Joe Rodota

Joe Rodota

Joseph Rodota is the founder and CEO of Forward Observer, a public affairs research and strategy firm with offices in Washington, DC and Sacramento, CA. Joe served as Deputy Chief of Staff and Cabinet Secretary to former California Governor Pete Wilson, overseeing day-to-day operations, policy development, and federal relations for the 13 cabinet agencies of the nation’s most populous state. He was a top consultant to the Governor’s 1990 campaign and served as senior counselor for policy in Governor Wilson’s 1994 reelection campaign. During California’s tumultuous 2003 recall election, Joe served as Director of Policy and Research for Arnold Schwarzenegger. Mr. Rodota is a graduate of Stanford University in history, with honors and distinction. He serves on the board of the Crocker Museum of Art. He speaks on politics, ballot initiative strategy and tactics, and the importance of research in corporate communications.

In the current recession, the ranks of the unemployed in California have swelled by nearly 1.2 million.

Still, one industry seems to be thriving in America’s nation-state: the California “reform industry.”

The key organizations in the Golden State’s world of reform are California Forward and Think Long, each with high-profile board members (including Hoover’s George Shultz and Condoleezza Rice, former California Gov. Gray Davis and ex-Assembly Speaker Robert Hertzberg, as well as leaders from business and labor organizations), a cadre of political and policy consultants, and enthusiastic funders.

I’m unaffiliated with either group. My perspective on state government was honed over the past two decades as a campaign consultant for Pete Wilson’s and Arnold Schwarzenegger’s successful gubernatorial runs; as Cabinet Secretary and Deputy Chief of Staff to Wilson; as a Schwarzenegger appointee to California’s Little Hoover Commission; and as a political strategist on more than 50 state and local ballot initiative efforts (including Proposition 14, which abolished partisan primary elections and replaced them with a “top-two” system that made its maiden voyage this June).

Over the years, I’ve culled through reams of reform proposals and have found an intriguing paradigm: the appetite for reform grows when the California economy (and state and local government finances) is under stress.

No responsible party argues now that California is on track, or will right itself on the natural. In fact, there’s a strong bipartisan consensus that the Golden State needs a sustained push of reforms aimed simultaneously at its executive branch (I’m thinking of all those miscellaneous statewide officers who crowd the dais at the Governor’s annual State of the State address), the Legislature and the initiative process.

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