The California Dream Should Belong to Everyone: An Open Letter

You Can Sign Too — Please join us here

In the fall of 2016, a handful of friends of varied political stripes (for real — it’s possible) met in Half Moon Bay, CA to discuss what was working and what was not in the state, what needed more attention, and what (more) might be done. There was a lot to talk about, but one idea brought the group into instant unequivocal alignment: Today’s obstacles to economic opportunity and mobility, faced by people in all regions of California and often starting from birth, were indefensible, unacceptable, and getting worse.

The group also recognized that they were merely a small subset of a much larger population, including thoughtful, creative individuals statewide, politically diverse, who recognize the imperative to address this social, economic and democratic systems failure. We wanted to offer a tool that allows all of us, all over the state, to show support for tackling this issue, and, ideally, changing the trajectory of our state’s future in ways that would be in everyone’s best interest. Something that can bring people together, identify new allies, and illuminate a clear way forward.

The following letter is in this spirit, and the below signatories are merely the first to join this call to action. If you agree with the letter, and if you like the idea of Californians working together — government, the private sector, nonprofits, local communities — to solve big problems, in new and exciting (yes, exciting!) ways that are inclusive, transparent and accountable to everyone, then please join us as well and sign on here.

A final note: This is an informal, all volunteer group. The initial organizers of the letter are the first twelve signatories, but as of this letter, we are all of the signatories. If we get a strong response to this action, then we will consult with all who have signed to consider possible next steps.

To Our Fellow Californians:

Everyone in California, of all places, should have a shot at the American Dream: A chance to work, to discover one’s potential, and to share that potential with others. But for too many Californians, that Dream is fading.

Our great state, the fifth largest economy in the world and a global leader in innovation, is now home to the most extreme inequality in the nation. Whether measured in terms of income, educational attainment, or life expectancy, California is falling behind. Adjusting for inflation, California’s median wage was 6.5 percent lower in 2017 than in 1979. Our economy has largely recovered from the last recession, but an increasing portion of jobs are in lower-wage occupations. This crisis is further worsened by the rising median cost of a home, now 2.5 times more expensive in California than elsewhere nationally. Working Californians often are forced to commute many miles to work, while paying the highest gas prices in the country. And after a lifetime of work, many retiring baby-boomers face a future without a pension or a 401(k), leaving them dependent on relatives for support, while their adult children grapple with how to cover the costs of infant care, now equivalent in cost to college tuition and fees.

Anyone who thinks he or she is immune should think again. The consequences of these conditions radiate throughout our society and economy. Our state is projected to produce 2.4 million fewer college degrees and certificates than the workforce will demand by 2025. Housing shortages cost California’s economy well over $143 billion annually because households spend income on rent or mortgage that they’d otherwise be spending on consumer goods.

Although California is rightfully proud of being a national leader in research & development, patents, start-ups, and venture capital funding, most Californians have not benefited from the tech boom which has brought unimaginable wealth to a small cohort of Silicon Valley billionaires. The average small business or working-class Californian instead struggles to survive in one of the least business-friendly climates in the nation. The only remedy for some has been to give up and simply leave the state, with thousands of residents each year taking their dreams, talents, and economic potential with them.

Many smart, compassionate people and organizations have worked tirelessly to improve this state of affairs, and continue to do so, but the magnitude of the challenge demands a unified, statewide response. This is why the undersigned will call upon the incoming Governor to announce, on the first day of his/her first term, an intention to put California on track to significantly increase economic opportunity and mobility within the next ten years.

California has long been admired as a national and global policy leader by establishing big goals with real deadlines. Because of that optimistic “can do” attitude California now leads the nation in renewables, through establishment of a 50% goal by 2030; in waste diversion, with a 75% goal by 2020; and in CO2 reductions, with an 80% goal by 2050. We believe it is time to apply this same ambitious metric-driven approach to ensuring all California residents have real access to the opportunities and tools we know are needed for individuals, communities and the economy to flourish.

We will urge the next Governor to endorse clear, specific targets for the state to achieve by 2030, and easy-to-follow metrics to track progress. Our shared goal should be measurable, visible change. Example targets might include a reduction in the number of Californians living in poverty; increased numbers of middle-class families, defined both by rising incomes as well as increasing affordability of essential goods such as housing; and increased access to early childhood education as well as college readiness and completion rates of post-secondary education. The targets should be identified through a transparent, inclusive, collaborative process.

