Skip to contentSkip to Main Site NavigationSkip to Site Left NavigationSkip to Site Utility NavigationSkip to Site SearchSkip to FooterDownload Adobe Reader

Introduction to California Government and Politics

Professor Braunwarth

State Cap
The State Capitol in Sacramento (photo by M. McKenzie)

Although most of us are more familiar with national government and politics, it is arguable government and politics on a state and local level that will ultimately have a greater impact on your daily life. California plays a particularly key role in American politics as a result of our large size, our diverse land and people, and our innovative and visible attempts to address the challenges we face. In this course we will approach California state and local politics through the lenses of current events and issues which we face.

Required Texts:

Davis, Mayhew, and Miller.  Under the Perfect Sun: The San Diego Tourists Never See, New Press, 2003.

Lawrence, David G. California: The Politics of Diversity. 3rd Edition. Wadsworth, 2003.

Articles supplementing the texts will be assigned throughout the semester. These articles are required reading and can be found on reserve or linked from the course web page.

As we will be examining course material that is immediately relevant to current events, you must remain current with state and local politics. This material will appear on occasional quizzes (below).

Occasionally films and videos will be shown in class. These are to be considered texts for this class and information from these sources may appear on exams accordingly.

Recommended Texts:

Bell, Inge and Bernarnd McGrane. This Book is Not Required. Revised Edition. Pine Forge Press, 1999.

Methods of Evaluation:

Occasional Assignments/Quizzes/Participation

100 points.

Research Project

100 points.


100 points.


100 points.

Political Economy Week

  40 points.




440 points.

Your final grade is not curved and will be assigned according to the following table:

A = 90%+

(outstanding work)

B = 80%-89%

(very good work)

C = 70%-79%

(average, satisfactory work)

D = 60%-69%

(below average, marginal work)

F = 0 –69%

(very unsatisfactory work)

Occasional Assignments/Quizzes

Other exercises or quizzes will be assigned periodically. These will cover current events, speakers, films, lecture material, or material from the texts.


At the very least you should be attentive and courteous to your fellow students during class discussions. At the end of the course, you will be asked for a self-evaluation of your participation in class. You should keep a record along with your notes. Your participation grade will be based substantially on your self-evaluation.


In order to be an active participant and find the class more interesting, you must complete the readings prior to attending the lecture for which they have been assigned.  Take notes on what you read.  Many weeks you will meet with your reading group in class to discuss the readings and the assigned questions.  Each group will turn in one copy of the assigned questions.  Quizzes and exams will be based on material drawn from lecture and directly from the text, including material we may not discuss in class.

Research Project

For this assignment you must complete one of the following two exercises. You must submit an overview (or rough draft) of your topic by the beginning of the fifth week of class. This assignment is due at the beginning of week 15.

  1. Research Paper

This paper requires you to become an expert in an issue facing California state or local government. You must research an issue facing state or local government in California and write up your observations in a 8-10 page paper. Questions you may want to address include: the details of the issue, its effect on California government, policy alternatives to deal with the issue, etc. You will need to use a minimum of five sources, at least one of which must be from a current periodical (newspaper). Proper citations are a must! You will need to turn in both an electronic and a paper version of your paper.

  1. Community Service Learning

This project enables you to learn about course issues while working with a local non-profit organization. Organization options will be discussed in class. If you choose to do this, you will be required to provide some (~20) hours of service and write up your observations in a 4-5 page paper, elaborating what you are doing and how the organization to which you are volunteering relates to state or local government and to the concepts we are discussing in class. You may also be required to make a brief presentation about your experience to the class toward the end of the semester.


Exams will draw on all course material and will consist of multiple choice, short answer, and word identification questions.


Plagiarism or cheating will not be tolerated and will be dealt with severely.

Be on time, let me know if you will have to leave early, turn off your cell phone.

Do the readings before the class. You will be tested on this information.

Take notes.

