Times were tumultuous in the California of the 1990s: recession, strife over police-community relations, a voter revolt that ushered in term limits, contentious immigration debates.
There was an urgent need to address these and other issues that affected every Californian. But government had few resources to research the facts and perform the analysis necessary to help leaders to make informed decisions. PPIC was born of this need. Twenty-five years later, the necessity of nonpartisan, fact-based research has never been greater.
PPIC was founded by three exceptional leaders: Roger W. Heyns, former chancellor of University of California, Berkeley; Arjay Miller, former president of Ford Motor Company and former dean of Stanford Business School; and William R. Hewlett, co-founder of Hewlett-Packard Company. These visionaries wanted to help California’s leaders better understand policy issues through objective, evidence-based research. An endowment by Hewlett made their vision of a nonpartisan, nonprofit think tank a reality.
In 1994, the year PPIC was founded, a major earthquake shook Northridge; Orange County became the largest municipality in US history to file for bankruptcy; and California voters passed Proposition 187, which would have banned undocumented immigrants from using public services. The proposition was later declared unconstitutional, but the issues it raised and the backlash it created have powerfully influenced politics and policy ever since.
The issues that surfaced in the ’90s were complex, challenging—and are still with us, even though the state’s demographics, economy, and political climate have changed. PPIC has grown and evolved because it was built to be relevant and resilient. As the state has dealt with a gubernatorial recall, a major recession, and a lengthy drought, our work has evolved to meet its changing needs.
During the recent drought, we created the PPIC Water Policy Center to help spur innovative water management solutions. After our research demonstrated that California is not producing enough college graduates to meet the needs of our future economy, we founded the PPIC Higher Education Center. Our work there is focused on finding practical solutions that enhance educational opportunities for all Californians.
We do not do this work alone. PPIC has developed an extensive network of advisors and other engaged Californians to ensure our relevance, expand our reach, and deepen our impact. Our colleagues in local, state, and federal government often put our research into practice. Our board of directors and statewide leadership council provide us with valuable insights, and members of the business and nonprofit communities serve as our ambassadors.
In this year of transition, PPIC will be an essential resource for new leaders—the governor, legislators, members of Congress, and others who care deeply about public policy. We will offer analysis and advice on a number of key topics. Through the PPIC Statewide Survey, our leaders will regularly have the opportunity to find out what the public thinks of new policies and proposals.
In our Speaker Series on California’s Future, we plan to draw on the vast experience of past leaders by inviting all living former governors to share the stage. They will talk about lessons they have learned and offer their thoughts about the state’s future.
PPIC’s first 25 years have been exciting, rewarding, and challenging. We expect no less of the next 25—and we invite you to join us by keeping up to date with our activities and offering your support.