Hold onto your hot tubs, the California Task Force to Promote Self-Esteem and Personal and Social Responsibility is going local. In fact, it may be coming to your county soon.
The state group, about half of whose 25 members are veterans of the human-potential movement, was created by the legislature last year to study the ways in which self-esteem might reach a greater number of Californians--and perhaps reduce taxpayer costs for such social problems as chronic drug and alcohol abuse, crime and violence, welfare dependency and teen-age pregnancy.
As John Vasconcellos (D-Santa Clara), the assemblyman who created the task force, describes the project: "This is California's pioneering effort to find a vaccine for six major social ills. We invite every county to create a local vehicle so that its residents can participate in this historic and hopeful endeavor."
To this end, Vasconcellos recently got both houses of the legislature to pass a resolution (unanimously) calling for local county task forces to be established and to work closely with the state group. And Vasconcellos, along with Assembly Speaker Willie Brown Jr., Senate minority leader Ken Maddy and other leading legislators, sent a letter this week to every county supervisor in the state, urging establishment of the local groups.
Even before the state task force was launched, citizen interest in it was remarkable. There were more than 350 applicants for the group's 25 slots (the largest number ever to apply for any task force in state history). And since the group has received more exposure--including ribbing in Garry Trudeau's Doonesbury--thousands of Californians have offered to work with the task force.
In some places such as Marin County, Vasconcellos says, "some people just started their own self-esteem support task groups," with no official government connection. "And one lady in Riverside County tried to start a local group. She proposed it to her County Board of Supervisors. She was just eager and ahead of the effort."
Because of activists he knows in Alameda County, Vasconcellos says he expects that county to be one of the first to establish a local group. Del Norte County is also expected to be join the effort right away. "And I would hope my own county, Santa Clara, would be there (early)."
As outlined in the letter sent to supervisors in the state's 58 counties, the local groups are expected to funnel research data, local opinions and other pertinent information into the state task force. They are also designed to help distribute information about the state task force's findings to the county residents. On the county level, the groups will also provide an opportunity to identify local programs promoting self-esteem and personal and social responsibility.
In counties that do not create local self-esteem task forces, Vasconcellos, says avenues for communications will be created for residents in those areas.
"This is not just a state effort," he emphasizes. "We really need to get everything back down to the people. It's really meant to be a grass-roots effort. I think we've uncorked something here that has been--I'm not sure if fermenting is the right word--I hope it's ripening in a way that fine wine does."