Students with disabilities who may need accommodations in this class are encouraged to notify the instructor and contact Disabled Students Programs and Services (DSP&S) early in the semester so that reasonable accommodations may be implemented as soon as possible. Students may contact DSP&S in person in room 110 or by phone at 619-644-7112 (voice) or 619-644-7119 (TTY for deaf).

On-Campus Resources

Academic Counseling, Rm. 118, x7208

Transfer Center, Rm. 100, x7215

Writing Lab, Rm. 571, x7516

Reading Center, Rm. 546, x7464

Tutor Center, LRC Rm. 711J, x7387

How To Do Well In This Class:


This is a demanding course, so keep up with the reading.

Take notes on what you read.

Look up unfamiliar words in the dictionary.

Read the syllabus carefully to familiarize yourself with the course policies.


Go to class! You will not get the same quality of information by copying someone else's notes. In class you will hear information that is important for the test and for "real" life.

Participate! Be an active listener and take some risks by speaking up in class.

Take notes, not only on what I say but also on videos and on comments from other class members who often have brilliant insights.

Outside of Class

Check the course web page.

Use my office hours and e-mail for any questions you may have.

The best way to remember information is to rewrite your notes.

Writing Guidelines

Writing Resources

How not to do well in this class

Extra Credit

This project requires you to attend a local city council meeting and complete both of the following sections.

a. Respond to the following questions (answers must by typed, double-spaced):

  1. What were the major items on the meeting agenda? (1 paragraph)
  2. Who was officially in charge of the meeting (what was their title)? Did that person truly control the meeting, or did someone else dominate? If so, what was their position and what did they do to control the meeting? (1 paragraph)
  3. How did the members of the council behave toward each other? Did they show respect or were they rude? How did they treat staff members? (1-2 paragraphs)
  4. Did the council encourage members of the public present to actively participate in the meeting (ask questions, make comments, etc.)? How did they treat members of the public? (1-2 paragraphs)
  5. Based on your observations, does the council appear to be conducting business in a democratic manner, why or why not? (1-2 paragraphs)

b. Select an item that appears on the agenda of the meeting you have attended. Research the history of this item and track the progress of the item throughout the semester.

An Optimistic Course Outline and Readings:


Lawrence Readings

Davis Readings


1. Introduction

Ch. 1




Ch. 2

chapter 1


3. Local Gov’t
City Budgets

Ch. 3

chs. 2-4

Strong Mayor System

4. Federalism



2004 Mayoral Race


Ch. 4

chs. 8-10

Research project overview/draft due


Ch. 5

chs. 12-15

Propositions (Tue 3/2)

7. Participation

Ch. 6

pp. 239-261 (due Tue 3/9)

Wight speaking (bring a question)


Ch. 10

chs. 16-19

State Sovereign Immunity exercise (Tu 3/16)
Midterm Th. 3/18

9. Linkage Institutions

Ch. 7

chs. 20-24



Ch. 8

pp. 180-239



Ch. 9



12. Redistricting



Gay Tolerance at Grossmont Union H.S.

13. Executive



Political Economy Week
San Diego: Rise of a High Tech Cluster

14.  Judiciary

Ch. 11


Political Economy Week exercise due

15. Growth

Ch. 12


Urban Sprawl exercise (not to hand in)
Home Affordability
Research project due

16. Diversity

Ch. 13


Resource exercise




Tue 5/25 11:30 – 1:30

Government Links:
City of La Mesa
City of San Diego
County of San Diego
San Diego Municipal Court

County of San Diego District Attorney

State of California
California Assembly
California State Senate
Legislative Counsel of CA (Legislative Information)
Governor's Home Page

Local Representatives:
Jay LaSeur, District 77, State Assembly
Chrisitine Kehoe, District 76, State Assembly
Jim Battin, District 37, State Senate
Dede Alpert, District 39, State Senate
Kathryn Burton for City Council

Other California Links:
California Maps

Last Updated: 06/11/2015
  • Grossmont
  • Cuyamaca
A Member of the Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District