Citizens Weigh in on California's Future

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What's Next California

What's Next California

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."

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Comments (4)

  1. Claire in CA, USA says:

    As one of the 400, I pray that the discussions we had and the questions we asked are a wake up call to the government (who I really hope pay attention). I was particularly struck by the fact that, at least in my small group of 13, we had not one negative confrontation. Despite being of disparate political affiliations and opinions, we spoke kindly and respectfully to each other. Why can’t our governments do the same?!

    As a side note, in the first video, you misspelled Sabean Scott-Demery’s name. We met in line on the first day, and hung out the rest of the weekend when we could, so I thought I’d just let you guys know. :)

    • Tyche Hendricks says:

      Dear Claire,

      How impressive that you could be thrown together with a group of total strangers from around the state — people of vastly differing opinions and life experiences — and discuss California’s issues “kindly and respectfully.” Congratulations to you and your fellow deliberators! Let’s hope our policy makers follow your lead.

  2. Sabean Scott-Demery says:

    My experience as a participant in the Deliberative Poll “What’s Next California” was amazing! I was so impressed by the participants, and the wealth of information that was shared. It was so insightful and very encouraging. I have been sharing everything I learned with friends and family and will definitely make a conscious effort to stay informed and get involved.

    If 400 people from different backgrounds, socio-economically, politically, every “ly” can come together and peacefully (as far as I know) discuss issues facing California, then I am hopeful that our politicians can look beyond partisanship and work together to solve the problems facing our state.

    By the way, this is Sabean Scott-Demery. My first name was spelled incorrectly on the video title. If someone has an opportunity to correct this, I would appreciate it.

    Thank you!

    • Tyche Hendricks says:

      Thank you Sabean for sharing a little taste of your experience at the What’s Next California deliberative poll. It is heartening to hear from you (and others) about what an informative, insightful and even inspiring weekend it was. You are one of several people I’ve heard from who said they were motivated to continue to stay informed and become more engaged in government and policy issues affecting our state. Good for you. That spirit is exactly what we need if we are to make sense of “our state of disarray.”

      PS: I’ve passed along your note about the spelling of your name to the “What’s Next California” folks. I think they have fixed it in their video.