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Enterprise Op-ed - Saving California communities

By Bob Agee, Jan Agee, Sheila Allen, Ruth Asmundson, Davis Campbell, Delaine Eastin, Lucas Frerichs, Jackie Hausman, Barbara Hills, John Hills, Michael Hulsizer, Sara Husby, Hiram Jackson,Charlotte Krovoza, SusanLovenburg, Karen Mo, Don Palm, Gavin Payne, Jim Provenza, Richard Reed, Don Saylor,Helen Thomson, Kirk Trost andJay Ziegler | Special to the Enterprise | March 22, 2009


The great French political thinker and historian Alexis de Tocqueville once wrote, "In a democracy, the people get the government they deserve." Reflecting on California state government, there is little to extol. Basic policy decisions have not been reached on the most pressing matters of our day. We are in the middle of an economic crisis of vast proportion; a drought threatens our communities, agriculture and habitat; and transportation and land use planning concerns increasingly demand our attention.


Fiscally responsible policy that adequately serves the needs of all Californians seems an almost unattainable goal.


As members of the Davis community, we join in saying, "We deserve better." There is not a person among us — young or old, sick or healthy, prosperous or struggling — who will not be directly affected by this dysfunction.


When facing challenges like these in the past, constituent groups in our community and elsewhere took pen in hand or marched on the Capitol to demand resources for their cause. As the recent budget discord illustrates, this approach no longer serves us well, forcing equally worthy causes to fight for adequate funding as resources shrink.


Do we cut mental health programs, street maintenance or public schools to fund home health services for the aged? Reduce higher education funding to protect public safety? Pit business concerns against those of the environment? The trade-offs are unacceptable. We deserve better.


Born out of these false choices, we have formed an action group, Saving California Communities, to advocate for permanent structural reform of state government. We bring together county, city and school elected representatives and a wide cross-section of community members.


We are united voices for strong, healthy communities in Davis and throughout California. We support clear alignment of resources, authority and accountability. We seek stable revenue for services that respond to public needs. We believe local and regional agencies are best situated to allocate resources on behalf of their residents, and to be accountable for those decisions.


There is strong momentum building for change in California state government. A January 2009 survey conducted by the Public Policy Institute of California found that 75 percent of Californians believe the state is heading in the wrong direction. Significant efforts are under way to address this fundamental and widely held concern. We are actively engaged with each of these efforts:


  • California Forward (http://www. intends to transform our state government "through citizen-driven solutions to provide better representation, smarter budgeting and fiscal management, and high-quality public services."
  • The Bay Area Council, a consortium of business groups in the San Francisco Bay Area, is calling for a California Constitutional Convention to "repair our system of governance." (http://www.bayarea
  • The Cities, Counties, Schools Partnership (http://www.ccs has formed a Joint Task Force on State Budget and Fiscal Reform sponsored by the California League of Cities, the California State Association of Counties and the California School Boards Association.


In the coming weeks, The Davis Enterprise will publish a series of articles illustrating the local impact of our state's dysfunction. As you read these articles, you will come to understand they are not isolated stories; their cumulative impact drains vitality from our community and all California communities. We ask you to think about what role you will play in creating a change for the better.


Our group will host Saving California Communities: Starting Here! on Saturday, May 16, a community conversation to explore possibilities and begin to craft a local course of action that joins with others in setting our state on the road to reform. Program details will be available in The Enterprise and on our Web site at All are welcome and encouraged to attend.


It has taken decades to create the intractable situation in which we find ourselves today. Solutions are not simple, but we believe true reform is possible only when whole communities accept President Obama's challenge to take responsibility, "seize gladly" those duties to ourselves and others, and become a force for change.


We invite you to join us in this new Era of Responsibility to obtain the government we deserve.


Copyright, 2009, The Davis Enterprise. All Rights Reserved.


This site provided with the assistance of the Davis Community Network.