» Reimagining Local Government: Strengthening Democracy in Our Communities

Presented by Wilkinson College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences

February 25, 2016

View photos from the all-day conference here ...

Local GovernmentLocal government matters. While Washington commands more media attention, local government affects people's lives the most on a daily basis. In California, more than two-thirds of all public money is spent by nearly 5000 local government entities, such as counties, cities, school and special districts.

In recent years, municipal governments have suffered under declines in press coverage, civic engagement, and voting turnout. Nearly all local governments have faced pressing fiscal challenges, which have forced several to declare bankruptcy. Some have been rocked by political scandals.

The news isn't all bad. While the state and federal governments face gridlock, local governments in California have taken the lead in problem solving and policy innovation.

The Political Science Department is pleased to present the second annual conference on local government. The conference is made possible due to a generous grant from Fieldstead and Company.

(Photo: Council members meet in an improvised city hall following the fire that destroyed their chambers in Vancouver, British Columbia, 1886.)


+ - Conference Agenda

Registration and Breakfast 9 - 10 a.m.

Argyros Forum 209ABC

Panel #1 - Improving Democratic Engagement: How Do You Create The Right Environment for Local Democracy? Watch Video

Political differences are best resolved when people treat each other in a "civil" manner.  Unfortunately, the public square has coarsened, with one result being that more and more people are exiting the system -- by not voting, and by declining to participate in public meetings and conversation. This panel will discuss ways local institutions (e.g., service clubs, business, family, religious communities, media and entertainment institutions) can strengthen civil society and foster democracy, especially in contexts where there is low voter turnout and disengagement with local government decision-making.

Moderator: Fred Smoller, Associate Professor of Political Science, Chapman University.

Tom Tait, Mayor of Anaheim.

Rick Cole is the City Manager of the City of Santa Monica, California.

Matt Leighninger is Vice President for Public Engagement, and Director of the Yankelovich Center for Public Judgment, at Public Agenda.

Antonio Gonzalez is President of the William C. Velasquez Institute.

Lunch and Poster Session 11:45 a.m. - 1:15 p.m..

Beckman Hall 404

Students will display and discuss their research.

California Secretary of State Alex Padilla - Watch Video

Panel #2 - Democracy and Public Spaces. Watch Video

Local governance can’t take place in a vacuum. It requires spaces for people to gather, talk, debate and vote. How can the built environment best foster citizenship and participation? What are the most significant physical barriers to local democracy today--and how can they be overcome? How can big investments in infrastructure -- be in transit or waterways or civic spaces -- contribute to informed and engaged communities? What type of public spaces contribute to an informed, engaged community? What structures do the opposite?

Moderator: Georgiana Bostean, Assistant Professor of Environmental Science and Technology, Chapman University

Arthur Blaser is a Professor of Peace Studies and Political Science at Chapman University, and holds the Delp-Wilkinson Chair in Peace Studies.

Sam Adams former Mayor of Portland, Oregon and Director of the World Resources Institute U.S. Climate Initiative.

Clarence Eckerson, Jr. Director of Streetfilms.

Mia Lehrer, Urbanist, Mia Lehrer and Associates.

Panel #3 - Reconsidering cities and counties for the 21st century. Watch Video

Does the current configuration of local government, centered on cities and counties, fit the needs of the 21st century?  If not, how should cities and counties be reshaped and contoured to promote democracy, deliberation, representation, and efficiency? Should the government or the private sector determine these new forms of government? 

Moderator: Fred Smoller, Associate Professor of Political Science, Chapman University.

Tim Draper, venture capital investor and founder and CEO of Innovate Your State.

Myron Orfield is the Director of the Institute on Metropolitan Opportunity at the University of Minnesota.

William Fulton is Director of the Kinder Institute for Urban Research at Rice University.

Peter Hong is Deputy Chief of Staff and Director of Strategic Initiatives at California State University, Los Angeles.

Panel #4 - Lessons from abroad: What Are the Best Ideas for Creating an Effective 21st Century Local Government? Watch Video.

California businesses and cultural institutions are envied for being on the forefront of innovation--in part because they look for the best ideas and people from around the country and the world, and bring them to California. But our state, city, and county governments do very little of this. This panel will explore innovative approaches from all over the globe to local efficiency, fiscal management and participation, and suggest ways to incorporate these ideas in California communities, and specifically in Orange County, which was one of the largest municipalities in the world to go bankrupt.

Moderator: Joe Mathews, California and Innovation Editor, Zocalo Public Square.

Bruno Kaufmann is a trained political scientist, conflict researcher and journalist and member of the city government in Falun, Sweden. He is the editor and chief of people2power.info.

Maria Vassilakou is the deputy mayor of Vienna, Austria.

