The problems of the State’s inland and rural regions are well known. They have the highest levels of poverty and unemployment along with the lowest levels of educational attainment.
But affluent coastal communities are not without their own challenges. People who provide valued services to the affluent -- teachers, cops, firefighters, health providers, let alone waitresses, retail workers and so many others -- can’t afford to live where they work, and these affluent regions have seen unprecedented levels of gentrification.
NCC plans to create chapters in every one of California’s thirteen regions, because every region has its share of unique challenges and opportunities.
To its credit, the Newsom administration has created a $600 million Community Economic Resilience Fund (CERF), but, as a November 17, 2022 report from the Little Hoover Commission states, that’s “a drop in the bucket”; adding, “Lifting up the economies of less prosperous regions will likely require billions in funding over decades”. While that is likely to be true, what is even more important is for California to adopt policies that will encourage business investment.
The State will never have enough funding to subsidize regional economic development. As economist Timothy Bartik has reported, the Tennessee Valley Authority spent $200 to $300 per capita per year for more than ten years to lift that region up – a comparable approach would cost California about $10 billion per year. California can’t afford that. What we must do is adopt policies that attract business investment. As evidenced by the annual poll of CEO’s conducted by CEO magazine, which perennially lists California as the “worst state in which to do business” we have been doing just the opposite. See the guest editorial below to learn why one region chose to join NCC.
Published in the Fresno Bee on November 5, 2022: https://www.fresnobee.com/opinion/readers-opinion/article268295127.html
When Jim Wunderman, CEO of the Bay Area Business Council, and Tracy Hernandez, CEO of BizFed, first asked the Fresno Business Council, the Fresno Metro Black Chamber of Commerce, and others to join the New California Coalition, we approached the conversation with caution.We’ve known Jim and Tracy for a long time and have great respect for them, but we needed to have a crystal-clear understanding of how they saw NCC’s mission. We were keenly aware that inland Californians have sometimes fared poorly in coalitions with coastal organizations.After many hours of conversation, including a marathon session in Monterey, we have enthusiastically agreed to join NCC as the Heartland Region, representing Fresno, Kings, Madera and Tulare counties.
Not only did they persuade us that their mission was compelling, but they were willing to adapt it based on our input to ensure that all Californians, in every one of the 13 regions of the state, will benefit from the success of the organization.
So, what is that mission? NCC is a nonpartisan civic action movement based on shared responsibility for the prosperity and well-being of all California regions. While we recognize and celebrate the many good attributes of California, we will honestly identify the issues that have made the California dream increasingly elusive for so many Californians, and we’ll develop policies and political strategies to tackle those issues.
Despite its extraordinary assets, California is on a downhill path. Our state was once appropriately dubbed the Golden State. Today we have the highest level of poverty in the nation, rank 49th in homeownership, have more than 50% of the nation’s unsheltered homeless population and 32% of the welfare recipients, rank dead last in literacy, and more people are leaving the state than entering. When the sixth-largest economy in the world doesn’t have reliable and affordable energy or water, and can’t keep its forests from burning, it’s time to take notice, and do something about it. Tinkering at the margins is no longer acceptable.
Those of us from inland California are particularly eager to act because we feel the impacts most strongly and have for decades. Household incomes in some inland communities are only about one-third of those in the more affluent coastal communities. Because our big land areas cause us to drive longer distances and our warmer weather means we use more energy, our families and businesses bear the brunt of having the highest fuel and energy costs in the nation. And because we have a higher share of people of color, the social equity impacts are disturbingly deep.We’re not casting blame. In a democracy, all interest groups have a right to advocate for their constituents, but California has a decades-long trend of policy developed by narrow interests with little regard for the public good. NCC will advocate for everyday, common-sense Californians. We’ll approach every issue as civic stewards. All our policy proposals will seek to achieve triple-bottom-line outcomes: inclusive economic growth, environmental sustainability and enhanced social equity.
During our discussions in Monterey, Tracy and Jim persuaded us that they cared about generating better outcomes for Californians in every region of the state. Indeed, they turned to Pete Weber and asked him to take responsibility for drafting the governance protocols for NCC. That gave rise to the notion that every one of the state’s regions would have a seat on the NCC board. Mike Betts will represent the Heartland Chapter. Deb Nankivell will serve as stewardship adviser for the statewide NCC.
Heartlanders, help is on the way. Please join us at https://www.newcaliforniacoalition.org/