Election Day 2010: An open letter to the incoming Governor of the State of California

Dear Governor-Elect:

Congratulations, and please get some rest.  We’ll need all the energy you have for the next four years.

When Governor Schwarzenegger was first sworn in as Governor in November 2003, Californians faced an unemployment rate of 6.6% — 5.4% when he was reelected in January 2007.

You take the oath of office with an official unemployment rate hovering above 12% — about 2.5 MILLION people officially unemployed, while the State budget runs a stubbornly huge deficit year after year.  Simple version as you well know: state spending exceeds revenues by a long shot.

Respectfully, lead with a positive vision.  Nothing motivates like hope for the future.

And one of the most hopeful signs from a brutal election season was the recent poll indicating overwhelming support for compromise from everyone on the political spectrum in order to achieve results.

Set priorities + garner the necessary support to act on the priorities + follow through aggressively + measure results + adjust accordingly = a shot at a decent first two years for your incoming Administration.

As far as priorities go – put job creation at the top of the list.

What can the government do?

Bright spots. Identify what’s working now at the local level to create jobs, and deliver incentives to create more.  Who is creating jobs?  What incentives do they need to do more?  To incorporate better wages and more positive environmental impact?  How can government help connect the dots?  How can we use already appropriated funds more efficiently?  How can government get out of the way?

When things move – help them move.  When things stall, find out why.  When things don’t work, stop funding them.  Shine a spotlight on those creating jobs.  Shine a spotlight on those standing in the way (regardless of party or ideology).   Fight cronyism with facts.

Some examples:

  • Initiatives by local government in Los Angeles, from all ends of the political spectrum —  from the community benefits agreements pioneered by LAANE, to emerging leadership appointed by L.A.’s Mayor.
  • Creative economic development efforts in Fresno – which has among the nation’s highest unemployment rates – ranging from the new Mayor’s focus on downtown revitalization to neighborhood efforts that support children so parents can work.

Innovate. Everybody is looking for the ‘next big thing’ to get the economy going.  California’s unusual combination of higher education, venture capital, philanthropy, thinking/acting outside of the box, technology, land, and our big, diverse population positions us to lead the country.  Use the tools government has to encourage innovation in the economy and in the social sector.

  • Do business with double bottom line companies. Government procurement amounts to billions of dollars.  Channel some of it to fuel ‘double-bottom line social enterprises’ that create jobs for those who otherwise depend on taxpayer support (people with disabilities, people on parole, young people disconnected from school and work –‘graduates’ of the foster care system).  A low cost way to reduce public expenditures.
  • Private-public partnership. Engage with California philanthropy.  The center of private wealth and philanthropy has moved rapidly from New York to California.  The most creative social capital investing is happening right here.  Foundations and philanthropists have their own priorities, but are more eager than ever to achieve real impact and scale.  Private-public partnership can add fuel to economic growth.   Mobilize and incentivize to channel resources toward job creation – especially for poor and disadvantaged communities where philanthropic support has lagged over the years (as documented by current Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg in a piece for the Wall Street Journal authored a few years back when she was at Google).

Signing off, with respect for your willingness to take on the hard work – we offer a hand to help as we can, and hope that you will get the job done.