In Petaluma, the Future of Democracy and the Fate of the World’s Ugliest Dog Contest Are Intertwined

What Happened When a Sonoma City Convened Citizens to Figure Out What to Do With Its Fairgrounds

I went to Petaluma to learn what might become of the world’s ugliest dogs. The Sonoma County city also showed me the future of California democracy.

That future arrived with an unsexy name—the Petaluma Fairgrounds Advisory Panel, a version of a type of democratic body that is gaining popularity from Japan to Ireland. In Petaluma, they called this a “lottery-selected panel.” Its more common name is “citizens’ assembly.”

Citizens’ assemblies are composed of everyday people, chosen by lottery, rather than elected officials. The assemblies offer a potential path around problems that discredit …

Will California Get SMART About Mass Transit? | Zocalo Public Square • Arizona State University • Smithsonian

Will California Get SMART About Mass Transit?

A New Train Could Help Battle Climate Change, Serve Expanding Metro Areas, and Create a Northern California Mega-Region

If this train is so SMART, why can’t I find it?

That’s the question I asked myself in Larkspur, in Marin County, after arriving on the ferry from San Francisco one …

A Tale of Two California Bridges | Zocalo Public Square • Arizona State University • Smithsonian

A Tale of Two California Bridges

L.A. Was Too Hot for the Sixth Street Viaduct, While San Francisco Played It Cool at the Presidio

Nothing reveals the character of a city more than the way it opens a present.

California saw as much this summer, as our two most distinguished municipalities—Los Angeles and San Francisco—each …

The Breakup San Bernardino County Needs | Zocalo Public Square • Arizona State University • Smithsonian

The Breakup San Bernardino County Needs

Instead of Splitting Away From California, Split Yourself Up Instead

Dear San Bernardino County,

I understand your desire to leave California.

Your complaints—about the high costs of being here, the state’s low levels of public investment, the obstacles to building housing—all have …

California Doesn’t Need a New Abortion Measure | Zocalo Public Square • Arizona State University • Smithsonian

California Doesn’t Need a New Abortion Measure

Prop 1 Might Have Good Intentions, But It Puts Fundamental Rights at Risk

California’s leaders shouldn’t put fundamental rights up for a vote. But the legislature and governor have nonetheless chosen to add Proposition 1 to this November’s ballot.

At first glance, Prop 1 …

Surfing the Tides of History in Northern Chumash Land | Zocalo Public Square • Arizona State University • Smithsonian

Surfing the Tides of History in Northern Chumash Land

White Men Have Long Dominated the Sport I Love—But the Status Quo Isn’t Set in Stone

For health reasons I have to stay out of the water for the next couple weeks so I am dreaming about surfing, thinking about surfing, writing about surfing, doing everything …