Thursday marked a milestone for our Association. It started with a lively visit by Governor Brown to our Board of Directors meeting. It ended with a decision that could potentially shape the direction and relevancy of our Counties and Association for years to come.
After bantering with the media for a few minutes outside the CSAC Conference Center, Governor Brown shook off the rain and cold to come inside and spend the next 90 minutes talking policy, politics and the future of our state. The conversation with the CSAC board was lively, insightful and, at times, entertaining. He dodged no question; he did not hide behind politically safe responses to tough questions. While his personality, intelligence and charm filled the room, the Governor sat at our meeting’s hollow square of tables as if he was one of us. And in a sense, through the partnership CSAC has developed with him over the past three months, he is. The Governor has proven how he is willing to work hand-in-hand with California Counties to craft a plan that will change the state-county relationship and potentially veer our state away from the fiscal cliff that lies close. As one of our Association leaders recently said, “this Governor talks with us, not at us.”
When he left, the CSAC board members rolled up their sleeves and got down to the vital task at hand: discussing and voting on the Governor’s proposed constitutional amendment on realignment. The discussion was candid as supervisors from counties of all sizes, from all corners of the state, spoke their mind. They talked about the potential risks that lay ahead. They passionately spoke about what an “all-cuts” budget would do to our county programs and the 38 million people we serve. They talked about how our county voice is being heard loud and clear within the Capitol – louder than it has in years.
When the lengthy discussion finally wound down, our board voted 45-4 to support the proposed constitutional amendment. This decision was not made lightly. It involved literally hundreds of meetings and conference calls over the past three months. Yesterday, it was the board’s turn, as a whole, to be heard. In the end, CSAC sent a strong message to the Legislature and public that our county leaders will not idly sit by and watch the dismantling of vital services. We will do everything in our power to ensure that an irreversible hole is not ripped in the state’s safety net and the quality of life in our communities is not severely eroded.
Our work is far from over. The next couple of months will be as important and hectic as the past few. One mountain has been climbed; others loom on the horizon. But we know that CSAC is being heard, that we have a voice – and say – in the next steps. We will continue to put policy over politics; 38 million Californians deserve no less. As an Association, we are ready for the challenge that lies ahead.