Three hundred Californians got a crash course this past weekend on California governance, then made their voices heard about what direction they think the state should be headed. They were part of a deliberative poll called "What's Next California?" convened by a collection of non-partisan government reform groups and steered by Stanford University Professor Jim Fishkin.
The deliberative poll -- a three day gathering -- brought together citizens from across California. The came from Bakersfield and Berkeley, Redding and Riverside, and spent the weekend in a Torrance hotel. As they gathered Friday, Irene Salazar of Fresno reflected: "The government doesn't know everything that the citizens go through... they don't understand our lives, so it would be better if it involved us."
KQED's Cy Musiker chatted with one of the organizers, Zabrae Valentine of California Forward, on the first day of the event. Valentine called the poll a "deep discussion" on four issues: tax and fiscal reform, the intitiative process, the way the legislature represents voters, and the way programs and services are delivered with an emphasis on local accountability.
"We've got some serious problems that are affecting pretty much everyone's quality of life," she said. "There are very few opportunities for voters to have deeper discussions and arrive at informed opinions about where the state should go."
Participants were selected as representatives of a random cross-section of Californians. And they seemed excited to have been asked to participate. Katie Loving of Costa Mesa in Orange County said she was inspired by the gathering to become more involved in government at the state and local level. "It's an awesome thing we're doing this weekend," she said. "It really is a motivational factor for me."