California Local, a digital outlet for trusted local news and community resources, today announced the availability of its first published book, How California Works: Building Democracy in the Golden State, an essential, definitive and entertaining guide that explains the inner workings of California’s government systems. The book is now available for purchase on Amazon.

Local Assemblymember Gail Pellerin praised the book.

“How California Works offers a concise, yet comprehensive, exploration of the intricate mechanisms driving democracy in the Golden State,” she said. “From its historical roots to modern governance, the book delves into the state’s administration and its impact on everyday life. It provides great stories of California’s unique political landscape, addressing key issues and innovations. This is definitely an essential read for anyone seeking to understand the dynamic workings of California’s democracy.”

Written by award-winning journalist and author Jonathan Vankin, How California Works demystifies the often-hidden systems of government that shape everyday life for all Californians. The book unravels the mysteries of government in 57 clear and entertaining chapters, explaining how the state operates, how and where it originated, and how our government systems shape everyday Californians’ existence.

“Democracy is messy, often frustrating and always requires compromise. But with enough work and a little smarts, it delivers,” said Vankin, author of How California Works, and senior writer at California Local. “We hope this book will enable a deeper understanding of how California’s democracy works, whether you work in state or local government, or are a student, teacher, advocate or member of a civic group. How California Works makes information that would normally take years to acquire available in an easy-to-understand format, with something of interest for everyone.”

“Making sense of public policy within our constitutional system of self-governance is a daunting task,” said State Senator John Laird. “Whether it’s our state government structure, or the issues of criminal justice, diversity, environment, education, and much more, How California Works breaks these subjects into manageable pieces to help Californians know their government and grapple with the major issues that face it. It’s a must-read for anyone trying to understand our state and its challenges.”

The book is organized into five subject areas and serves as a guide that delivers essential knowledge and access to resources needed to understand and impact life in every community in California.

• Part one, “California’s Civic Infrastructure,” grounds readers in important forces that shape our state’s government including our education system, libraries, justice system, grand juries, local agency formation commissions (LAFCO), joint powers authorities (JPA) and more.
• Part two, “Forces That Shaped California,” explains the roles played over time by immigration, transportation, the military, Silicon Valley, agriculture, suburbia, Hollywood and more.
• Part three, “Powering California,” discusses where energy comes from and covers oil, natural gas, nuclear power, hydroelectric, coal, wind, solar and community-choice energy agencies.
• Part four, “California In Crisis,” offers a clearheaded analysis of the most difficult issues the state confronts today, including homelessness, mental health, drought, climate change, wildfires, and more.
• Part five, “California’s Politics and Policy,” covers a range of topics including abortion rights, gun safety legislation, single-payer healthcare, affordable housing, gerrymandering and more.

“Wishing that things worked one way or another is not the same as knowing how things work,” added Fred Keeley, Mayor of Santa Cruz and former Speaker Pro Tempore of the California State Assembly. “It is when we all know how things work that we can impact things, from democracy itself to a local development project in your neighborhood. I commend How California Works to all Californians. It is our power.”



Jonathan Vankin is a senior writer for California Local and an award-winning journalist whose writing has appeared in such publications as The New York Times Magazine, Wired, Salon, L.A. Weekly and many others. He is the author of four previous nonfiction books, including Conspiracies, Cover-Ups and Crimes—the first comprehensive, journalistic investigation of America’s conspiracy-theory underground, foreshadowing the current state of sociopolitical affairs by two decades—and more recently Close to Zero, a full account of Donald Trump’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. Vankin has also written comic books, TV, screenplays, and even the “book” for a hit Off-Broadway musical, Forever Dusty, about the great British pop star Dusty Springfield. He has made numerous media appearances on such networks as CNN, MSNBC, CNBC, FOX, the BBC and the CBC, as well as numerous podcasts and hundreds of radio stations.


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