"Ballot measure aims for government reform"
By Jeff Hudson | The Davis Enterprise| January 11, 2012 (with photos by SCC)
The proposed Government Performance and Accountability Act is available on California Forward's website.
Sunne Wright McPeak
Assemblywoman Mariko Yamada
Delaine Eastin, former California State Superintendent of Public Instruction and other panelists (from left) Susan Lovenburg, Don Saylor, Sunne Wright McPeak, and Jim Mayer.
The following article has been reposted with permission from The Davis Enterprise. The original article is at http://www.davisenterprise.com/local-news/ballot-measure-aims-at-government-reform/
A large group of government-reform-minded Davis residents — including several elected officials — gathered Tuesday evening at the Hallmark Inn to hear about a proposed ballot initiative that proponents say would make government more productive and accountable.
The topic of discussion was the proposed Government Performance and Accountability Act, which was rolled out last November by the reform advocacy group California Forward. A petition drive is under way to qualify the proposal for the state ballot.
On hand to promote the proposal were former State Superintendent of Public Instruction Delaine Eastin, Assemblywoman Mariko Yamada, Yolo County Supervisor Don Saylor, Davis school board president Susan Lovenburg and others.
But the main speakers were Sunne Wright McPeak, a former Contra Costa County supervisor and the state’s secretary of the Business, Transportation and Housing Agency under Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Jim Mayer, executive director of California Forward.
McPeak — who now serves as president of the California Emerging Technologies Fund — described how she successfully streamlined processes at the notoriously slow Department of Motor Vehicles offices during her years as a Schwarzenegger appointee.
“When I arrived (as secretary of the state agency), the median wait time at the DMV’s 91 offices was over an hour, and there were lines that were two, three or four hours long,” she said.
McPeak said she met with leaders of the DMV’s 7,800 employees — many of them women with high school diplomas — and found that “the frontline workers understood the problem,” but also found that the DMV staff was “demoralized.”
“It took a lot of focus, and some new leadership and commitment, but those same 7,800 DMV employees got those wait times down to an average of 21 minutes” — without increasing staffing, or putting more money into the agency’s budget.
“That kind of change can be done in every aspect of government,” McPeak told the Davis gathering on Tuesday. “We know that we can turn around our communities if that is what the empowering expectation is, and if there are resources to achieve it. That’s why we think the Government Performance and Accountability Act is so important.
“If people get this measure before them, they are going to vote for it,” McPeak said. “The signature-gatherers are in the field today.”
Mayer said the proposed ballot measure would “give more control to communities” by establishing a problem-solving process allowing “community strategic action plans” that would give local government the authority to design programs that meet local needs and improve results.
These plans would vary in structure and content from area to area. Mayer observed that “you don’t have to design a system that will work in both Yolo County and Los Angeles County,” because different solutions might be appropriate in those two demographically different areas.
The Government Performance and Accountability Act also would establish “performance-based budgeting,” requiring government agencies to establish clear goals to focus spending decisions on priorities and be evaluated by results.
The act also has a “pay-as-you-go” provision that would require both new programs and new tax cuts of $25 million or more to have a clearly identified funding source before they are enacted. Eastin, in particular, railed at the current reliance on borrowing by state government to fund programs.
Other provisions include a transition to two-year state budgets, with a five-year fiscal forecast before a budget is approved, and a requirement for the budget bill to move to a joint legislative committee 45 days before the deadline for final action to increase access by the full Legislature and the public.
The act also would make bills in the Legislature available to the public three days before a vote, in order to avoid some of the late-night changes and amendments that have been the hallmark of several recent California budget bills.
McPeak depicted these changes and reforms as “just common sense,” and she quoted state librarian emeritus Kevin Starr, who used a computer metaphor by predicting that the proposed Government Performance and Accountability Act would “reboot California government” by providing “a new operating system.”
McPeak noted that last year, some of these same reforms were part of a bill (SB 14) that was co-authored by state Sen. Lois Wolk, who represents Yolo County. McPeak said that bill was unanimously approved by the California Assembly and the California Senate, only to be vetoed by Gov. Jerry Brown.
She said the proposed ballot initiative contains more details than last year’s vetoed legislation.