The California Business Roundtable enters its second decade pressing a renewed attempt to help reform state legislative campaign financing and educating the business community about health issues such as AIDS, the head of the group said Wednesday.
The failure to get a campaign reform initiative on this month's general election ballot was "our biggest disappointment," Rocco C. Siciliano, retired chairman of Ticor, said in an interview assessing his one-year term as chairman of the Roundtable.
The group, established 10 years ago by David Packard, Benjamin F. Biaggini and the late Justin Dart with the goal of improving California's business image, is composed of top executives from 89 of the state's leading companies. The nonpartisan organization focuses on policy issues that affect California and its economy.
"What this organization does that is unique is to try to get the bosses of these companies to take a personal role in society and the economy," Siciliano explained. The executives have the status to present the concerns of the business community directly to members of the legislative and executive branches of California government, he said prior to the group's annual meeting at the Beverly Hilton.
At the meeting, Donald E. Guinn, chairman and chief executive of Pacific Telesis Group, was named to succeed Siciliano as Roundtable chairman, effective today. Paul A. Miller, chairman and chief executive of Pacific Lighting, was named vice chairman, succeeding Guinn.
During Siciliano's term, the Roundtable has been responsible for two major policy statements: a newly released study on hazardous materials and waste management in California and a Rand Corp. study, financed by the Roundtable and released last December, on the impact of California's growing Latino population on the state.
The Roundtable also made recommendations during the past year on ways to finance improvements to the state's surface transportation system, focused on health issues for business by developing publications such as "AIDS: A Reference for Managers" and by sponsoring lectures on AIDS and other health topics such as drug abuse in the workplace.
The unsuccessful initiative, proposed by the California Commission on Campaign Financing, would have limited contributions and expenditures in legislative campaigns. It failed to make the ballot because petitions were not signed by a sufficient number of registered voters.
Siciliano said the cost of running a successful campaign in California has gotten out of hand. "We (business executives and companies) are being besieged by requests from political people. We get as many as 10 a day during campaign time."
He said that there is no doubt of the need for reform and insisted that the issue will not go away.
Meanwhile, the Roundtable is continuing in the low-profile manner that has characterized it since its inception. "We're not trying to get personal aggrandizement," Siciliano said. "We are more concerned with issues affecting the public and society. Those issues are what we like to make noise about if we have to."
California's business image has improved in the past 10 years, he said. "We're not at the bottom of the totem pole anymore."