Daniel Schugurensky is the head of Arizona State University’s (Argentina) Participatory Governance Initiative.

+ - Panelist: Bios


Sam Adams is the former Mayor of Portland, Oregon. As director of the World Resource Institute’s (WRI) U.S. Climate Initiative, Adams leads WRI’s efforts to analyze and develop new policies, build political will and support coalitions that will encourage the U.S.’s transition to a strong, low-carbon economy. As mayor, Adams ensured that sustainability was integrated across all city-level decisions by combining the sustainability office and city planning agency.


Arthur Blaser is a Professor of Peace Studies and Political Science at Chapman University, and the Delp-Wilkinson Chair in Peace Studies. His articles have appeared in the Disability Studies Quarterly, Human Rights Quarterly, Los Angeles Times, Orange County Register, The Futurist, New Mobility, and Disability Rag,. He is a board member of the Dayle McIntosh Center (Orange County's Center for Independent Living).


Georgiana Bostean is an Assistant Professor in the Sociology Department and Environmental Science and Policy Program at Chapman University. She is a demographer and sociologist by training, with a Ph.D. in sociology from the University of California, Irvine, and postdoctoral training in cancer prevention and control research at UCLA. Broadly, her research is in the area of population health and health disparities, focusing on the social determinants of health


Rick Cole was appointed City Manager of Santa Monica in June of 2015 after 30 years in public policy and administration. Most recently, he served as Deputy Mayor for Budget and Innovation for the City of Los Angeles where he was responsible for a budget of $8.6 billion, five city departments, and more than 3,000 staff. Mr. Cole spent 15 years as City Manager of Ventura and Azusa, and served 12 years on the Pasadena City Council.


Tim Draper is Founder and CEO of Innovate Your State, a nonprofit encouraging public participation to improve government. Among the winning ideas from Innovate Your State’s first project, the Fix California Challenge, was “County  restructuring”, an effort to modernize and refresh the current county structure in California. He is also founder of Draper Associates and DFJ venture capital firms. Investments include Skype, Hotmail, Tesla, Baidu, Theranos, Docusign, and AngelList. In 2011, he created Draper University of Heroes, a residential and online school based in San Mateo.


Clarence Eckerson, Jr. is director of Streetfilms. Its short films show how smart transportation policy can result in better places to live, work and play. He's been documenting advocacy transportation for over 15 years and produced 700 Streetfilms. With no formal video training or education in an urban planning field, Clarence attributes much of his knowledge to never holding a driver’s license. Ninety-nine percent of all footage he shoots is by bike, foot, train, or bus.


William Fulton is Director of the Kinder Institute for Urban Research at Rice University [kinder.rice.edu]. He is a former Mayor of Ventura, California, and  Director of Planning & Economic Development for the City of San Diego. He is the founding editor and publisher of California Planning & Development Report [www.cp-dr.com] and author of five books, including Guide to California Planning and The Reluctant Metropolis: The Politics of Urban Growth in Los Angeles, an L.A. Times best-seller.


Antonio Gonzalez is President of the William C. Velasquez Institute, a national Latino public policy and research organization. Gonzalez assumed the presidency of WCVI in 1994. Time Magazine named Gonzalez in August 2005 one of the 25 Most Influential Hispanics in America. Since 2004 he has hosted his own weekly radio show on KPFK 90.7FM, "Strategy Session". Currently, Gonzalez leads a community-based climate-action collaborative to revitalize the three rivers of Los Angeles County.

Peter Hong

Peter Hong is Deputy Chief of Staff and Director of Strategic Initiatives at California State University, Los Angeles. He was previously a top-level deputy to Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas. In 2015, he took a leave from Cal State LA to serve as transition chief of staff to newly-elected Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda Solis. Prior to government work, Mr. Hong was a reporter for 20 years in Los Angeles and Washington for the Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post and Business Week magazine, often writing about race, politics, identity and community. He commutes by bicycle in urban Los Angeles.


Bruno Kaufmann is a trained political scientist, conflict researcher and journalist. He is member of the city government of Falun, Sweden, where he  chairs the Election Commission. In 2001 Bruno Kaufmann became the first director of the Initiative & Referendum Institute Europe. He is editor-in-chief of people2power.info, a media initiative hosted by the Swiss Broadcasting Company, and co-president of the Global Forum on Modern Direct Democracy. His books include Guidebook to Modern Direct Democracy (published in 12 languages) and European Passport to Active Citizenship (22 languages).


Mia Lehrer, Urbanist, is the founder of the Los Angeles-based landscape architecture and urban design firm, Mia Lehrer + Associates (ML+A), known for the design and implementation of ambitious public and private-sector projects including complex mixed-use development projects, urban revitalization initiatives, and neighborhood and regional parks.  A native of El Salvador, Ms. Lehrer earned her Master of Landscape Architecture degree from the Graduate School of Design at Harvard University. 


