When it comes to public policy in the region, California Lutheran University brings some unique assets to the table.
Its KCLU Public Radio station is a natural broadcast outlet for political debates and analysis. It has a first-rate political scientist in Herb Gooch, a no-nonsense but also non-partisan expert for commentary and perspective.
And it has vastly upgraded facilities for holding public forums.
But what CLU has lacked until now is a policy center to host fellows, develop public-sector leadership and forge ties with its powerful neighbor, the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Library in Simi Valley.
That’s why the announcement on March 4 that CLU had landed the Elton Gallegly archives and a promise from the former Republican congressman to raise some $3 million for the Elton and Janice Gallegly Center for Public Service and Civic Engagement looms fairly large on the policy landscape.
If it comes off as planned, the center will give Ventura County and the region the kind of think tank that it’s long needed to analyze the political landscape and elevate Ventura and Santa Barbara counties on the political stage.
The new public policy center certainly will complement activities at CSU Channel Islands in Camarillo, including the Hank Lacayo Institute, which focuses on the work force and the archives of former Congressman Bob Lagomarsino. CLU also has economist Bill Watkins and his team at its Center for Economic Research and Forecasting.
As with any new venture, there are certainly some risks. One danger of a Gallegly Center closely linked to the Reagan Library is that it might be viewed by the public through a partisan lens.
A related risk is that it will take a more consistent and broad base of funding than currently exists within CLU’s master’s degree programs to keep a full-blown think tank up and running.
But a big opportunity looms as well — particularly in the international sphere. There is an enormous need for better trained civil servants in developing countries as well as a need to train a new and more budget-minded generation of civil servants in the U.S.
CLU has been on a bit of a roll recently, and landing the Gallegly Center is just another sign of the progress it’s been making.