True success also will require a commitment to designing a data collection, evaluation and reporting process that is transparent and accessible, promotes accountability, and is welcomed as a useful tool by those who work in relevant fields. The State Legislature has a valuable role to play as well, and initiatives such as the “Lifting Children and Families out of Poverty” Task Force, established by AB 1520 (Burke) and set to produce recommendations in November, 2018, can help reach this goal.

We believe every individual has the power to make our communities better and a responsibility to try to do so; this is what compels us to act. We also believe every Californian should have access to skilled jobs at which they can excel, and opportunities to enjoy and contribute to their communities and to our collective future. This also happens to be the surest way to a strong and resilient economy that prepares the next generation to thrive as workers, employers, inventors, parents, and civic stewards.

We speak as a small subset of the thousands of Californians in our state’s world class universities, its diverse non-profits, its civically conscious business community, and its dedicated civil service, ready to shoulder this effort. We are confident that there are thousands more Californians who agree with the diagnoses and proposal in this letter, and who want to be part of a solution. If you are one of them, please add your name in support, and join us. We need you, and California needs all of us — right now.

Very sincerely,

Lande Ajose, Executive Director, California Competes

Sam Blakeslee, Founding Director, Institute for Advanced Technology and Public Policy, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo; former California State Senator, Assemblyman, and Assembly Republican Leader

Virginia Hamilton, former Regional Administrator, U.S. Department of Labor

Lenny Mendonca, Senior Partner Emeritus, Washington D.C. and San Francisco offices of McKinsey & Company; Chair, New America; Co-Chair California Forward

Kathay Feng, Executive Director, California Common Cause*

Pete Peterson, Dean & Senior Fellow, Pepperdine School of Public Policy, Davenport Institute, Pepperdine University*

Michele Siqueiros, President, Campaign for College Opportunity

David B Smith, CEO, X Sector Labs; former Managing Director, Presidio Institute

Jonathan Stein, Voting Rights Program Manager, Asian Americans Advancing Justice — Asian Law Caucus*

Ashley Swearengin, President and CEO, Central Valley Community Foundation, Former Mayor, Fresno

Zabrae Valentine, Co-founder, CA Forward and the CA Forward Action Fund

Pete Weber, former Vice-President, FMC Corporation; former CEO, TeKnowledge, Inc.; former CEO, Riverbend International; Founder and Chair, Fresno Bridge Academy; Co-Chair California Forward

Elisabeth Mason, Venture Philanthropist; Founding Director of the Technology, Opportunity and Poverty Lab, Stanford University

Hilary Hoynes, Professor of Economics and Public Policy; Co-Director, Berkeley Opportunity Lab, UC Berkeley

David Grusky, Professor of Sociology; Director, Center on Poverty and Inequality, Stanford University

Elizabeth Hill, former Legislative Analyst, State of California

Sandra Susan Smith, Professor of Sociology; Interim Director, U.C. Berkeley Institute for Research on Labor and Employment

Nadia Diaz Funn, Executive Director, Alliance for a Better Community

Carla Javits, President and CEO, REDF*

Dowell Myers, Professor of Policy, Planning, and Demography, Sol Price School of Public Policy, USC

Kim Belshé, Executive Director, First Five LA; former Secretary of Health and Human Services, State of California

Manuel Pastor, Professor of Sociology & Director, USC Program for Environmental and Regional Equity

Joseph N. Sanberg, Founder, CalEITC4Me

Natalie Foster, Co-chair, Economic Security Project; Advisor, The Aspen Institute Future of Work Initiative

Neil Malhotra, Edith M. Cornell Professor of Political Economy, Stanford Graduate School of Business

Joel Fox, Founder and Editor, FoxandHoundsDaily.com

Miriam Kuppermann, Professor and Vice Chair for Clinical Research, Dept. of Obstetrics, Gynecology & Reproductive Sciences, UCSF

Dan Schnur, Professor, Annenberg School of Communications, University of Southern California; former Chairman, California Fair Political Practices Commission

Jeannine English, 2018 Stanford Fellow, Distinguished Career Institute; former State and National President, AARP; Former Executive Director, Little Hoover Commission

Bob Lanter, Executive Director, California Workforce Association

Roger Niello, Business Owner; former State Assemblyman; former County Supervisor

Megan Joseph, Executive Director, Rise Together Bay Area

Radhika Shah, CoPresident Stanford Angels & Entrepreneurs, Founding Chair, Tech Advisory Group Stanford Handa Center for Human Rights, Advisor SDG Philanthropy Platform

