Opinion Columns & Blogs

A Fresno Republican and a Democratic labor leader report that there’s a middle way

Labor leader Dave Regan, a Democrat, and former Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin, a Republican, say it’s time for Californians to unite and forge solutions for the state’s pressing problems.
Labor leader Dave Regan, a Democrat, and former Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin, a Republican, say it’s time for Californians to unite and forge solutions for the state’s pressing problems. The Fresno Bee file

Like many leaders from different parties, we often disagree. A labor leader from Berkeley and a former Republican mayor from Fresno simply see things from different perspectives.

But we can agree on some of the biggest challenges that will determine the future of California – and we agree it is time to forge real solutions.

We concur that the high cost of living in California is forcing some to move out of the state and is dooming nearly 18 million Californians to a life of poverty.

We aren’t alone in that belief. In a recent poll for the California Issues Forum, 81 percent of Californians said they believe that housing prices are forcing people to leave. That overwhelming majority was bipartisan – 93 percent of Republicans and 73 percent of Democrats. Similarly, 73 percent of Californians believe the state’s high cost of living is significantly increasing the poverty rate.

Business isn’t evil. Labor isn’t the enemy. Government isn’t the problem.

California is not alone. As we see across the nation, economic insecurity has the potential to divide us politically, not just socially and economically.

Moreover, the federal government was never going to solve this problem, no matter who occupied the White House. As Californians, we control most of the public policies and investments that will determine whether the situation gets better or worse.

We acknowledge that we are not just a blue state in a red nation. We are a blue-red state with an increasing percentage of citizens looking past political parties for pragmatic solutions in sync with shared values. Among them: a fair shot at a good education, a decent job, an affordable home and a tolerable commute.

The polling suggests elected leaders need to respond more assertively to the priorities of the majority. To help elected officials do their jobs, leaders in the private and civic sectors need to work together to find agreement, to encourage and then to accept pragmatic compromise. Business isn’t evil. Labor isn’t the enemy. Government isn’t the problem.

For the last five years, we have co-chaired the California Economic Summit to provide a venue where diverse leaders can define and advance a comprehensive road map to shared prosperity. We are making meaningful progress, but we have a long way to go.

We are inspired that a cross section of leaders in San Diego have come together to host the 2017 Summit on Nov. 2 and 3. Scores of participants are working now – coordinated by California Forward and the California Stewardship Network – so they can report as much progress as possible in San Diego.

The Summit’s workforce action team was instrumental in developing a new $200 million Strong Workforce Program. The focus now is helping community colleges align with local and regional employers to provide the skills that are the only hope for a middle-class job for millions of Californians.

The Summit’s focus on regional economies, healthy watersheds and sustainable communities contributed to the creation of enhanced infrastructure financing districts. Action teams are now identifying state policy changes to encourage cost-effective and integrated infrastructure projects.

The Summit even has taken on the extreme housing shortage. Developers and environmental and social equity groups have contributed to a comprehensive framework that is now mirrored in the governor’s housing principles. We need to build political support for the proposals so elected leaders can forge a compromise too big to block by narrow interest groups.

We need to keep investments flowing into our diverse economies. We need to solve the housing problem or California’s edge in the global economy evaporates.

We need to build adequate, efficient and accountable education pipelines for all who still believe in the California Dream.

Join us.

Dave Regan is president of SEIU-United Healthcare Workers West (SEIU-UHW). Ashley Swearengin is president and CEO of the Central Valley Community Foundation and the former mayor of Fresno.

  Comments