How Government Can Work Even Better—-A Bipartisan View

Ed Coghlan
Contributing Editor & Special Correspondent, California Forward

“There are many issues and problems in California that can be dealt with successfully if we work together in a nonpartisan way.”

Those words from former San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed help explain why he is participating in a series of bipartisan conversations across California with Pete Peterson, executive director of the Davenport Institute for Public Engagement and Civic Leadership at Pepperdine University; Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin, and former president of Green Dot Public Schools, Marshall Tuck.

The event is called: “Money, Schools, Jobs and You – A Bipartisan Conversation.”

The first of those public sessions will be held in San Jose on August 19. A second is scheduled for Clovis in the Central Valley on September 23. Plans for additional public sessions are being discussed in other California regions.

Reed, who is a Democrat, said, “These bipartisan conversations are to identify areas of agreement and specific items that can be moved forward, despite partisan differences in other areas.”

These conversations among two Democrats and two Republicans will be made even better when the public joins in at the upcoming events.

“Our four speakers will set the stage for a public discussion of these issues. We are hoping the public will get engaged and make suggestions for nonpartisan actions,” said Reed.

California Forward, a non-profit that has helped develop and pass many of the electoral and governance reforms enacted in the past several years, is helping promote the conversations because there is still a lot of work to do to improve governance in the state.

CA Fwd co-chair Pete Weber wrote recently that, while much more needs to be done to improve government at all levels in California, we’ve seen real progress:

“We are seeing results! A few examples: state budgets are no longer chronically late; a rainy day fund to help manage revenue volatility is law; Enhanced Infrastructure Financing Districts (EIFDs) were created by the legislature to help finance local infrastructure; a water bond was passed to begin to address long-delayed improvements to how we manage that precious resource.”

Reed thinks the time for these conversations is right.

“By demonstrating broad public support for action, things that would normally be bogged down by partisan bickering perhaps can move forward in a nonpartisan effort,” Reed said.

“Politics is the art of the possible,” Otto Von Bismarck once famously said. For democracy to work, it takes compromise, a give and take that has the best intentions of the people in mind.

And as CA Fwd’s Philip Ung put it, effective governance requires collaboration, open communication, vibrant debate and even disagreeing without being disrespectful.

“Just last year, California pundits lauded bipartisan cooperation that resulted in enactment of the water bond and the budget’s new rainy day fund, which were negotiated by both parties and led to overwhelming approval by the voters,” commented Ung.

The four lead participants in the upcoming bipartisan conversations are not theorists. They all have run for public office and have strong views about how to make government work better so that California can tackle the big issues like middle class job creation, improving public schools, inspiring more participation in elections and government, and how we spend our money effectively.

We will continue to ask the participants for their views on these “conversations.” Here’s what Pete Peterson told us. We also would like to hear from the public, so reserve a spot today in the events in San Jose and Clovis and keep an eye on this space for more conversations in your part of the Golden State.

The August 19 event in San Jose takes place from 5:45 p.m. to 7:45 p.m. at the Martin Luther King Library on the San Jose State University campus. You can learn more about it and register here. 

The second event is scheduled for September 23 in Clovis in California’s Central Valley from5:45 p.m. to 7:45 p.m. at the Center for Advanced Research Technology. You can learn more and register here.

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