Senior Fiscal Policy Advisor for California Forward Speaks at SPUR Lunch Forum

Governor Jerry Brown’s veto of the proposed budget is just one more data point highlighting California’s government dysfunction.

Since Government 2.0 is so much more than fancy apps – it is the hard work of creating a government architecture that isn’t constantly crashing – we headed down to San Francisco’s leading think tank last week to hear from one of our state’s leading government reform organizations, California Forward (CAFWD).

The San Francisco Urban Planning and Research Association (SPUR) was hosting Fred Silva from California Forward to discuss his organization’s vision for restructuring California’s budget process and government framework. The lunch forum took place at SPUR’s Urban Center located at 654 Mission

CAFWD is a non-profit, non-partisan organization created by five foundations to address California’s governmental dysfunction through budget reform and restructuring local and state government.

Silva spoke on CAFWD’s top five ‘Smart Government Proposals’

  • A switch to an outcomes-focused budgetary process, rather than the current you-get-what-you-got-last-year-plus-growth model
  • Aligning authority with responsibility — CAFWD argues for increasing local authority over funding and programs
  • Adjust state role to oversight and technical assistance
  • Incentivize regional governments to collaborate
  • Foster integration and consolidation of state and local agencies (i.e. school districts) to streamline government to operate more efficiently and less expensively

How does San Francisco fit into this puzzle?

Silva repeatedly spoke of San Francisco as the only consolidated city-county in the State. That, he argues, following CAFWD’s fifth smart government proposal, results in a more efficient governmental structure with clearer lines of authority and responsibility, than, say, San Mateo County. He indirectly cited San Francisco as a model city-county for the rest of California to look to.

We guess things look rosier from a distance – although he does make a good point: San Francisco could be more efficient than other local governments because of our status as both a city and county. (More on this later in the week. Operative word here is could – in fact we have proceeded to create two of many significant government functions.)

California Forward: Moving forward, but where to?

Silva spoke of Governor Jerry Brown’s veto of the proposed budget as a step towards his organization’s goal of fiscal reform for California. He sees tax extensions dominating the conversation in the following two weeks.

If tax extensions are not approved, he sees California’s coming fiscal year as one of its worst.

The Road to a California Constitutional Convention

We tend to think of ourselves as an island here in San Francisco, but the deficit tsunami in California is definitely already coming ashore. When the state makes cuts, we are faced with a choice of backfilling these services with local funds, including local funds paid for by increased local taxes, or having San Franciscans go without.

California Forward has been one of the leading groups advocating for Constitutional Reform as the only long-term solution. We hope they read our post last week about crowdsourcing reform.

And we’ll keep you updated as they move forward with their reform efforts.

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Phil Ting's picture

Outcomes Focused Budgeting

Fred Silva is one of the most knowledgeable and well-respected people working in Sacramento and talking about CA state government.  Government's biggest challenge is people have no idea what they are getting for the money they are paying.  When you walk into a cell phone store, you pay money and get a cell phone.  When you pay your taxes, you assume you are paying for the sidewalk you walked on, the roads you drive or bike on, the garbage collection, police and fire safety, public schools and the ambulence in case you have a health emergency.  Whether we are actually paying more than what we use or less than what we use - we dont know - so having outcomes focused budgeting is critical to bringing in more confidence on government.  People would know whether government is actually achieveing the objectives the people have requested.

As the spearhead for the California Constitutional Convention movement, Fred Silva, is someone who Reset San Francisco attempts to emulate.  We modeled Reset on the amazing dialogue around reforming our state.  Unfortunately, the discussion was never allowed to truly happen since the organizations were not able to raise the $3million to get signatures to put the issue on the ballot - one more example of the need for serious reform.  We thought - what if we could dialogue with everyone about the most critical issues in San Francisco - would people participate and could we get some amazing ideas - I think the answer is a resounding yes.

Paid for by Phil Ting for Assembly 2012. FPPC ID# 1343137