Three months into 2014 and three California State Senators have had brushes with the law. Needless to say, public confidence in elected officials is shaken.

It’s understandable, but like any setback in life, it’s also an opportunity to reflect and change for the better.

Now is the time for our elected officials to enact immediate and meaningful reform in response to alleged state-level corruption that has gotten national media attention. Only then will public trust in government be on the road to recovery.

The old adage concerning a few bad apples certainly applies here. Many of California’s lawmakers are serious, hard-working public servants who actually believe in serving the public first. But in all truth, legislators’ willingness to self-regulate is typically scant.

A core mission of CA Fwd is to foster government accountability at all levels. In April it released a Path Toward Trust to catalyze a conversation on rebuilding public confidence in government through ideas which can be implemented now. This article offers more context on the Path Toward Trust itself.

It is this agenda that brought us to Monterey, CA and the Panetta Institute for Public Policy where a longtime California leader, Former Defense Secretary and CIA Director Leon E. Panetta and his wife Sylvia, are inspiring young people to become public servants. Panetta, who was a founding co-chair of CA Fwd, sat down with current co-chair Lenny Mendonca for a conversation on something they both genuinely care about: making California golden again.

Beginning his political career as a legislative assistant to U.S. Senator Thomas Kuchel from California, the Republican whip at the time, Panetta then went on to represent Monterey for 16 years as a Democratic congressman before serving at high levels in the Clinton and Obama administrations.

In this first video of a series, Panetta drew on his early days in public service when asked about how the class of incoming state legislators should be serving their constituents. Panetta’s own political life reflects the importance of bi-partisanship in doing the “people’s work,” be it in Sacramento or in Washington D.C. His lifelong dedication to public service makes him the perfect interview subject at this critical juncture for the state Legislature.

We’ll be sharing more from our interview with Mr. Panetta in the coming weeks. He speaks eloquently about the dysfunction in California state government that lead to the creation of California Forward six years ago and the progress has been made since. So much so that he believes the federal government, now mired in the same partisan gridlock that characterized California in 2008, can learn something from the reforms the Golden State has enacted. 

Cross-posted at