen outreach should not be set aside. While California Forward has studiously researched what is broken and specific ways to fix it, it has not been nearly as successful in getting everyday citizens to engage in its efforts.
Imagine these two important forces working as one. Head and Heart. Grassroots and Grass-Tops. Precise reforms with Passionate outreach. Californians, we have a rare moment in time to act. If these two groups pull together, with support from you, me and 38 million Californians, we can Repair California. We can move California Forward.