OP-ED: Can Facebook Save California?

Friday, January 27, 2012

Following is my editorial that appeared in today’s Sacramento Bee regarding the power of an engaged citizenry in transforming California’s structurally deficient democracy using our homegrown social media tools. Below the editorial is a letter I submitted to Governor Brown outlining my plan and recommending he assert his leadership in helping to reshape our governance structure. California’s innovation has helped shape governments around the world and should be used to help improve our own state.

Viewpoints: Social media can help transform California's governance system

Last modified: 2012-01-27T05:50:41Z
Published: Friday, Jan. 27, 2012

Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/2012/01/27/4218788/social-media-can-help-transform.html#storylink=cpy
Last Spring, social media fueled revolutions across the Arab World. Meanwhile, back here in California – the birthplace of much of the social media revolution – we wallow in the wake of an increasingly dysfunctional state government as if it is something beyond our control. If digital media can play a significant role in toppling evil despots in the Middle East, perhaps there is a place for it in achieving substantial government reform in our state.


Unfortunately, Hiram Johnson’s revolutionary vision for empowering the people through the initiative process has been hijacked by deep pocketed special interests. Today, those interest groups concoct constitutional amendments in private laboratories run by political consultants and tiny focus groups resulting in a system of government that’s nearly at war with itself.


And it has become clear that the State Legislature cannot muster the 2/3’s vote necessary to place substantive governmental reforms before the voters. As it stands, the only folks apparently capable of doing serious long-term thinking are billionaire philanthropists and their well-heeled associates.  While I have great respect for the motivations of those attempting to reform California’s obviously flawed governance structure, I don’t think back-room deal making by an exclusive club of elites can produce successful reforms for such a diverse and complicated state.


Fortunately, we’re blessed with two unique and powerful resources for restoring Hiram Johnson’s vision and improving our government’s responsiveness. First, we have at our universities some of the world’s greatest minds, including the single largest concentration of Nobel Laureates in the world.  Second, California is the birthplace of the information revolution and the worldwide leader in technology innovation.  If engaged, those two powerful resources have the capacity to transform this State.


Others in the world have offered a blueprint for true democracy and there is no reason it cannot be applied here in California. Imagine a process that harnesses that power so all citizens have the opportunity to reshape California as an even stronger and better democracy.


That is precisely why, in a recent letter to Governor Brown, I recommended an 18-month work-plan, starting with the creation of the Hiram Johnson Government Innovation Commission, to improve government responsiveness. The Commission would be composed of a diverse group of governmental experts, public representatives, business and labor representatives, Democratic and Republican State Legislators and local government leaders.  But, most importantly, the Commission would use many of California’s homegrown innovative social media tools such as Facebook, Google, Twitter, Yelp, Yahoo! and more to facilitate involvement in the process by all the citizenry.


The Commission, created through Executive Order, should be given one year to consult with the Legislative Analyst’s Office, experts at the University of California and California State University campuses and other experts throughout California.  In conjunction with that research the Commission should host at least 20 public hearings around the state and, through a partnership with social media, stage several on-line town-halls. Based on all that input, the Commission would then publicly vote on what it considers the 10 most critical changes to improve the state’s governance system.


Following the conclusion of the Commission’s work, the Legislature should then be given three months to review those proposals and hold hearings on them. At the close of those three months, the Commission would be given an additional sixty days to solicit additional public input based on the Legislature’s hearings and make whatever final revisions it deems necessary.


As the Commission conducts its work, I suggest a concurrent effort to forge a partnership with California’s social media industry to stage a statewide “You Decide” on-line election for fixing California. This on-line election would empower the people to decide, which of the Commission’s 10 proposals are the three-to-five most critical to putting California back on track, and then those proposals, selected by the people, would be put on the November, 2014 ballot for final vote.


We have the resources available to us to restore California’s reputation as the Golden State. Our citizens have helped transform the world, now we need their help to transform our state. But to accomplish that we must start now. Empowering our citizenry using California-grown technology, will also help send a message to our nation and the world that we are ready to lead once again.

Special to the Sacramento Bee Published: Friday, Jan. 27, 2012 | Page 15A http://www.sacbee.com/2012/01/27/4218788/social-media-can-help-transform.html

Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/2012/01/27/4218788/social-media-can-help-transform.html#storylink=cpy

Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/2012/01/27/4218788/social-media-can-help-transform.html#storylink=cpy: http://www.sacbee.com/2012/01/27/4218788/social-media-can-help-transform.html