Commentary

02/06/2014  by Ed Coghlan

Futures Conference presents vision for a reformed California


(photo credit: theworldthroughmyeye/flickr)

Things are improving in California, actually quite remarkably when you think about where we were 10 years ago. Political reforms are being felt in the capitol. In six years, California’s reputation has gone from being ungovernable to being a model of how to break the partisan gridlock.

However, as Fleetwood Mac once famously warbled, "You can't stop thinking about tomorrow."

And generally in California, we have always thought big about the future. It has helped make us what we are today.

At Fullerton College in Orange County, a community college that is celebrating its first 100 years, the theme was to look to the future in business, education, science, technology and government.  

The recent Futures Conference attracted over a dozen speakers, making for a fascinating day.

We tagged along because California Forward CEO Jim Mayer spoke about the vision of what our state will look like in the 21st Century.

Mayer said some reforms are needed to fix broken parts of the political or fiscal system, to reduce partisan gridlock and the influence of campaign money or poor fiscal management.  But other reforms are needed to adapt government in California to the biggest challenges ahead, including global climate change, an increasingly competitive global economy and California’s diversifying demographics.

Mayer shared the urgency of adapting governance if California is going to develop sustainable regional economies that increase opportunities for disadvantaged Californians and immigrants in particular. A shrinking middle class and the developing theme of two Californias (one rich and one poor) are of major concerns to voters. California’s strength has always been the availability of middle-income jobs and upward mobility. We can’t afford another generation like the last one.

"That’s why we conceived the California Economic Summit, which gathers some of the best thinking from regional leaders around the state," said Mayer. "The goal is to identify what needs to be done to increase creation of good jobs and to improve the state’s ability to compete in a global economy."

Plenty of good ideas start outside of Sacramento right where people work, live and (want to) thrive.

Mayer also pointed to the importance of improving community governance.

"California is undergoing  a significant shift of power from the state to local communities," he said.  "California Forward has advocated from the beginning that local governments needed more authority and resources to solve community problems."

Mayer said that California Forward's emphasis is around local implementation of public safety and education, and the organization will continue to look for opportunities to work with counties and school districts to help identify and codify best practices in the area.

The final area Mayer discussed how technology can accelerate change.

“Californians deserve a government they can trust," he said. "Technology-enhanced transparency to restoring trust and creating accountability for results is and will continue be an area of emphasis for California Forward.  

The Futures Conference at Fullerton is an annual event, and plans are already underway for 2015's event.

Categories: Governance Reform, Californians

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