Californians are not happy with the government, and economic conditions are not helping.
State Senator Mark DeSaulnier (D-Concord), chair of the State Senate Committee on Improving State Government, spoke at the Odd Fellows Hall in downtown Davis on ways to establish a more functional form of government.
According to a January survey from the Public Policy Institute of California, 75 percent of Californians believed the state is headed in the wrong direction. Seventy-seven percent also expected bad economic times to continue during the year.
A new Davis organization addresses this issue through its work on government reform. Saving California Communities is a bipartisan group that advocates for a more functional form of government on the state level by working with local community members. The SCC’s event featured DeSaulnier on Nov. 10.
DeSaulnier stressed the importance of his committee’s commitment in solving government issues rather than separating across partisan lines.
“We try to focus on fiscal issues, so there is less polarization,” DeSaulnier said. “As a legislator you want the process to prosper. I believe legislators and the governor should fix what they can and look at things that they can change.”
He said that the current economic crisis offers a great opportunity for government change.
“A crisis is a great thing to waste,” he said. “When the budget is good, structural problems are hidden more easily. Volume hides all management mistakes.”
The SCC supports healthy communities and strives to heighten government responsiveness. It also helps communities maintain stable revenue, aligned resources, accountability and public engagement.
Daniel Sharpe, alumnus of the UC Davis School of Law, works with SCC and believes its local focus makes the group unique.
“Many groups tend to focus a little more on the national scope of things,” Sharpe said. “We work on local solutions because although the big picture is important, how things affect local politics is very important. The way California is organized, communities need to have a bottom-up approach, making changes locally.”
SCC was created last year to open lines of communication.
“We try to work with students, elected officials and other community members to have a dialogue and debate about issues of state reform,” said Susan Lovenburg, a trustee with the Davis Joint Unified School District and a leader in SCC.
Bob Schelen, Chair of the Yolo County Democratic Central Committee, introduced DeSaulnier and praised the SCC’s efforts.
“This is one of the largest organizations of doing good works in Davis,” Schelen said. “We believe we need a government that functions at all levels.”
State Rep. Mariko Yamada (D-Davis) said the state’s government system is “broken” and needs campaign finance reform.
“It’s not a pretty sight in Sacramento now, but I didn’t go there to be herded like sheep,” Yamada said. “It takes courage and craziness to stand your ground serving as a legislator.”
For more information, visit caforward.org and groups.dcn.org/scc.
The SCC hosts several speakers and endorses 2010’s California Forward Reform.
California Forward Reform is a plan that would overhaul the state’s budget and fiscal systems to deliver responsible budgets on time, give the elected officials tools to do their jobs correctly and hold them accountable for results. The plan rethinks the relationship between state and local government, with a strong preference for government that is closer – and more responsive – to the people, according to the website.
ANGELA SWARTZ can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org.