Friday, June 1, 2007

Citizen-Centered Deliberation is Alive and Well in California

We’ve mentioned Common Sense California (CSC) previously in this blog space, but it deserves another mention because it’s helping to fuel one of the most striking examples of citizen-centered work in the country—and one of the few occurring at the state level. As reported in the San Francisco Chronicle, on August 11, 2007, CSC, along with CaliforniaSpeaks, will convene more than 3,000 Californians—selected through random telephone lists so that they will represent the state’s diversity—at eight sites across the state to deliberate on one of the most pressing issues facing residents: health care reform.

The events will help open up the closed doors that have previously greeted people wanting to weigh in on this issue with their state legislators in Sacramento. Sitting at tables of 10-12 people each, they’ll discuss whether everyone get health coverage or some; whether there should be an "individual mandate" requiring every Californian to buy insurance; and whose money should pay for the system. Each table will have a wireless laptop, which will be linked by satellite to other meeting sites, and each participant will use a key pad to vote on various aspects of the health-care reform package. The goal is to pull together a set of recommendations to present to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and the state legislature.

The event will cost $4.2 million, which is being subsidized by the California Endowment, the California Wellness Foundation and the Blue Shield of California Foundation. That’s a drop in the bucket, says Joe Goldman, a vice president at AmericaSpeaks—the sponsor of the event—compared to the billions of dollars California spends on health care, and the tens of millions of dollars various special interests will spend on advertising and lobbying to shape the outcome of the health-care debate.

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