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the future of

OC Register: Bold Visions and Strategies for California’s Next Century

All Issue Areas

California 100 Director of Research Henry Brady and Executive Director Karthick Ramakrishnan published the OpEd below in the OC Register:

“As California Goes, So Goes the Nation, Alas.”

That was a headline from a Los Angeles Times opinion column from April 1989, which noted that, even though “Californians have long considered their state the cutting edge of social and political change… [it] no longer seems the vanguard of political innovation. Other states rarely look to California for policy initiatives.”

Fast-forward to 2022, and few would proclaim that California remains mired in gridlock and indecision. Quite the contrary. The state has enacted a variety of policies ranging from immigrant rights to criminal justice reform, to expanded access to health care and higher education, to large-scale experiments in guaranteed income and ambitious moves towards net-zero emissions in a variety of sectors. And despite the periodic waves of “doom and gloom” reporting about the state, California’s economic output over the last 26 years has grown faster than the national average, and on par with GDP growth for the state of Texas.

Even so, much remains to be done. While California has embraced diversity in many ways, the California Dream has been marred by periods of intense racial exclusion throughout its history and racial and ethnic inequities remain everyday concerns.   The Dream remains out of reach for millions in the state—whether measured by health outcomes, unaffordable housing, or massive disparities in income and wealth. If California’s racial diversity represents America’s demographic reality by 2100, our work is essential—not only for the long-term success of the state, but also for our country’s innovative and equitable future.

This future-focused work is especially pressing today. The COVID-19 pandemic scrambled a state and nation already undergoing significant changes in their economy, polity, and society. The harmful consequences of climate change are at our doorstep, with forest fires and droughts that grow in frequency and intensity. The weakening of local media and the growth of misinformation and disinformation threaten our civic health and public health. And staggering inequality in income and wealth, homeownership and health, threaten the state’s reputation as a haven for international and domestic migrants alike.

In addition to immediate threats that affect our long-term future, we also see unprecedented opportunity. Billions of recovery and infrastructure dollars are flowing to state, local, and tribal governments in California, with many jurisdictions looking to invest in the long-term needs of their communities. Philanthropic institutions and individual donors are also looking to make transformative investments that have lasting impact. We have an opportunity to inform and enrich all of these plans and conversations.

Despite the incredible opportunities we have, most organizations don’t have the luxury of time, talent, and dedicated resources to focus on long-term futures.

What if we had the opportunity to all come together, to envision our long-term future? Where everyone is given the opportunity to succeed and communities are healthy and strong. Where our environment is free from pollution and housing is affordable. Where innovation, resilience, inclusion, sustainability, and equity aren’t just talking points, but embedded into our public policy solutions at all levels. Where young people have a seat at the table and have a say in shaping their future.

We launched California 100 less than a year ago to provide added value at this critical time with actionable research, demonstration projects, and compelling scenarios that help Californians—government agencies, stakeholder groups, and residents alike— to envision, strategize, and act collectively to build a more innovative and equitable future.

An important first step on this journey is understanding key facts about our current conditions, and a long-term view of how our current systems came to be, and where they may be headed in the future. We partnered with the state’s top researchers to tackle these very questions. They dove into the big issues you might expect, from education, economic mobility and transportation, to housing, health, and immigration. Importantly, many spoke not only with movement and industry leaders, but also directly with impacted Californians.

After months of research and analysis, we are excited to share our partners’ findings with the rest of California. We will be releasing 13 issue reports this spring that provide deep insight into these topic areas, including key facts, origins, trends, and scenarios for the future. In addition to finding these reports on our website, you will hear from our researchers directly—right here in the opinion pages of the Southern California News Group. We are proud to partner with this paper to present original thoughts and conversations from our state’s top researchers.

If any state is positioned to lead the nation and world on innovative policy solutions for the future, it is California. After all, we are the Golden State! A place of dreamers and doers. We look forward to starting the conversation about what our next century might look like – starting today.

Henry E. Brady is the director of research for the California 100 Initiative, professor of public policy at UC Berkeley, and former Dean of the UC Berkeley Goldman School of Public Policy. Karthick Ramakrishnan is the executive director of California 100 and a professor of political science at UC Riverside