Thursday, March 27, 2008

New Nonprofit to Help Government

It is generally a good thing when help is offered and this seems to be coming from a particularly well situated organization with resources and vision.

Let’s hope they can do some good with their first challenge, legislative redistricting.

New foundation to campaign for more efficient California government
By Shane Goldmacher -
Published 12:00 am PDT Thursday, March 27, 2008

Could late and unbalanced budgets, along with partisan gridlock, disappear from Sacramento?

That's the goal of a new bipartisan political foundation that unveiled its campaign Wednesday to improve state government, bringing along a three-year, $15.9 million budget and high hopes for overhauling the way the state does business.

The group, called California Forward, will be directed by a 13-member bipartisan board, including six former elected officials and a group of business, civil rights and political activists.

"California cannot be a leader in the 21st century if its government is not functioning effectively and efficiently for the people of this state," said the group's co-chairman, Leon Panetta, a Democrat who has served in Congress and as chief of staff to President Clinton.

Thomas McKernan, a wealthy Republican activist in Orange County and CEO of the Automobile Club of Southern California, is the other co-chairman.

The foundation's leaders promised it will differ from past reform coalitions. As board member and former state Sen. Chuck Poochigian, a Fresno Republican, put it, California Forward has "the resources to get the job done."

The funding comes from five of the state's leading public policy foundations, which leaders of California Forward described as tired of seeing important research studies brushed aside by elected officials.

The member foundations are the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the James Irvine Foundation, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, the California Endowment, and the Evelyn and Walter Haas Jr. Fund.

California Forward will also operate a political fund – fueled by private donors and separate from the nonprofit's three-year, $15.9 million budget – to make its voice heard on more overt political matters, such as ballot measures.

The coalition is already backing one such measure, aimed for the November ballot, that would strip state lawmakers of the power to draw their own legislative districts. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and California Common Cause are among the other backers.