Matt Leighninger is the Vice President for Public Engagement, and Director of the Yankelovich Center for Public Judgment, at Public Agenda, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that helps diverse citizens navigate divisive, complex issues and find solutions. Matt’s first book, The Next Form of Democracy (2006), is a firsthand account of the democratic innovation that emerged in the 1990s and 2000s. In May 2015, Wiley-Blackwell released Matt’s Public Participation in 21st Century Democracy, co-authored with Tina Nabatchi, a comprehensive look at participation theory, history, and practice.


Joe Mathews is Innovation editor for Zócalo Public Square, a nonprofit combining daily journalism and live events. He writes the syndicated Connecting California column for Zócalo and 30 media outlets. Joe serves as a professor of practice at Arizona State University and co-president of the Global Forum on Modern Direct Democracy. Joe is co-author of California Crackup: How Reform Broke the Golden State and How We Can Fix It and author of The People’s Machine: Arnold Schwarzenegger and the Rise of Blockbuster Democracy.


Myron Orfield is the Director of the Institute on Metropolitan Opportunity. He has written three books and dozens of articles and book chapters on local government law, spatial inequality, fair housing, school desegregation, charter schools, state and local taxation and finance, and land use law. The syndicated columnist Neal Peirce called him “the most influential demographer in America’s burgeoning regional movement.” Professor Orfield has been a litigator in a large law firm, a civil rights lawyer, an assistant attorney general of Minnesota, and a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington. Orfield was elected to both the Minnesota House of Representatives and Senate, where he was the architect of a series of important legislative changes in land use, fair housing, and school and local government aid programs.


Alex Padilla was sworn in as California Secretary of State on January 5, 2015. He is committed to modernizing the office, increasing voter registration and participation, and strengthening voting rights.  Padilla previously served in the California State Senate (2006-2014) where he chaired the Committee on Energy, Utilities, and Communications. Padilla's parents emigrated from Mexico and raised their family in the working class community of Pacoima, California.  Padilla attended local public schools and graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology with a bachelor's degree in Mechanical Engineering.  In 1999, at the age of 26, Padilla was elected to the Los Angeles City Council to represent the same east San Fernando Valley community where he grew up.  In 2001, his colleagues elected him to the first of three terms as Council President, becoming the youngest member and the first Latino to serve in this capacity.


Daniel Schugurensky is Professor at Arizona State University, where he is director of the Participatory Governance Initiative and coordinator of the Graduate Certificate in Participatory Governance (School of Public Affairs). Recent publications include Learning citizenship by practicing democracy: international initiatives and perspectives (Cambridge Scholarly Press), Participatory budgeting in North America: The case of Guelph, Canada (Journal of Public Budgeting, Accounting & Financial Management), Civic engagement and participatory governance (100th Arizona Town Hall), The fourth form of engagement: Participatory budgeting from Brazil to the USA (American Society for Public Administration), Democracy does not fall from the sky (Peter Lang), and Citizenship education through participatory budgeting (Journal of Curriculum and Teaching).


Fred Smoller, an Associate Professor of Political Science and Chapman faculty member since 1983,  is the organizer of this conference. He received his Ph.D. from Indiana University. His major area of interest is American politics, with an emphasis on state and local government, citizen engagement, and public administration. In 2010, two of his graduate students collected data for a ground breaking salary study that that exposed salary levels of some public employees that many considered egregious. The ensuing City of Bell scandal focused much attention, some positive and some negative, on Dr. Smoller and his two students. Their research set in motion a public discussion about local government that led to the passage of  transparency legislation.


Tom Tait was re-elected to his second term as Mayor of Anaheim in November 2014.  Tait's election comes after 2 previous terms on the Anaheim City Council. Mayor Tait received his Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Wyoming and earned a Masters degree in Business Administration from Vanderbilt University He received a Juris Doctorate degree from Vanderbilt in 1985. Mayor Tait is president of Tait & Associates, Inc. and Tait Environmental Services, an engineering and environmental services firm with offices throughout the western United States.


Maria Vassilakou started her political career as Secretary General of the Austrian Students’ Union. In November 1996 she became Member of the Vienna Provincial Parliament and in 2004 Head of the Parliamentary Group of the Green Party. Since November 2010 Maria Vassilakou has been Deputy Mayor of Vienna and Executive City Councillor for Urban Planning, Traffic & Transport, Climate Protection, Energy and Public Participation. Born in Greece, she migrated to Austria as a teenager. Vassilakou made cycling crucial to Vienna’s integrated mobility strategy.

+ - Parking Information

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