Julia Lopez, former President and CEO, College Futures Foundation

Sarah Swanbeck, Executive Director, Berkeley Institute for the Future of Young Americans

Zac Townsend, former Chief Data Officer of the State of California; Partner, Deciens Capital; Research Scientist, Stanford University*

Melissa R. Michelson, Professor of Political Science, Menlo College, Author

Malka Kopell, Co-Founder, Civity

Jessica Lavariega Monforti, Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, California Lutheran University

Laura N. Chick, former Ca Inspector General for federal stimulus funds; former L.A. City Councilmember; former LA City Controller

Heather McLeod Grant, Co-Founder, Open Impact

David Wolf, Executive Director Emeritus, Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (Western Association of Schools and Colleges); Co-Founder, Campaign for College Opportunity

Sabrina Moyle, CEO, Hello!Lucky

John Pimentel, President, White Hat Renewables; Co-founder, Independent Alliance for California

Steve Boilard, Immediate Past Executive Director, Center for California Studies, Sacramento State University

Caroline L. Whistler, CEO and Co-Founder, Third Sector

Jim Heerwagen, Founder and Chair, The Voters Right to Know Project; Founder/CEO IQVine & Sunvolt Nanosystems

Wade Rose, System Vice President, Dignity Health

Jim Mayer, President and CEO, California Forward; former Executive Director, Little Hoover Commission

Deb Nankivell, CEO, Fresno Business Council

Bill Shireman, President/CEO Future 500; Lecturer, U.C. Berkeley Haas School of Business

Larry Rosenthal, Program Director, UC Berkeley Center on Civility & Democratic Engagement

Julia Rhodes Davis, Chair, Vote.org; former Managing Director, DataKind

Jessica Pitt, Executive Director, HealthPATH

Pam Calloway, Executive Director, The Bread Project

Kay O’Neill, Co-founder, OpenAccess; former Director of Workforce Development, Cañada College

Brian Brennan, Senior Vice President Silicon Valley Leadership Group

Todd Dipaola, CEO and Founder, inMarket; Co-Chair, Represent.Us*

Mary Hanna-Weir, Civil rights attorney, Santa Clara

Bill Bloomfield, President, web service company (retired)

Roy Ulrich, President, California Tax Reform Association

Norman Kline, Founder and CEO, LibraryWorld, Inc.; former Mayor, City of Saratoga

Terri Feeley, Founder and Principal, Workforce Success; former Executive Director, SF Works

Lauryn Agnew, Founder, Bay Area Impact Investing Initiative; President, Seal Cove Financial

Louise Rothman-Riemer, President, Oakland League of Women Voters

Marian Kaanon, President/CEO, Stanislaus Community Foundation

Fernando Guerra, Professor of Political Science and Chicana/o Studies, Director of the Thomas and Dorothy Leavey Center for the Study of Los Angeles, Loyola Marymount University

Sunne Wright McPeak, President and CEO, California Emerging Technology Fund, former Secretary of the California Business, Transportation and Housing Agency; former President and CEO of the Bay Area Council

Robert B. Reich, Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy, UC Berkeley; former U.S. Secretary of Labor

Ted Lempert, President, Children Now; Co-founder, former CEO, EdVoice; former California State Assemblyman

Connie Rice, Civil Rights Attorney

Kristin Connelly, President and CEO, East Bay Leadership Council*

Moira Kenney, Executive Director, First 5 Association of California

Laura D. Tyson, Distinguished Professor, Graduate School, Berkeley Haas School of Business; Board of Trustees Chair, Blum Center for Developing Economies, UC Berkeley; former Chair, Council of Economic Advisers; former Director, National Economic Council

Christopher Edley, Jr., Professor and Former Dean, UC Berkeley Law School; President, Opportunity Institute

Nora Silver, Founder and Faculty Director, Center for Social Sector Leadership, UC Berkeley-Haas School of Business

Gabe Kleinman, Director of Portfolio Services & Marketing, Obvious Ventures

Anne Wilson, CEO, United Way Bay Area

Steve Westly, Former California State Controller; Founder of the Westly Group

Your Name Here

(NOTE: This list of signatories grows every day; see all signatories Here at EconomicMobilityCA.com)

*for purpose of identification only