How do we fix California?

So have you guys heard about this book California Crackup: How reform broke the Golden State and how we can fix it? I’m sure you can figure out the subject matter from the title. It’s gotten a lot of really positive reviews, and people keep telling me I need to read it, but I have not been able to get around to it yet. I’m hoping I’ll find the time over the Thanksgiving or Christmas holidays.

Anyway, I don’t think there’s much dispute out there that California is broken. And the authors have some very interesting ideas about how to make California start working again. Obviously, eliminating the supermajority requirement for passing taxes is one, but there’s plenty of more out-of-the-box stuff there as well — a unicameral legislature made up of multi-member districts, legislature-written counter-measures alongside propositions on the ballot, more referendums, stuff like that.

I am definitely not sold on all of it, but I love that they’re talking about these kind of wild ideas, and I’m really excited to hear more about them next Tuesday, when I will be attending the League of Women Voters of Oakland November program Finding a Fix for a Broken State, featuring the authors of the book, Joe Mathews and Mark Paul. Here’s the event description from the League:

In California Crackup, Joe Mathews and Mark Paul expose the constitutional origins of the current political and economic problems in California, including the lingering consequences of 1978′s Prop 13 and the conflict inherent in our three governing systems: an election system designed to produce governing majorities, a consensus-based legislative system that amounts to minority rule, and an inflexible system of direct democracy that trumps the first two systems. They offer innovative solutions that will allow Californians to debate our options and choose the best ones, hold elected officials accountable for results, and change course if something isn’t working. This promises to be a very timely and informative talk.

Joe Mathews is Irvine senior fellow at the New America Foundation. He is the author of The People’s Machine: Arnold Schwarzenegger and the Rise of Blockbuster Democracy, contributing editor to the Los Angeles Times and lead blogger for NBC’s Prop Zero.

His co-author, Mark Paul, is senior scholar and deputy director of the California program at the New America Foundation. He was formerly deputy treasurer of California and deputy editorial page editor of the Sacramento Bee.

The meeting will be held next Tuesday, November 16th from 6:00 to 7:30 PM at Oakland City Hall Hearing Room 3 (1 Frank Ogawa Plaza).

Hope to see you guys there!

3 thoughts on “How do we fix California?

  1. Jon

    I actually met Mark Paul and Joe Matthews as they were promoting their book. They certainly know a lot about what is wrong with Californian politics and they certainly make interesting suggestions in terms how to fix the state: term limits, voting requirements etc. Some of their ideas were in fact a bit radical, but overall, they seemed to know what they were talking about.

    I did read their book, The People’s Machine. It is a good read, and I recommend people read that book also. It provides an insightful narrative of why Schwarzeneggar was different from past governors in terms of how he captured the media’s attention. It was written in a nice, easy to understand prose, which I look forward to in the upcoming book.

  2. Allan

    I went to the talk. In my opinion, they are missing the key point. Remember, most of the other states are also in deep trouble.

    I think the key point is the relationship between the federal government and the states. The states have responsibility for education, most law enforcement, and providing a safety net. The state’s sources of revenue dry up in hard times, just when the need is greatest. The feds give some money to the states, but these funds do not rise with need

    Only the federal government can borrow big time when it’s needed.

    We are a victim of the 1776 concept that our 50 regional governments are truly “States” No other major country tries to work this way. It is time for a re-think.